(Start here if you missed the beginning!)
Roadside assistance told me my time for arrival had expired and they had been unable to locate the park I was at, but the truck was in the area. I walked up the hill to the road to sit and wait, and the ranger called out, “She may be your ticket out of here!” to a man walking down the hill. I asked the man what had happened and he told me his Harley had run out of gas on the very same uphill that had done in the Camaro. He was with a group that had all gone on ahead. We walked back up the hill and sat on the guardrail together to await the tow.
One of his group came back and waited with us. They were from Ontario, in a group of 80 bikers who take a week or two each year and ride around various places in the US. His bike didn’t have a reserve tank and he hadn’t known how low he was, but we all guessed my tow would have an emergency gas can, so we continued sitting and trading stories.
Finally, a large red tow truck came barreling around the very same corner and I jumped off from my post, waving my arms, and the truck pulled in. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a gas can to help my new friends. The one with gas went on down the hill to see if the other would be able to just coast back down to Sedona while I went down to watch my Camaro get hitched up to the truck.
The tow driver was a scruffy, rather rough-looking, tattooed fellow who looked to be only a few years older than me, but had met with some tough times. I was understandably hesitant to let him hitch my $60k+ car up and haul it off to parts unknown. What if it fell off the back on those windy mountain roads? What if he didn’t take us to a garage but instead tried to steal the car?
I found my confidence and struck up a conversation with him. His name is JR, he’s lived in these mountains for years and he had trouble finding me because his GPS didn’t work up here, much like my cell phone didn’t work, so he didn’t know which hiking spot I was stuck in. He told me he’d been towing for over 18 years and that both me and the Camaro were in good hands – “the best in the business. I’ve been in Tow magazine a bunch of times. Everyone in the industry knows JR.”
I climbed into the cab in the passenger side and up the mountain we went. I’d popped the tire halfway between Sedona and Flagstaff and my roadside assistance had set him up to take me to Flagstaff. I was relieved, since it was on my way and I didn’t want to backtrack. The windy roads were beautiful and I have to admit having someone else drive allowed me some more time to enjoy the scenery. I told him the Camaro wasn’t mine but a rental for my 30th birthday. JR told me this was his last day on the job because he was moving to LA tomorrow to get married – to his ex-wife.
Normally stories like that I just kind of shake off, but for some reason, JR seemed like a good dude who’d just had a bumpy road in life. I congratulated him on his good fortune and he opened up and told me their story – how they’d gotten together as teens, had some children, gotten divorced after maybe six years? Both married other people and had some more kids, but neither of those marriages worked out. When his marriage ended a mutual friend had told him his ex-wife – April – had been asking about him. He called her, and they knew the time was right. She was living in LA and making good money as a personal assistant, and he immediately started contacting towing and trucking companies in the area. Their oldest son just turned 24 and had moved out so JR didn’t have kids to keep him in Arizona anymore. (Turned out, JR is 39). April bought him a one-way Amtrak ticket from the Flagstaff train station for Thursday morning at 945am, which meant that my tow was likely his last job in Arizona as the clock ticked on.
His story made me so happy to hear. He was giddy with excitement to get out to California to be with the star-crossed love of his life. Their timing had never worked out before, but he believed – and I too – that this time they were ready. JR then told me about his second marriage, and dropped the bomb that he’d just kicked lung cancer three months ago and just returned to work two months ago. His second wife had stayed home with the kids while he worked, which was fine until he was diagnosed with lung cancer a couple years ago. He couldn’t work as the disease and chemo ravaged his body, so he asked her to find a job and he would stay with the children. For over two years she refused to get a job as he grew sicker and weaker. Once he started recovering and went into remission he realized she was not the type of woman he wanted to be with. She wasn’t willing to be there for him in sickness and in health. So he told her he’d make it easy on her, and had filed the papers himself around the time he returned to work.
I was shocked at the story pouring not from his lips, but from his heart. Sitting next to me was a man who had been through the wringer, but yet he was still optimistic, still positive, not bitter. I commented on that and he told me, “I turned my attitude around after spending years being angry and negative.” I told him I had recently done the same thing. Two years ago, getting a flat tire three hours into a vacation would have ruined my trip. I would have yelled, cried, told everybody how unhappy I was and how this was the worst day ever. But instead, I now know that “it is what it is” and I can’t control what happens to me – only how I choose to deal with it. A couple hours earlier I’d texted a friend that I was having the best day ever, and I still wouldn’t change my mind on that statement.
But we’re not done with the tow truck.
Roadside assistance was supposed to send us to a Meineke in Flagstaff but there was no shop at the address to which JR’s GPS led us. He called his boss and got a corrected address which we plugged into my phone – which worked now that we were back in civilization. Upon our arrival to the Flagstaff Meineke, on historic Route 66, which I can now say I’ve been on, the young man at the counter told us he “didn’t do tires but I recommend Discount Tires, a few miles away.”
Seriously? What car shop doesn’t do tires?
JR called his boss again and I ran to the ladies’ room – it had been hours since I’d last seen a restroom in Sedona. His boss didn’t answer. After another ten minutes or so he told me not to worry and he would just take me, regardless of what his boss said, because it was his last day on the job. Six miles back the way we came, we pulled into Discount Tire of Flagstaff. I hopped out and got in the counter line while JR unhitched my beautiful car. I was told they would have to check in the back for the tires. The manager came out with me to look at my car again, and JR finished getting his truck and chains ready to go. He told me the tow was taken care of and wished me luck on the rest of my birthday adventure.
I gave him a hug and thanked him for the stories, the company, and most of all, the assistance. I congratulated him again on his engagement and gave him my best wishes for his new life in LA.
The manager came back to tell me they didn’t have the tires in stock, nor did they have anything used they could put on.
JR had been my link to getting back to my freedom. I couldn’t wait 30 hours for them to get more tires. I sighed and went to sit in the Camaro, debating my options. At least I looked cool sitting in it because of the run-flats.