Monday, November 30, 2009

Rum River Flat

Yesterday was a bit dark. We decided to "get out of the house" and went up to the Central Rum River Park, near Ramsey. Had a nice hike through the woods and returned to find we had a flat tire. A young couple came by walking their dogs and offered to help. He was tall and had an oblong head and an open smile, she was short and pale with beautiful straight black hair. I had already gotten the lug nuts off the tire but the tire itself wouldn't budge from the hub.The guy (who reminded me of my cousin Rick) helped me yank on the tire without success and suggested rolling the car back a bit to free the wheel--also to no effect. He finally said with a laugh, "I've changed a lot of tires but I've never seen anything like this."

Then his wife, who was lingering on the grass with the dogs, said, "Do you have triple A?" and I said, "Gee, actually we do."
"Why don't you call them?"
"Good idea ... but we don't have a cell phone."
She had a worried look on her face, though I wasn't sure if she was worried about us and our tire, or worried about us ruining her walk...or simply incredulous to meet up with two people who were clueless and didn't seem to mind it.

"I left mine in the car," the guy said. "I have mine right here," she said.

So we call Triple-A (she had the number on her speed dial) and described our predicament. They agreed to send someone out within the hour and would call when they were five minutes away. "But if you're not there or we can't find you, we'll have to go on to the next stop."

"You're going to get a call while you're on your walk," I told the guy. "Just tell them you're still standing by the car. OK?"

"Sure," he said genially. "And we'll come by to see if you're still here before we leave the park."

There was only one road leading in to the trailhead parking lot, and once our new friends had headed off into the woods we immediately decided to walk out to the only intersection in the park to make sure the AAA guy didn't go the wrong way, end up at the canoe landing, and give us up for lost. We stood at the intersection by a marsh, looked up the hill through the woods, took a photo of some drops of water clinging to the top of a weed, and generally had a very fine time. I began to think of that intersection in Provence, in the Luberon, where Beckett allegedly conceived the idea for Waiting for Godot. And I began to wonder about the sign directing people to the picnic grounds, the landing, the horse trails, etc. It struck me as odd that one of the entries on the sign was "Canoe Campsite." We had passed the campsite on our walk--it was only available to passing canoeists. But if that were the case, why would anyone in a car need to be told where it is? (Maybe if the canoeist were meeting some of his buddies to have a big beer party?)

We'd been standing by the intersection for twenty minutes, and I was beginning to figure what we might do if the Triple-A guy didn't show. Walk six miles to the labyrinth of malls on the highway in Coon Rapids? Go over to the house of the dog-walkers, who lived ten minutes away and had offered to help us out further? (But what good would that do?)

Just then a little red car pulled up, and our new-found friends rolled down the window. "We wondered where you'd gone off to. They called us. They said they need to have your name."

"What? They already said they were coming!" He handed out the phone.

Just as we were smoothing out that litle wrinkle, a white panel truck appeared from out of the woods from the direction of the highway. AAA. Hallelujah!

Our roadside help was a bearded young man who'd recently moved out to St. Francis from Mounds View. He reminded me of a son of some friends of ours, smiling and relaxed. Two sharp swats of a sledge hammer later (delivered from the back side, with a big block of wood serving to distribute the force of the blow) and the wheel was off. Noticing that our spare was almost flat itself (I had thought it was a hard rubber tire!) he inflated it to the required 65 psi.

We drove off feeling like a million dollars. We had had an adventure and met some very nice people. I can't say that it restored my faith in humanity, because I've never lost it, but it certainly re-affirmed how eager people sometimes are to help out.

I almost feel like calling the dog-walking couple to tell them how we finally got home. (Maybe I should just call my cousin.)

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