Contrary to the cliche, it didn't hit from out of the blue. It came instead from out of the black, rolling into the area lit by my headlights from the left, crossing at such speed in front of my car that I barely had time to identify it as a 4-5" rounded cube of concrete, judge that I couldn't possibly avoid it by stopping even while my foot reached for the brake pedal, resign myself to the idea that I couldn't possibly even control where I'd be in relation to its path: either it would hit one of my tires or it would pass harmlessly between, before I heard the loud "Kthunk!" coming from the front passenger side followed immediately by fsss-fsss-fsss.
I knew what that meant.
That was the first two seconds. I spent the next three looking left while I eased off the brake, letting the car slow slightly as I realized I still had full control even with a flat front tire, wondering where the chunk had come from. There was no vehicle in either of the other two freeway lanes on my left or just in front of me to have kicked it up and given it such a trajectory and speed. Might it have gotten kicked up by an oncoming truck, perhaps, with enough of a lift to cross the median concrete barrier and keep rolling across the northbound lanes?
It was about 6:40 PM Thursday night, heading home via I-35, approaching the second Forest Lake exit. The plan had been to do a tiny bit of shopping on the way, as this was early for me. We needed dog food, and I needed some jerky to munch at the upcoming auction Saturday, a good low-carb meal that left my keyboarding fingers clean and freed up for the job. Well, there was still time to hit Wal-Mart, but now it would be the automotive service section. I'd for sure need some air, but was prepared to need a new tire, and hopefully they still stocked one that matched what they'd put on this fall.
They looked at the clock too, and started to protest that it was time for them to start shutting down the service section since they closed at 7. I persuaded them that they had one last job to do. (Apparently I can do helpless elderly female quite well, especially when that's my take on the situation.) They found a tire, their last of the kind I needed, and pulled the car in. Within two minutes they were back, informing me since the tire had been driven on and the sidewall ruined, but also showing me my bent rim. It would be impossible to mount the new one. OK, could they check my toy tire and put that on so I could drive home? Also, I decided to buy the tire so I'd have it tomorrow after finding a new rim.
At least I thought it would be that simple.
First thing Friday morning I found out that the dealership parts department opened an hour later than I thought they did. Rather than sitting home cooling my jets, I contacted my favorite mechanic, Glen. He has in the past secured used parts for me, and could he do it this time too? After checking, he let me know the closest one was in Wisconsin, and even if it were overnighted, it would be Monday before it could be installed. How much? He replied that it'd be $150, even used: they know what rims are worth even used.
I didn't want to put another full working day in on that toy tire, having already put several hundred miles on something rated for maybe a 50 or 60 miles life span. A work day for me easily runs 300 miles, often more. Nor did I want to miss a day of work. I called Glen back: where in Wisconsin? If it were reasonably close, I could go fetch it myself. After checking, he called back with a location of Green Bay, ridiculously far. But now he also knew of a rim just down in Rosemount, same price. I could easily go fetch it. Only thing was, it was a 5 inch, and we didn't know whether I needed a 5 inch or a 5 1/2. I could drive down to St Paul and Glen could measure, and we could go from there. He thought the only difference might be that a 5", if too small, might only be too small for a front mount but might go on the back. I gathered that had the replacement rim been a 5 1/2", it wouldn't have mattered.
When I arrived, he pulled out the damaged rim/tire and looked at it. There was about a 4" section of rim bent out from the concrete. "Is that all? I can fix that!" About half an hour later - I had to wait on another car ahead of me - he called me over to see his work. I couldn't tell where the ding had been, and the bubbly stuff he smeared around the rim/tire showed no leak. He had put the old tire back on, after examining it and finding no visible damage despite what the WalMart guys had said, although with full pressure we both felt the teeniest of bulges at one spot on the sidewall. We decided to put the new tire on just to take no chances. With winter and all the driving I do, plus the difficulty I have with my knees these days in being able to change my own tires any more, it was an easy decision.
While I was there, he put the calipers around the rim to find out its size for future reference. It was exactly 5 1/4". Does that make it a 5" or a 5 1/2" rim? Anybody? Anybody?
A little time, and a lot less money than I had anticipated, and I was back on the road, ready for work. All in all, not so bad a day.