One of the most boring things I do is my own wiring. I crawl around like a reptile on the floor of the shop, stringing wire behind me, and I do a lot of my own hooking up. I do this for several reasons. A lot of my stuff is custom stuff (extra lighting) and I like to know it is done right when I do it. Anything that I yank down the road has to be wired to be compatible with our bus, it is wired a lot differently than your average automobile. It also helps me to avoid breakdowns on the road on account of bad wiring.
As an added bonus, it gives me time to think about things in general.
One thing I got to thinking about this week was breakdowns. Not long ago I broke down in Las Vegas, Nevada, and it radically altered my perspective on life. I got really down because of it, depressed and out of sorts, not to mention really light in the pockets (because of the expense of it all). But this week it occurred to me, “breakdowns are just part of life, they happen all the time when traveling, you should expect things to go wrong.”
Which they often do.
So as I am wiring up my new trailer, I got to thinking about traveling in this country and just how many times I have broken down on some highway and found myself stranded. Surprisingly, there are considerable instances in my lifetime, when the forces that be have dealt me a bad hand.
Here are just a few (not all of them, just the memorable ones).
The wind whistles thru the huge Ponderosa pine tree above my head, somewhere in the distance, a crow calls to its mate. The sky is a bright blue, and the temperature feels just about right. I am some 35 miles north of Flagstaff, Arizona, on a non-descrip two lane, 89 North, broke down and out of luck. My old Harley has stuck a hydraulic lifter and I am at a loss as to what I should do next.
As luck would have it, not much traffic this day, and here I sit, reading my owners manual and trying to discover what it is that I need to be moving again (which in itself, is a good thing, because it gives you something to do until someone who KNOWS how to fix it finally drops by).
I want to be mobile. Traveling. Seeing what there is to see in life.
Arkansas, it is hot, the heat is melting the asphalt under the kickstand of the old 61 Harley FLH and she quickly sinks into the quagmire of petroleum by-products, falls over, and takes out the shifter. I now have no shift pedal, it is Saturday and I am three hundred miles from home.
At least it wasn’t the kick starter, that happened once in a small burg in Kansas. Have you ever tried to push start a 620 lb. motorcycle, not much fun. It makes you sweat worse than a lame duck politician at election time, and makes you seriously wonder why it was you took up smoking to begin with?
I wrap my boot in duct tape, and head west to Okie City and a new shifter on Monday afternoon after I get off work. As the open road unravels and stretches before me, I seriously consider buying one of them new-newfangled Japanese cars that are reputed to be so reliable and good on gas.
The bright red shiny ball on the horizon grows dim and a chill enters the air.
The interstate is crowded today and the trucks seem to be appearing from out of nowhere, one right after another, like soldiers marching in a column to a hidden count. I look down at the instrument panel and the alternator idiot lite is on, dog-gone car is on the fritz.
As Clint would say … “Go ahead, make my day.”
A long freight with four engines is racing west thru Seligman, and I am looking down at the light, and wondering if I have enough battery to get me to Kingman, Arizona, several miles down the road. I am wondering what it will cost me to get a wrecker and pull this car into town. I am wondering, how it is that I am going to find a wrecker this time of the day, without a pay-phone.
Later on this afternoon, while most are sitting down to another spiritually uplifting episode of Oprah or Dr. Phil, I find myself sitting on a blanket, in the far corner of the parking lot outside the auto parts store next to Walmart. Toolbox out, screwdrivers, paperclips, and other assorted tools of man, taking my alternator apart and installing new brushes.
Another splendid afternoon in the Arizona sun.
Dropping south of of the Oklahoma Panhandle into Pampa, Texas, it is hot, most everything is shut down and quiet. Local folks have resigned themselves to the cool shade of a Cottonwood or Sycamore tree and a glass of sweet tea.
The SERVICE ENGINE SOON lite comes on and I wonder “What is it this time?”
Searching out an auto store in this little town isn’t going to be easy, I may have to wing it and try for Amarillo, Texas instead. Autozone and a free check, “You need an Oxygen sensor” and some deep reach sockets my friend, and of course, sixty-two dollars and some change.
The wind river gorge outside of St. George, Utah is spectacular in October, a hint of cool waifs across the desert and Las Vegas is less than 200 miles away. Things are right in the world this day and then the buzzer goes off. Overheating and reaching critical mass quickly. Now it is all the windows down, running the heater full bore and creeping along, $400 for a new radiator and a loaner car from the Buick dealer in Henderson, Nevada.
So that is the way it goes … First your money and then your clothes.
I have had stopped up fuel filters, bad gas, bad diesel, jelled fuel lines, stuck thermostats, blow-outs and battery failure. Doors that would not shut, AC that quit, refrigerators that did not cool, water hoses that broke or blew right out the side, generators that laid down and died, like an old dog. Not to mention the occasional round of food poisoning, rip offs at the pump, and have even found myself accosted in the rest area or truck-stop bathroom, which believe me, is kind of incredible in itself, because I am just not all that cute at my age.
So why do I get so upset when my old bus breaks down or I need a new battery for my watch? Beats me.
Like I said, “having time to think about it all this week.” I have come to this one profound conclusion. “We all cannot march in the parade of life, some of us have to stand on the curb and clap, as it rolls by.” And of course, this little pearl of wisdom …. “I need to learn how to lighten up.”