This was an
experience I had while driving to Disneyland with my family. We lived in Idaho
so it was quite a drive to get there. If you’ve ever driven that route, you
know there’s a lot of empty space between towns. If you’re driving at the right
time of day or night, there’s almost no cars around. You can set your cruise
control at about 90 MPH and not worry about other people for a few miles
In the car, we had my mom and dad, me, and my younger
brother and sister. I was 16 at the time.
We were driving through a canyon just as it was getting
dark. We’d already been driving for quite a while, and my dad, who was driving,
insisted we would push through and not get a hotel. I was staring up at the
massive stacks of rock and dirt that made mountains when there was a loud
‘TWAP’ followed by a repeated thudding. I was thrown forward as dad slammed on
the brakes and pulled to the side of the road.
My dad growled a curse, and my mom shot him a look.
“Sorry,” he muttered. “Flat tire, are you
He tossed his door open and got out, shutting it behind him.
I watched him walk around the car, yanking my earbuds out. Josh and Nikki, my
siblings, watched him too.
He said something we couldn’t hear before visibly sighing
and opening the trunk of our little Impala. He started to pull out our bags and
set them on the side of the road. Pausing, he came to my door and opened it.
“Keith, can you come help me with this?” Dad
resigned. I unbuckled my seatbelt and got out. The air had that chilling
nibble, as it was early September. That used to be my favorite feeling, but now
I hate it.
We hauled stuff out of the trunk to the side of the road
until we could lift the spare tire out of the bottom of the trunk. The tire was
set next to the passenger-rear tire, and dad grabbed the jack from the trunk.
Dad had everyone get out and stand in the gravel while he
lifted the car with the jack. I think I remember someone made a fat joke.
Dad unscrewed the nuts on the shredded tire while we
wandered a little. The road was elevated slightly above the surrounding
terrain. The gravel descended a few feet and gave way to grass and weeds. I
walked towards a cool-looking tree that looked like a face in the dimming
twilight. Of course, the closer I got, the more the face disappeared.
When I got to the tree, I looked around. Mountains created
barriers all around us. It was a miracle that water or men or whatever it was
had carved through the mountain ranges so we could go through them rather than
I was an introspective kid, as you can tell.
A sudden crack made me jump. I spun around, facing the slope
behind me that led to the impassable peaks. I couldn’t see anything in the dim
light, but I heard another crack. Then another. A rock the size of my head
bounced past just a few yards to my left.
I released the breath I’d been holding. Just a rock.
The scare made me want to head back. As I walked back towards
the car, I saw the rock roll slowly up to the gravel incline before stuttering
to a stop. My mom, who was still by the car, looked back when she heard it.
“Honey, be careful rolling rocks down the mountain. You
might accidentally hit a car,” she said patiently.
“It wasn’t me,” I said. “It flew past me on
its way down.”
She accepted my answer and turned to keep watching my dad.
He had just finished unscrewing the last nut.
He lifted the flat tire off the axle and set it in the
gravel next to the spare. Then, he rolled the spare over to mount it on the
I walked over to the tire. It wasn’t just flat. It was
absolutely shredded. I leaned over and held the black rubber up. There were
three slashes straight through the entire tire that ran around almost the
entire circumference. What would cause that? We had to have hit something.
I started to walk up the road and was instantly joined by my
two siblings, who had previously been occupied in the grassy area.