Yesterday morning, I left home for the 5-hour drive to Dover, Delaware, to speak to the good folks at the Central Delaware Civil War Round Table. My friend and excellent Gettysburg historian, Tom Ryan, is President and invited me to speak on the book co-authored by Eric Wittenberg and I on Stuart’s ride to Gettysburg.
After a terrific dinner at the large and spacious Modern Maturity Center in Dover, the meeting began about 7:45 pm last evening. Since Eric had spoken to the group on the book (not yet released at the time) about this time last year, I gave the 60 or so members a different angle, talking about the different transitions the book went through over the years to its completion, as well as the many new bits of information we worked into the book, some of which completely changed the interpretation of many events. I also covered the June 29, 1863 scrap at Westminster MD between Stuart and upstarts of the 1st Delaware Cavalry, to bring home that local interest.
I spoke for about 45 minutes, then there was over a half hour of excellent questions by the members. Really good stuff. There was a lot of interest in the topic, and I couldn’t have enjoyed myself more. After the meeting I autographed and sold several books. Tom has a fine crew and the RT is comprised of a very active membership.
Since I wanted to get a few hours in the office this afternoon, and also since I had to play a match in our men’s golf league this evening at 5:00 pm, I decided to get up early and leave the hotel by 8:00 am. That should get me home by about 1:00, plenty of time to take care of business before heading out to the links.
Everything started out like clockwork – I left right at 8:00 am after breakfast, and got on the road. Traffic was pretty light, so I was making great time, marveling that I had hit the Mifflintown PA area of Rt. 322 by 11:30 am. As I threw my Corvette into sixth gear and settled back for the last couple hours of my drive, buzzing along about 70 mph, it suddenly felt like either a tractor trailer slammed into the back end of my car, or a bomb had just gone off in it.
Ever been in a Corvette when one of your 18-inch Z-rated racing tires literally blows up?
Nope, me either. But boy, is it loud.
Apparently, I had run over some sharp piece of metal or something similar. It was enough to cut a 4-inch deep gash (all the way through the metal cords) in my left rear tire in a millisecond. So, no slow leak.
When the tire blew, it lifted the back end of the car about 6 inches off the ground. Mind you, I’m zipping at 70 mph without a care in the world. The noise was so loud, and the jump of the car so startled me, as I said I thought I either had just been crashed into from behind, or something in the rear of the car had just exploded – maybe the gas tank?
I got control of the car pretty quickly – thank goodness – and after getting it straightened out, I pulled over to the side of the road. I still didn’t know I had a blown tire yet, because it hadn’t come off the rim, and I have Goodyear Run-Flats – the kind that allow you to drive the car for several miles even when they’re flat. But when I got out and checked the back of the car, it was obvious what had happened to that rear tire. I was glad nothing was on fire, no smoke, and there wasn’t another vehicle stuck to the back of mine.
I whipped out the cell phone and found out just how handy that 1-800 Roadside Assistance sticker on the driver window really is. The nice lady on the phone at GM did a search of the area, and found a GM dealer just up the road a mile off the next exit. She gave me their number, I called, and they told me to come right in. I was able to drive the car to the dealer, and luckily they had Goodyear 18′s since they sold and serviced Corvettes there.
They took my car right in, but since it was lunchtime, the guys couldn’t get to it until after 1:00. I was going to need new rear tires by next year anyway, so I told the service personnel to go ahead and put two new ones on the rear. I guess I’d forgotten how expensive that would be (those puppies run over $300 each even when on sale) and it would obviously take longer.
When they got the bad tire off, they showed the gash in it to me, with one of the guys saying “Wow.” Very rare to hit something that would blow a tire like that. All we could figure was I ran over some pretty sharp piece of metal that either came off a vehicle, or flew out of one. Whatever it was, it sure did a number on that tire.
Once they got the tires on and balanced, they ran into some trouble getting the tire pressure sensors hooked back up (seems you need a special tool to do that, and they had trouble locating theirs). When I finally got the car back, and stretched out the credit card more than I had planned, it was already 2:30 – and I had nearly 2 hours left to get home.
No time in the office obviously, and I was just going to make my tee time. My wife brought a change of clothes and my clubs to my office (which is closer) and I made the golf course with only minutes to spare. Golf, no matter how frustrating, is always therapeutic for me, and it went a long way to helping me settle down after such a drive home. I actually played pretty well considering how stressed out I was.
In spite of the car trouble, it was a terrific trip and a great time with very hospitable folks. Like a trip to the casino, I ended up spending more than I came home with, but when you make new friends you always profit.