Somewhere between Moscow and Bucharest, our spare tire was stolen. I don't like to think ill of others so I won't accuse one or the other except to say that it was documented that I had one when the car was parked in Moscow and when it arrived here in Bucharest, it was documented that we didn't (have one). My first thought was to buy it back on ebay! But then it occurred to me that it would take up to 3-4 weeks and we are planning a trip through the Romanian back woods next week and a spare tire is better insurance than... actual insurance. If I were a gambling man, I'd bet the odds on a flat tire were greater than getting in an accident — but the truth is, you never know.
So I set out in search of a spare tire locally. I thought a used one would be the way to go, seeing as to how I hope never to use it. A week of inquiry all led to "no." My 1999 Toyota Land Cruiser is either too old for old parts or American and therefore too rare to find in Europe. Save your breath on the fact that they are all made in Japan. European ones are different.
Plan B - look to buy a new one: Three tire stores I drove by did not have the ability to order me a rim. "Too old" they said. And a tire my size is about $328 (I paid $117/tire 3 years ago but they were on sale). Romanian Parliament just passed a law that demands that tires be rated for snow and mountain hazardous driving or you can receive a huge fine (someone knows someone in the tire business). So tires are expensive here and rims for an 11 year old car are near impossible to find.
Plan C - I drove to the Toyota dealer. Ciprian (pronounced "Chiprian") is a very nice guy. He works in the parts department there. His English is good and he is sympathetic to my cause. He believes the Gypsies had something to do with it. No! Actually, he says he knows the Gypsies had something to do with it. We spend an hour looking on line: There is a rim for my vehicle but it is listed as made for Toyota 2002 - 2008. Then it says in fine print that it will fit any Land Cruiser model and in parenthesis if says, (not to be used as a spare). We debate why this is so. I figure it has to do with the center opening which it seems to lack. This open center rim is essential to suspend the spare under the carriage. So what if we buy it and exchange it with the rim already on the truck and use the old rim as a spare? Ciprian is hesitant. Apparently refunding a part after buying it is the Acme of bureaucracy. "This is a 4 signature and stamp case," he informs me. In my case, it's more because I have my own government to deal with to get the VAT tax refunded.
I decide to gamble after all and order the rim. Now to finding a tire. We find one that is actually a reasonable price and turns out to be the very same tire that is already on my car. Excited prematurely, I urge him to order it. He calls the shop and informs me that they have it but may not be able to deliver it before 5PM when the Service station at the dealership closes. They are located across town and only have one delivery truck. Of course, I can go get it myself, but my work schedule is pretty booked on Fridays. So we decide I will go get it as soon as they open, drive it to the dealership, leave it there for them to see if the rim fits, mount the old tire on the new rim, place the new tire on the old rim, and mount the brand new spare under the car.
The early morning did not go as planned. I knew it as soon as it started. I forgot my wallet when I walked to the bakery for croissants, a sure omen. I engaged a concierge service from the embassy that will do just about anything for a price. They called me back and informed me they found another similar tire a bit more expensive but far closer to our location. I agreed to let them buy it and deliver it to me. I then drove to the dealership.
The truck was lifted on the rack and we stood around wondering if the rim would fit or not. Yes! It fits! But there was one little problem. The lug nuts that anchor the rim to the wheel are different. So if the spare is used, the old lug nuts must be saved to use. An important yet small sacrifice to have a spare. At close examination, the rims are different and "look! You need new brake pads!"
At the end of the day, all patients were seen, although I was late, and I now own a spare I hope I never need. And the squeal I developed since driving in Romania from the brake indicators is also gone. Must have been the Gypsies!