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WOSTER: Hauling newest boat fraught with flat-tire anxiety

Terry Woster

I mentioned the wedding at Cass Lake, Minnesota, but I don't think I made it clear what an incredible thing it was for me to haul a boat that far.

Two things made that an incredible journey.

First, I'm not that fond of towing trailers behind my pickup. I don't mind pulling the boat from the garage out to the West Shore boat ramp just above Oahe Dam. The longer the distance, the less I like it. I've come to accept that, most years when the Woster clan has its summer reunion near Chamberlain, I'll drag the boat that far. It's about 85 miles, one way.

Cass Lake put that to shame. We hauled the boat 484 miles, one way, by my odometer. That's a full work-day's pull, a long time to not like the fact that you have a boat in your rear-view mirror.

Second, and the more important factor, I'm no good at changing flat tires. I used to be, once, but I lost the patience to do it quickly but without hurry. I don't have the proper tools, either, and that's frustrating.

It shouldn't matter, you're probably thinking. A boat trailer, what are the odds you're going to blow a tire? Pretty good, in my experience, at least with this most recent trailer and boat. It didn't used to be that way. My first boat had a spare tire bolted to the top of the trailer's tongue. I had that boat maybe 20 years and never needed the spare. My second boat had a spare in roughly the same location on the trailer. I had that boat about a dozen years. Never once even wondered what size wrench would fit the U-shaped clamp that held the spare tire to the trailer.

This boat? It's the first one with double axles, meaning four tires instead of two. This is our 10th year together, and I've changed two of the four original tires, never mind that except for a yearly trip to Chamberlain, the longest haul is up to the ramp at Cow Creek. Funny thing is, this trailer came without a spare tire. Funnier thing? I didn't give that a thought until I was pulling the rig with its flat tire as far onto the shoulder of Interstate 90 as I could get just about three miles west of Kennebec one sweltering July afternoon several years back.

That's when I discovered that the jacks they stick in the cars these days don't work worth a hoot on a boat trailer. I found the jack, sure. And I found the funky, long-handled crank that raises and lowers the jack. For the life of me, I couldn't find a good place to locate that jack. What's up with that?

Back on the farm, if a guy had a flat tire on most any vehicle, he reached in the back of the pickup and hauled out a long, heavy piece of metal with a long, curved handle that looked like the ones you see on old-fashioned water pumps. The jack had two or three flanges where a guy could make the ground, the appropriate spot on the vehicle and the jack all line up.

It took some muscle power to raise the vehicle enough so the tire cleared the ground, but back on the farm, I had muscle. Now, instead of muscle, I have an unstable little jack and a long-handled crank that slips in and out of the slot in the jack.

Well, I finally got the tire off that boat trailer, hitched a ride to Kennebec with a friendly Lyman County fellow and had the tire fixed at the corner station. I hitched a ride back, bolted the tire in place, fought to work the jack loose and headed to the reunion.

The process was the same a couple of summers later when a tire blew as we returned from an excursion on Lake Oahe. I hadn't, for some reason, purchased a spare tire, even after the I-90 ordeal.

My travel preparations for Cass Lake included buying a spare tire for the trailer. So, 484 miles up, 484 miles back, no flats. I guess an ounce of prevention really is worth it.