Quimby’s flight was due into Salt Lake City at 5pm and despite allowing what would normally have been more than enough time, I had to keep the needle under 65mph to avoid the most violent vibrations from my damaged rear tire. By the time she landed, we were still 30 miles out. It turned out that she had forgotten her swimming suit though, so while Quimby made a Target run, we closed the last few miles, slipped into Cherry Hill to quickly set up our tent, and then headed to meet her at Target.
Seeing as it was Labor Day weekend and the end of swimming season, Target was all out of suits, so we spotted a Kohl’s across the parking lot and kept searching. They had some amazing mix-and-match trashy suits that were perfect for the RV park and Parker and I both voted for the hot coral strappy number. We overplayed our hand though with imitations of various lines from Talledega Nights—so much so that Samantha, who can usually be counted on to side with her road trip co-conspirators, instead cast a surprise “nay” vote. Quimby, sensing a set-up, instead picked the most conservative black number and weathered the groans and “awww-come on” taunts from Parker and me. “You’ll never see any of these people again in your life,” I implored. “Give the people what they want!” Alas, it was too late. She picked the "swim funeral" suit.
On Saturday morning, while Quimby and the kids played miniature golf and waited for the water park to open, I headed into Orem, UT in search of a replacement tire. My first stop was the local Big O, arriving minutes after they opened at eight o’clock. I backed the big girl into the first spot I could fit into and strolled into the office, expecting that the story of our road trip and the sight of the Pontiac in front would inspire extraordinary ingenuity. It doesn’t always work, but more often than not the sight of a 58-year-old machine lends a sort of street-cred that puts people in the mood to go the extra mile to keep us under power. Unfortunately, as I reached the appropriate point in my pitch where I usually wave dramatically to the chromed-out car in the parking lot, it became apparent that in backing my 22 foot cruiser into the parking space, I had inadvertently knocked over a stack of tires which now lay strewn about the sidewalk. The guy behind the counter frowned and looked unimpressed. After a few clicks on the computer, he announced that there wasn’t a tire of my particular ancient specifications in the entire state of Utah. I’d be looking at Tuesday or Wednesday, best case. It was the equivalent of “good day to you sir.” Disheartened at the prospect of ending our road trip in central Utah or waiting until the middle of the week, I thanked them and headed back to my wounded ride to consider my next move, realizing that this was Utah, and everything is closed on Sunday. If I didn't find a tire soon, I'd be looking at sitting out the Labor Day weekend.
Back in the car and looking at Google Maps, I headed to the only other major tire shop in town--Les Schwab. It was much roomier in the parking lot this time and before long, the intoxicating spell of old iron and vintage Detroit style had convinced the manager that extraordinary efforts were warranted. Soon I had a pair of cheap, disposable, 14” oddball tires mounted on the back with half the guys in the shop holding up iPhones with pictures of old cars and swapping stories. The tires were undersized, and the Pontiac looked a bit dorky without the wide whites, but at least I was back in business and a quick test drive confirmed that the ride was once again smooth. Not perfect, but good enough to get us home.
With our transportation once again fit for the road, we spent the rest of the day Saturday riding water slides, playing in the lazy river and eating junk food. It was Parker’s day, and he got after it—a fitting reprise to our last visit to Cherry Hill on Man vs Machine III. The war of attrition that had marked Man vs Machine V was still anyone's guess with 700 miles to go, but at 2,500 miles in, Man had finally taken what appeared to be a commanding lead.