This may be the end of the road with Big Blu, but it is not the end of the road in through and through.
The engine is shot, again. The failures of the first mechanic I allowed to work on my home have haunted me, causing break down after break down this whole trip. I have always glorified these breakdowns as part of the journey, part of the experience, causing me to slow down and see sights and meet people and learn things I otherwise wouldn’t have. It had never really occurred to me, however, that this could cause an END to my journey. In my eyes, there was no end.
To my surprise, and that of everyone else in the shop, I reacted really calmly. I’m not sure if my stubbornness had simply not let the inevitable end of my life as I knew it to set in or if I had just become so accustomed to these blows to my plans that I had learned to just duck and weave with the ebbs and flows of life. I owe part of my calmness to the support of the locals of course. The mechanic wrote off two of his three hours of labor as free, and the auto part store discounted the starter I had purchased from them. I offered to pay John to tow the van to a parking lot somewhere that I could live for a few days until I figured out what my next move was going to be. He told me that I am ridiculous. and towed the van to his front lawn. When his wife Regina heard that I was planning to stay in the van or a motel she literally laughed in my face and told me that I would be staying in their home with them and that was that. I am so grateful to have found such a wonderful family to support me during the biggest break of my journey.
The next morning I set it in my mind that the van was not done for, that the show would go on. With the help of family and friends back home and strangers from vandwelling and vanagon communities I rolled up my sleeves and set into the engine… Facetime running next to me the entirety of the time. And for a moment I believed I had found the problem and proved the mechanic wrong; I was going to fix the van! I quickly and excitedly went to everyone who was offering me advice along the way and shared my findings. My enthusiasm was matched by those in the Vanagon community so much so that two kind souls donated $130 dollars to me to order the valve I needed. However, some VW gurus responded with quite a bit less excitement than I was prepared for.
Apparently, this problem had been showing symptoms for a while. And upon urging from those with expertise I inspected my oil to find it filled with gasoline. In short, this means that the engine had been flooding with gasoline for months, washing away at the bearings rendering my trusty ol’ Westy a ticking time bomb. Defeat reared its ugly head.
I wandered to a nearby forest and wandered and wandered. Despite my current situation I still seemed to feel wonder and joy out here; I can always escape the world in nature. I found myself standing overlooking a beautiful valley of lush green grass and sage brush. There were trees scattered in the background creating a border between the valley and the range of snow capped mountains sitting peacefully on the horizon. I fought my way through the dense brush and slipped my way down the muddy hillside until I found myself in the middle of the serenity itself. This space was my temporary sanctuary.
I turned on some music and laid back watching the clouds stir above my head. They seemed to warp and spin at the same velocity as the inner workings of my mind in this moment. I found peace in their inconsistency. And just as I was beginning to feel filled with the love and serenity of my surroundings, filled with the environment’s reverberating positive energy, I broke. I cried for about 45 seconds before I sat up and pulled my self together. And then for about another two minutes after that before deciding:
‘No, fuck this, feeling down does not help anything’.
I pulled up the hood on my sweater and found solace being wrapped in its soft fibers, its deep green color reflecting the most beautiful and calming color of the Earth. I breathed in the sweet oxygen from the trees around me and released any sense of negativity or heaviness into the more than capable realms of the nature spirits to transform and ground back into the Earth for me. I took on the solidity and strength of the mighty range in front of me and allowed myself to be overtaken by the light airy peacefulness of the flowers and the aroma of the sage. I felt at home, as a child of the Earth. And something in this moment told me that no matter what was coming my way, was going to be what I needed. The music in the background reaffirmed this for me:
“What I know is that I don’t know. And now I dance and I sing and I live full.
I give it all to the call of the unknown. Ah-ho.
What I say is that I don’t say. And now I rest no stress in the holy name.
All fears and my tears give it all away. I play.
Like a child of the earth.”
My struggle continues as I try to bring my current situation to a close. I decide I will sell the van as is and use the money to get a new vehicle to continue my journey in. I put the van up for sale but after about a week of trying I haven’t had many serious inquiries. Not wanting to overstay my welcome with John and Regina, I turn to my family to help me resolve my issue. They arrange for the van to be shipped back to Illinois. And exactly 365 days after the day I set out on my journey I watched the van, my home, trail away from me on the back of a semi.
The van takes longer to get up on the truck than expected and I miss my first bus, but the kindness of the family I am staying with continues and they offer to drive me to town themselves, making a pit stop first to see the gorgeous McArthur-Burney falls (where the original Tarzan movie was filmed, shown at the top of the article).
I had done some research and found that it would be cheaper to rent a car than to hop on the train so I had them drop me at the local Budget Rental Car. We hugged and said our goodbyes and I waved and watched them drive away before going in to get my car. Spoiler alert: This doesn’t go as planned either.
The company failed to tell me when I made the reservation that being under 25 I need a credit card, not a debit card. I sit on the ground outside calling every company in town to be told the same thing over and over. I look up train and bus schedules but there is no form of transportation leaving until the next day. I accept defeat again and begrudgingly book the cheapest motel I can find in town and reserve a seat on the Greyhound to Sacramento for early the next morning: my last shot to making this flight in time.
I catch a ride to the motel from the sweetest lady ever who prays to her God for my luck and success and tells me that she sees great things in my future and that she just knows all this is happening to set me up for something wonderful that I just can’t quite see yet. I take her beliefs as my own.
Early the next morning I arrive at the bus station to find out that the bus is cancelled. And so is the next. And the train? Well, its booked up due to the bus cancellations. The world just won’t let me be. After two hours of searching for a way I call up a guy with a listing on Craigslist. I am so unsettled getting into the car with him, as I am hoping that his “What do you look like?” question is only asked so he can find me at the station.
When he stops a parking lot over to exchange money with a woman he calls his daughter, and then mentions we will be stopping at his home the next town over, I am really regretting my decision. When he invites me inside, I am assuming I am about to become the cliché news story of the gullible girl who was killed off a Craigslist ad. When he rolls us a joint for the road and throws me an eighth of bud for free for my troubles, well I sure feel a fuck of a lot better then.
It’s a four-hour drive to Sacramento but it flies by with conversation and puff-puff-passing. Finally, something that seems to be flowing with ease. I stuff my prize into a bag of tea and take the airplane ride to a place I used to call home.
I can’t say at this point that I know exactly what is ahead of me. But I can tell you this. I am co-writing my story with the universe. And my journey, is still just beginning