… but not without some interesting “events”.
It’s been a crazy and eventful two weeks. Well, nearly two weeks since the last post, when we were getting ready to pull up stakes at Lake Texana and head out west to pick up our new “used” Hiker Trailer. Over that time, we’ve encountered a few issues, to say the least. But in the midst of them, I feel like we had a guardian angel looking over us, stepping in to minimize the impact those issues might have had on our trip.
As it turns out, the timing couldn’t have been better. Our tent’s main center beam snapped as it was being taken down. Much as I feared, the tent was on its last legs. It had been sagging badly over the previous week. Every time I unzipped the side door, it was putting that much more pressure on the beam. Had we tried to get another break down and set up instead of going ahead with the move to the teardrop trailer, we would have been shelterless! Instead of being packed on top of the car, the tent wound up on the ground next to the dumpster as we drove away.
We made it to Fort Stockton the first day. It wasn’t until day two that things began happening. We started out that day pretty early, with Arizona City as our goal. We didn’t even make it to El Paso! A couple of hours into the drive, we stopped at a picnic area to stretch our legs and give Frank a chance to leave some “pee mail” on another garbage can or two. The picnic area was comprised of a few tepee structures and was totally deserted – we were the only ones in there. The exit took us down below the main highway. The only thing you could see of the passing cars were their roofs. Anyhow, as we were baking out of the parking space to leave, the car made a horrible scrrnnnch sound. I immediately took it out of reverse to pull back into the spot and it made the same noise, so I just turned the wheel. I mean, at that point it was pretty obvious that we were going to need a tow. I pulled out the phone. No signal. I turned on the Verizon hotspot that I bought (that’s a story for another post), thinking it would pick up a signal better than the phone. Nothing. Here we were, out in the middle of nowhere, not all that visible from the road, and I’m thinking, “this is NOT good”! Here’s where that angel stepped in.
No sooner did I get out of the car … with no idea as to what to do next … than I saw an SUV pull off the road and come into the lot. It turned out to be a State Trooper! I waved an arm over my head and started walking towards her as she pulled up behind us. “My car just now broke down,” I told her. “I’m so grateful you came by when you did! My guardian angel must have showed up at the right time,” I said with a little laugh.
The trooper replied, “You know, I NEVER stop at this picnic area. But something said, ‘You need to pull in here,’ as I approached the exit. So yeah, your angel did a nice job.” I have to say that a chill traveled up my spine as she said that. I don’t know that I’ve ever put much stock into things like guardian angels and the like. Regardless, I definitely felt Frank and I were somewhat protected. Sure, the car broke down … but it could have happened while driving, causing us to have an accident! We could have been stranded in that picnic area for hours before anyone else came by. But none of that happened. Even better, those are the thoughts I had rather than being upset about our situation. That’s a big change for me and I have to acknowledge it!
It took a while for the tow truck to show up. He was a really nice guy. Ralph had us get into the cab while he hooked the car up. Then it was off to El Paso, 120 miles away. Once we were within wifi range, he lent me his phone where we found a AAA-approved repair facility. They couldn’t look at the car until the next morning. One of their people drove Frank and me over to a nearby Motel 6. At that point, I was less concerned about the delay than I was about what it was going to cost to fix the Hyundai. From what happened, I was pretty sure the transmission crapped out. All I could do at that point was wait until I heard back from the repair shop in the morning and take it from there.
We got good news the following morning, though. It wasn’t the transmission – the CVS axle on the passenger side had broken. It was only going to cost $310 to fix it! (As an aside, that was about $110 less than what the tow cost!) They found something else, too – the oil pan was leaking badly and would cost another $200 to fix. The good news was that they could have the car back running by the end of the day. Once again, I felt a sense of gratitude. And protection. Granted, it meant taking another $1,000 out of my rapidly dwindling savings, but it could have been a lot worse. Again, the thought came, “If this hadn’t happened, you might not have discovered the leaking oil pan, which could have resulted in a lot worse problem if we kept driving while losing oil!” The other thing – I had both CVS axles replaced at a AAA auto repair center back in Charleston, before we left. We’re still working that issue, but I’ve called AAA and there’s a strong chance I’ll be able to recoup some of the repair and tow cost under their warranty. We’ll hopefully have some more info on that next week.
Wednesday morning, we left El Paso pretty early. Not quite sure what time – the night before, I noticed the phone said it was 6pm while the clock on the laptop said it was only 5pm. I had called the front desk to ask what time it was, explaining what was going on with the phone and laptop clocks. The desk clerk just laughed and said, “Tell me about it!” before saying it was 6pm, that technically we were on Central time. Regardless, it was still dark when we left the hotel room and headed down the road.
We made Arizona City well before 1pm, so we just kept going. I have to say, Frank has been a real trooper on this trip. I felt bad because I had promised him when we left Charleston that I was going to keep our road trips to no more than 6 hours a day, and here we were driving a helluva lot more than that. He did fuss a bit, but every time he did, it turned out to be for good reason – he typically had to go! We made a few stops along the way and finally made it all the way to Costa Mesa, CA … 14-plus hours on the road! Frank was asleep on the bed less than 5 minutes after we opened the door to our room at the Motel 6. I followed him shortly thereafter.
Thursday morning, things went off without a hitch (pun intended). We made arrangements to meet Shelley, the woman from whom we were buying the trailer, at the storage facility in Laguna Hills where it was being kept. Everything went great at the credit union that belonged to the same coop as mine back in Charleston – I was out of there with a cashier’s check in less than 10 minutes!
Shelley was already there when we arrived late morning. She was gracious enough to leave behind the mattress and some IKEA storage units. She helped me hitch the trailer and gave me a few other pointers. And off we were. I can’t say it wasn’t without a certain amount of anxiety … the hitch was awful low to the ground and I was pretty concerned about bottoming out. Shelley, if you’re reading this, I hope you didn’t think me rude. I was just trying to get out of there before letting you see me in a full blown anxiety attack!
Getting out of the Los Angeles metropolitan area was a bitch! I can’t think of a place where I enjoy driving less – and I’ve driving in places with some pretty bad reps: New York City, northern Jersey, Dallas, the San Francisco Bay area, just to name a few … NONE of them come close to rivaling Los Angeles, in my opinion! We wound up driving to Hemet, about 2 hours west of LA, off Interstate 10, where we found a little RV park. We stayed there an extra day so we could reorganize our gear and get it integrated into the teardrop.
We got up early on Saturday with the idea of driving to Phoenix. I had made plans to visit an old friend from high school back in New Jersey. Mark had a winter home just outside of Mesa. We’d not only be able to catch up … I’d be able to make a quick visit to the San Francisco Giants’ spring training camp in Scottsdale. Unfortunately, it was another occurence of “the best laid plans …” Instead of getting out of town early, I wound up spending the next several hours at the emergency room!
I backed the Hyundai up to hook up the trailer, but wound up short by a few feet. Stupid me, figuring that I’d be able to simply pick up the hitch and pull the trailer to the car, must’ve skipped physics class the day they discussed “momentum”. I pulled the trailer over, but it decided to keep going when I meant for it to stop. The end result was the hitch ramming the license plate on the back of my car … with my left middle finger smashed in between. Lots of pain. Lots of blood. Lots of embarrassment!
A fellow at the campsite helped me finish hitching the trailer to the car and gave me directions to the ER. The end result was what they called a “crush” injury: 12 stitches running laterally across the inside of the finger, right below the last joint, along with a hairline fracture of the finger bone. Not how I expected to spend my Saturday morning.
We finally got back underway a little after noon after a quick stop at the pharmacy to pick up antibiotics and Motrin, which was the strongest pain med they said I could have given that I needed to be driving for the next few days. It is what it is. In retrospect, I really feel that guardian angel was looking out for me to some degree once again. Granted, he might have been at Flannigan’s Bar having a drink when I smashed the finger, but the doctor said I was extremely lucky. He had seen similar injuries where other folks had lost the tip of their finger. There are few things quite as useless as a guitarist with a missing finger on his chording hand!
Anyhow, it took us three days to make it back to east Texas. We stayed the first night in Willcox, AZ … night #2 in Fort Stockton, TX … and night #3 in Cleveland, TX, about 30 miles from Livingston (i.e. “home base”, where I will register the trailer and pick up the plates).
I’ve already been back to see a doc in Cleveland. He says the finger is healing nicely. No infection, stitches look good, etc. I’m due to go back on Tuesday to have them removed. We’ll see how it goes after that. Hopefully my guitar playing is back to normal in a couple of months.
I’m going to leave off here. I’ll post photos tomorrow and let you all know about our current place of residence – The Triple Creek Music and RV camp out in the middle of the east Texas barrens.