Sunday, October 2, 2011

Arizona, Here I Come...

Last month, I met my friends Ellyn and Suzie at our condo in Arizona for our 2nd Annual Girlfriends Get-Away.  We had all been looking forward to a much needed retreat.  Here's where the adventure began (you might want to grab a cup of coffee or something, it's a LONG story)...

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

I dropped the boys off at school, ran some errands, and happily took my husband's car to the car wash for a much needed cleaning.  With the car shiny and clean (and smelling of pina colada), I drove over to my mechanic's to have him check all of the fluids and tires.
"It all looks good," he said, "but one of the tires might have a little crack, so don't go faster than 90 miles and hour."
"No problem," I laughed.
I then went home and started packing, loading up the car, and some last minute house cleaning.  In the middle of what is sometimes known as "Hurricane Julie", I received a text from my friend Melynda who had thoughtfully gone over to the condo to turn the A/C on for us.  When she got there, the water AND power had been turned off!

Now, let me back-track for a minute.  Some months back, we had gotten a letter from the HOA letting us know that our balcony was in disrepair and that our water heater had been leaking.  Our co-owner was in charge of taking care of that issue.  There was also a leak in one of the bathrooms, so I had called a plumber on Wednesday to go check it.  Back to the story...

...NO WATER!  NO POWER!  I immediately called my husband who was just as shocked as I was.  Melynda said there had been a note taped to our water shut-off valve that read, "DO NOT TURN ON - WATER HEATER LEAK".  I had her turn it back on.  Then Melynda's husband went looking for a neighbor to check on the power situation.  He ran into our crazy, old-man neighbor downstairs.  Apparently, he had turned off the power because of the water heater leaking into his unit. He wanted Johnny to come in and see the damage (he was also muttering tales of Bob Dylan at the same time - sorry Johnny).  Melynda and Johnny got Crazy to stumble back into his unit and leave them alone.  They turned the power back on, checked the leaky toilet, and turned on the A/C.  I then called the plumber and asked about the toilet.  I also explained the crazy neighbor ordeal and asked him to check the water heater (that happens to be located off of the dilapidated balcony).  He agreed to call me back with his findings.  Slightly flustered, I then began loading up the car, afraid of what I would find when I arrived in Mesa.

When the car was loaded, I was ready to hit the road.  Plug in cell phone - check.  Plug in GPS - check.  MP3 player and charger for later - check.  Start the car - chargers not working!  I decided that the fastest solution would be to stop at the Auto Zone and try the helpless girl routine ("I think it's a fuse...").  Nope, it wasn't the fuse.  I then decided to drive back to my mechanic and have him check it (he's in the opposite direction of where I needed to go).  Now more than slightly flustered, I arrived at the mechanic's for the second time.

He fixed a loose wire and then discovered that the GPS charger was missing a piece.  REALLY??!!  What else??!!  Luckily, I dug through the center console and found the missing parts.  We put it all back together and I was FINALLY ready to hit the road - only an hour late.

Ten minutes down the road, I got a call from the plumber in Arizona.  He couldn't find a leak in the bathroom - probably because the water had been turned off for who knows how long.  Yes, the water heater had been leaking and was shot.  He'd be back the next day to replace it, but we'd be without hot water until then.  I called my husband and told him the news.  I was in tears from the stress of the morning and the thought of the expense of the new water heater.  I regained my composure and continued on my way.

Traffic was almost non-existent and I was making pretty good time. The car was shaking pretty bad - that was nothing new except that it seemed to be getting worse.  I stopped at a rest stop, did my business, looked over the car, and got back on the road.  Everything seemed fine.

Now, about 2 1/2 - 3 hours into the trip, while cruising at 80 mph in the fast lane, something flew up under the front of the car.  I figured it was maybe tire tread from one the the trucks in front of me.  I drove a bit longer and then decided to pull over and check things out.  YIKES!  The front, driver's side was a bit of a mess.  Nothing I could do about it right there.  I glanced at the tire, not flat, so I started driving again.

The headlight was actually pushed in and we had to pull it out!

I drove for another 5 miles or so, and noticed that the car had stopped shaking.  Something didn't feel right.  I was 60 miles away from Blythe, but I decided to pull off at the next exit.  That exit happened to be in the middle of nowhere and dumped me off into a dirt lot.  I got out of the car and took a better look at the damage.  It was then that I realized that it wasn't a truck's tire tread that I had hit, IT WAS MY TIRE TREAD!!

I immediately called AAA (thanks to my in-laws).  Thank God for GSP, because I would have had NO idea where I was.  They said it was going to take at least an hour before someone could help me.  Damn.  I got back out of the car in the 95 degree desert heat to take out the teeny, tiny, donut of a spare tire.  I also decided to pop open the hood just in case someone driving by might see me and stop.  I then called my husband, hysterical, and told him what had happened.  I was worried about what this was going to cost, he was worried about me.  Fifteen minutes later, a guy on a motorcycle  pulled up.  He said that he wasn't sure why he stopped, but that he would help change the tire.  The spare needed air, so he used a can of flat-fix to put a little more air in.  He then followed me to what the GSP said would be the next gas station (9 miles away).  There we were, a motorcycle and a Malibu, hazard lights flashing going 45 mph down HWY 10.

Meanwhile, I had my husband call ahead to Blythe to find a place that would still be open and could replace my tire.  He found a place, told them I was about an hour away, and they said they'd wait for me.  Motorcycle guy and I pulled off where the gas station was supposed to be, only to find that it had been closed for what appeared to be decades.  Luckily, there was a roadside assistance truck there helping a truck driver with his tires.  He put air in my tire and let the air out of my bad tire so it wouldn't explode in the back of my car. YIKES!  I bid farewell to my helpers and headed to Blythe.

It was nearly dark by the time I found the seemingly deserted tire shop on the outskirts of town.  Not a comfortable situation for a girl traveling alone.  Two rather large gentlemen came out, checked my tire, found a new one across town, and got my headlight working again.  I thanked them and quickly made my way to my awaiting tire.

Now completely dark, I came to yet another seemingly deserted tire shop.  A rather rough looking, tattooed gentleman came out and told me to pull the car into the shop.  Another uncomfortable situation.
"That'll be $97," he grumbled.
"That's fine," I said with a nervous smile.
Mr. Tattoo changed the tire, and I decided to put the trunk back in order.  Suddenly, I felt something spraying all over me.  I had punctured a can of energy drink that had been left in the trunk.  It was now all over me and the back of the car!  SERIOUSLY??!!  Ridiculous!!  I grabbed a blanket out of the backseat and tried to dry my face.  The tire was on and Tattoo came around for his pay.  It was then that I spotted the sign, "NO CREDIT CARDS - CASH ONLY".  Crap!  I only had $55 cash with me.  So, off I went, still covered in energy drink, to the nearest Albertsons to use the ATM.  When I returned to the tire shop, all of the lights were off and Mr. Tattoo was waiting outside - yikes.  I quickly handed him his cash and drove away.  I made a quick stop at a Starbucks to clean up and a beverage and then continued on to Mesa.

The rest of the drive was rather uneventful, other than the post-traumatic stress from the events of the day.  I made it in time to go to the condo, unload the car, and get to the airport to pick up the girls.  I planned on having several margaritas over the next few days as a reward for my ordeal.

So, that's the story of the day I drove by myself to Arizona and lost my tread.

PS.  When I returned home, it ended up costing $400 just to make the car drivable again.  That didn't cover some of the cosmetic damage.  We'll address that later.  Sheesh!