The van's right rear tire was flat.
Lisa unpacked some of the stuff from the van, broke out the jack, cranked down the mini-spare (which fortunately was still inflated), and took charge of changing the tire. While doing so, we could see a screw that had embedded itself in the tire. We had earlier seen that there was a Shell station that was still a service station, including a Tire Factory outlet, just a hundred meters or so down the road. We figured that we could go get the tire patched, stow the mini-spare, then drive back to the hotel and collect the rest of our stuff, which would mean a delay, but not an huge one. Besides, I'd originally scheduled us to leave at 10 AM, so we were still slightly ahead.
The guy at the shop looked at the puncture, said, "No problem," and patched the hole, a $35, five-minute job. When he went to put the tire back on, he said, "Did you know that your shock absorber back here is shot?" He showed Lisa and me the problem, and Lisa confirmed that this needed replacing. So he put the tire back on and we put the car up on the rack.
Then things started getting really interesting. He said, "Look at this front end!" The bearings in the idler arms were shot, and the entire front end was wobbling. You could see where they'd been rubbing against the inside walls of the tires. And all four shocks were shot, not just the right rear. Lisa agreed that this all needed to be fixed, as a catastrophic failure was a real possibility. I signed a work order, he got to work, and I kissed any hope of staying on schedule and under budget on this trip goodbye.
We walked back to the hotel, claimed the last small bits of our luggage, checked out, and carried stuff back to the shop. They were kind enough to lower the van on the rack so we could bung our stuff inside, and we went off to eat breakfast at one of the nearby casinos while he worked. "Take your time," he said.
About an hour and a half later or so, he was finished. The total damage: $1,671. Urk. The sole bright spot of our morning was Lisa winning fifty cents on a slot machine. Oh well, that paid for the newspaper we read over breakfast.
Having lost around two hours starting, the day went downhill from there. I realized that MapPoint wasn't properly accounting for time zone changes, and therefore we lost another hour at the Utah border. As good luck would have it, when we stopped at Wendover to buy a couple of sodas, I got a phone call from Glenn Glazer. I say good luck because the call wasn't something I could have done while driving, so it was convenient.
In the end, we finally rolled into the Rock Springs Holiday Inn at 10:10 PM -- around five or so hours later than I had originally hoped. Then we had a little bit of fun checking in. They had upgraded me on account of my gold status, but the upgraded room had only a shower. Lisa likes bathtubs, so I asked for a different room, which they had -- except it was shower-only as well. On the third time, the desk clerk (who had been played false by the room descriptions in her computer) gave us one of the jacuzzi-tub rooms, but it had taken us roughly forty minutes just to get moved in.
Because we hadn't known that the room would have a fridge/microwave, we hadn't stopped to get stuff on the way in. That meant another expedition, but most of the nearby places were closed. Fortunately, there was a Wal-Mart food center still open at 11 PM, and we got some milk and a couple of microwave meals, one of which I'm about to eat because I'm completely wiped out. And there are a lot of e-mails in my inbox that look like they need resolving before I can sleep. I have a feeling that we're going to fall behind tomorrow as well. Sigh.
Today's travel: about 460 miles. Active trains spotted: 8.