Okay everyone I was in New Orleans 48 hours ago. My brain is mush in many ways right now. It took me five minutes to order at this Taco Bell. I didn’t sleep much in the minivan, most of the time was driving. It’s certainly not set up for habitation yet, so I had trouble sleeping. It’s still full of stuff. I’ll get to that later.
I left New Orleans around midday, stopping to get a tube for my bike tire. I figured if anything happened to the Toyota I would at least have a secondary vehicle. I am convinced that this precaution is why it didn’t break down. Because I was one step ahead of life. I also couldn’t find my hoodie, where my nice ear buds were. So I bought a new decent pair at TJ Maxx before hitting the interstate as well. I rely on good earbuds while I’m driving now. I lose them so frequently I consider the $15 part of the cost of any long driving trip.
The flat tire from the previous night and loss of earbuds/hoodie/Swiss Army Knife had me in a very pessimistic place. It’s no secret that I’ve been having some troubles with objects in my life, and more just made me assume the worst. The RV engine died and the replacement vehicle’s “Check Engine” light came on the second day I owned it. AutoZone only checks back to 1996, so my 1994 Toyota Previa’s issue remains a mystery issue. The DMV in Louisiana was worse than RI, but I did manage to get an In Transit tag so I’m legal for now.
Around noon I headed out on the 10 mile bridge with a fully-loaded, 21 year old vehicle heading West on I-10. Three warning lights staring back at me. Soon to be four. This is the same bridge that killed the Minnie Winnie. The Previa made it. Rattling and whining the whole way. For miles and miles through the swamp the Interstate is on a kind of bridge, raised a few dozen feet above the water and vegetation. It’s two lanes, often with no shoulder. Many miles go by before there’s a way off. It’s not a good place to break down, as I learned the hard way a couple weeks ago.
I drove about 10 hours and slept a few miles past San Antonio at a truck stop. I woke up at 3 am and hit the road again. Driving from Louisiana, the first exist on I-10 in Texas is 880. Counting the miles down towards the New Mexico border might drive some people batty, but I had podcasts, Bruce and a constant reminder of my goal.
The constellation Orion, serving as a personal North Star in the west. Orion is my nephew’s middle name, and my nephew is my number one motivation to get home for Christmas, which of course is possible if I make it to LA to catch the flight I booked before the RV bought the farm. The stars at night are big and bright deep in the heart of Texas.
The sun rose slowly behind me and the shrubs, sand and miles and miles of road flew by. Gas stations are very infrequent. One must plan. El Paso came after hundreds of miles of dessert, seeing all those big box stores was shamefully comforting. I went to Wal Mart and bought wiper blades and snacks. I was groggy from driving 500 miles, but I continued on. New Mexico was blowy; I dodged tumbleweeds rolling across the interstate.
By the time I hit Arizona I was exhausted enough to consider a hotel room. It was only late afternoon though so instead I took a dump and kept driving. Podcasts. The sunset and I drove right at it. A hundred or so miles later I was flagging again, then I saw my first sign for Los Angeles. My spirits soared and I put on “I Love L.A.” by Randy Newman. I consider it to be a perfect song. Both satirical and earnest, hopeful and jaded. I drove another 150 miles and stopped in a rest area in the dessert. It was a cold night, and I should have had more blankets but I managed to sleep a few hours. I started driving west again at 5 a.m., and the last 300 miles to L.A. were uneventful. I did celebrate 100 miles out: the distance of the towing AAA provides me with my membership. A complete failure of the minivan was always in the back of my mind, but fortunately never happened.
The seatbelt and airbag warning lights were on since I bought it, the check engine light soon after that. Somewhere around Houston the oil change light came on, and I decided to ignore it because the oil looked pretty clean. In addition, the suspension is shot and an engine belt squeals often. The sliding door has no handle; the interior of the driver’s side door is hacked together with nuts, bolts and gaff tape. The AC blows hot air. The front left directional housing is broken, the entire right side doesn’t work. (Driving in RI has given me confidence to drive 1800 miles without a right turn signal.) Exterior defects abound. Several things have broken off in my hand the first time I touched them. I tried to a CD in the stereo and it only went in 4/5 of the way, but wouldn’t come back out. The interior was filthy enough that the rear carpet had to be thrown in a dumpster.
All that being said, $700 still buys a hell of a lot of car. This thing drove 70mph through the desert, averaging over 20mpg with everything I own in it. That’s worth $700 alone.
About all those things I own. I’m not saying I made the smartest decisions on what to keep and what not to keep, but decisions had to be made.
A partial list:
- a 7 foot long projector screen
- an Ikea Poang
- two space helmets and one space uniform NOT in my show
- two absolutely ridiculous suits
- one not ridiculous suit
- two non-working bicycles
- two non-working guitars
- a fringe leather jacket
- a pink shirt that looks like a shirt and a vest combined
- a suitcase of art supplies
- a separate bag of stencils and screen printing equipment
- an emergency bottle of maple syrup
- a nip of the grossest liquor I’ve ever tried (Josh Herbeck accurately described it as tasting like “toothpaste and soy sauce.”)
- all sorts of velcro
- all of my tools and power tools, including an angle grinder, jig saw, 1/4 sheet sander, drill, impact driver and rotary tool
- an organized collection of every single nut, bolt, screw and nail I’ve collected in my life
- two Care Bears
- an electric coffee grinder