So I suppose our situation could have been worse. Much worse. I mean, as I previously alluded, we could have been stuck on the side of the highway. We were at the right place at the right time, even as disaster hit.
And what is this disaster, you ask? Well, after we left Las Cruces, New Mexico, everything was totally groovy. We were driving smoothly, with no shimmy, and we were even climbing hills with gusto (up to 70mph, I kid you not!).
Then we got to Tucson. We had already planned to stay with my friend, Susanna, for the night. She graciously allowed us a cozy spot in her backyard. We were behind schedule and ready for some snuggles and shut eye in a wickedly cold Winnebago. All was well on the highway but as we turned off from our exit, we could tell the transmission was failing.
The Winnie was having trouble shifting gears, hitting really high RPMs to shift into second (or is it third? We're convinced there are only two gears on this thing). Getting it to move in the first place required Pete to be super gentle on the gas pedal. It was touchy and we were getting anxious.
At this point, we just needed to make it to Susanna's backyard. Only 1.4 miles to go! You can do it, you bastard Winnebago! And sure enough, we made it to the backyard's gate. It was miraculous. I reiterate- we could have been stuck on the side of the highway!
But the drama continues. The threshold into the yard is but a mere four, maybe six-inch climb. And oh boy did that Winnebago face some trouble. Really dude? You're gonna crap out over a bitty curb? Let's be serious.
With some serious torque, she finally made it up the 'mountain' and safely into Susanna's backyard, where we cuddled up and quasi-peacefully slept for the night. Of course, we knew it was over. There was no way she'd be able to make it to California, let alone out of the backyard. We were totally bummed.
Pete spent the whole next day working on the Winnebago, trying to get it into reasonable shape so that it could at least drive a little. We pulled it out of Susanna's backyard and around the corner to the front of her house. It was rather frightening. For a minute there, we thought we were going to get stuck, right in the middle of the ally, for an indefinite amount of time.
She had enough power to pull around front, where we parked her and basically hung out for the remainder of the day. We walked to an auto store to buy a crap-ton of transmission fluid and stop-leak, because that'll, like, do the trick, right?
Pete tinkered away at the Winnebago for hours. The old transmission fluid looked burnt and sludgy and clearly needed to be replaced, regardless of the transmission's status. I, meanwhile, was looking into auto-transport companies. All this way for nothing!
We decided to send the Winnie back to Austin for our genius mechanic, Jonathan, to deal with. The automatic transmission was always the weakest part of the Winnebago, and we knew it needed replacing. Time constraints are a bitch, man. We wanted to do this from the start. Wishful thinking...
Rather than follow the Winnie back (we had a deadline, remember), we planned to rent a car, drive to California and then figure it out from there.
The work was rather heartbreaking, for it didn't even seem all that necessary. In the heat of our frustration, we even considered bringing her to the junkyard. Sorry, Winnie, for having such thoughts! You are my home, Marty McFly!
Because we knew the Winnebago would sit around at Susanna's house for a few days by itself, we thought it best to bring it back to the gated yard for safe keeping. Well, it needed to be able to drive for that to happen, obviously. After Pete finishes his labors, he starts the thing up, puts her in drive and presses the gas. Nope. Not going anywhere. Reverse? Nothing. Oh dear.
Pete assures me that it often takes a few tries after replacing the tranny fluid to get the Winnie to go. Deep breath. He tries again. And nothing. It took another three or four tries to get her moving, ever so slightly. Oh, now we're in business!
We actually got her to ride around the block, being sure not to over-work the transmission. She rode in first pretty well. Reverse was almost gone. And that was it.
Pete drives the Winnie back towards Susanna's house where, this time, we decide to back into the backyard. Well we made it, but that's the last time she'd be reversing for a long time. That dreaded little lip at the gate's entrance totally did her in. The Winnie was working so hard to get up the curb, smoke started seeping out of the hood.
But by golly, she made it. One more sigh of relief...
That night, we drank beers (Texas beers) and watched zombie shows, trying to relax from such a tumultuous day. We slept, rather frigidly again, with the hope that we'd be somewhere in California by the next day. Our morning was stressful as we debated the fate of the Winnebago. I'm telling you, we were pissed. The junkyard option arose again, but I was set on bringing it back to Austin.
But what about lodging in California? I looked into long-term hotel stays, but hardly anyone offered discounted rates. So at $70 a day, we'd be looking at $2100 to live in a mediocre hotel for a month.
I also e-mailed a few temporary sublets in the area where we could rent a room in a furnished apartment. A bit more reasonable at around $950 a month (still outrageous compared to Austin), but you just never know what you may be getting yourself into with complete strangers in a new town.
In the heat of an intense argument, I slyly messaged an old friend from college who lives with her folks in the very area where Pete would be working. You know, it was an option and we were freaking desperate. We pride ourselves on self-sufficiency, so it was difficult for us to even propose an idea that would inconvenience others (especially after dumping our Winnebago in Susanna's yard hoping she'd be around to hand it off to the transport guys). But I went for it. And I didn't tell Pete.
Twenty minutes later I get a phone call from my California-pal, Sara, giving us the go ahead to stay with her and her parents. Ooh ooh! Female roomie! That was probably the biggest weight lifted off our shoulders. Now we were moving with confidence.
As I am wont to do, I have included a photo of Sara and myself from college. Chicken fighting on one leg. I lost. She may be small, but she is mighty!
Approaching lunchtime on Wednesday, Susanna so benevolently took us to the airport to pick up a rental car. I don't know what we would do without her!
And check out what we got!
We spent the remainder of the day packing up our lives into this brand spanking new VW Jetta. All the important stuff came with, because what if some hooligans tried to break into the Winnie whilst we were away and steal all of our stuff? Or the transport company dudes? They're notorious for that kind of shit. You can have my Listerine, dude. You probably need it.
It took quite a bit of time, but by 5pm, we were ready to roll. With clothes, beer, food, bikes and important documents in tow, it was time to hit to road. Move on. Get the hell out of the Southwest.
Cruising in our oh-so-easy-to-drive Jetta, we calmed ourselves by admiring the sunset. Another spectacular view.
Leaving Tucson, it was already dinner time. And rush hour again, go figure. Pete wanted to take me somewhere special for dinner. So we waited until we were in Phoenix so that we could get Beef and Brew with a View. And that we did!
Pete stopped at Rustler's Rooste once before during a work trip a few months ago. He found it strange and enjoyable and therefore thought it would be a perfect relaxation spot for us as we approached the completion of this journey. (Other journeys surely await).
The restaurant sits atop a mountain that overlooks the whole Phoenix metro area. It's an extremely steep climb that our Winnebago would never be able to make; not in a million years. Not even with a manual transmission. We chuckled in the Jetta.
At the entrance, a live cow sits and stares at restaurant-goers, smelling of poo (the cow, not the restaurant-goers. Well, not all the restaurant-goers). But his presence was appreciated and humorous. As our hostess walked us to our table, Pete and I opted for the slide (you know, as opposed to stairs). We cut in front of four small children and it was totally thrilling.
We drank some Arizona beers (Grand Canyon Horseshoe Bend Pale Ale) and ate a bunch of meat. The wait staff all wear cowboy hats. There are wood chips on the floor. Yee haw. One last hurrah for southwest America!
|Pete showing that rib who's boss.|
And really full. A slightly uncomfortable car ride awaited us.
Satisfied, we hopped in the car and fled from Phoenix and headed straight into the desert. Being in a shnazzy new car with a working gas gauge, we were less paranoid about running out of gas. (The Winnie and the Kia both have broken gas gauges).
Well our confidence blind-sided us. Out in the middle of nowhere, gas stations are anything but abundant. A quarter of a tank went to an eighth of a tank to a sixteenth of a tank without a fuel stop in sight. For real? After all the shit we've been through! Jetta, you little bitch.
The gas light goes on and we do the math. We could probably make it another 41.23 miles before we totally run out (ah, fuel efficiency!). I check for fuel stops on my not-so-handy-dandy Garmin: 39 miles. Oh dear lord. Right as we're panicking I see a sign, "Next services 61 miles." Exit! Exit! Garmin, you pathetic idiot.
Phew, that was close. I had never been so happy to see a Chevron in my life.
We get back on the road, 100%-positive that we were being followed by a strange man (he was on our tail previously and then was waiting for us to pull out of our parking space). I book a hotel room on the fly and we're San Bernardino bound!
We landed around midnight, unpacked the car and proceeded to get some quality sleep at the Quality Inn. Followed by a semi-quality breakfast. And The Saint, starring Val Kilmer.
Our Thursday drive was awesome in that there were no hiccoughs. Smooth sailing. And beautiful terrain. (Well, for the most part; you do have to drive through the most atrocious factory cow farm).
We were at Sara's house in time for dinner. Sara's great. Her folks are great. Their house is great. The food is great. The dogs are great.
Uh oh. We're about to be spoiled. I promise I still love you Marty McFly: the little Lesharo that really f*#king couldn't. You asshole!
But, no really, I still love you!