Now, over the years I have heard a LOT of stories of people breaking down in Texas. I've heard so many that I have become convinced there is some odd force of the universe at work here that prevents the average family from making it all the way across the state without car trouble that requires a tow truck. Maybe this is why the Pony Express was formed. FedEx is apparently smart enough to just fly over Texas instead of driving through. Everywhere else we've traveled I've counted an average of ten FedEx trucks per hour of driving. I'm beginning to think our main domestic industry is "shipping stuff in a big hurry." But I've only seen a total of about six in all of Texas.
But I digress...
With the help of a pair of park rangers and by going very slowly we managed to limp to Panther Junction where the park's auto mechanic, Mike, was waiting to help. He had one of those little devices you plug in somewhere and it tells you what is wrong with the truck. He took one look and said something Texas-ish like, "Whoooooo doggies!" Then he told me how he usually sees only two or three codes listed. Here we had so many he had to scroll down to read them all: cooling fan, torque converter, flux capacitor...crikey.
The rangers let us use the land line to call the appropriate help (these Texans, they're so nice!) but we were so far away that they wouldn't even send a wrecker out until the next day. So the rangers helped us procure a location where we could plunk down for the night.
And plunk down, we did. We grilled hot dogs and finished up some leftovers and watched RV again. I finished the bins in the girls' closet (hallelujah) and got the kids through two history lessons. Kevin worked at cleaning and organizing the "basement" (storage cabin below deck). He had to drain some extra gasoline from the generator's spare tank also, which is not a fun task to take on in an environmentally sensitive area. We ended up with a strong gasoline smell pervading the Bob for several hours. At one point it was so strong I was afraid that if anyone so much as broke wind we might go up in a ball of flame visible clear to El Paso. But my man is my hero - he got it to air out of the fuselage.
If you're going to be stuck somewhere in Texas, Big Bend is not a bad location. The view was incredible. It's quiet. The park service employees are the best. By 10:00 a.m. we had a wrecker driver hitching up Jose, the Bob T and loading us into his cab for a very slow drive back to Ft. Stockton.
Let me say this: if you have to spend two and a half hours in a wrecker cab, John is the guy to be with. He is one of those people who has been everywhere and done everything. He shared stories of his military service, how windmills work, and the names of every cactus, butte and mountain we saw (I would not be able to take this dude in Cranium). He pointed out a ranch owned by his friend who is also a country western singer and has spent a bit of time in Switzerland (so THAT'S how cowboys learn to yodel!). He knew the guys working the border patrol inspection station and has helped them train their dogs (we cleared). He told us about an RV park in Texas that specializes in weddings (I have nothing).
By 3:30 we were in a rental car headed out of Ft. Stockton. The speed limit on that stretch of I-10 is 80 mph, which is actually achievable when you're in a small sedan whose front and rear bumpers are in the same ZIP code simultaneously. I was driving, and when I wasn't trying to regain my "small car equilibrium" I was dreaming of our upcoming stay in a little B&B inn at Ft. Davis and the promise of a shower. I haven't had one since we left Ft. Stockton LAST week. To say I was ripe would be like saying Lady Gaga is a bit odd. And I needed to shave. If we had gone hiking in shorts others on the trail might have mistaken me for the elusive skunk ape.
We made Ft. Davis where the innkeepers at the Old Schoolhouse Bed & Breakfast made us feel right at home immediately. I got that shower. We had a nice dinner in town. We made it to the MacDonald Observatory for the Star Party (coming soon to the Postcards from the Road page) where I got to see the Andromeda Galaxy and Orion Nebula through a 22-inch telescope....glory! Indescribable.
This morning we were treated to a delicious hot breakfast (that I didn't have to cook) and a home school lesson I didn't have to teach. Steve, our host, showed the kids his box of cool finds: dinosaur fossils, a raptor claw, arrowheads, geodes, native American tools. Steve studied zoology and was trained as an archaeologist at Baylor University (represent, Kelli!). Our plan was to be in Guadelupe Mountains National Park today, but God holds all that stuff in His capable hands. We have all that we need and we will see what we find out there today while we await word on the condition of Jose.
I might go take another shower just because I can.