Driving eastbound on I-66, at the height of rush hour, I encountered a little problem.
Just inside the Beltway, there's a stretch of superhighway with a shoulder on the right that stops being a shoulder from 3:30 until 7:00 pm.
For that benighted time period, it becomes an express lane for buses and vans serving the West Falls Church Metro stop. It's a very bad place to hear your tire start to fail.
The stretch of highway probably only goes on for about a mile and a half. It leads to a flyover with no shoulder. That's about 2 tenths of a mile. That leads to a regular superhighway, with a regular, blessedly sufficient shoulder.
As you may have guessed by now, I was just approaching this abomination of civil engineering, at about 60 mph, when I heard a little rumble. I felt a little shimmy. I looked to my right and realized where I was.
I hit my emergency flashers, slowed to 30, and started to sweat. I may have uttered a barnyard epithet. I didn't really contemplate my doom, but I definitely regretted passing up that extra slice of pecan pie at lunch.
Adding the stretch of road with its procession of suddenly-lethal buses and vans to the subsequent flyover ramp, I now calculate the distance to be about 1.7 miles.
It took me roughly three weeks to traverse. Sweating out roughly one-third of the hourly liquid spillover at Niagara Falls --- as measured by the nonpartisan, bilateral U.S.-Canadian Riparian Cooperation Commission.
I have power windows, so I hit the button to roll them down at the start of my escapade, to smell rubber.
It wasn't too bad when I started. I was contemplating wrecked rims by the time I could finally pull off.
I called the police and I called AAA.
When the AAA guy got there, he scolded me for being on my cell phone while he called me trying to hone in on my location. The mile marker (down to a tenth of a mile) I'd given the dispatcher was clearly too general.
The police sent a guy from V-DOT (Virginia Department of Transportation). He got out of his pick-up with the flashing lights and I finally found out where the father in the trio of hillbillies in Deliverance had moved on to. He had three teeth, a weeks growth of beard, a ciggie dangling from his mouth, and shouted to the AAA guy: "How many people did this guy call, anyway?"
I replied "The cops and Triple-A, which one shouldn't I have called?"
"Well, one of 'em," he explained.
Sotto voce, the AAA guy, who looked like a cross between Willem Defoe and John Riggins, said "You did right, you call both and take whoever comes first."
I was starting to like this guy.
He put my donut on my wheel, assured me I'd missed effing up my rim by a matter of moments, and went to his car for some paperwork.
While he was away, Grampa Hillbilly said "Your flashers have been on an awful long time, maybe you ought to start her up after he comes back."
This guy, too, was beginning to grow on me.
Defoe/Riggins comes back, gives me some paperwork, and warns me that I can't drive faster than 50 mph or longer than 50 miles on the donut.
Grampa makes his start her up suggestion again.
Then we all heard the lovely kachuckachuckachuck of a car who's battery won't turn over.
Luckily, Triple-A fixes that too.
Now I had three instructions:
Stay under 50 mph
Don't drive more than 50 miles
Drive at least 15 minutes to recharge before stopping.
I shook both men's hands, thanked them, and drove toward Sears, reflecting on my good luck.
I got to Sears before the fifteen minutes were up.Going through a McDonald's drive-through keeps the engine running.
(A death-defying daredevil like myself scoffs heartily at cholesterol.)
$600.00 later, I'd done my part for President Obama's goal of stimulating the economy and had four new Goodyear tires, and an alignment.
If anyone wants to start a movement to demand that shoulders be shoulders 24 hours/day, 7 days/week, count me in.