Crater Lake, OR: Flat Tire Day

Center map

Oh yah, twice!

I don’t get a lot of miles out of tires. Typically, about 4,000 of them. I would expect to have less success even if my alignment is off. But not this much less success.

Methinks the real culprit for excessive tire wear is gravel roads. And I do a lot of gravel road.

One morning, I set out for my neighborhood Walmart, some 47 miles away. I didn’t get very far. I lost my back driver’s side tire on a long right curve after only 5-6 miles.

Pastoral Breakdown

There were trees and a small lake or pond, even some horses milling around.

It’s a good thing, too, because it’s been a while since I’ve been actually frightened of anything.

When the tire literally blew up, I was going about 45; not fast enough for anyone to kill themselves without a head-on.

But the moment it went, I was no longer in control of the Sienna, despite being in full command of the two, functional front tires. It was a chilling thing for me to discover the system of chucks and balancing that losing one of the four tires poses on the entire vehicle’s steering track.

It’s a system, stupid!

Scary stuff.

When I slowed way down, I regained directional control and managed to pull off onto a wide shoulder and stop.

Mangled and stuck.

Can you say explosive decompression? The moral of the story is, don’t try to save money with Mexican Re-Treads! The Medford tire store showed me that the actual tire, everything the belts and rubber were attached to, was 16 years old and a new tread wasn’t going to stay attached for very long!

A caveman could.

I have counted on Geico for over two decades now for worry-free car insurance and that’s from whom I get my road service.

I was 55 miles away from Medford and Geico arranged for a tow truck! Only problem: a three hour wait.

I should note here for anyone to read that, during my disabled time, no less than six Oregonians (judging by their license plate) stopped and asked me if they could help me, including a Jackson County Sheriff’s Deputy who was the first to show up.

Little did they know that, minutes before, I was piloting a 4,000 pound chunk of moving metal that was not in my control.

The tire store.

This is my tire store in the Pacific northwest. Les Schwab has me in their computers as a great repeat customer. My addiction began at a Les Schwab in Washington last winter.

The parsed lips.

I got a parsed lips column of air from the tire guy: “[whew] Well, you’re all right,” he said. And I shook, eating popcorn from the popper for about an hour in the waiting room.

It’s done!

Then came an ominous warning: “better watch that other back one.” Absolutely.

19 miles.

I didn’t have to watch it for very long! Same highway, going the other way, I felt a sudden lack of steering (although I continued going straight) and immediately pulled off the highway.

Flat Tire One had taught me to recognize exactly what a Sienna flat tire felt like, and quickly. I knew instantly that Flat Tire Two was occurring, in real time.

Hello Geico?

Not a peep of objection or lack of understanding. They told me that the record was four tows in one day. But, I’d have to wait until after dark for this one to arrive.

I had lost Flat Tire Two on a long hill before one of the many bridges over the raging Rogue River approaching Shady Cove, Oregon, home of Ma’s Chinese, Thai and American restaurant (just don’t) and Phil’s Frosty, the pink building where I recently swore my passion to eat more ice cream.

Tow Two.

It’s especially challenging to tow a front wheel drive car with a flat rear tire–and in the dark. The two front wheels are supported on their front and rear by a hefty arm extended from the truck, and are lifted off the ground for transport.

Two car-width rails are placed fore and aft of the back wheels and, attached on each side, is a 2 tire dolly lifting the entire rear end of the vehicle off the ground. Once in place, the minivan will move!

We arrive back at the Les Schwab just before midnight and I know exactly where they want it parked! My second tow truck guy leaves me in the tire store parking lot for the night. They opened, on a Saturday, at 7AM.

“How far did you make it?”

Just short of Shady Cove, thanks. I need to get a little farther, though. “You will now.” What great words!

Smooth as glass.

This is how the 2000 Toyota Sienna CE minivan is supposed to work!


I was getting a little shimmy around 56 MPH for as long as I can remember, which prompted me early on to reduce my speed–and find how much gas I have saved by going the “truck speed.”

And for a couple weeks, I have felt a small jerk whenever I applied the brakes; I compensated for this by always tapping the pedal to bypass the lag.

Both of these problems went away with the replacement of the last Mexican re-tread. Adios, mi amigos!

Yes, I think it’s the dirt and gravel roads I regularly travel that wears out tires pretty fast! That’s a future cost I had not anticipated but I now know that every 4,000 miles or so, I had better be ready for a blow out.

These are just the facts of minivan life.

I’ve moved further east down Highway 62, closer to Crater Lake by about five miles (I’m not allowed to stay longer than two weeks at a particular campgrounds so, I must move on every so often).

The “Rogue River Bridge” campsite is remote and appears little used, except for maybe some extracurricular activities by someone who likes making it look like there are makeshift graves at several campsites!

Despite the possibility of seeing something I shouldn’t, I’ll be staying here until it’s time to restock supplies.

Happy trails, my friend.