My third and final load of household goods and disassembled furniture filled the car, destined for Maastricht. ‘Up at 4:30 and on the road at 5 am from Sandbanks, sure to beat the M25 commuters. Despite my caution, traffic was heavy and early squalls made the drive difficult, but I still arrived at Dover by 9. A rough crossing put me into Dunkirk late at 12:30 (‘s middags). I hit the road east, hoping to make up a bit of time.
And it was all good until I approached Veurne, not far into Belgium. There, the big-rig truck that I was following suddenly swerved right. Like a curtain opening, it revealed a road full of debris directly in front of me.
I glimpsed a flatbed with the driver running back along the road, phone to his ear. The road was littered with big red-and white-rods, everywhere like pick-up sticks. Each was sized like a speed bump: long, narrow, and rounded.
I didn’t have any time to react and the Fiesta hit the rods and beams hard. My entire carload lurched and shifted as the car pitched, I kept control but there was clearly going to be damage.
On cue, a whup, whup started. The car shook in rhythm, and the steering started pulling to one side. No doubt I was losing air, the question was how far I could get before the car became undriveable. I punched the TomTom, easing right and slowing. An exit 1 km ahead; a petrol station 0.6 kilometer further. It beat being stuck on the E40 for the next four hours. I drove onward.
The engine sounded fine and nothing was dragging or grinding on the road, but the alarmed expressions of the drivers passing me suggested I had a serious problem. ‘Around the random road art (a gigantic mixer bowl with beaters) and the petrol station appeared on the right. I angled in and jumped out to assess the damage.
The left rear tire was, well, gone. Remnants fringed the rim, but nothing more.
Any chance you can change a tire? I asked the owner. He pointed across the street: “Try the Firestone center'”.
‘lucky break. I walked over and asked again.
“Sure, just drive it in.”
I have no tire…
I pulled gingerly into the garage; he eyed the full load of household goods.
“’Running away from home?”
This was my lucky day: he had the tire, the rim was intact, and he wasn’t busy. 45 minutes and the job was done (would have been 30 but he was chatting up a young lady having four tires swapped on her Rover).
My everyday enterprises should be so easy in the face of crisis.
And now, just the unpacking left to be done once all of the boxes and boards have been lugged up to my second floor aerie.