Sunday, January 30, 2011

How I Got Here, Part 2

Long roads, I luv 'em

This is part 2 of my recent road trip. Part 1 is the post before this one.
I don’t wear a watch. I never did. I didn’t care about time and still don’t, but I’m never late to be somewhere or do something that I said I was going to do at a certain time. I must say, I do consult the cell phone for a time check now and then, but not all that often.
While sitting in the At Sarah’s Table Restaurant in Kearney, MO ordering coffee, I knew instinctively it was too early to get a hold of an auto repair shop to see if they would install a new alternator in The Morphodite. It was still dark outside.
The waitress went in the back to grab two mugs and a Bunn carafe filled with steaming hot brew. Not the kind we’re used to as I am traveling with a guy who owns a coffee shop and roastery in St. Paul. We have plenty of the good stuff with us, but we already drank our first cup of quality coffee, this one would be what we wash down breakfast with.
When she delivered the coffee mugs and filled up the cups, I spoke to her.
“Young Lady, do you know of any mechanics or guys from an auto repair that come in here? We had a breakdown and we’re kinda stranded. We need some repairs done on our RV.”  I asked.
She answered, “What time is it? Oh, Norm isn’t here yet, but he’ll be in any time now. He can do that sort of thing, just wait a few minutes.”
Then, we bantered briefly back and forth about what happened and what kind of vehicle. Each time we added a piece to our story, she would tell us that Norm was the guy that would help us out as he had a shop in his garage.
Personally, I was skeptical, but then again, I knew of others that performed miracles in the back yard when it came to fixing cars. I guess I just sipped coffee and waited for the breakfast I ordered. Speaking of breakfast, this restaurant, At Sarah’s Table, had a really good cup of coffee for a diner, and the breakfast turned out to be great! I just had a couple of over medium eggs with grits and whole wheat toast, oh, and some bacon too, four strips, thick sliced and good.
At Sarah’s Table, the restaurant, is housed in an old house, a large old house. All the oak woodwork was refinished and the wooden floors glowed. There were a couple of rooms where people sat. We were in the No Smoking section. I guess Missouri still allows smoking and no smoking sections in their restaurants. Minnesota and Wisconsin have done away with that a while ago and are totally non smoking venues. 

Betty, a first class Hash House Queen, morning anchor  at At Sarah's Table in Kearney, Mo.

The waitress came into the room where we sat and as this man walked into the place from outside, she said, “Norm, stop right there. These guys need some work done on their RV. They're stranded, here, talk to them.”
Norm turned to his right and looked at us and we explained our situation. This was going to be a piece of cake for old Norm. He said, “Wait until I finish my breakfast and you can follow me to my place and I’ll take a look at it. I’m 7 miles out of town.”
Norm went into the smoking section and joined other regulars. He ordered breakfast, ate it, drank coffee, kibitzed a while, smoked a few cigarettes and came out and asked, ”You fellas ready to go?”
As we finished our breakfast and waited for Norm, we found out the waitress, Betty, has worked there for quite some time. Through three previous owners. She is the morning anchor. I dubbed her a Hash House Queen and that made her blush. She went out of her way to help us out and was very pleasant to everyone that walked in the door. We tipped Betty handsomely and even paid for Norm’s breakfast as we anticipated he would be the right man for the job.
We went to the parking lot, deciphered who was driving what and followed Norm out of town on a beautiful sunny Winter morning. Cold, but not so cold you’d freeze your arse off, not with that bright sun a blazin’. We stopped at the motel where the RV was sitting. It started as the battery was fully charged from the guy at the auto parts store the night before. Steve drove the RV, I drove Goldie and we followed Norm’s Ford pickup truck into the countryside.
We get to where he turns off and we see two huge garage sheds and a bunch of cars sitting around, seemingly waiting to be fixed. Norm pointed to where he wanted Morph to be parked and he went to work immediately. He assessed that our prognosis of a faulty alternator was correct and he proceeded to remove it from the engine compartment. He had that thing out in ten minutes and we were all in Goldie driving back to the same auto parts store that charged our battery the night before. That was where Norm bought his replacement parts.

When you see the hood up, that means the thing is sick or we're working on avoiding a disease.

Norm ordered an alternator specified for the 1986 Chevy C-30 350 V8. He got a great big discount on the price of the part. We paid for it and headed back to Norm’s place. Norm installed the alternator, put everything back together and checked the system. Everything worked fine.
We stood around before during and after this whole thing talkin’ with Norm and found out he was a retired auto worker from the Kansas City Ford plant. He showed us his 1952 Chevy hot rod, a beauty, two door coupe with one monster of an engine with dual quads and racing slicks. He pointed out the VW bug that his daughter out in California wants him to restore, the Ford that needed an oil pump and the Dodge that needed something or other. Norm was a busy guy and he told us that doing this kind of stuff while his wife went to work kept him out of the bar and that he was happy about that.
Here’s the kicker. We didn’t want to leave, but before we did and we asked Norm how much we owed him, Norm sheepishly said, “Oh, how’s forty bucks sound?”
Forty dollars!! That job just cost me $530.00 for a new alternator in my van not a month ago. Heck, the alternator was only $56.00. We gave Norm $60.00 and couldn’t thank him enough
We headed into town to hook the trailer onto Morph and load Goldie so we could resume our trip to New Mexico. But we had one last piece of unfinished business. You see, we had one other breakdown the day before that I didn’t mention in Part 1 of this saga.We had a flat tire, just 45 miles from where we decided to pull off for the night in Kearney, MO
The blow out happened, everything was safe. I have many years and over a million miles of driving experience and I was a stunt driver in motion picture production, so I never felt we were in any danger from a front tire blowout. The right front tire blew at 65 miles per hour. I steadied the rig and made it just a short distance, less than a hundred yards, to an exit ramp. That was very convenient. I got to the top of the ramp, pulled to the shoulder and stopped. I called Triple A. 
AAA sent out a man in a small truck to take off the bad tire and rim and install our spare tire. Our jack wouldn’t fit under the frame member and the lug nuts were very tight. He had the right tools for the job. But waiting for road service and the loss of time from the out-of-gas fiasco earlier kept the clock moving and got us further and further behind.
The spare was a bias ply tire and the other side was a radial tire. I know from experience we should not mix the two for any extended driving situation. It would be kind of like crossing the streams when the Ghostbusters did it, (You had to see the movie to understand that metaphor).
So, after we finished at Norm’s, we headed over to the Goodyear tire dealer where Steve had called and ordered a tire. We spent another hour getting a matched set of tires installed on Morph and were finally on the road and driving through Kansas City by One O’ Clock PM. It was Tuesday, January 25th.

Rockin' Y's, Tucumcari, NM on old Route 66

We drove until 11:00 PM and got a motel room in Dalhart, Texas on US Highway 54. We would resume the next morning at 6:15 AM and gain an hour with the Central to Mountain time change at the New Mexico border. We made Tucumcari by 8:00 AM and had Mexican food at the Rockin’ Y’s, one of my favorite places to stop and eat while driving this particular route.

My first plateful of Huevos Rancheros, this order with Red.
For those with inquiring minds, there will be more about Red or Green soon

You may wonder why we got a motel room instead of staying in the RV. It was still pretty cold at night and needed to get out of that thing after driving in it all day and I wanted to hook up to a WiFi connection. Besides, I’ll be living in it for the next month or so, there would be plenty of nights spent in The Morphodite.
We continued on and made Albuquerque where I circled a parking lot while Steve went in to a cigar store and replenished our stockpile. I had spotted The Duke City Cigar store on the internet the night before. From Albuquerque, we bought the last tank of gas in Belen and made Truth Or Consequences by 2:00 PM. Journey ended, mission accomplished.
We pulled in to The Artesian Hot Springs Pools and Trailer Court, my destination all along, and found many empty spots. We grabbed one and spoke with the proprietor on Thursday morning. I’m paid in full for one month and will see how things go. We headed for the Riverbend and were comfortably sitting in the hot mineral springs soon after we arrived. The next morning, we enjoyed a cigar with our morning coffee on the patio of the local coffee house/used book store, The Black Cat.

My friend Steve, relaxing in the sunshine.

The trip has been an experience, to say the least. At times, I wondered if I wasn't going to make it or if we'd be stranded for days waiting for parts or to find a mechanic. Then I thought, "Maybe this isn't about me." Maybe this was something Norm or Betty needed, or some enlightenment that I needed to think about. We don't know why things happen, but they do, for good or for bad. We got behind in time from what I wanted to do, but maybe I was right on time all along.

What it is, is what it is. What happened, is what it's become.

The weather has been pleasant, in the 50’s and 60’s temperature wise, and a bright sun all day everyday. The slower pace of retirement has set in and I’m looking forward to a lot of time in the lawn chair.
Peace to all


Mel said...

Oh, I really, really, REALLY like Norm.

And all the towns you've put down in this part of the story and the one prior--been there. Rather liked Kearney and their simplicity. And their honest and willingness to help others will now be noted as well.

Gosh--I'm really glad that all is well, 'specially given a front tire blowing out at 65mph. Experienced or not, I'm clear you've been well looked after on this trip so far. I suspect that'll be true for the remainder of your time there. He seems to keep working things out--certainly got you to where you were are today. (BOY do I mean that, hugely!)
Take care of you and enjoy that time with your buddy!

E said...

Those were people that added goodness to your life. If you look at it like that. I love your attitude. I also am a believer that things happen for a reason. It just takes a bit of time to find out what the reason was. I wish I could get my hubby to do something like this. I told him of your adventure yesterday. He said his Ideal of retirement is a place in the country. At this time we are in a place on the edge of the country. We can see cows behind the houses across the street. And horses around the corner. We are in the lake of the Ozarks area of Mo. My self I love to be near water. My real dad lived by Lake Erie in Ohio. And I so loved to see that lake. Fee the gulls. Sorry enough about me. I am so happy for you and your wife. That you both agree to do an adventure like this. Sending you both lots of happy thoughts. : )

Christopher said...

If only Norms were the norm...

...great travelogue, Spadoman. Really enjoyed it. More, please!


Stephanie said... are the Rick Steve's of cross country travel!

love your stories and happy you made it to T or C safe and with such good tales.

Love too your outlook on each adventure...

enjoy those hot springs!!

Paula Scott Molokai Girl Studio said...

Wow! What a story!!!
What a trip, as they say. And to meet up with a legacy such that Norm is.
Stunt driver, huh? You are full of surprises, that's for sure!
I hope you are enjoying your daily soaks over at Riverbend.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

I'm looking forward to time in the damn lawn chair, too, but I'll have to make it to about 90 in order to actually quit working. Let's hope I have the longetivity gene. For now, you'll have to enjoy retirement for me, buddy.

Enjoyed this post. Clearly, Norm is a good sort.



mig said...

What a great guy :) And what an epic journey. I'm full of admiration for you setting off in your fabulous RV and travelling so far. I still find it hard to comprehend the hugeness of your country.