Last Wednesday morning, after a night in Salt Lake City, I headed further West. Spent much of the day whizzing through Idaho. In the middle of the afternoon I found myself in Eastern Oregon. I stopped to take a few photographs of a stunning lake surrounded by dry red hills, and the lush park next to it.
I figured I could go a bit further before filling my gas tank but wanted to clean off my windshield before getting back on the highway, and pulled into the lonely service station.
Perhaps surprised to see my Honda Accord parked in front of a pump on the diesel side of the station, a fellow traveler called out to me, warning me that those were all diesel pumps and did I realize how low my right front tire was?
Ah, yes, it is, isn't it? Tires are something I tend to worry about. Is that bumpiness just the road, or something wrong with my tire? I will peer at them uncertainly, trying to decide if they are a bit flat, or normal. Perhaps I should get myself a tire gauge and get in the habit of using it.
"You should get some air," said the man with confidence. "You really should."
So I found, on the other side of the large plot of land, one of those air/vacuum contraptions, and I put in my four quarters. It didn't seem to be working. Entering the cool, dark station the girl working the cash register if there was a trick to making the air work. She explained that the power had just gone out across the whole area. Maybe if I waited it would come back on. I lingered in the shop a bit, then went out to look at my tire again, wondering what to do.
A second person called out to me. Parked in an enormous semi truck by the side of the road, he honked his horn, waving for me to come over. "I notice you're having trouble with the air," he said. "See that place across the street? I just came from there, and they are reasonable, and fair, and just did some work for me. They can help probably help you out with your tire."
Sure enough. That's where I met the third man, the one who told me to pull my little car into the huge, open garage where he and a couple other guys were hanging out; they repaired broken down trunks. Without power there wasn't much they could do, but they could put some air in my tire. They thought it would be a good idea to take the tire off to see if I'd picked up a nail on the road and might have a slow leak. What with all the summer construction and everything...
The nearest gas station, besides this one, was another 30 miles and over a mountain pass. I learned that from another guy who came from the place across the street, desperate for enough gasoline to get him to Baker City. But the gas station wasn't doing any business with the power out. The truck repair guys gave him what he needed for a couple dollars a gallon.
They patched and filled my tire and gave me the nail as a souvenir. I gave them a $20 which my new friend said they'd use for bait money; they had a fishing launch tied up down at the dock.
I went on my way, wondering what would have happened if these three men hadn't spoken up to help me fix a problem I didn't know I had.