Things were going well. Too well. New Mexico was like a dream and we were heading into the last band of that red dirt land I love so much. We left the idyllic and secluded Lake Morphy with its switchback roads and pitch darkness, the crystalline lake with jumping fish and green bristling trees. Following google directions, we jumped on the two lane road north. But it was shut down. We broke out the paper map and plotted a new course. I took the delay to check my email and find another rejection in my inbox. It was one of those mornings. We should have just stayed by the lake. …Or—and this is a very real possibility—I just needed to eat. So at the first town we came to with an eatery—a little tiny hamlet of a place called Mora—we stopped and got a breakfast burrito. When I returned to the bus, I had a problem that food couldn’t fix: a flat tire.
I had my options, thanks to Roybal’s Tire and Service located just one quarter mile down the street. I could remove the tire, walk it down to them and see if it could be patched. But if it couldn’t be patched, I would be carrying it back and then putting the spare on to drive on anyway. And the spare was a problem. See, when I had my local Goodyear put new sidewall reinforced tires on back in November, they were a lower profile tire. The spare I have been carrying around has a much higher sidewall, which would mean I would be driving catawapus through the winding and steep roads of the Carson National Forest in winds that reached over 30 mph.
I decided to call Roybal’s and tell them the pickle I was in. The gentleman I spoke to, Orlando, was slow and thoughtful in his reply and asked if I had eaten yet. I looked at my styrofoam box of green chili huevos rancheros and said I could be done in five minutes. He assured me that I shouldn’t rush and he and his assistant would come to my rescue. So I finished my eggs and then got out to inspect the tire. I spied the head of a nail in the dead center of the tread and couldn’t believe my luck. This would be easy enough to patch.
Orlando and his assistant, Ty, rolled up in a truck with an air tank and pumped up the tire for me to drive it the quarter mile to their shop. “It’s the sidewall,” Ty announced. And indeed, a tear a centimeter and a half long whistled out air at an alarming rate. I jumped in the bus and set a quarter mile speed record for VW buses in Mora, New Mexico to get it into the shop.
Obviously, the tire couldn’t be repaired. I had the road warranty on it, but the nearest Goodyear shop was still hours and hours away. I had no room to strap the spare on the roof, especially with the high winds. Given the runaround I had with Goodyear in Mississippi a few weeks ago, I wasn’t in the mood to mess around with them again. And given the trouble I had locating a set of 14 inch tires (eight Dayton-area tire shops were completely unable / unwilling to help), I was beginning to feel a bit stranded. There was no way this little tire shop in this remote town would have my obscure tire size.
I was wrong. They had a whole set to match. I sat down with Orlando as he handwrote a bill and Ty swapped out and balanced the tires. (Not to mention I now have a spare that actually matches and Ty took the time to swap the tires and rims around so the oddball black rim remained my spare. It’s obvious he was not going to cut corners.) Orlando told me stories of elk hunting in the mountains and told me the story of a magnificent elk skull adorned with his old cowboy hats in the shop. And then I got to meet Neve, Ty’s dog, who is one of the sweetest dogs to guard any shop.
I’ll say it over and over again: even our breakdowns and runs of bad luck are fortunate in the end. It’s the luck of the Irish, I suppose. And I’ll harp on the point I have been trying to make as of late: the big stores and shops don’t care about you; they won’t drive down the street to help you out. They are an efficiency business and they won’t take the time to squeeze you in without an appointment or do your weird bus work because they’ve run the numbers and there’s a faster way to make the same amount of money and that old car you’ve been keeping alive ain’t it. But a place off the beaten path like Roybal’s will take care of you. They will take the time to help you. They’ll be kind to you and treat you fairly because they are only as good as the two people who work there. There’s not a corporate bottom line to defend or a policy to hide behind. It’s just a person who is as good as their word. So, thank you, Orlando; thank you, Ty. I’m proud to have you as part of Adie’s story.