Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Is that OUR tire??

We were 150 miles from home, headed for Colorado. All was well. Dani and the boys were watching a movie in the backseat. I was snoozing shotgun, and Darren was driving. In the CD player was a mix called "Stuff Darren Likes", and Aaron Neville's "Crazy Love" was playing. For the rest of my life, when I hear the strains of "She gives me love, love, love, love, crazy love" in that beautiful tenor vibrato, I'll see the image of our tire bouncing down the highway.

I was sleeping pretty hard. All of a sudden, I heard a grinding sound, and the car was slowing down FAST. I opened my eyes, and as Aaron Neville's voice filled my head, my eyes immediately saw a tire - nay, a whole wheel - bouncing down the highway in front of me, 70 mph. It crossed the grassy median, continued down the oncoming lanes, and eventually came to rest several hundred yards away in the ditch on the other side. As it bounced along, I shook my head, trying to loosen the cobwebs that cluttered my sleepy mind.

"Is that OUR tire???" I asked.
I couldn't make sense of it. There had been no blow-out. I hadn't felt it, and besides... the tire rolling down the highway was obviously intact.

"Yes," was all Darren said.

Then we were stopped. He jumped out of the car, crossed the highway and jogged to where the wheel had come to rest. By then, the song had ended, and there was an eerie silence in the car. The boys were oblivious, engrossed in their movie. Dani and I wondered aloud what had happened. We watched Darren roll the wheel back toward us, jogging the whole way in 96 degree heat.

When he arrived at the car, he leaned the wheel against the car, and sat in the driver's seat. He was shaking, and I couldn't immediately tell if it was because he was winded, or because he was upset.

"What on earth?" I asked.

"The whole [front driver's side] wheel came off," he answered. "The lug nuts are gone."

At that point, we all piled out of the car. The boys and Dani sat up on a hill away from the highway. I helped Darren unload the back of the Xterra so he could access the jack.

As we came to a stop after the tire broke away, the grinding sound that woke me was the brake rotor scraping against the pavement. It was destroyed. We were only a couple of miles from a small town, though, and decided to take our chances. Darren borrowed a lug nut from each of the other three wheels, and used them to secure the lost wheel back to the car. We limped into town.

On the way, I called our friend Luke, who Googled and found the number of the only car mechanic in town... a tire and alignment shop. We went there.

"Huh," said the owner. "A 2002 Xterra. It might be hard to find parts for that."
I figured in the small town, it'd be next to impossible. I had visions of having to call friends to come pick us up, and spending our first days of vacation with the car in the shop.

We went to eat lunch at a nearby cafe while the mechanic looked at the car. When we returned, he'd not only located the parts - correct lugnuts AND brake rotor, IN TOWN - but he'd also managed to find and buy a new size of allen wrench with which to remove our 4-wheel drive thingy. (There's a fancy word for that, I'm sure.)

Amazingly, we were back on the road in just over 2 hours.

How'd it happen? Well, it seems that the (darned smart and good-lookin' to boot) guy (who I happen to be married to) who replaced our brake pads before we left failed to tighten the lug nuts all the way when he put the tire back on. He was shaking because he was FURIOUS with himself, and because he realized that we were so lucky to be safe. He didn't lose control of the car at all. He carefully brought it to a graceful stop on three wheels. I didn't know what to say, so I touched his shoulder and said, "You did a great job controlling the car." I don't think he acknowledged me.

Here's the deal. There were a lot of little things that went RIGHT with what could have been very bad.

  1. First, because we were driving the Xterra, which is made for off-roading and flexibility, Darren was easily able to control it. Any other car wouldn't have faired as well. I hate to think of what COULD have happened when losing an entire wheel while traveling at 72 mph.
  2. Because the Xterra has such a high clearance, Darren was able to get the jack underneath the car, even with the car was resting on its brake rotor.
  3. There were no other cars around us when it happened.
  4. Because the Xterra's wheels use 6 lugnuts and not 4 or 5, we could afford to borrow one from each wheel and limp into town...
  5. which was only 2 miles away.
  6. There was a mechanic in town who was fair and gracious and very fast.
  7. The parts for our car, uncommon, were found immediately.

Some would say (and have said) that God protected us that day... that He orchestrated the events in such a way that everything fell into place. But I don't know. I mean.... if God was involved at all, wouldn't He have made sure the lug nuts were tightened in the first place? Wouldn't He have ensured that the wheel miraculously stay put even when the lugnuts were loose?

I believe that God is alive and working in our lives, but I also believe that life HAPPENS, and that every single thing that transpires isn't necessarily the direct hand of God. I have no way of knowing which is which. Maybe it was dumb luck that we didn't lose control of the car. Maybe it was pure coincidence that it happened within a couple of miles of the only mechanic around who could help us. Maybe it WAS God. I don't know. All I can do it praise Him NOW, and always, and hug my kids a little tighter tonight. And stick around outside next time my brake-pad changing hubby is working on the car, to swat the pesky mosquitos that distracted him in the first place and sent him rushing inside after the job was done.


Veronica in Aus said...

Wow. Great story. And you sure did have some great luck!

Similar thing happened to us when I was a child. We were towing a boat at the time. Suddenly this wheel goes sailing by....yup, it was ours. Only it wasn't from the car but from the boat trailer. It travelled for miles too and landed in a paddock.

MeganC said...

I do believe that God controls and orchestrates all things, even this. Tightening the lug nuts in the first place would have kept all these things from happening for sure, but you don't know God's purpose in this. Maybe someday He'll use this event in your kids' lives somehow that would never have been known had that tire been tightened down. Maybe more praise comes out from actually seeing and feeling yourselves being protected than from just having been protected all along! You never know what may come of this event in the future! So glad you are safe though!

Lisa said...

I believe God is good and God is still in control!

reddhairedgirl said...

I think everything that happens in our life is either orchestrated or "allowed" by God. I believe that something in this circumstance was to happen to affect another. Maybe the guy who fixed your tire needed an example of God's grace to reaffirm his faith. Maybe his wife needs to share your story with a friend who is struggling right now. Maybe this is something you need to remember when your children are older. Maybe the Lord needed to you to be off the road for two hours to avoid some other situation. You may never know the purpose of this event, but I am confident that the Lord will use it to help another...maybe even you! What happened to you will touch so many - through your blog, SS, through word of mouth. Who knows who it could affect...or who needs to hear it! Praise God that none of your family was injured when the wheel came off and that your husband wasn't injured retrieving the wheel!

Kris with a K said...

Unbelievable. Thank God. Don't forget Romans 8:28..."And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,[a] who[b] have been called according to his purpose." Life may just happen to us; God can orchestrate and use what happens after the lug nuts are not tightened.

Rhonda said...

Our preacher made a comment Sunday morning that fits right in with this.

"I'd rather give God the credit for something He didn't do, than not give Him the credit for something He did do."

I'm so glad you and your family are safe.

Beth said...

I think there are times God tightens the lug nuts and we never know He did it. Then there are the times he lets the tire roll off to remind us that yes, He is in control and yes, he does care about and protect us.

God made us to be human, which means we make human mistakes. I completely believe sometimes He fixes those mistakes before we fully realize their consequences, and sometimes he lets us suffer the consequences to teach us something.

Colleen said...

This brings back a memory from LONG ago. 1976. We had sold our house in order to go to Bible College in Florida. We bought an older used car and had gotten new tires and they evidently hadn't tightened the lug nuts on one wheel. We were probably 700 miles from home in the middle of absolutely nowhere. It was dark and I was driving. Merle was asleep in the back seat. There was a set of lights coming toward me. Then another set pulled out into my lane, as if to pass the other car. But, it didn't get back in it's lane...it kept coming and coming. I realized if I didn't stop they were going to hit me. I slammed on the brakes and threw Merle to the floor. The lights vanished. COMPLETELY! I kept saying..."Where did that car go? There was a car headed straight for me! I KNOW there was!" Merle said, "Pull over and I will drive a while." I hadn't even been sleepy. As I drove very slowly looking for a spot to pull over, we heard the clunk, clunk, clunk of the lug nuts inside the hub cap. 2 nuts of the 5 were completely out and the third nearly was. Do I believe God caused me to see a vehicle that wasn't there? YES,I DO! If I had driven much farther, I probably wouldn't be here to write this response. If HE knows how many hairs are on my head, and HE knows when a sparrow falls, I believe HE protected us in a miraculous way. And YOU too! Praise God! Love what your preacher said, Rhonda!

Anonymous said...

I think that God is involved in any action in our lives. Perhaps he "made" or "let" the event happen for a reason. That reason may be different for every person involved. The beauty of God is that He is there for us both in bad and good times and we may never fully comprehend the reason.