cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Alan Levine

You don’t plan for these things. If you did, there would be no challenge to overcome.

I would not call myself super mechanically adept, but today was a bit of reinforcement of what I can do when I need to.

But the platitudes get ahead of the story.

To get outside a bit, I took Jaci, the dog I am siting up the road a piece, to a spot I was hoping to find in Coconino National Forest. It was were my ex and I camped a few times, but what I recall was that at the end of the dirt road was a good trail access down into West Clear Creek Canyon, a place I hope to explore this summer or fall.

The roads going in looked familiar, but they all do, over hundreds of thousands of acres of forest land here (actually, I relied too much on my memory, and turned right off of 144 rather than left, but with making the correct turn, I lack a story).

So I tooled around, being sure I was not in the tight area, but was, like hey, we are here, let’s park and hike down the road a bit. So I parked at at the spot above. Note that right front tire, looks ok, right? A tad low?

So the dog and I walked maybe a mile and a half, dropped into a small drainage, did not see much beyond a strange wood cabin.

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Alan Levine

As we worked out way back, I felt something odd. I got to the place I was fairly sure I had left the truck.

There was nothing there.

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Alan Levine

No panic. I double checked against that first photo, and it kind of looked like the right spot.

Oh F**** what f someone stole my truck? I am maybe 9 miles in off the highway. The dog is dragging a bit. There is no cell signal. What else to do but head out? I was looking at the tire tracks to see what i could read, and talked myself into seeing a second set of tracks going out. What valuable was in the car? An old ipod Nano? My camera slingpack? Biggest was maybe a set of tools in the lock box.

I walked out past a road junction: I swore I recall driving in and opting for the fork to the right. Kept on going. It was going to be a long walk…

And then I found my truck.

What a goober, I just mis judged where I had parked.



That right front tire.

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Alan Levine

Completely flattened.

Chancing a flat tire is not a big deal, I’ve done more than a few. It struck me though was I had the truck now 4 years, and I had never done what I usually do when I get a vehicle, test out the jack and the spare. I knew the spare was suspended beneath the bed in the back, but I had never looked for the jack. I found the info in the instructions, it was under the seat. Actually the jack was in a plastic case thing which was screwed to the floor. Got that out.

Crap, there is no lug wrench. I triple checked all around. I was sold a truck with a jack and no lug wrench.

Check my toolbox. Had a bug adjustable wrench, might work, bunt also had a wacky kind of socket wrench with different sized ones that spun around.

WEnt to loosen the lug nuts. Two moved okay, but 3 were locked on over tight. I thought maybe I could see if my inflator pump (cigarette lighter powered) would get some air in there. Except I did not have one, the one I was thinking was in my Mitsubishi I sold 3 years ago.

Wow, I thought. I drove 30,000 miles around Canada and the US (twice around the US) with no lug wrench or pump. Good planning.

I went back to the wrench and applied extra foce. Got the 5 loose. Next I needed to get the long bar that lowers the spare and raises the jack. It is stored inside the engine.

Except when I pressed the hood release inside, nothing happened. I went to the front fo the truck and could not get to the switch. Was the cable pooched? I took a screwdriver and went inside the cab, and tried to put extra force on the cable, Nothing released. Went back to the fron, and poked and wedged a long screwdriver in, and poof! It just popped open.

Got the bar out, lowered the spare. Whew. It has good air in it.

Locate the proper spot fo place the jack. but when I starte raising it, instead of the truck going up, the jack was being forced into the soft ground. I next had to find a rock I could wedge under the jack, and try and not think about the truck slipping off of the jack. I still recall what my dead taught me about sliding the spare in under the frame, just in case anything fell.

I got the jack up enough to get the flat off, and place the spare on. Hand tighten the lugs, lower the jack. Start tightening the lugs, making sure I was scraping plenty of skin off my knuckles. It seemed to take a lot of returns to all the lugs to get them all tight, but it was on good. Returned everything, drove out cautiously.

Oddly when I got to the end of one dirt road and turned onto the next, I passed another F-150 sitting up on a jack, missing a tire. No one as around. The rock here is a knobby limestone, and I am not surprised it causes flats.

It easily took an hour to change the flat, which is really not a hard thing to do. If I had engine troubles I would have been up a creek. but still, there were moments of thinking– if I don’t figure this out, I might be stuck here. I knew in worst case I could walk to the highway, and might be able to get a signal on the phone, or hitch a ride home.

The thing is, getting myself out of a jam, doing something with my hands to do so, was utterly fulfilling. I did not ask to have this lesson, but it came my way. And while I was worried, I saw no use in panicking.

And believe me, come Monday, I am going to town to get my flat fixed, and to get a proper lug wrench and pump, and likely some more emergency supplies.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Wow! What an adventure! I’m so glad you are safe and nothing happened to you while fixing the tire. For each adventure like this, doesn’t it make you feel more confident in your survivor skills!

  2. Wonderful narrative, Alan! You tell it with the voice of a true storyteller — and with a great lesson woven in!

    My VW came with some kind of fancy lock-bolt that needs a special adapter for one bolt on each tire. And I have my spare on the right rear at this moment as it is (changed myself, right at home in my driveway, as it seemed – and was – wonky on the last km driving home) with the flat in the trunk. I think I have a little drive into town due myself.

  3. PS — about the fancy lock-bolt adapter — I’m fairly certain those lock bolts have been replaced over the years with regular bolts, but I’ll see if the adapter is still anywhere to be found …

    And maybe one of those powered tire pumps would make for a good emergency backup.

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