With all our belongings either in storage or in the car, we set off for Plano to see my family for a couple days before heading off to Lake Powell for the houseboat trip. We had the obligatory Mi Cocina dinner and practiced setting up our recently-purchased North Face Wawona 6 tentin the yard so we wouldn’t look like such nubes when we got out to an actual campsite.

On June 3rd, with my ’05 4Runner packed to the gills with all our new toys and useful belongings like our new Coleman RoadTripGrill, river green Yeti 65 cooler, Marmot sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and boxes for our books, electronics, and cookware — affectionately referred to as our library, garage, and kitchen — we pulled out for the road trip of a lifetime.

We were going to Lake Powell to do a week houseboat trip with my cousin Dave, his family Mel, Will, and Kylie, and my other cousin Bryan, Dave’s older brother and our resident everything man. Following Lake Powell, we were going to meet Graclyn’s parents Tex and Sherri and some of their friends, the Balfours, in Utah to do a canyoneering trip. And then, we were going to try our hand at that camping life, sleeping in a tent and peeing in the vestibule in the middle of the night.

We were all smiles. Laughing and singing along to the six or so songs we had on Graclyn’s phone – – my 4Runner had a tape deck and CD player but no USB plug in. “I crashed my car into a bridge, I don’t care…I love it,” the music blared. It felt so good to be free. This was the adventure we’d been waiting for. We were finally on our way!

Noteven three hours into our drive, just outside Wichita Falls, a liquid spewed out from my engine splashing all over the windshield. What in the haybucks?! We pulled over to the shoulder of the highway, virtually being beat there by another car that pulled over ahead of us.

An older gentleman with tobacco-stained teeth and a weathered face walked over and calmly exclaimed, “Think I saw your radiator hose blow back there.

“How in the ass…” I was thinking. This guy saw fluid from my engine explode out of my hood, beat me to the shoulder, and knew what was going on.

“Yeah, the radiator or something,” I said sheepishly. I can change a tire and replace a light after watching a YouTube video, but a radiator might as well be a thingamajigger in my engine lexicon.

This sweet man was super cool. He instructed on what tools I needed to get out to help him reconnect the radiator hose. He was like, “I’m going to unscrew the radiator fluid cap; now this might explode and maim my face, but I’m going to do it anyway; stand over there.”

“Yes sir,” I said, not sure whether I should try to fight him on it for his safety or take cover behind the driver’s side wheel well. Given his no bs demeanor, I chose the latter. No hot fluid explosion, thank goodness!

We got the radiator hose reconnected, and the Good Samaritan told us to get back on the highway and see if that did the trick. He told usif the engine heat spikes again, we should pull over. We got back on the highway, and after we juiced up to 60 mph, the engine heat spiked, and we pulled over in defeat.

With smoke coming out of the hood of my car, I fell to my knees and yelled out, “Warrior Woman!!”, shaking my fists at that devilish painting sitting in our storage facility, smiling smugly with those fiery red lips. “Really?! Curse you, curse you very much!”

The nice man offered to wait with us while a tow truck came, but we thanked him and insisted he go on his way. Wherever you are Sir, we thank you for your kindness, your knowledge, and your willingness to help strangers. The world needs more people like you.

After two hours waiting in the 100-degree Texas heat, the tow truck showed up to haul us back to an auto shop in Denton. My parents Jack and Marty, who are saints of this Earth, were informed of our predicament, and jumped into action. Graclyn’s car was sitting in their garage and was going to stay there throughout our road trip. It had no gas and needed an oil change. Jack, without letting a minute go by, got Graclyn’s Jeep gassed up and the oil changed, and he and my mom met us at the mechanic, helped us switch ourClampett’scluster pack from my 4Runner to the Jeep, and sent us on our way. We made it to Amarillo by early morning, and to Durango, our meet up destination, the next afternoon.

Two days later, before we left for Lake Powell, Jack called me about my car while I was standing at a gas station, and said, “Do you want the good news or the bad news?” I said, “just give me the bad news.” He said, “well the bad news is there’s no good news.” Damnit, that was pretty good. Jack’s a funny guy.

He said, “your radiator hose blew because of a build up in pressure in your engine; your coolant was getting in your chamber, and your radiator fluid was getting in your ignition”…or something like this. It sounded like, “your knee bone was not connected to your hambone, and therefore, your engine blew up.”

I said, “well that sucks,” but as I had already mentally parted ways with my dead car, I was at peace with it. Jack was going to salvage it, but instead (as I would find out months later), he had the engine rebuilt, and kept her in the family.I walked back to the Jeep, and with Graclyn looking at me eager for the update, I said, “Well babe, we’re homeless, jobless, and down to one car.” She laughed and said, “I love it!”

We got in the car and drove out to Lake Powell, encountering a vicious hail stormalong the way. But this time, we didn’t blame Warrior Woman for our misfortune. We had finally started to take responsibility for ourselves instead of projecting it onto a painting, blaming it on something or someone outside of ourselves. Lesson learned, “Thank you Warrior Woman.”

We felt free, our adventure lay ahead, and the Universe began to shift in our favor, as the hail pelted the Jeep and we sang to the tune thumping through the car, “I don’t care, I love it!”


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