After a comparably beautiful day driving along the Oregon coast, I stayed for a day and two nights with my friends there, before heading out on the long haul down through California to Mexico. The whole way poured rain and I spent one miserable night on a side road I wasn’t familiar with. Because it was a residential area and I wasn’t sure when I would be woken up and sent on my way, I spent the night curled up on my front seat ready to make a run for it. In northern Cali you just never know; it’s always growing season these days and people can get touchy about who is parked just outside their property.
Anyhoo, I woke up about 7 am and was on my way by 7:30. I had had a friend from San Diego message me saying that there was a warm guest bed waiting there for me, and I was determined to make it there. Being that I didn’t have a proper map or internet/phone (plus the weather being the way it was), I had no idea the magnitude of the goal I had set out for myself…and there were other variables that would come into play that long torturous day.
I was making pathetic time thanks to the torrential downpour and the absolute rain-or-shine must-do of gawking at the redwoods. As a prairie girl, these trees are almost incomprehensible and one must simply stand in awe of the superior magnificence of beings such as they. Although I didn’t think to get a picture, I managed my good deed of the day by helping two very nice stranded hippies who had run out of gas while standing in awe for perhaps a bit too long! Luckily, I have a full Jerry can in the trunk for such occasions.
I finally made it to San Francisco and found out shortly how lucky I was to make it through the city. Just past the airport on the multiple lane freeway, a large portion of my exhaust system collapsed suddenly and began showering sparks onto the highway. I heard the grinding sound, and immediately a passing motorist began waving their arms at me. I pulled into the nearest exit and parked at a gas station in the driving rain, peering fearfully underneath Carlito to find this:
I tried to simply pull the broken piece off, but it had a bend over the axle and was warped from grinding on the freeway. For a moment, I sat in the car knowing full well what I must do: get the wire and wire cutters out of the trunk, and climb underneath in about an inch of water to attempt to get it off the ground. I counted to three, mentally wrote off my clothes and got to it. As I laid underneath the beast, with oily water dripping in my ear, my only thought was to get the damned thing off the ground for long enough to outrun the rain and get someplace I could spend the time to do a proper job. It took a few minutes and multiple wires but I got the job done and then headed for the gas station bathroom with a change of clothes. The man inside was quite lucky in that moment not to make an issue of the “Customers Only” sign!
So began, the truly draining portion of my long drive. I had only managed to get the pipe about 2 inches off the ground and Carlito was now a low rider in the truest sense, requiring maximum concentration to avoid any irregularities in the road. Top that off with an accident scene south of San Jose, from which traffic was backed up for miles. Had there been any place to pull over, I certainly would have--but for those not familiar with the area, this is the part of Cali where there simply are no safe rest stops. I felt my only option was to go on, and I just had to keep drinking energy drinks and hope for the best.
I got ahead of the rain past King City and pulled over at a heavily patrolled rest stop to see if I could hitch the pipe up better. I had a pleasant exchange with a couple of truckers named (if I remember correctly) John and Gary. They saw my feet sticking out from under Carlito and asked if I needed a hand, a bit surprised to see a woman wiggle out from underneath. I ended up chatting with them for about 15 minutes and they remarked that I deserved a lot of credit, because most women they know wouldn’t be game enough to wire up their own exhaust! They also complimented Carlito and told me not to let go of him, which got the obvious response from me! No amount of mishaps could diminish the love I have for that car.
Upon entering LA there was thankfully little traffic owing to the hour and the going was good…until the crappy roads once again claimed my exhaust system. #@$&!!!!!! This time the spark show was highly visible and I desperately tried to find a place to pull off. Somehow, I ended up on the 10 heading to Sacramento and by the time I pulled off onto Fremont boulevard I knew I would have one hell of a time finding the right freeway again. But first, the matter at hand. I parked in a 7-11 and got back under the car, glad at least not to be getting soaked. Luckily this mishap had resulted in the pipe bending in a way that allowed it to be tied up nice and high.
The next part, I still can’t really explain. By this time, I was artificially alert from the energy drinks but deeply exhausted. I made what is usually an erroneous decision: rather than take the time to find wifi and get a map going, I said $%&# it and just started driving. I was in survival mode, and I guess that is not to be underestimated. After multiple turns that felt right, somehow within 10 minutes I ended up back on the right freeway!
From there I went back on autopilot, and having lost my map to my friend’s address, I ended up at an IHOP in La Mesa near where he lived. As a final insult, my Ipod wouldn’t connect to the internet which they were stealing from the Wendy’s next door. I was so close yet so far away, and at the very end of my rope. I was ready to enact my absolute last resort and fall asleep in the parking lot at the mercy of local night wanderers when the waitress, a kindly elderly woman, took me under her wing and let me use her phone to find the address. Success!!!
I showed up at my friend’s house at 3:30 am…after a record 20 HOUR drive. The bed in the guest room was pretty swanky by regular standards and for me, it was absolutely indescribable…I’m beginning to feel warm and fuzzy just thinking about it! I think for the rest of my life, whenever I have trouble sleeping, I will be able to think of that moment and fall asleep immediately! Speaking of which, I think I will get ready to do just that. I found the perfect random camping spot in the desert in Baja California, away from the highway, and it’s been an incredible day--but that story must wait until at least tomorrow. Cheers!