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Monday, June 29, 2015

Road trip and God's Grace

 One of our family's favorite weekend activities is taking road trips.  Most people reading this think of a road trip as a pleasant drive along some scenic highway, looking at the trees and livestock grazing in green fields. Maybe you stop at a 'scenic overlook' to view a sight of historical significance or special beauty. After a couple hours, you might stop for dinner at a pretty little restaurant off the beaten path, then drive straight back home.
Not the Howe Family.
On Saturday we took a road trip-- Notah, Kerra, Seth, me and our honorary uncle, Pat Smith.  Somewhere south of Socorro Notah chose a side road at random. It was almost non-existent.  We followed it for maybe a half mile and it literally ended at a deep wash.. 
"We'll go up the road a little ways and there'll be a connecting road to bring us back around." Notah said. 
Yeah, OK.
We did go up the road a ways and we did find another road, somewhat better than the first..  You see it here.

Not too bad as New Mexico roads go...not the best either, but it promised adventure.  The problem was that after a ways, it turned into this....



And the next thing we knew, here was Notah looking for the road.
He was disappointed at the direction it took so he justc turned off the road across desert, over sage brush,  small dead trees, humps of grass, washes, low places and dead.  We bounced all over the truck. I cracked my head on the ceiling. The three in the back seat yelled. Things flew off the console and we came up on the other side of the bump. 
And then there was this long ominous hiss....like the sound of opening a soda bottle.
Now THAT's a puncture!
Okay.  Flat tire.  Everybody has had a flat tire once in their life.  The difference was, this flat tire was in the desert, probably five miles from the nearest hard road, eight or so from the highway and another thirty from a town with even a gas station.  I'm guessing here;  my estimation of mileage is shaky at best and I'm writing this on Monday when Notah is at work so I can't check with him.  You get the idea anyway.  We were in the middle of nowhere.
 Changing a tire in the desert is an Experience.  First, the truck was sitting is soft earth.  Jacking it up required that stones be placed under the base of the jack to make a firm surface.  Otherwise the jack just sinks into the sand instead of raising the truck.  ( I didn't help with this tire change, but I have with others.)  Notah sent Kerra off to find flat stones.  He sent Seth back and forth to the bed of the truck, bringing tools and sending them back.
 The most difficult part of the whole process was removing the nice little lugnut caps  put on for decorative value.  They been spun on with a pneumatic wrench and wouldn't move.  I don't know how long Notah spent with a screwdriver and a hammer loosening them up.  I don't know if they will ever be decorative again.
When the little caps were off and the lugnuts loosened, of course, the wheel had to come off, which required more jacking and more stones to support the jack.  Because of the soft soil, Notah and Pat worried continually about the truck slipping off the jack.   One of them came up with the idea of slipping the old tire and wheel under the frame so that if the jack did slip while they struggled with getting the spare on, the truck wouldn't fall on anyone but would be caught by the wheel.
Another difficulty, that anyone who has changed a tire knows, is that when the flat tire comes off, the axle isn't high enough to get the spare on!  More worrying about getting the truck jacked high enough to do that.  It isn't a problem when the vehicle is sitting on concrete or pavement; it's a different story when it's sitting in the middle of the desert. Eventually either Pat or Notah came up with the idea of letting the truck stay at the height it was and digging out under the tire.   That worked.
 The tire was back on. They released the jack.  That old wheel they'd shoved under the frame to catch the truck if the jack shifted...remember?  Yep. It did its job.  It caught the truck and kept it from falling.  Problem was it kept the new tire from just barely touching the ground...in the bottom of the hole, of course. 
 Jack the truck again, just enough to drag the wheel out.  Release the jack.  The truck is sitting of four good tires.
"Okay, load up,"  Notah instructed.  "Let's go!" 
I'd spent all of the two hours while Notah and Pat struggled on the ground in the dirt and heat, sitting in my camp chair under a shade pavilion that Seth and Kerra pulled out of the truck and set up!  We all snacked on summer sausage and cheese.  It was pleasant in the shade where the easy wind kept things cool.  Notah and Pat weren't so lucky down there beside that flat tire.
At any rate, tools were collected and stowed away.  The pavilion came down and was folded into its bag. All of the trash and water bottles went in plastic bags.  We all crawled back into the truck.  We were ready to go back across that vicious sage and dead tree desert to the road.    And we had no spare!   I said my own prayer that we'd get back without another hole in a tire.
It shows you what our flat tire site was like when I say we were all glad to get back on this road.
A good time was had by all. 
The thing I want to point out is this.  We spent the afternoon in the heat of the desert.  That tire was a hard job and those lugnut caps were the dickens to get loose.  The thing that blessed me repeatedly was that there was not a single cuss word or even irritated complaint!  Nobody got mad and slung the tire tool across the desert.  Nobody kicked the tires and slammed the jack handle into the fender.  
And there was plenty of justification for any of those things.  What wonderful evidence of the power of God in a man's life. 
We didn't get any place special, but it was an adventure.  And there was plenty to see while we were there.  Seth brought me a pretty little horny toad.  I even held it.  Kerr,a Seth and Pat picked up the usual trash to be found in the desert remnants of men who struggled and lived there.  Notah and Pat looked at the ruins of an old stone house where Pat found a belt buckle that said 'JEWETT' on it and an 'emerald.' probably from a ring or a button.  It was evidence of a family that lived out there so far from anywhere a long time ago.
The desert is always fascinating.