Central Delaware CWRT Talk – and an explosion

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. 

Just BOOM.

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. 

Published in: on June 20, 2007 at 12:05 am  Comments (11)  

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11 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. JD,

    Glad you’re okay and that the car is, too.

    I once blew a tire the same way. It was getting dark, and I never saw the chunk of metal in the road until after I hit it….my tire blew at 70, just as yours did. I got the car off the road, and changed mine.

    The car after me hit the same chunk of metal–the universal joint of the transmission of a semi–and it punctured the gas tank of that car…..


  2. Yikes. Well, that noise was so loud I just didn’t have a clue what in the world could have happened. At first, I even thought that there was some kind of explosion to my rear and not involving the car – it was that loud. I was relieved to find out it was only a tire and nothing more serious, but I haven’t been that shocked by something in a long time.


  3. JD,

    You’re a financial services guy right after my own heart! 🙂

    “No time in the office obviously, and I was just going to make my tee time. [LOL] 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.”

    Glad to see that your priorities, like mine, are in the right place!! Having the proper work/life balance is crucial. 😉


  4. LOL, Paul – dang right! Why let business get in the way of hookie?



  5. Hi!! I finally had time to read your book about Stuart’s ride !! For me, it was a great read–I liked learning about the ride in detail (well-written) and was happy to see the part on the controversy, Stuart’s report, and most of all, the driving tour. I will drive some of it 2 to 3 weeks from now when I’m in the area. I am also speaking to a publisher who is interested in doing a driving/walking guide of the historic areas in my town and I think I like the way your drive is set up rather than some of the other driving guides I have seen and may use the style when I put one together for Milford CT. So, just wanted to compliment and thank you (and Eric) for the book !!

  6. Thank you for your kind words about the round table — we enjoyed your talk very much. I hope your tire adventure doesn’t prevent you from returning in the future.

  7. J.D.,

    While I feel bad you had the misfortune with the tire, I think back to Fredericksburg 2004, when for some reason your Corvette hated me being in the passenger seat. 🙂 For those who have not heard the story, it seems Mr. Corvette locked up because it was parked on unlevel ground. Naturally, it happened on the last stop of the Fredericksburg driving tour and also at Guinea Station… the middle of nowhere down there. Took 3 of us to yank on the steering wheel so the car could start at both places. IIRC, when J.D. called the number, the operator told him we would have to pull hard on the steering wheel, and thus we did. I actually thought we had broken the car, but it was fine once we unlocked the death grip from hell. IIRC, that was the most exercise I got in the year 2004 as well.:) Stuff like that could only happen to us.:)

    Notice both places where this occurred dealt with Stonewall Jackson, and I came to learn that his real last words were “Let us cross the river and screw with a Yankee’s Corvette”. 🙂

    Regards from the Garden State,

    Steve Basic

  8. Regina,

    Thank you so much for the kind words! Eric and I are very glad you enjoyed all aspects of the book, especially the tour. It took a great deal of time and “on the ground” study, obviously, to put that together, and I think the tour alone is worth the price.

    Keep in touch and let us know if there’s any way we can help.


  9. Karen,

    It won’t. I had a terrific time with y’all and it more than made up for the tire 🙂


  10. LOL, Steve – and do you know the only few problems I’ve ever had with the car over 10 years have been Civil War related trips?

    I guess the ghost of Stonewall is pretty far-reaching…



  11. J.D.,

    LOL, and at least I know it was not me. I was in transit from Tenneseee while you were in Delaware. That’s a load off my back, and hope you and Stonewall reconcile soon. 🙂 Have a great weekend in the Gettysburg area and will see you in a couple of weeks.

    Have a safe trip.

    Regards from the Garden State,


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