A Flat in Oregon – A True Story

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In August 2011, my wife and I were driving home to Seattle in her 2002 Porsche Boxster S, having left Napa, CA that morning. The drive is about twelve hours and 800 plus miles. We’d passed through California and were driving through the Siskyou Mountains in Southern Oregon. I was in the left lane of Interstate 5, the major North/South highway in the West, passing someone at about 75 mph when the right rear tire blew out. I pulled over to the shoulder without drama, got out and saw that the tire was toast. No patching this one.

The Porsche was full of luggage, as it was packed for a two week stay. The space-saver spare was in the front trunk, against the firewall. I considered calling AAA, since the next exit wasn’t imminent. I looked at my phone to check my bars, and it read “No service”. What? No service? I’m on I frickin 5! I can understand no LTE, but no 4G? Noah had 4G on the ark and I’m stuck in Southern Oregon with no G’s.

We unpacked the front trunk and pulled out the little spacer saver. It was round, so that was a good start. It appeared to have some air in it, so we set forth putting it on as semis whizzed by mere inches from my backside. The right rear tire of a Boxster S has a width of 255mm. The space saver tire is about the same width as the word “width” that you see typed on your mobile device, unless you are using an iPhone 6 Plus, in which case the word is wider. The flat tire and wheel would not fit into the same space as that spare (hence, the term “spacer saver”). We did manage to figure out which luggage would fit in my wife’s lap so that we could fit the flat in the front trunk. She wasn’t about to carry that tire and wheel on her lap.

We continued North, waiting for cell service. This returned at about the same time we arrived at a town called Canyonville, where we exited the interstate. My wife called the nearest Les Schwab (a chain that sells and installs tires) to see if they could outfit our car with two rear tires. The response “Uh, yeah… we don’t get a lot of Porsches around here” was disheartening. She called the Les Schwab in the next town, a place called Roseburg. “Yes”, they said, “we can provide you with those tires”. Canyonville did give us with the opportunity to properly inflate the spacer saver from the 2 psi to its proper pressure.

On to Roseburg, at the 50 mph limit of the spare. Driving thirty miles on the interstate at 50 miles per hour feels like it takes ten days. I switched on my hazards and planted myself in the right lane while semi trucks, recreational vehicles and the occasional hiker passed us. After enduring this speed for what seemed like an eternity, we finally arrived at the thriving metropolis known as “Roseburg”.

We limped the car into the parking lot, walked in and talked to the tire guy who told us he had the right tire for us. He looked at his little screen and said “Oh, that one is a run flat. We can’t put that on your car.” I said “Look, we just need tires that will get us the 350 miles that will get us home. Whatever you have in a 17″ tire that’s approximately the same diameter as the original will work. I’ll be ordering new Michelins when we get home, any way.” He pecked away at his keyboard some more and found some 245s that would get us home. Close enough.

While waiting for the work to be finished, my wife noticed three junior high school students wearing Les Schwab shirts gathering around the front of the car with the hood open. They looked like three teens who had been asked to disarm a nuclear device. They were trying to figure out how to get the space saver in its proper location. My wife, who is a take-charge type of person, took charge. She marched out to the car, said something (I don’t know what. I was just watching through the window in a waiting chair), they pulled out some bags, put the spare back in its cover and put the bags back in the car. To the next Boxster owner who pulls into the Roseburg Les Schwab with a flat: my wife says “You’re welcome”.

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