Departure Day | Trucking Past Midnight

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Good morning from the ice-block ground under this tent, here in the backyard next to the truck.

The new sleeping setup works great, thank you for asking.

Glad I tested it in the backyard before hitting the road.

Departure day is here.

If I don’t leave today, I won’t be able to meet my friend to work on the land.

He’s only got one week free.

And we have a large to-do list.

The truck, well, she’s mostly ready.

New mid-body fuel tank in place. New shocks. New alternator.

Oil change and fluid topped-off as needed.

Good crash course in auto maintenance and repair.

No spare tire.

I called three auto shops in driving distance.

Described the make, model, year, and tire size.

Nada.

Improbable for a truck this popular.

But that’s what they tell me.

Maybe I can collect a spare at my first stop.

The town of Warren, Pennsylvania.

It’s an eight hour drive to get there from here.

I should arrive well after midnight.

It’s just forty hours for the full trip.

I have to leave after 5, when the workday is over.

Grabbing last-minute supplies on lunchbreak.

Departure time arrives.

I throw the last bags and my guitar in the bed.

Fire up the truck.

Listen to that deep mechanical hum.

The engine sends jitters through the cab.

Rhodie, you weren’t meant to rust in a dirt parking lot with ‘FOR SALE’ white-soaped on your windshield.

Let’s see this big country, you & I.

I pull off the backyard with its wet green grass matted over by fallen leaves.

The tires leave two fine grooves.

It’s getting dark fast.

I’ve got a temporary license plate taped to the inside of the back window.

The permanent was scheduled to arrive before departure day, but it didn’t.

The DMV is struggling for the same reason everything else is struggling. The pandemic.

I’ll add the permanent plate when it arrives, but I can’t wait for it.

Anyway, that’s the reason for choosing quieter roads, even if they take longer.

An audiobook about the moon landings is playing.

The GPS lost service.

Who cares? This early in the journey, all I need to do is keep going west.

No cruise control, just a forty-hour ankle workout.

Soon, I’m trucking between the reddish-grey granite walls on either side of the Vermont highway.

Thick foliage grows in the dark over rolling land.

Dark shapes of tree canopies, shiny from rain, run past the windows.

It’s getting foggy.

Deer with glinting eyes peep from the shadows next to the road.

One can of Fix-a-Flat but no spare tire.

Long way to Warren.

To be continued

The Truck’s Mission Out West

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Yes, it’s taken a loop of trips to AutoZone, Walmart, Tire Warehouse and Home Depot with a stop at Rawlings (for variety), but the truck has new tires and new shocks.

It took two trips to buy a special tool to disconnect the fuel lines from the old fuel tank.

The first tool snapped in half upon use. Bought the more expensive one the second time.

It took hours of wrestling with wrenches and cutting fingers on metal edges but the hole-pocked old tank is out and the new, gleaming one is in place.

The truck is almost ready to make the 2,000 mile drive out west.

THE MISSION

The mission: Get this work truck to 40 acres of land I own out west with a friend.

We’re building a lodge out there.

This F150 has to bring supplies from town to the land.

After this trek, it will only have to make short supply runs.

Asking this truck to make this cross country journey is like saying to a pro fighter: do one last championship fight then you can open a gym, put out an online course, and dink around with some exhibition matches.

I still don’t have a spare tire. Maybe I should figure that out before I leave.

Tonight, I’m testing my tent and sleeping bag in what will be a 48 degree weather.

The tent is a simple two-man deal from Walmart.

The bag is rated for 30-40 degrees and I snagged an insert to bring it 20 degrees lower.

Should be cozy.

Still, I’d rather discover you shouldn’t bargain hunt for outdoor sleeping gear sooner than later.

After all, this polyester stretched over aluminum will be my lodging for a full week or more.

Back on foam pad and sleeping bag in between me and the nearly frozen ground, I go over the to-do list for the upcoming trip.

  1. Find a spare tire

2. Pick up propane & camping food

3. Pick up landscaping tools and big measuring tapes

4. Have a pro mechanic give the truck a final check over

Bunch of other things I can’t think of at the moment.

I’ll find out when they become problems.

Solve them then.

Good night from out here in the backyard.

To be continued

Guess I Asked for This

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Guess I asked for this, to be crammed under the undercarriage of this truck, cranking a wrench on a bolt while a fine mist of metal rust showers down endlessly.

Still cursing though, even though I got what I wanted.

Job one on the new truck is getting a new mid-body fuel tank in place.

We got it home without a fireball despite a drip, drip, drip of gasoline out of said tank in the final leg of the journey.

The bolts holding the old tank in there are rusty and crusty.

Soaked ’em down with PB Blaster overnight, but I still had to fight for every centimeter of thread on the bolt.

Back on a blue tarp, and the old gas tank dripping gasoline on me for about an hour. I’m completely soaked.

Highly flammable, that’s what I am on this crystal clear fall day in New Hampshire.

It’s a matter of life and death to avoid my chain-smoking housemate in this moment.

Shing – out slides the bolt. At last. One metal strap drops down from the undercarriage. Bonks me in the face.

The tank creaks and droops down.

Wires and the second metal strap hold the fuel tank in place.

The rest of the bolts might need another night in PB Blaster.

What is the truck for?

Teamed up with a friend to buy land out west.

This is going to be the work truck on the land.

I’m working on a pressing deadline. My friend has one free vacation week in which he can meet me on the land.

I’ve got to get the truck ready to trek well before then. I need it ready to drive across country one week before my friend is free.

Right now, soaked in gasoline, covered in rust dust and fingers sliced to ribbons on metal bits, that seems unlikely. I mean, this truck needs so much work.

The to do list is extensive.

The sun goes down.

I decide to slide back under and attack the bolts again.

To be continued

Problem Solving Through New Mexico

New Mexico Dunes

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To solve trucking through empty desert with a bubble in one tire & no spare:

Don’t break down.

To solve a hole under the brake pedal:

Don’t step in it.

Sketchy truck paperwork?

Don’t get pulled over.

Camping alone in rattlesnake country?

Don’t get bit.

Relying on good luck in the last leg of the journey.

Get me there, get me there.

Bargaining with the big sky.

Remember the good (or OK) deeds I did and let me cash in on them like this: keep an angel’s palm over the bulge in my tire as I truck through this empty desert with no spare.

Let all the little things go my way.

Whether I deserve it or not. Irresponsibly planned as this trek was.

Let me get away with it.

At least till I’m surrounded by Sullivan’s & Walmart’s and not the smooth, red, dream-like lines of New Mexico’s desert.

Curves of rock & sand that go on forever.

By night, New Mexico’s desert is more like a giant geometry textbook than a landscape. Parabola dunes. Spherical moon. Clean & empty.

Onward.

God must dislike such a prayer but…

Let me get away with it.

To be continued…