Somewhere in the narrow part of New York, I decide to get it over with in one stretch. As I follow the American side of the St. Lawrence River up towards Lake Champlain, I realize that, like Canada, some parts of the United States aren't all that nice.
I mean, there's nothing really wrong with this area--there are trees, and farms and little towns, but they're not really interesting. It could also be that it's getting darker and darker, and the first gas station I stop at is bizarrely expensive and full of scary-looking dipshits, or it could be that the drive is just beginning to wear on me.
Everything is still working fine, though; the wheels are all full and the motor is running, and as I check and recheck the map to make sure that, despite being on rambling country roads, this route looks shorter, I realize that this is still going to be a long, long drive. Somehow, Tenacious D creeps up on the MP3 player, and being too tired to fight it, I'm far too entertained to change it to something else. (That was a weird sentence. Anyway.)
Finally, I get to Lake Champlain. Turning south onto a road that crosses a series of interconnected islands and bridges and towns called South Hero and North Hero and Grand Isle, I notice that the trailer has drooped about five inches on one side. There's a real rumble now, and I press on. That's it for tires, so I could stop and look at it, or I could just keep pounding through this state, missing all the scenery because it's 12:30 at night, and pitch black.
Then, turning off the music, I realize that it's a lot quieter in the truck. Things seem to be rolling much better. I pick up a little speed.
Almost immediately, I see headlights turn on behind me. And then blue and red flashing lights. And then someone accelerates towards me. Curious about who would have such a flashy vehicle, I stop to chat, rolling down my window.
"I think you know why I stopped you, don't you?"
"Because I have a flat tire?"
"No, it's not that."
"No, sir. I passed your tire about a mile ago. You're wrecking the road and kicking up sparks all over the place."
I try and fail not to laugh a little. Bad move. And I try to play dumb. I really did think the tire had just kinda gotten comfortable with being flat and stopped making so much noise.
"Noise? You sound like a bloody freight train going by with no tire on."
"Where are you headed to?" I'm certain he has no idea where Alberta is when he runs my plates.
"I'm going to Halifax." Crickets chirp in the background.
"Nova Scotia." Gears grind in the trooper's head.
"Northeast of Maine." Some kind of spark appears in his face, but it fades quickly.
"And you thought you would get there with your trailer like that?"
Sure, I thought. It's only 15 more hours. (But I keep quiet.)
"So, here's what you're going to do. There's a little state park about a mile ahead. You can't camp there, but you can't pull this thing any farther. In the morning, you go find a tire--I don't care where--and if I catch you driving this thing like this, I'm going to take you in."
He gets back into his car. I start moving with my window still open and confirm that, yes, the trailer sounds fantastically similar to a freight train. I actually like the sound, but realise that I'd be quite concerned if something that loud were passing my quiet island cabin at 12:30 in the morning.
He follows me to the park, watching me turn in. I drive in, and, afraid that I'm blocking the gatehouse to the park, try to do a narrow turn and move onto the other side of the gravel lane that runs into the park. But bad driving and lack of power steering means I go too far over, and plow an inch-thick, three-inch-deep furrow in the lawn of this lovely state park, directly behind the park ranger residence. Luckily, officer Freighttrain is gone. I try to smush the turf down and make it less obvious, but eventually I give up. There's a scrape-trail in the road all the way to the curvily-carved sod, so if anyone decided to figure out who had destroyed everything, they wouldn't need Sherlock Holmes.
Finally, I eat another pound of the corn chips I bought, read some more of Carl Sagan's Contact, and recline the seat of the truck as far as possible --not very far.
Six hours later I wake up freezing cold, covered in drool, and unable to turn my head. It's permanently and painfully cocked at a jaunty angle--and by jaunty I mean my neck muscles have seized with my chin on my chest and my head a little to the left. It really hurts. There's still nobody in the park's gatehouse, so I don't try to leave yet. I don't want anyone thinking the trailer is abandoned, and throwing it in the garbage.
So I sit.
For my own entertainment, I use the stupid slow jacking technique to lift up the trailer. Then I realize that without contact with the ground, I can't get the tireless rim off the trailer. Then, after dropping the trailer, I realize that I can't get any traction in gravel, so I still can't undo the tire. Then I realize that I have to wedge a bunch of wood and junk under the rim to keep it still.
Then I realize that if I beat on the rim, I feel much better.
Finally, I get it off. A morbidly obese woman drives up and crawls into the gatehouse of the park. I explain to her what's going on several times--I realize it's a stupid story, but she could have tried harder to understand--and then start off on a Sunday morning, rural Vermont quest for an antique-sized trailer tire. Oddly enough, this is challenging.
A man in east hero who turned his apple orchard into a trailer park says there's a man in Winooski or Colchester or Essex Junction who might have one. And another in some other town somewhere who might have one, too. Or the place with all the boats might sell tires for boat trailers. But after some phoning around, there's no answer, and no tires. I got to a Sears in Burlington, and the 12-year-old kid (who knows more than the 50-year-old) says he may have some, but they're discontinued, and he can't put them on the rim. Fortunately, he doesn't have them, so I don't have any rim trouble.
The kid does mention West Marine in South Burlington, north of East Somethingorother. Compasswise, I'm confused, but I find the place after doing a full tour or Burlington and its suburbs, and--I can't believe this--it's open--and--get ready--they know what I'm talking about--but--of course--I can't use Canadian bank cards for debit there. So I go to a gas station, get a really, really crabby attendant to snatch my card from my hands, turn it over, and swipe it for me after watching me try the machine for about 5 minutes, and then come back with $80. The tire is mercifully cheap ($30 less than in Canada, and already mounted on a brand new rim) and is happily thrown into the box of the truck.
Driving back to the Hero Islands, the sky turns grey and starts barfing all over the place. I drive and drive and drive and realize that I've gone farther than the state park. I've crossed the bridge the state trooper was hiding by. So I turn around and drive back. I get all the way to South Hero. Where is my trailer? I know I'm fatigued, but I honestly can't find that park again. There's only one road, and it goes straight through...
Driving around in a stupor is really entertaining. As in I hate it. But it goes on and on, and I burn a quarter of a tank of gas driving up and down a 20-km series of islands, looking for a trailer I had less than three hours ago. Finally, on a road I'd already driven three hundred times, in a spot I'd looked at four thousand times, I see the sign for the park on the road, sticking out, really obvious. I fire the tire onto the trailer for the third time this trip, hook it up, get into the truck, and get outta there, firing gravel and leaving messy grooves in the lawn and gravel and pavement. Thus began the last, last leg of my journey. Wow. Just writing about it makes me tired.