Friday, November 12, 2010

The Longest Drive Home

After Joy's birthday on the 27th, things hummed along as they normally do for me. The final day of our run in Carson coincided with Nevada Day, which celebrates the anniversary of the Silver State's admittance into the Union. And this being an election year, every candidate running for every office, from Senator to town dogcatcher, was out and about in the parade. Sharron "Forty-one To" Angle came within about five feet of me, and reeked of psychosis. Joy had to grab my shirt collar to keep me from asking the now-defeated Republican candidate why she hated America as much she did.

Heading home on Monday, we took our good sweet time going north. Y'see, we had a few side quests. Monday, we stopped in Bend to see Joy's sister Cindi and her family. We'd been charged with dropping off Christmas presents for them by Joy's mother, and they'd been riding behind the driver's seat for the last two weeks and change. My back appreciated dropping off the package. I also stopped by the local Fred Meyer to pick up tickets to see our old friends Ozomatli in Portland at McMenamin's Crystal Ballroom. We spent a quiet night at a cheap hotel, then headed northeast.

With the concert in Portland not until Thursday, we had a little time to kill. So in order to slay the beast, we spent a few days in Umatilla with her older brother Steve and his fiancee Nancy. We rested, played Nancy's Wii, sang karaoke, and marvelled at Steve's bountiful garden. Not to mention the fresh rabbit resting in his fridge. It cost an extra half-tank of fuel, but it was time well spent.

Thursday morning meant a steady cruise along the Columbia River Gorge into Rip City. We did a wee bit of shopping, searched for a convenient place to park, and found one directly across from the Crystal Ballroom. How convenient was it? The parking spot I chose faced the windows on the building's south side, and directly across from us we could see Ozomatli soundchecking! Once on the ground, we satisfied a long-standing and most major craving by visiting Voodoo Doughnuts. How good was it? Three words: Bacon Maple Bar.

I'll let that soak in.

Was it good for you? It was for us.

It was a long push for me with Joy in her wheelchair - ten blocks each way - but being able to get into line with fresh tasty doughnuts with bacon on them! was well worth the effort. Within a few minutes, the members of Ozomatli began to filter out of the Ballroom in search of food. We wisely hid the doughnuts. Joy wore the bass-guitar string she got from last year's show as a necklace, and Wil-dog wanted it back. Okay, he was just joking, but Joy was not about to give it back. Just about every member of the band stopped to say hello as they went past us. It was a long wait outside the hall to get in, and just as long to wait for the show to start. A DJ kicked off the show, then brought out a posse of rappers by the name of Animal Farm. They were pretty good, but I had one suggestion for them - for the love of God, invest in cordless microphones! The Tangled Cord Monster was on the verge of swallowing them all!

Ozomatli gave their usual 1,000%. I won't bore you with the details, but I will throw you one little anecdote. During the show, Asdrubal Sierra (vocals/keyboards/trumpet) did a little call-and-answer passage during a song on his trumpet. I more-or-less knew what was coming, but I like to participate. He played a passage, the crowd sang it back. A second call, a second answer. The third came so fast there was no way anyone could repeat it, and I knew it was coming, so I gave Asdru the finger for being a shit. I don't think he noticed, but Raul Pacheco, the band's guitarist and vocalist, saw me and busted out laughing! I was having a great time.

And that's when things started going downhill.

About an hour into Ozomatli's set, I got a phone call from Mike. Probably just checking in to see if I was okay, he does that a lot with me because of how many more miles I have to drive than anyone else. Well, I couldn't hear him over the roar of about a thousand Ozo-heads, so I yelled into the phone that I'd call him back later. Mikey called a second time, and I yelled that I couldn't hear him over the crowd and the band before ending the call. Then he texted me - to come back to Reno - now!

A band that shall remain nameless simply decided to not show up for a three-day gig at the Nugget in Sparks, and Stew Stewart called Mikey to see if we could fill in. Let's see here a minute - Mike is still in Carson City getting his car repaired, Cliff is back in Sparks, Arthur is back home in Las Vegas, and I'm in fucking Portland, Oregon! I texted Mike back saying that I'd get back to Reno as soon as the show was over. Later, I told him that if I'd been any further north, I would've told him no. I knew that Mike would've taken the gig regardless, and he would've accepted my decision. But it would force him to use one of the guys they use when they play at that place Cockbreath McPothead got me booted from. And while Alan Zukor and Vern Taylor are capable drummers, and Vern's a damn good singer in his own right, neither of them know the material as well as I do, and the show would suffer, and Mike and Arthur's reputation would suffer as a result of that. I couldn't let that happen. And I told him so. Mike appreciated that.

In hindsight, I kinda wish I'd let it happen after all.

Y'see, my truck had been acting funny. It was having trouble starting up, like it needed an extra second or two to get going. And it was beginning to get worse the further we got from home. The gig at the Nugget went well, and Mike gave me an extra $50 to make up for the expense of driving back and forth. The drive home Sunday had to be done in a real hurry because Joy had a very important doctor's appointment the next day, one that she'd been waiting for for nearly six weeks. So we had to go all out, all the way back to Port Angeles. Then my battery indicator came on as we left Chemult, OR. I figured that my battery was giving up the ghost - I knew it was several years old - so I figured that I needed to get to Eugene to get a fresh battery. One fresh battery later, my truck wouldn't start! Even getting a jump start from the reefer-unit of a friendly trucker couldn't get the truck to turn over. But a push-start did. By the time we got back on to I-5, the battery light was off, and we were heading north.

Then it went out again - with the sun going down. I made a command decision, and continued north, with only lights on. No stopping until the battery died. No stereo, no heater, no nothing. Joy took my phone and started making calls to arrange a rescue scenario. 170 miles later, sixty miles into Washington, the battery began to give out, and we coasted into the parking lot of Mrs. Beesley's Burgers, a burger shop on the highway between Toledo and Vader that crosses over the freeway. A deluxe cheeseburger and fries (quite good) eased my stomach, but not my mind. Eventually, I was able to focus on the positive - at least I was only an hour or so from Tacoma. Joy's youngest brother Scott came to our rescue about ninety of the longest minutes of my life later, and tried in vain to jump start my truck. Instead we let the battery charge, and push-started it again. He nursed the battery again in Chehalis, and eventually we pulled into Joy's mother's house in Parkland, sometime close to midnight.

Meanwhile, Joy had called her best friend Delane, then Delane's son Mike, and got him to drive our Exploder down to Parkland to come rescue us. He's a good boy, and does what he's told. Most of the time. He'd just made it there when we arrived. Everything but my drums and foodbox went into the Exploder, and we backed my truck out of the way of other vehicles. My gear went into the garage, to be picked up at a later date - with the truck, preferably. I finally went and got it today with my dad. Now it's in the hands of the Sequim Auto Clinic, where the brother-in-law of my dad's second ex-wife put it into the care of his best mechanic. And Joy made her appointment on time.

The ironic thing here is that I hadn't planned on driving my truck to Reno again any time soon after this trip, regardless of what happened to it. Winter is coming, after all. And that's when my Exploder's better tires, chains, and four-wheel-drive would would more than compensate for it's shitty gas mileage. And while my truck will be up and running long before December 8, my next date of departure, It's not going anywhere right now, or for a while to come. I just hope that I don't hear "it's not really worth fixing." My pickup is a POS, but it's my POS, and I've gone all over the West with it. I'd be pretty bummed out to lose it. Not to mention unable to replace it.

But I've gotta keep my head up, right? I think I shall.

UPDATE: My truck was fixed up a few days after I wrote the original post, and a new alternator and starter were required. Marvin and his mechanic Wong bought top-of-the-line parts for it, and they put a lifetime warranty - including nationwide retrieval in case of breakdown - on the work, for $685.11. That's a steep price to be sure, but Dad paid for it. I just find it hard to put nearly $700 in repairs into a truck worth only about $200 or so. But I won't complain too much. I figure that after my next run to Nevada, I'll be able to put fresh tires on the front end of the truck, or at least gently used ones. My stepfather recommended a local dealer to me, whose name I can't remember right off hand, so I'll give this place a look-see come January.

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