June 24 – July 26, 2021
We planned for our drive from Boise to Ely to take about six hours and with a moderately early start, we could arrive with enough time in the afternoon to tour the Nevada Northern Railway National Historic Landmark, a comprehensive railroad museum. But first we’d stop in Twin Falls after a couple of hours to have lunch with Ralph, a guy that I grew up with in Los Angeles. He and his family lived five houses away on our block and we, along with a number of other kids (my brother Chuck, Ralph and his brother Tim, Steve, Carl, Ann, and an assortment of others) grew up together.
We agreed to meet at the Twin Falls Sandwich Company on Main Street in the historic downtown area of the city. Ralph was there when we walked in and after greeting each other we ordered, for me the Hippie Omelet (Bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, and cheddar cheese) and a Cuban Panini (Falls brand ham, hand-pulled pork, pickles, and deli mustard topped off with melted swiss cheese) for Joanna.
We spent a very pleasant hour or so getting caught up with Ralph, who has lived in Twin Falls since the 1970’s and led an interesting life, full of highs and lows. Mindful of the time needed to get to Ely for the museum visit, we said our farewells and walked across the street to the car to find a note on the driver’s window, notifying us that we had a flat tire, the right rear. And thus, would begin a number of hours of frustration that only get better the more the story gets told.
I called the AAA number I had in my address book, glad that we pay for this service because when you need it you really need it, and never once spoke to a human, which would be at the heart of the problem we would encounter. I followed all of the prompts and responded to a text it sent me to confirm our location on Main Street. Advised of an hour wait, we then waited. And waited. And waited.
At the 90-minute mark I called a different number, this one in the text message and this time got a human, who advised me that I had called the California number and it was unlikely a driver was going to come. So, she assigned the call to a local service, and we waited another 45-minutes or so for them to show up. When they did, it was two guys who, as it would soon become apparent, had never changed a tire on a Highlander.
They couldn’t figure out how to drop the spare tire from underneath the car and started to dismantle the mounting system, so sensing disaster in the making, I grabbed our owner’s manual and checked out the instructions to discover that one lowers the spare by accessing a mechanism through the storage compartment at the rear of the car. Once apprised of the correct procedure, they quickly got the flat tire off and the spare on, using an impact wrench to tighten the lug nuts, as we would find out later is not the best method for correctly installing that part.
They wrapped up, we loaded the flat tire in Ralph’s van and drove a couple of blocks to OK Point 4th Avenue where he does business to see if they could fix the flat. They mounted it on the machine and soon called me over to advise that the tread had separated, and I’d need a new tire. They first checked to see if they had a used one in inventory (the other tires on the car were old and I planned on replacing all four when we returned home. That was not to be the case though and so I opted to pop for a moderately priced new Nokian, a brand I’d never heard of and as such declined to replace all four at that time.
While the tech was getting the spare off, he pointed out to us that one of the lug nuts had been stripped due to the improper use of the impact wrench, and he would have to drill it out. They didn’t have a replacement and would have to use the damaged one, but it would be good enough to get us home where I could go to Toyota to do so.
And so, 3-hours behind schedule and $212 lighter, we hit the road again after bidding Ralph a fond farewell. Except for the clown car antics of our AAA service guys, we’d been lucky as has been the case with us and our cars, to break down in town with a friend close by. Throughout the trip we’d been plagued by poor cell phone service and the flat tire could have occurred out on the highway in the middle of nowhere, to be compounded by the AAA glitch.
We arrived in Ely much later in the day and drove straight to the Magnuson Hotel Ely, an inexpensive choice in this small town. We were pleasantly surprised at the size of the room, its cleanliness, and its amenities, all for $67. Given the long day we’d experienced, we lacked the energy to do anything more for dinner than to head to the local Subway for their brand of sandwich. I’m not the biggest fan of this chain but we do frequent them on long trips as they are the third largest in the US in terms of dollar sales but the largest in number of units at nearly 25,000, so there always one when you need it.
We returned to the motel for an early evening, tired yet grateful to have made it knowing the events of the day could have gone sideways quickly. With a visit to the railroad museum in the morning and a six-hour drive to Meadview, we knew we’d have a full day tomorrow, so a little TV and sound sleep was an appealing draw, and one we dove into fully.
Twin Falls Sandwich Company: https://twinfallssandwich.com/
OK Point 4th Avenue: https://www.pointstire.com/twinfalls
Magnuson Hotel Ely: https://magnusonhotelely.com/