SOMEWHERE ON INTERSTATE 40, N.M. — My wife believes in angels.
After what happened to us today en route home from four nights in Santa Rosa, N.M., I think I’m going to join her in that belief.
We set out this morning from the RV park where we had camped out and headed east in Interstate 40. We got about 25 miles down the road when a couple came along side and began pointing frantically toward the rear of our RV. They were yelling something that sounded like “rear berries.”
We pulled over. So did they. We got out and looked at the rear of our fifth wheel. One of the left rear wheels was smoking. The “rear berries” turned out to be burned rear bearings. The couple offered us a kind word of support.
We didn’t get their names, so I’ll refer to them as Mr. and Mrs. Angel.
Mr. Angel told us he’s a retired California Highway Patrol trooper who in his retirement years hauls vehicles here and there. He and Mrs. Angel were towing a trailer carrying a pickup headed for Texas. “I’ve seen a lot of these things over the years, ” Mr. Angel said. “It’s a good thing you didn’t go any farther and had the wheel fly off,” he added. Gee, do ya think?
“Are you folks all right?” they asked. Yes. We’ll be fine.
It was around 9:15 a.m.
We called the RV club to which we belong, as it has a roadside assistance program we purchased.
As luck would have it, we happened to be on a spot on the freeway with excellent cell phone service. We got an operator on the line, told her of our dilemma and waited for her to look up someone who could help us.
She found someone — in Santa Rosa!
“He’ll be there in 30 to 35 minutes,” she said.
Nearly an hour later, he arrived. His name is Joey Muniz, owner of Big Rig Truck Service. “I’ve been doing this for 36 years,” Muniz told us, “and two times I’ve been involved with semi trucks rear-ending me on the highway.”
That was about the first piece of information he gave us. I’m not sure why he said that — whether to warn us to be alert or to assure us that it’s only happened twice in 36 years. Neither motive gave me much comfort, truth be told.
He tore the wheel apart. Good news. There was no damage to the hug or to the axle. Joey — the third guardian angel — echoed what Mr. Angel had said: “If you went much farther, the wheel would have flown off and you have been in a world of hurt.”
He told he’d have to take part of the wheel assembly back to his shop, find new bearings and pack them in grease. “I’ll be back in two hours, maybe less,” Muniz said.
Seventy-five minutes later, he pulled up. He had the bearings. He packed them in grease. He put the assembly back on the fifth wheel. But he had to improvise just a bit. The hub cover had flown off when the bearings burned up, so he had half of a Dr Pepper soda can that fit perfectly over the hub. He clamped it tightly so it would keep the dirt from getting inside.
“This’ll get you home, I promise,” he said, to which I responded, “If it doesn’t, I’m calling you.” He then said, “I’ll come fix it … again.”
After more than four hours stranded on that stretch of I-40, we finally were on our way home.
Just one final thought: Have you ever wondered, “Where are the police when you need them?” We sat there for hours and didn’t see a single New Mexico State Police trooper drive by. Hey, just wondering … you know?
OK, Joey didn’t work his magic on our RV for free, but I still consider him a guardian angel. As for Mr. and Mrs. Angel — wherever they are — many thanks for being there at just the right time.
You’ve made a believer out of me.