Continuing South

Things continue to go south on my journey to southern California…

The van had broken down in Stockton, California and I put myself up in a hotel for the night. For those of you who have been following along I promised to release details on the disturbing event I witnessed that night but for confidentiality reasons I have been informed I cannot speak on the matter. In short, I witnessed a woman be kidnapped…. but we will leave it at this: This was such an unsettling town that the mechanics fixed the van for free and told me all they wanted in return was that I get the fuck out of Stockton and to a safer location as quickly as possible. I took their advice without question.

At a pit stop to cool down in the river I reminisced on the thoughtful old man who gifted me a voucher for free admission to a history museum in Old Sacramento. This was a part of town that was preserved to its original beauty with wooden platform sidewalks, nifty shops, and just the right amount of saloons. A quick venture through this town had me back in high spirits.  I headed back to the van to continue my journey south.

Five minutes into my drive I heard yet another spark plug blow. The nearest auto shop was a fifteen minute drive away and would be closed by the time I could get there. I pulled over to sleep for the night and decided to deal with it in the morning.

After a careful drive to town I bought myself a new spark plug only to discover that the threads on this head were shot too. At this point, I could not afford to go to another mechanic to get it tapped so I had no choice but to figure it out myself. I tried to confirm that I was taking the right steps to fix things with the worker at O’Reilly who rudely informed me that his job was not to help girls fix their problems. After returning the products I bought from him and walking over to the much friendlier local auto part store across the street I noticed him peering out the store window watching me collect needed tools from the mechanic next door and successfully rethreading the head and installing new plugs and wires. He was still watching out the window when I turned on the van and it purred like new as I drove away riding the wave of success.

This was a bit of a monumental moment for me as it really showed me how much I’ve learned and how much I’ve changed in my short time on the road. For one, I could have never gotten out and began wrenching on the engine on the side of the road a mere eight months ago. I’ve learned so much about things I would have never taken an interest in or had much exposure to had I led a normal life. I realize I’ve become so used to life on the road I don’t even realize how brave and monumental my actions are anymore. I’ve never lost the awe of the beauty around me however I’ve forgotten the fear and uncertainty that came in those first few days. I reflect back to night one when I parked the van at a marina in Florida and sat there thinking “WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING?!” I remember entering the home of the first family to take me in and meeting my first host to accept my couch-surfing request and being so unsure if I was making smart decisions. And I think about how commonplace it has all become, how comfortable I am making myself at home in a stranger’s dwelling, how easily I forget I am in a van in a public place when I close my curtains and fall into my home at night. It feels as if it has happened over night, but I then realize its been a long strange trip I’ve journeyed thus far.

I should have known better than to make a pit stop for dinner on a forest service road not frequently visited by other vehicles. But I had two new spark plugs and new wires from this trip, I had just recently had new linkages and a slave cylinder put on from a break down just weeks prior, and had just readjusted the timing and re-welded the throttle to the choke when it gave out on the beach before that. What else could go wrong?

I turned the key to start the van. Boom! You have got to be kidding me. Yet again, I empty the trunk of the car to access the engine. All the plugs are in place, the wires are in place, the choke is still set in place, the oil is fine, there is gas in the car, it’s getting a spark, no leaks anywhere…. There are no detectable problems.

I sat there for hours trying to finagle it into running. A man stopped to help me who had rebuilt VDubs in the past and he couldn’t figure it out either. It was getting to dark to make any significant progress so I hung my privacy curtain and decided to call it quits for the night. Minutes later there was a knock at the door.

A police officer, my luck continues.

He informs me that parking at night is not allowed on the forest roads and car camping in this area is illegal. I explained my situation to him and even attempted starting the car and offered him a chance to get under the hood (or rather inside the trunk) and check it out for himself when he didn’t believe me. He rattled off some bullshit to me about not driving unreliable cars as I drifted away in a day dream about the last pig I had encountered. It was when I was broken down with a blown spark plug on my way to Stockton. The cop told me I was incorrectly placing the plug in the socket and proceeded to attempt to show me how to do it himself. He of course was talking out of his ass as he himself incorrectly placed it in the socket and then proceeded to drop the plug down inside the engine. With the typical lack of dignity it takes to become a cop in our society he frantically began to make excuses as he attempted to get back to his vehicle and leave the scene without taking responsibility for the fool he had just made of himself. I of course did not let this happen and made him fish for the plug until he successfully brought it back to surface.

“Do you understand how your decision making got you into a situation where you are now breaking the law and placing yourself in danger?” I snapped back to reality.

“I’m going to leave and come back in about an hour. If your car is still here I will have it towed and impounded. If you are here with the car I will be giving you an illegal camping ticket, a misdemeanor in these parts, and will be impounding your car. Good luck.” And with that the prick disappeared.

An hour later there was a knock at the door. Ready to accept my misdemeanor and go down with my ship I crawled out the door under the privacy curtain. A ranger with bright red hair looked at me with a hint of surprise in his eyes.

“Are you here alone ma’am?”

“Yep, just me and my pet cat. I already had another officer come and threaten to give me a misdemeanor for being here….” I continued to explain my situation.

He kindly asked if there was anything he could do for me and told me that he would not threaten me with any bogus tickets like the other officer, but could not promise that I wouldn’t be woken up again by others passing by. Finally, a cop with his head on straight. I deduced it was because he was still young, they hadn’t gotten into his head yet.

The next morning my friend from southern California came to my rescue and towed me into town. After hours of inspecting every square inch of the engine he realized that the top of one of my wires was burnt. I pulled out an old wire and threw it on and Wala! The van was fixed, free of charge. To avoid breaking down alone again we decided it was best to caravan down to his place outside of Santa Barbara together. A stop at a brewery in Paso Robles and a later joint and fast food break were our only pit stops this time.

It was late at night when we finally arrived. Justin, the cat, and myself headed into his garage-converted-home to get some well-deserved rest.



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