We’re in two cars, my daughter’s car ahead of me, when they start to hear a noise from the front right wheel area. They walkie-talkie back to us in my FJ. I tell them to pull over at the next exit.
The wheel well barrier–what is the word for that part that separates the wheel well from the engine?–was damaged by a prior owner. We tug on it and it is conceivable that the damaged part is being pushed by the wind far enough back to touch the rubber of the tire. We try again.
No luck, still the noise. So we stop again and cut off part of the wheel well barrier. It cuts strangely easily, like it was created to be sliced cleanly with a knife.
Within a mile or two the noise again. We look once more at the wheel well, decide to try and tie the remaining portion back out of the way. The gas station has tie-downs that we employ for that purpose.
Back on the road and still the noise. It’s hard to believe that the wind is pushing the plastic material back so far, especially given the tie-downs. So we drive up alongside their car at sixty-five miles an hour to have a look. The area in front of the wheel looks fine, nothing is touching the tire. But the plastic material at the rear of the wheel is angling forward now, pushed by some vortex within the wheel well, and has moved forwards, toward the back of the tire. It is scraping against it. Unexpected.
We pull over at the Belvidere, South Dakota, exit, not even a gas station in sight, to cut part of that plastic off, too, and are met again with the unexpected:
Free range goats wandering by the cars as we work.
This post is from a series of articles chronicling a 2020 cross-country trip with my wife and two daughters and a boyfriend, from California to Ohio (to visit family) and Pennsylvania (to drop off my oldest daughter at grad school), and then back. We spent over five weeks on the road during the pandemic.