I recently returned to California from a month long jaunt through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado. And then back through New Mexico and Arizona. A big loop that took me out of the Los Angeles area on Interstate 10 and returned me via Interstate 40. All this in an '83 Toyota van (the very first year Toyota made vans for the American market) with 188,000 plus miles on the odometer. Of course, the odometer stopped working years ago.
When we speak of great American presidents, I want to throw into the ring the name Dwight D. Eisenhower. If only because he left us the interstate highway system that criss-crosses our nation. I can't think of a better, more lasting legacy anybody could have left. Of course, I suspect Ol' Dwight (I've spent so much time enjoying his legacy that I refer to him in quite familiar terms) was thinking as a military man when he came up with the idea, having realized we were very vulnerable to attack without a major highway system that military vehicles could traverse. So I'm pretty sure the fact that trucks and cars get to use it was sizzle used to sell the steak. But who cares. We still get to drive on it.
Now the Ol' Toyota (almost everything in my world is 'Ol) was in need of a new clutch. And I was debating whether or not it was worth it, and whilst debating the registration expired. So it was sittin' there in the driveway, under an oak tree, collecting oak juice and dirt and such on it, with a barely functional clutch and expired tags while I made up my mind. Or tried to. For the longest time. Finally I decided the most sensible thing was to get a new clutch, get it legal, and take it out on the road again.
So that's what I did. Of course the new tags didn't arrive before I left. And the night before, it was pouring rain, and when I went out in the morning, the driver's seat was kinda wet because there was a leak in the seal around the windshield. And the battery was dead.
I wondered about the intelligence of my decision, because I'm a little superstitious. But I fixed the seal around the windshield with some bathtub caulking compound, and I charged the battery with my handy dandy bought it at Sears battery charger. And once I got 'er started, I dried out the seat by running the heater full blast and soaking up the water with a towel. Of course, I had changed the oil. And when the time felt right, I hit the highway. With a song in my heart, a full p.a. and guitars and clothes and camping gear and such in the back. And expired tags.
Interstate 10 runs from Los Angeles across the desert to Phoenix, Arizona. It turns south to Tucson, and then veers east again, going all the way across the southern part of the country to Jacksonville, Florida. I was going to Houston, Texas.
Here's the directions to Houston from my house. Pull out of the driveway, go to the intersection. Take a right. Go about ten blocks. Take a left onto the 210 freeway, which merges with Interstate 10. Go to Houston. See why I like Ol' Dwight so much?
Of course I got pulled over for the expired tags as soon as I crossed into Arizona. The cop ran the search on the computer, and everything came up clean. But he really wanted to haul me in for something. So he kept doing this sobriety test, over and over, trying to trick me into revealing my intoxication. Which of course didn't exist. It became comical. To me, anyway. Finally, I was sent on my way with a fixit ticket.
When you do these tours, at least on the level on which I operate, motels are generally out of the question. It's just not cost effective. Yet another value of the Ol' Toyota. With a little re-arranging, you can sleep in the back fully stretched out with all your gear in there. You lay out your blankies or sleeping bag or whatever and just snooze like a baby. Okay, like a big baby.
Only problem was that all the rest stops in Arizona were closed (I figure they probably deem rest stops to be socialist conspiracies in Arizona anyway). So I pushed on into the night. Fueled by Coca Cola and the spirit of adventure. Finally I found a rest stop that was open near Bisbee, Arizona. It was cloudy, and I seemed to be running just ahead of the incoming storm.
After parking the Ol' Toyota, and locking it to safeguard my stuff, I went up to the kindly provided rest stop facilities to get ready for beddy bye. When I returned, I discovered that the key (which I keep on one of those caribeener thingies that mountain climbers use, attached to my belt loop) was missing. It had somehow fallen off. And it was dark. And I didn't have a flashlight. Even my cell phone was locked in the car. No worries, I tell myself. I have a spare key in my wallet. Because I've been known to lock myself out of my vehicle before. But, when I look in the wallet, the spare key is gone as well.
Now I'm going into near panic. I'm not proud of that response, mind you. But I've been driving a long time, and I've retraced my steps and can't find the key in the dark, and I don't have the phone, etc. It's getting cold, by southern Arizona standards. Way too cold to sleep outside.
I do one last check around the rest stop, retracing my steps. No key. I do one last check of my wallet. The spare key falls to the pavement. Did I mention I need to clean out my wallet?
Praise The Lord!
I open the side door of the van, rearrange everything to make it comfy, and bed down for the remainder of the night. I sleep like... well, a baby.
The next morning, bright and early, I find the other key. Lying right by the van, of course. I see that I am parked amongst beautiful giant sandstone boulders which I couldn't see in the darkness. I breathe in deeply the clean, cool high desert air. I take a short morning walk through the sage brush and mesquite trees.
After my morning stroll, I get in, start up the van, and head toward Texas.