WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?! Eventual answer: a noisy but mild blowout on I-80 near Austintown, Ohio, a suburb of Youngstown.
Stay calm, it's still early on a Saturday, we're safe, the car isn't damaged and AAA is on the way. Tire stores close at 2:00 on Saturdays? And they don't have size 195-55-16 anyway? Well then what do we do now?
Yeah. Due to a massive soccer tournament in Austintown, all of the hotels were booked except for this one. After many phonecalls, I found two rooms at the Econo Lodge, just a stones' throw from where the blowout happened. (#19 orange on map) At first glance, the motel seemed about on par with my inexpensive Cleveland hotel, but way beneath the quality of the conference Marriott where Bill stayed. It was part of a truck stop megalopolis, so at least there were restaurants, drug stores and a liquor store. We passed on the adult entertainment options, and hiked up to a Ruby Tuesday's (#51 green on map) for hamburgers through knee-high grass and dandelions with unbelievably thick, mutant stems. Ruby Tuesday's looked a lot closer on the map, but it turned out to be a three-mile walk, round-trip. Afterwards, we made do with the crappy TV reception and Bill left to crash in his own luxurious room. I decided to wash out some clothes in the sink because I would run out of stuff if we had to stay past Monday when Flynn's Tire and Service would probably have my 195-55-16s in their delivery truck. Almost done, I decided I had enough packets of Tide to wash out my jeans as well, and that is when the sink fell through. Into the homemade "vanity." There was no way I could fix this even temporarily, and got a new room on the flip side of our strip of rooms. Bill graciously helped me move. (It was more than a little spooky there at night, especially after I noticed the guy standing on the footbridge in the woods just across from Bill's room.)
I settled in my new room, exhausted, and realized that my deadbolt wouldn't latch into the door. Okay, but the special hotel-style lock worked, and the handle locked securely. I'd be okay. I didn't notice until the last day that the hotel-style lock had mismatched bolts and looked as if it had been detached with force, perhaps by Austintown SVU. Whatever. Don't fuss and make Bill more miserable.
Next day, Sunday, we walked over to Cracker Barrel (#44 green on map) for brunch and checked out this gem of a highway eatery:
Yup, that really does say Quaker Steak and Lube (#49 green on map). We were tempted, but a steak and lube from Quaker were not in the cards for us. We expected thundershowers Sunday night and ordered Chinese delivery, and ended up at Cracker Barrel again Monday morning where we were greeted like old friends.
By the way, the numbers and the map are almost meaningless because, as we discovered, the map is not drawn to scale. But that gives you an idea of this part of the adventure.
Things moved quickly after this. Flynn's Tire and Service sent out a truck for us and our luggage, and we waited in the shop until the car was finished. About eight hours later (including more hamburgers, this time at Applebees) we were in New Jersey where I'm pretty sure Bill kissed the ground when he thought I wasn't looking. This girl went bonkers when I walked in the door like I have never seen her go bonkers before:
It was quite an adventure. I wasn't murdered in my sleep, I wasn't murdered by Bill, the Mini is fine, he graded papers, I read a book I'm using in my sabbatical project, and we listened to lots of good music in the car. I managed to match-up outfits each day from my meager supply of clean casual clothes, and Bill looked like a GQ model each day. Glad to be home now, and glad I risked taking lots of silly pictures for the blog.