We went to the Georgia coast for the first time last weekend. We kept meaning to get there, but every time we’d have a free weekend we’d fill it with yard work, or lounging on the couch all day, or going to Disney, there was nothing else. So, we decided to do it and just book the room and be committed. We also decided to take the dogs because ultimately we dream of being that family who travels everywhere with our dogs, only our dogs are shitheads with serious anxiety about most situations. So, we booked a hotel for two nights at a dog-friendly place, which generally aren’t the “nicest” hotels, but that’s okay we don’t want to be the people staying at a four-star hotel getting complaints because our dogs bark whenever someone walks by the door. People at two-star hotels are way nicer, and usually much more forgiving.
I should mention here that the Georgia coast is fucking lovely. The “fucking” is necessary there because that’s how lovely it is. I so want to tell y’all about St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island and Savannah, and I will, but first I have to tell you about something else. The flat tire. Well, the almost flat tire…
Friday we went to St. Simons Island where the dogs are welcome on that beach after 6:00 pm and they were actually pretty good doggos. Winnie, who is terrified of everything, was terrified of everything. But Duke, a much better traveler as he had two years of experience before Covid, was a very good boy except when other dogs won’t say hello to him he takes offense immediately, he shows no grace, and he gets pissed off and starts his barking and jumping on his hind legs like a goddamned madman. But that’s just normal Duke.
Our goal was to make it to three beaches: Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island Beach, and St. Simons. So with the last one checked off the list, Saturday morning we decided to head for Driftwood Beach, which as you may know is a beach littered with driftwood and it’s marvelous! See below.
On Saturday morning, we loaded up the beach buggy and the umbrellas and chairs, snacks and water, and we headed for the beach. The dogs came along because dogs are welcome all the time at Driftwood. As soon as we headed out Jerimiah looked concerned. He pulled into the Starbucks parking lot which was right across the street from our hotel (lucky us!) and said, “I picked something up in the tire.” He then got out of the car and checked the tire and saw a huge bolt sticking into the tread. Jackson got out and they conferred and the next thing I know we are at Firestone.
Now, this is where the story takes an interesting turn. We had obviously picked up a very large bolt in the tire and the tire was losing air. We all heard it. It was hissing air. But the tire sensor was not registering that we were losing air. I should mention here that last year we bought our first “nice” car. It’s an Audi Q7 and it is the most money we have ever spent on a car and for good reason. This car is top-notch nice and we love it. However, when all you have driven for most of your life are small Volkswagens (I know, I know Volkswagen owns Audi, but they are not the same) and Chevy pick-ups, let’s just say there are some things to learn about luxury cars and we usually learn them a little too late.
Like Saturday at the beach.
At Firestone they told us they couldn’t get us in until well after lunch. Then they told us to go to some other tire place down yonder. Meanwhile, the dogs are in the car, along with all our beach shit, it’s like 10 am on a Saturday in Georgia. It is hot, is what I mean to say, and we are all standing in a tire store parking lot wanting to be at the beach.
On the way to the other tire place, we decide to try Sam’s Club. We have taken our cars to Walmart to have the tires serviced before so we know they can usually get us in quickly and they are fairly inexpensive. So when we get to Sam’s Jerimiah goes in and Jackson and I start taking all the things from the back of the car to look for the spare. Meanwhile, there is hissing, but the tire is not going flat.
We get the back unloaded and voila! No spare. Just a can of “slime” and an air pump. What the what?
“Where’s the damn spare?” I squeak out.
Jackson says, “We don’t have one.”
Jerimiah comes back to the car and looks at us looking in awe at each other and he’s all, “Oh yeah, I was afraid of that.” Then he tells us that Sam’s Club can take a look at the tire in an hour. So we decide to sit there and wait. Meanwhile, Jerimiah takes the dogs for a walk around Sam’s Club and Jackson and I go inside to look for bug spray because the bugs at the coast are no joke. We do not question why there isn’t a spare, because what can you do?
Inside, I notice that there are no cars currently in the bays and three guys are just standing around. I figure I will go ask if they can squeeze us in a bit sooner and that’s when I meet Matt, the tire guy at Sam’s Club. Matt is very nice to me, although he was kind of a dick to Jerimiah. He tells me to have Jerimiah go ahead and pull it in. (eye roll) So I’m all, “Oh thanks! Because we don’t even have a spare!” And then Matt stops and looks at me.
“What kind of car is it?” He asks, very seriously.
“An Audi Q7.”
“Oh no, I can’t help you,” Matt says.
“You’ve got run-flats.”
Alright so some of you already knew where this was going because you’re not a dumbass like me. I had heard the term “run-flat,” but only for military vehicles. I had zero idea normal, everyday cars had run-flats. If you are kind of a dumbass like me (we really aren’t dumbasses, but you know, we kind of are) then you know that a run-flat is a tire that will not go flat. You can drive on them, up to 50 miles but probably a lot more, which is why we don’t have a spare tire. We have an air pump to pump up any air we have lost and then drive to the nearest tire place to get a new tire. Which in theory is no big deal, only when you are in Brunswick, Georgia on a Saturday in July and you have “very big, odd” tires, well, there is a problem.
You see, you have to replace a run-flat with a run-flat. And our tire size is 285/45/20, which I know by heart now having called about 15 tire places in a hot parking lot last Saturday. And they are hard to get. They have to be ordered.
We had a couple of options at that point. We could chance the tire back to Atlanta or we could spend a few more days at the coast and wait for a tire to get in or we could try to find someone who would patch the tire. Sam’s Club would not patch the tire. That is their company policy. Walmart, and many other places, will not patch a run-flat because they don’t want to take liability if something goes wrong. It’s an expensive tire and people will sometimes drive them until they actually do go flat just to avoid getting a new tire which makes the whole situation worse.
I get that this is way more than you wanted to know about car tires today and I salute you for sticking around.
At this point we were all hot and sweaty and a little bothered, but I gotta say, maybe it was the salt air, maybe it was the fact that we were all together, maybe it was because we were on vacation, but our spirits were still high. We never once got short with each other or complained. Whenever one of us would start to feel defeated we would look around the car and laugh a little. Honestly, this time was coming. We are road trippers and we are generally VERY lucky. We’ve never had any major problems with a car on a road trip (someone knock on wood) and the fact of the matter is this wasn’t a “major” problem, it just was a problem we had to conquer as a family.
We decided to drive down yonder to old what’s his names tire place. It was almost noon at this point and the temp was heating up. Turns out old boy closes up at noon on Saturdays. So, in another hot parking lot, we took the dogs out for a walk and started calling. Jackson called car dealerships around the area, who were less than helpful, if they answered. (The nearest Audi dealership was Jacksonville!) Jerimiah called random numbers he got from each tire place we had been to. I called tire shops like Mavis, Firestone, and Goodyear. No one had the tire, no one could get the tire quickly, no one could get us in. The Mavis in Savannah gave me another option: Just buy four new tires that are not run-flats.
“That seems extreme,” I said, as I looked out onto the massive yard in front of the tire shop while Duke took a big shit right into a ditch filled with water and mosquitos. “How much?”
“Ohh, I don’t have that size tire in stock.”
The Firestone guy asked where we were.
“Oh, you’ll need to go to Savannah to find a tire like that.”
The Goodyear guy in Savannah told me I’d have to go to Atlanta.
“That’s where we live. I know we can find 20s in Atlanta. Please help me get back to Atlanta!”
For his part, the Goodyear guy did try. But best he could do was get me a tire by Tuesday, which would be no big deal usually, we’d just stay a couple extra days and have a great time, but I had my pre-op appointments on Monday.
We all got back into the car. Jerimiah looked defeated. Jackson was sweating. The dogs were licking our faces. I said, “Jekyll told me to call Brunswick. Brunswick told me to call Savannah. Savannah told me to call Atlanta.”
We looked at each other.
“Well, let’s just go to the beach,” Jerimiah said. “We will figure it out.”
He started up the car and then the sensor came on: “Tire pressure is low in driver, left rear!”
That’s when I was like, “The Mavis lady told me to call RimThyme, which seems nuts. It’s like one of those places that sell spinning wheels. We don’t need spinning wheels. Or do we…”
That sparked an idea with Jerimiah who had been Googling tire shops all morning. He’d come across one called, “Rent a Wheel” in Brunswick so he called them and thirty minutes later our tire was patched and we were on our way to the beach! For real, “Rent a Wheel” saved us! They got us right in, were appalled no one would patch our wheel, “It’s just a normal tire inside,” the guy said, ” And besides, the bolt was in the tread, not the sidewall.”
Although when he pulled the bolt out of the tire he did say, “This is some Jeeper Creeper shit!” The bolt was actually massive and we still don’t know where we picked it up at, but check out this bad boy:
It was about three inches long and what even is that? An eye bolt? I dunno. In hindsight I should have taken a pic next to something for scale, but just know that the tire dude was accurate with his “Jeeper Creeper Shit” comment. If we lived there we’d think someone was out to get us! Damn it, maybe it was all the barking…
When the tire was patched and ready he told Jerimiah that would be $20. All Jerimiah had in cash was $25 so he gave it all to him and was like, “If I had more, I’d give it to you. You saved me today.”
Then we left the tire shop and promptly went to an ATM to pull out cash to take it back to the tire guy because the truth of the matter is, when you tell someone “If I had more…” in a situation like that, you just go and get more.
When Jerimiah returned with cash to “tip” him, he was so surprised and shook Jerimiah’s hand. He was the nicest person we encountered on our whole trip. Brunswick, Georgia, you hear me? We all know you have some issues (RIP Ahmaud Arbery) and you need to get your shit together, but please respect your “Rent a Wheel” people.
So yeah, that was our Saturday morning on vacation. We took the dogs to Driftwood, we walked, we played in the water, I cut myself when I fell into a hole with rocks (Driftwood is not a swimming beach, it’s a walking beach, for future reference) and then we took the dogs back to the hotel, went swimming for a bit in the pool, then got them situated in the kennel and went out Saturday night for dinner (Tortuga Jack’s on the water), mini golf, ice cream, and an evening stroll on Jekyll Island, where we were looking for the Loggerheads, but instead found a family of deer eating Loggerhead eggs. (shocked face!) It was a lovely evening and at dinner, Jerimiah thanked us for being calm, cool, and collected throughout the whole ordeal and we thanked him for the same. And also for being the kind of guy who goes back to the ATM.
The truth is, when Jerimiah and I were sitting in the car trying to figure out what we were going to do, both of us were transported back to our childhoods. Both of us have memories of flat tires–no run flats in sight–and how our parents handled that situation, and well, it wasn’t good. I remember being afraid we would be stranded because my mom didn’t have the money to replace a tire and Jerimiah remembers his dad flying off the handle, which was common, he was a raging alcoholic who flew off the handle at anything and everything. And we were proud of ourselves and at each other for pushing ourselves to be better versions of the parents we had, to be far removed from that generational shit that has the potential to bring us down, for being the kind of people who laugh when there’s nothing else you can do, and well, for buying an Audi, it was just a smart decision.
Stay safe and sane and try not to get yourself into any jeeper creeper shit, y’all.