Am I getting too old for this shit?

Waiting at Speedy, Caen

The good news is that I managed not to dent the car when I jacked it up this time, unlike the time when I tried to jack it up in the snow.

So we were driving down a French motorway at 80 mph when one of the rear tyres blew. When I say “80 mph”, I mean a GPS 80 mph, which looks more like 85 on the speedometer. So we were doing an indicated 85 and – as George from Seinfeld would say – making good time when the tyre let go. Thank the modern technology gods, but the only indication that something was up was the change in the sound of the wheels on the road, which might as easily have been caused by a rippled road surface.

I slowed down. Nobody else had noticed anything, but the noise persisted at a slower speed. With a sinking feeling I realised it was probably a flat. I pulled over into a refuge (a little bit of extra space compared to the hard shoulder).

We have RAC cover for “abroad”, but I didn’t want to sit by the motorway like a sap waiting to be rescued. I decided to try to fit the spare. I have done this once before in my life, around 17 years ago.

All the luggage had to come out of the boot and sit with the kids on the grass bank at the side of the road. I completely forgot the warning triangle and to don the compulsory reflective waistcoat, which remained in its packet, unopened. It says something about my recent motoring experiences that I didn’t know for sure that it was a “space saver” spare wheel. It’s all very well saving the space for the spare, but when you run with it on, you still need to store a full-size wheel and tyre. This meant that the 35 miles or so we drove to a Speedy tyre fitter place (in Caen) were covered with spare luggage all over the place.

So I succeeded in putting on the spare, something that people used to do as a matter of routine, in around 20 minutes. Felt like a man, doing it. Quietly fretted that spare wheel would detach itself at 50 mph due to my feeble effort to tighten wheel nuts.

Even a short distance at 50 mph (and when I say “50 mph”, I mean a GPS 50) on a modern motorway feels like going backwards. “We’re not making good time here!” said my inner George.

We found the Speedy. They had no Continental, so we’ve now got one Pirelli and three Continental. Does this matter? I don’t know. They’re all fairly new.

Why did a fairly new tyre blow out at 80 mph? Unfortunately, I didn’t ask the Speedy tyre fitter. I’m left with three theories. One is that I rolled over something long and sharp, like a big nail. Two is that I pissed off a French man with my muttered comments about his driving/parking in the service station we had just left. But the most likely is the third: I navigated a metal mini roundabout in Sarzeau (Brittany) the other day, and the right hand rear hit the kerb as I went around, which was when I realised why the lorry in front of me had completely ignored the roundabout and had passed it on the left hand side. Normally, you’d go over a mini roundabout, but this one was metal, with spikes. I didn’t hit one of the spikes, but I did kerb the tyre, which waited till it was good and hot before exploding, several days later.

To complete the joy of the journey, when we arrived (three minutes past our last check-in time) at the Eurotunnel, there were massive queues. It took an hour to go through check-in, French customs, and then UK customs. I don’t need to tell you who was causing the biggest delays. We got back to England shortly after 6 in the evening, and the motorways were fairly clear. When we got in the house, I noticed the fridge-freezer making a strange noise. Dead.

Last time we drove back from France, after Festivus, I got the worst headache of my life and vomited several times when we arrived home. I’m starting to think I really am getting to old for this.

By the way, next time I travel anywhere, I will check the pressure in the spare tyre before I leave.

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1 thought on “Am I getting too old for this shit?”

  1. I’ve given up driving long distances. Being on medication that makes me drowsy in the afternoons wasn’t helping things.

    It’s never just one thing that goes wrong when you go away. It was something every day that time we went to Tenerife.

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