Monday, October 15, 2012

Gang aft Agley

 I’m more than a little disappointed. But I don’t know what the appropriate feeling is. I’m trying not to sink into a sulky depression. I just don’t know how to feel.
     I wasn’t sure I would ever take another sabbatical again. The little getaways off by myself where I take a road trip, camp overnight, and spend some time alone are what I call a sabbatical. I tried not to fix on the idea that I was entitled to these escapes. I already have a low-stress job that I spend a lot of time alone at. If I want time alone I can go to work or even just get up early like I do when I write. And whether or not I deserved to get away, I also questioned ever going off when my questioned even owning my truck. I don’t need to drive to work anymore. I have no real use for this 1992 Toyota four-wheel-drive pickup. There are other, more important expenses and we try hard to live within our means.
     So after two years in a row of getting away in late summer with me thinking it would be an annual thing, last year I had to cancel my plans to go back to Death Valley. It just didn’t work for us that year. So I dealt with it. I blogged about it.
     I was thinking that this year I might make it out. The truck was running a little rough, though. But a friend fixed some minor problems and suddenly the truck was running great. I set a date and location. I wanted to go to Mahogany Flat, campgrounds at an 8000 foot mountain summit inside Death Valley National Park, east of the Valley Floor. I had been there before. It was peaceful. The night sky was bright with stars. And I could only get there with four-wheel-drive. I didn’t know how much life my truck had. I thought that this might be my last opportunity to get away to this location.
     Gas prices leapt. I stuck with the plan. I had refrained from listening to some of my favorite CD’s for a few months, saving them for the long road-trip. I mapped out my route, scrounged up the family’s shabby camping gear, and got my food together. I also packed a blank notebook. I wanted to sit up in the campgrounds and plan out what I was going to write this November for National Novel Writing Month. I excused myself from teaching Sunday school and attending a staff meeting, telling everyone my plans and trying to not sound too excited. No, I wasn’t going with anyone. I was going alone. Yes, to Death Valley. No, it probably would be cold where I was sleeping.
     I could barely sleep the night before. Sunday morning I got up at 5. I packed my last few items. (I had started a list weeks before.) Kissed a sleeping Prajna goodbye and I was off, on the road by 5:45.
     I was in Victorville in just under an hour and I topped off the gas tank. Then I went to McDonalds to use the restroom and the Wi-Fi. Then I got onto highway 395 and started heading North. The sun was up and the air was still cool. My first CD ended and I put on the next one.
     At about 8:30 I was about 35 miles from Victorville. The CD was less than halfway through when I began to hear a noise. It sounded like wind whistling through a bottle. I thought it sounded like an overheating sound. My gauges all looked good. The noise got louder and then I felt a roughness like a bad rear tire. I got to the side of the road. As the truck slowed, the roughness became intense. I stopped and got out. Checking out the truck, the tires looked fine, but I saw a little curl of smoke coming from the differential and a burnt chemical smell. I don’t know a whole lot about cars, but I know that the differential has gears and bearings inside and needs fluid to work. The truck had broken down. It would not drive any further.
     I called the auto club, then Prajna. AAA called me back and asked for a better description of where I was. I told them, no, there were no landmarks. But I had re-set my odometer in Victorville and I could positively say that I was 36 miles North of the city on Highway 395. If the driver was coming from that direction, he couldn’t miss me.

     Then I sat in my cab and read Writer’s Digest while long-haul trucks, RV’s and other traffic sped by between quiet empty pauses. The tow truck driver was a friendly young man. I answered his questions but didn’t ask any back. I spent the drive back composing a blog.
     “Just my luck,” the driver said. “I’m hitting every red-light.”
     “Yeah,” I agreed.
     I didn’t consider myself unlucky. Yes, the rear-end of my truck had a catastrophic failure. But it was within the range of AAA’s free towing. And it hadn’t happened inside the National Park or up the side of a mountain where I could have been stranded for a day or so. I was lucky… blessed is more like it. But I still felt disappointed, and guilty for feeling that way. Who was I to think I should be able to get away, spend money on gasoline only to amuse myself?
     Our tow truck passed a very expensive-looking speedboat being pulled by a nice Dodge Pickup. I tried not to be jealous. Of course I don’t care for boats, but I could have a nice little with the money it took to own and operate a speedboat, right?
     I felt not only guilty for feeling disappointed, I felt embarrassed. I would have answer to people why I was back early or how my trip went. And topping it all off was confusion. Should I grin and tell people that it’s okay? Or should I clam up and shake my head when they ask me? Be artificial or honest?
     I wanted to go home and read Of Mice and Men and nap all afternoon. Instead I went to the meeting I opted out of. Everyone was sincere in their sympathy.
     I’m trying to be honest, but polite about it. I am trying to face the truth. I can’t deny my disappointment. I can’t deny how blessed I was that it happened the way it did. I can’t deny that my truck may never drive again and that kind of hurts. I can’t deny that there are people nearby and all over the world with greater needs than me and I should be thankful for everything. And I am. I am. So the disappointment and the thankfulness battle it out in me and here I am writing about it. If anything good comes from this I will try to harness the feelings and use them in a self-indulgent blog entry.
     I’ll get over it and move on. 



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