driving across the country, the landscapes and landmarks fly by the window, and just like in life, you don’t really know what you’ve missed until you sit back and contemplate the memories (or in this case….scroll through iphoto)
also, just like in life, being on the road has it’s ups and downs as we’ve learned. every turn can bring something strange and wonderful.
on your way to the outermost part of civilization in the united states, where there are no rules, no zoning, no government….you first have to pass by Salvation Mountain. and learn about a human who just wanted to share his love with everyone through his art.
then we ventured through slab city, weird and wonderful as it is….
the previous day, on a long stretch of boring road, out of nowhere pops the most amazing sand dunes you’ve ever seen (well, you’ve never seen any!)
where did all that sand come from?
I mean, this is some Mad Max shit right here.
which led us to our current park(ing) spot…Joshua Tree. we’ve only explored a teeny little corner of it so far, but it is magnificent.
would the radiator arrive? would they get it installed today? how much is it going to cost?
all things running through our head, and making it impossible to focus on anything else.
we left the hotel at 11 (after the kind lady at the front desk did our laundry because the public washer and drier were both on the fritz.
she folded it too.
so, we checked out at 11 and walked carrying all of our things, the short walk through two parking lots to the McDonalds, got ourselves some coffee and some free wifi, and sat down for the long wait.
I occupied myself with trying to figure out how to supplement our income on the road….loaded up my photos to blue melon.com in hopes of selling some, did some jeannieknits social media, generally just pissed around on my computer to keep my mind occupied.
we decided, after not hearing from our buddy Randy at M&M Wrecking, we should give him a call;
“the radiator isn’t here yet.” Randy informed me immediately.
“do you have any idea when it’s coming…I mean, it’s today right?”
“yeah, today or tomorrow”
“no, Randy, it has to be today. you have no idea….”
“ok, ok, yeah…it’s coming on a truck from dallas to el paso and they’re supposed to stop here….maybe I should call Napa and see if it’s in.”
“yeah, could you do that please? and give me a call back”
*more anxious waiting*
“hey it’s Randy, from —“
“yes, randy, what did you find out?”
“the radiator is here, but…did you guys pay for it yet?”
“no, we didn’t pay for it….why?
“well, since our boss is in the hospital they froze his accounts and we need cash to pay for the radiator. you need to come pay for it at Napa..” not shady at. all.
“seriously? ok, well can you come get us and take us there?
“that’s just what I was fixin’ to do, m’am.”
good ole texas.
a few minutes later, up rolls the tow truck and in we hop with all our our gear…and off to buy our radiator.
after installation, randy came over to me (I had been reorganizing the car and generally just keeping an eye on these two mechanics in charge of our literal survival)
“we need antifreeze”
“so, you gonna come with me or should I ask the other guy?”
OH…we need to go buy the antifreeze now. seriously. what the hell.
off to Napa, back to the shop.
when they were all finished, and everything was running as it should be, the “foreman”, a mexican named SoSo, told us the amount and then informed us that his credit card machine wasn’t working.
“drive them to ATM” he motioned to Randy. “get cash out.”
are you fucking kidding me??
back in tow truck, off to ATM, cash in hand…
“can we get a receipt?”
finally on the road out of Texas, the Welcome to New Mexico sign was the best thing we’d seen in a week. we always make an effort to stop at the information center, because there’s lots of free goodies there, and usually the people there are super helpful; New Mexico’s visitor center was adorable and like a mini museum. we set to work, grabbing pamphlets for what we thought we’d like to see, free magazines, etc. the gentleman behind the counter asked us to sign the visitor book, and as xander was signing it he noticed the name above us was from Toledo, Ohio.
“Toledo! what are the odds?!”
we hadn’t even noticed the older woman, in a baseball cap, gathering up pamphlets and maps in the tiny visitor center room with us.
“You two again!” came a voice from under the hat, and we realized immediately who it was.
Diane. We had met Diane in the Del Rio Campground (other side of texas) almost two weeks ago. and yet, here, in this remote information center, there she was.
after what must have been a very entertaining and conversation for the two people behind the counter, we got ourselves all caught up (filled her in on our car mishap) she said to us,
“well, I’m headed to dinner in Las Cruces. how about you guys join me, my treat.”
I practically burst into tears. we are so depleted, both psychologically and financially, after the terrible week in Van Horn. this was a huge gift.
we ate at an authentic mexican restaurant, recommended by the lovely workers at the visitor’s center, and caught up on everything we all had seen and done since our last visit.
Diane is retired, and traveling on her own in a van. She’s determined to see all, or as many of the National Parks that she can. She tells wonderful stories, and in my opinion, is one brave woman.
when we were parting ways in the parking lot, we each gave Diane a big hug, and after exchanging phone numbers, she yelled to us,
“next time you have car trouble, don’t hesitate to call me!”
like our own traveling guardian angel, right there.
we had no idea how much time we would spend in texas, or, honestly, how much we’d enjoy that time. frankly, I was amazed at the beauty.
we’re now stuck so close to the far west border of the state, waiting out a car repair. we’re in a perfectly comfortable hotel (120 channels! free wifi! free breakfast!) and it’s nice just to do the things we used to; lie on the bed scrolling mindlessly through the internet while reality tv drones in the background.
but it’s also been a time of reflection.
on how far we’ve come; both literally (almost 4,000 miles) and figuratively.
although we’re not experts at any of this, I feel we’ve learned so much about what we need to live and be happy. and it all fits in the car.
our stay at Big Bend National Park was fabulous. it is a spectacular park, with everything from mountain peaks to wide expanses of desert. we hiked into a canyon one day, followed by a dip in the hot spring nestled right next to the Rio Grande river. every night the sky was the most beautiful show of colors as the sun set behind the ridge.
we hated leaving, but packed up a day earlier than planned due to very high winds. the next day a power line fell on the road about 1/4 mile from our campsite, sparking a wildfire that is still burning as I write this. I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like if we were still there.
we moved on to marfa, texas where we enjoyed some great food and met some fabulous people, including an inspiring couple who are riding their bikes through 23 states (towing their two dogs!) It was great talking to them about our mutual goals, what it’s like living on the road, and how it felt leaving the ‘old life’ and possessions behind.
wandering around west texas waiting for the winds to die down we came across several deserted ghost towns. kent was my favorite. it felt alive, although the houses were empty and filled with broken glass, and burnt sinks, the pipes all ripped out and paint peeling in shattered mosaics. creeping around some of the structures with only the sound of the highway, we felt like we were seeing something we shouldn’t be, and yet we couldn’t stop looking.
the other day while cooking lunch, we noticed a dog wandering around the campground. white and brown, lean; a hunting dog, clearly. she had a tracking collar on (they have a large box with an antennae sticking out of it) and another leather collar. we watched as she got closer and seemed interested in something under our car. sniffing, pawing….I was afraid it was a dead animal, but she popped her head up with a piece of wheat bread in her mouth. after eating that one, she went back and got another. apparently a loaf of bread had fallen out of our car when we were unloading, and she was hungry.
xan went and grabbed the bag from under the car, occasionally tossing another piece to the dog who was still lingering around. after a while, we went back to eating our lunch and building a fire, going about our day and not giving much more thought to our new friend.
about an hour later, I was heading a short ways from our site to gather some wood and the bright white of the dog, nestled in under the magnolias and vines and tall pine trees caught my eye. as I approached her I noticed she was shaking. the temps were about in the high 40’s, and in the dampness of the woods it was very chilly.
I called xander over, and we decided we’d better call and get her owner. clearly the tracking device wasn’t working and this little gal was lost.
getting a signal to the phones is futile out here, so we unhooked the car from the tent and xander drove about 25 minutes up the road until he could get a connection.
after several dropped calls he finally got through.
“Is this Ryan B***r?”
“Wait, is this Ryan? I called the number on the tag that had your name on it. we have your dog”
“Aw, heck I thought you was a bill collector!”
after telling him where we were, he said he’d be there in 15 minutes (which in the south means thirty)….so in about a half hour, a mud caked white pick up truck pulled up (of course it was a white pick up) and out of it jumped Ryan and the cutest little mini version of Ryan, about 3 years old, both decked head to toe in camo and boots and southern hospitality.
the dog, who had seemed depressed and forlorn all day, perked up, as if to sense his cause was not lost as he smelled the familiar scent of “his people” when they exited the truck.
I asked the little one, “Is that your dog?
“yes, m’am” came the sweetest little southern drawl.
“What’s her name?”
“well I hope it’s ok we fed her some bread”
Bobbie struggled to lift herself up—something was wrong with her back right hip—and the tail started wagging for the first time.
the two southern gentlemen each grabbed her collars and escorted her to the truck, thanking us over and over again….explaining along the way that her collar must have dead batteries, that they had been looking for her since last night.
they loaded her into a cage in the back, and off they went.
about two hours later, while making dinner, xander sees another dog come sniffing his way into the campground.
brown and white, hunting dog, tracking collar.
sniffing around…on the trail of something…..wandering in circles…searching.
“you’ve got to be kidding me!” xander yells, throwing his hands up in the air.
heading into the Hudson Valley we were greeted with the stunning beauty that I remembered from living there two years previous.
returning here was more than just a place to stop over and see friends, it was type of cleansing; a needed return to put a new memory on the place that had left us with such melancholy feelings the last time we were here.
staying with the dearest of friends (and realizing we shared not only the same childhood, but the same dish pattern from the fifties–I mean. whoa.) combined with two amazing children, the boundless knowledge they share as a couple and a perfectly feisty cat named Lucky;
well. it was just perfect.
armed with books, hot showers and good meals we set off for Brooklyn.