This is a commentary about the slow lane, about the slowing of time since I suffered a severe brain injury while skateboarding with my dog. This is a blog about recovery; about our '82 VW Westfalia. It's about writing, surfing, camping, married life, bleeding ulcers that make you feel old at 32; about family, friends, and my dog Artie; it's about cruising in fourth gear, getting passed by every car and learning to appreciate every second of it.
"You go to Texas on vacation and you leave on probation," said one homeless dude standing in the VW repair shop, looking for some work. The good ol' Texas saying summed up my feelings on the state.
On Tuesday we left for Ozona to get our van. On the four-hour trip with Artie riding in the back seat, the mechanic who had told me the van was ready the day before called Aimee to tell her that it was not. So, we sat in Fredericksburg waiting for a call that never came. Instead, we made the call, the conversation got heated and the mechanics hung up on us.
The next day, we borrowed a friends truck and rented a Uhaul tow-dolly and took off to rescue our van. Our plan was to go to the Sheriff and have him come to the shop with us so there wouldn't be any trouble. The Sheriff's office was located in the Crockett County jail, which is located directly behind the Baptist Church and next door to the Davy Crockett Museum. Just before we walked into the jail door, the mechanics at Cap Rock Diesel called and said the van was ready, except for a few minor issue.
We towed it back to Austin and took it to a cool VW repair shop called Underground VW. When I pulled in two employees came over and started commenting about the smell of diesel fuel.
"Oh, it smells like diesel," I asked.
They shot me a strange look...
"Yeah, I lost my sense of smell...head injury."
I turned away to avoid another strange glance.
After a few minutes, the owner Toby, a middle-aged man with a long, wiry, white beard took a look at the engine and noticed leaks and a handful of other mistakes.
So, after weeks of stress, it turns out the good-ol boys at Caprock Diesel screwed us just as bad as we thought.
And now, we wait for Toby to finish with the van. More importantly we now see the end of what has been the most fucked-up vacation ever.
On a walk to a coffee-shop Aimee mentioned how depressing this blog has been lately. She was right. I now see the end of the middle to this trip and I feel good. Stay tuned. We still have 1,500 miles to travel through 106 degree weather. I'm crossing my fingers.
Tonight, we say farewell to Austin. The mechanics say the van is running and will be ready to go by tomorrow afternoon. I am ready to head home, have been for weeks. It was nice seeing old friends but it will be nicer seeing my home. I think I'm going to lock myself in a dark room and let my nerves rest and this constant thinking slow to a normal pace, at least for me.
Before we left on this trip I told myself that I needed to test myself. I did and honestly, not to sound weak, but I now feel as if I have failed.
Everyday the emotions build up as my anti-depressants wear off. I feel like I can't hold the emotions back any longer. I see myself getting irritated and I know what that means. It means I need out. I'm crossing my fingers by nightfall tomorrow, we will be on our way towards San Diego.
I hung up the phone after speaking to the mechanic in Ozona and wanted to hit myself. I would have if it weren't for a young kid walking into the daycare facility next to the coffee shop.
In the past, I wouldn't have been so understanding, not in a situation where I am stuck 1,500 miles away from home.
I came back and nearly broke down.I called Aimee and told her the story. She said that she would take care of it. She told me that anyone in this situation would feel the same. I don't agree. I have lost all confidence. I can't make a damn decision and when I do I question it over and over again. I feel like I am at everyone else's mercy, that I have no control over anything. This is new. And sure, this is probably normal for some people but it's not normal for me. I hate always saying that nobody understands but it's the truth and there's nothing I can do to change it.
Do you remember when i wrote that this trip was the turning point for me, the time for me to write about our travels and new experiences. For me, the trip was a chance for me to find confidence in this new state of mind. I told myself that during the trip I would get away from the injury. That plan sure went to shit.
Instead, I sit in a small coffee shop in North Austin, waiting for mechanics 4-hours away in Ozona to install a new engine in a car that they have only seen once. I have some breakdowns and am more indecisive, more unsure, and have no words, no way to express it all. I feel trapped in this town and in this head. A sudden rush of emotions causes my eyes to blur and then it disappears.
To top it all off, yesterday I dropped Aimee off at the airport. She had to get back to shoot two weddings this weekend. It killed me to see her go. It's going to kill me if I don't go soon.
That would be a great song title: I Bent a Rod in Texas. Unfortunately, the phrase defines our last four days. Yeah, my shit luck has struck again.
It was a great night camping. We found a small campsite in Sonora, Texas called the Caverns at Sonora. We only had four hours remaining on the road before reaching Austin. We woke up in the morning, took Artie for a walk and threw the ball for him, packed up and hit the road, or, I mean the road hit us.
Leaving the campsite, we climbed a steep hill and a I started to hear a knocking sound from the back engine compartment. I tried my best to think nothing of it. We descended the hill. I stepped on the gas pedal, nothing.
We pulled over, and long story short, the engine was shot.
A tow truck came and rolled the van onto the flatbed truck. Rigo, the tow truck operator, drove up 35 miles to Ozona, Texas.
We pulled into a small repair shop. It had a small office and a large dirt lot where dozens of dead trucks and autos sat, parts missing, hoods open. The mechanic, Mark, wore a black cowboy hat, tight jeans and had a wad of dip lodged behind his bottom lip.
"I've seen one of these before," he said.
Hours later, Mark tells us we need a new engine; the rod was bent.
That night we stayed in small motel with little to say but a whole lot of stress. We awoke, rent a uhaul--Ozona has no rental car companies-- and drove to Austin.
Now, we wait for a new engine to arrive from California. We expect it to get to Ozona on Monday or Tuesday. It is then when the real stress will hit.
I am now convinced that my string of bad luck is not a coincidence but is my fate. I hate thinking all that I've put Aimee through. At least she's still here. I love her.
Yesterday, we awoke ready to embark for a trip to Carlsbad Caverns. We had been staying with our friends in Tucson, pampered in a nice house and air conditioning. But, we thought, a seven-hour leg through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and back into New Mexico would be a nice, easy jaunt, not too taxing. Well, we underestimated the work that a typical seven-hour journey is for anyone not driving in a 1982 Volkswagon Westfalia. For us, seven-hours was was more like ten hours. The winds on the plains blew the van around and slowed our already slow progress.
And while the van hung in there and made every mountain climb, I didn't fare so well. I couldn't supress the stress. At times during the drive, I caught myself with a huge smile on my face, other times I found myself hunching over the wheel, staring at the odometer, counting the miles. I didn't eat. I barely drank.
Aimee handled my stress well. She knew when to leave me be and when to make me smile.
I want this trip to be a time when I can enjoy life and appreciate all that I have. I want this trip to be the beginning of our new life.
Today, we will take a tour of Carlsbad Caverns. Tomorrow we head for the Frio River in Texas, to camp, float down the river, and laugh.