At around 8:30, Whitney (my sister) and Delaney (our niece) called to sing me Happy Birthday. Driving distracted, I exited the highway just outside of Des Moines. We needed gas and I had to pee, but the exit I picked only led us to Home Depot and a frontage road. Driving frustrated, I pointed the car East. I wanted to find a gas station and my bladder situation was becoming more urgent, but I'd driven us in to a neighborhood. Driving angry now, I turned the car around and headed back toward the highway. That's when I hit the pothole. HARD! And the instant I hit it, the tire popped. Birthday ruined!
I pulled the car over and started sobbing. Calm (and maybe even slightly amused), Ryan said, "It's going to be okay" as he got out to change the tire. I threw on my coat and took the dogs for a walk while Ryan emptied the entire contents of the Prius to get to the spare. I could hear the dog crates and the suitcases hitting the ground as Ryan muttered to himself. I offered to purchase a flashlight in the nearby grocery store, but he was just sure we had one in the car somewhere. I decided to go back and "help" (which turned in to me texting my friends and family while the dogs sat nearby, tied to a tree).
Ryan is amazing and he clearly demonstrated his ability to stay calm during the Amazing Race while I would have been the woman sobbing on the side of the road as her cab driver stopped to ask for directions, again! The tire-changing portion of the night only lasted twenty minutes, but getting everything in and out of the car added another thirty. Then there were the dogs. Quietly and confusingly loaded back in to the car, it was obvious that one of them had stepped in poop. Ryan quickly removed the dogs from the car and sniffed all four of Piper's feet, eliminating her as the offender and moving on to Meg. "Yeah...it's this back foot...hand me that water bottle" he splashed some water on Meg's back foot. "Hand me those napkins" as he rubbed the end of her foot like a furry pool cue. (one last sniff) "I think it's okay now".
I let Ryan take the wheel since I was still irrational and pouty. We found a gas station and a bathroom right away (which proved that my instincts were right, my execution was just sloppy) and then found the entrance ramp to the highway. Up until this point, the Prius has been the very best car I've ever owned. Great gas mileage, comfortable seats, ample leg-room...but driving on a spare tire makes the stabilization-thingy engage, and the car slows down, thinking you're sliding on ice so you can't accelerate. Big problem when you're merging on to the interstate!
Five miles in, we were only going 45 mph and I started to cry again. I was nauseous and I sort of wanted to turn around and go home. At this rate, we would get to Minnesota by noon tomorrow. I decided to call my brother (who happened to be hanging out with our cousin Luke - who happened to have internet on his phone) to complain about our sucky tire. He said, "Where are you now? We could call some places for you...they could fix your tire tonight, maybe?" So we hung up and they called back 5 minutes later. "Okay, there's a Butch's Amoco in Ames. You're only 10 miles away. They're open until 11:00. We called and they know you're coming." It was a birthday miracle!
We got directions and showed up at Butch's Amoco - along with every single college student in Ames, Iowa with Friday night car trouble. A man (who I can only assume was Butch) looked at our tire and said, "No way I can patch that. I might have an old spare we could put on?" but his collection of used tires did not prove helpful. "There's a Wal-Mart down the road. You could buy a tire there and we could put it on for you." At no point during my life has Wal-Mart ever been a fast or easy place to solve a crisis, but we were out of options.
We drove to Wal-Mart (and nearly got flattened in the pedestrian walk-way by a 90-year old woman in a Lincoln Town Car, unaware of any stop sign or pedestrian walk-way rules) and walked up to the Customer Service counter. We spoke with a very sweet kid named Jason who had no idea if we could buy a tire when the Tire and Lube Center was closed. "Lemme see..." and he looked past us to the check-out where Gary from Wal-Mart Tire and Lube was purchasing some plastic storage bins - still wearing his blue jumpsuit - still covered in grease. (I immediately imagined the phone call from his wife, "Hey, Gary? Before you come home tonight, could you get me a couple of those plastic storage bins? I still have some Christmas decorations I need to put away and I'm all out of bins. Thanks, hon. I appreciate it.")
We approached Gary with the same calm I would approach a horse or a goat in a petting zoo. Not wanting to scare him, we truly needed his cooperation! Gary was in a good mood that night so he walked us back to the Tire and Lube and let us pick out the tire we needed. He had (apparently) talked to my brother earlier in the night because he knew about our situation. "We close at 9:00, so I couldn't help you out. I felt really bad, but...you know...we close at 9:00." It was okay. We were just surprised and grateful that Wal-Mart was the game-changer in tonight's comedy of errors. I fought the urge to hug Gary right there in the middle of the store, but we got his name and made sure his boss knew how much we appreciated his help.
We took the tire back to Butsh's Amoco where even MORE college students were arriving - many of them rudely describing the "totally legal" place where they'd parked their cars and they thought it totally sucked that they didn't get a phonecall or a head's up that their car was being towed. (oh, college...we learn so much, don't we?) As we stood around waiting for Butch to put our new tire on, deal will these kids, and field desperate phonecalls, I finally started to laugh about our night. I also started to take some pictures:
The tire drama was over by 10:30pm (which was our estimated arrival time in Minneapolis.) We got back on the highway and called the hotel to let them know we were still coming - just running behind. Ryan encouraged me to lay my seat back and sleep the rest of the way (which I tend to do anyway, leaving him to navigate and stay awake all by himself - I'm the worst co-pilot ever). I was lulled to sleep by the gentle sounds of the Black Crowes, the White Stripes, and Ryan Westhoff, singing in my ear.
We arrived at the hotel around 1:00am. It was so cute and I was so glad I hadn't given up on my birthday weekend - as tempting as it was. It was all french-themed and there's nothing I appreciate more than cool graphic design, great bedding, and an updated bathroom. It was perfect:
The next morning, we slept in a little bit (well, I slept in. Ryan got up at 7:30 to feed the dogs and take them outside for a "do your business" walk.) We got to IKEA by 10:30am and it was sort of like whatever rotten thing happened the day before, there was an equally awesome experience waiting for me at IKEA. It was glorious. I'd never been anywhere that made me so happy. Everywhere I looked there was beautifully, thoughtfully designed furniture and cheerful, inspirational color palettes. Gorgeous paintings and photographs on the walls and inexpensive (dare I say cheap) ways to organize and decorate your home. I was in heaven! I debated whether this was a place that would allow photography (I already had an itchy shutter finger) but then I saw a woman taking pictures and decided to follow. And I didn't stop.
I won't publish EVERY photo, but here's just a taste of the wonderful world of Swedish design:
A VERY happy girl:
A VERY full car:
After a full day of shopping, we decided to cross the street to see a movie at the Mall of America. It is EXACTLY what you think it is - enormous, outrageous, and one of the many reasons our foreign enemies hate us:
Sunday morning...driving back home (after another quick "run in" to IKEA for some "take the night to think on it" items). The doggies still had room in the back seat to stretch out and that was our primary goal - not to buy so much that we'd have to leave the dogs in Minnesota: