Tired tires

Last week, I concluded my “Crazy Days” post with, “. . . and I’m hoping that’s the end of the excitement for the week!”  Apparently I tempted fate just a bit too much with that statement, as Friday brought more “adventures.”

Car tires
After the flat brought our attention to the fact that the 8-year-old tires (with ~55k miles on them) on our car were no longer road worthy, we did our research, selecting both a new tire and a local place for installation.

On Thursday morning, I made the appointment for nine on Friday morning, planning to bring work and a book and just wait there (for about 90 minutes) while they worked on the car.  I arrived at nine, handed over the key, and headed to the waiting area.

About thirty minutes later, one of the front office guys came in and told me that the new tires were still on a truck on their way to the shop, but that they should arrive in about forty minutes.  Thinking I’d still be out of there by 11am, I opted to wait.

Around 10:30am, with a dead laptop battery and no power cord (I didn’t think I’d be there long enough to need it), I went in search of an update.  Still no tires.  With lunch looming, and no definite end time, I accepted a shuttle ride home, after they agreed to deliver my car to me [at home] when the work was complete (which they don’t usually do).

Three-thirty rolls around and still no car.  At this point, it made more sense for Matthew to bike to the tire place on his way home from work and grab the car rather then them delivering it.  I called the shop to relay this change in plans; to make sure that we would, in fact, be getting new tires before the day ended; and to see if there was anything they could do for the inconvenience.  I mean, why do you SCHEDULE someone for an appointment without having the parts?

On the phone, they offered to give me their “tire protection plan” ($30 value) for free, as well as knocking $20 off the cost of the alignment.  Not quite what I’d been hoping for, but better than nothing.

Sometime between that phone call and Matthew arriving to pick up the car, someone must have had a change of heart, because they also ended up essentially giving us one of the tires, including installation, for free ($120 value).  Now that’s good service!  (With a 90k mile lifespan, these tires will probably outlast our car.)

In the meantime . . .

Bike tires
With Baby Jake permanently out of commission, I’m reduced to 1.5 bikes — BUB (my back-up bike) and Big Blue, which I consider half a bike because Matthew and I share it.

BUB has been sitting in the basement, unridden, since the end of April, when I loaned out the IBert seat in anticipation of Big Blue’s arrival.  I’m not exactly sure when I’ll get around to deciding on and acquiring Baby Jake’s replacement, so on Friday, I pulled BUB out of the basement.

Matthew and I were planning to meet for a yoga class on Friday evening, so I aired up BUB’s tires, did a quick check of the bike, and headed out.

I was about a mile into the two mile trip, when I heard a funny sound from the rear of the bike.  I had a split second to prepare to pull over and see what was causing the noise, when, BOOM!  The rear tire had a complete blow-out (I’ve had flats before on my bike, but never a blow-out like this).

Fortunately, I was traveling slowly when it happened and I was able to maintain control of my bike (may have also helped that it was the rear tire, rather than the front).  Unfortunately, I was a mile away from my destination (and from home) with a spare tube but no air pump, and a heavy hybrid bike.  Oops.

I called Matthew for a rescue ride (in the end, it worked out well that the car tires took forever, otherwise he wouldn’t have had the car at this point), and continued walking, lugging the bike, in the direction I’d been riding.  After awhile, I gave up attempting to carry the bike and wheeled it along, knowing that I was risking damaging the tire, but not really caring.

When I pulled the wheel off the next day, the tire showed signs of dry rot (I didn’t think the tires were that old, but I guess I was wrong), so instead of just patching or replacing a tube, I set out to buy replacement tires.  (I’m still not sure exactly what caused the flat — no signs of anything that punctured the tire and tube, nor anything obviously wrong with the rim.)

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve dealt with a flat (you get them much less frequently when you avoid riding on the edge of the roadway, which is where you find most of the debris that causes flats), so it took me awhile to put on the new tubes and tires.  I was starting to think I should have just paid someone at the bike shop to do it, but it’s a relatively easy task and a useful skill to have.

In the process, I couldn’t help but notice that BUB is due for a tune-up, and likely replacement brake and derailleur cables.  I’ll probably continue to use her for short trips, but limit rides to small streets and distances of no more than a mile until those issues are resolved.  This will limit my two-wheeled mobility on days when Matthew has Big Blue, adding some extra incentive to decide on Baby Jake’s replacement sooner rather than later!

Maintaining our old car

It’s been all bike, bike, bike here lately, which is great, but the good ol’ Corolla is feeling a bit neglected.  Since my car commute job ended, we’ve been back to pretty low mileage, which is also great, but using it less frequently also makes it easier to neglect . . .*

. . . which is how we ended up going over a year between oil changes.  Now, I’m completely on board with stretching the old “every three months or three thousand miles” to every six months or six thousand miles, but this was rather extreme, even for me, and it really doesn’t demonstrate good stewardship.

When we moved [almost] two years ago, the distance to our regular mechanic increased quite a bit.  I could no longer drop it off in the morning, walk or jog home, and return later when they called to say it was ready.  But finding a new, trusted mechanic?  Ugh!  Definitely a barrier to regular preventive maintenance.

I finally sucked it up and tried a new mechanic, one very close to our current location.  I warned them that it had been quite a while since my last oil change, then jogged the three blocks home to await their call.

Fortunately, everything looked good on our 12-year-old, 150k mile car!  Very good news, because I really dread the thought of finding a replacement — I’m hoping that day is a loooong way off.  (We’ll have more data later, as she’s due for her registration renewal in a couple of months, which means she’ll have to pass the safety and emissions inspections.)

The shop owner said the most important thing with an older car was checking the oil level regularly, and, if we do that, he’s not worried about us going six months between oil changes.  Score!

There WAS a slight hitch a few days after the oil change.  I was cleaning and loading the car for our camping trip, and, remembering my mom’s story of driving home from an oil change and discovering the mechanics had forgotten to put the plug back in the place where the oil goes (see, I know all about cars!), leaving her driving around with no oil, I decided I should go ahead and check the oil level.

All was well, until I attempted to close the hood, only to have it refuse to latch.  This has happened before, the result of an old and sticky latch/spring mechanism, and it usually requires just a bit of WD-40.  This time, I tried both WD-40 and lubricant with no luck.

I called my new mechanic and explained the situation.  He tried to help me troubleshoot over the phone, since he really didn’t want me driving to the shop with the hood unlatched, but no joy.

I drove to the shop very carefully (I wasn’t worried about covering the short distance at very low speeds), and one of the mechanics made time to look at it immediately.  In the end, it just needed more WD-40, a bit of a firmer hand, and some industrial grade lubricant.  In less than ten minutes, our car was once again highway-worthy, and they didn’t charge me for the work!  (I stopped by later to drop off a thank-you note and some cookies.)

*In an average week, we make at least one trip to my MIL’s (~25 miles RT).  Some weeks (the “good” weeks), that is the only car trip we make.  Other weeks we end up making that trip twice, or maybe a trip to my FIL’s, or some other miscellaneous outing.  Even with an occasional road trip to Iowa thrown into the mix, that still leaves us at well under six thousand miles per year, and well under the ~12k miles/year U.S. average.