If Not For The Smell
I hate car repairs. Back when even a replacement battery broke my budget, I dreaded every possible automotive shortcoming of every vehicle I have owned because I never knew how much it might cost (see 20,000 Miles from January 2019). So when Delano’s temperature light went off in the midst of a road trip from Florida to Wyoming, I’ll admit, I panicked. Yet the gauge still held steady. Admittedly I could sometimes smell the pungent, metal odor of a radiator running over, yet it never did. The light would appear, disappear, and reappear for months. Finally nearly six months later, while sitting in my car with the engine running, I discovered the tiniest of leaks from the water pump and I forked over the money, because that’s what you do.
All through the summer, I kept tabs on my car. I kept waiting for me to be in the middle of nowhere, absent of cellular service, as I often was during that time, and my car would suddenly overheat and I would have no course of action but beg a stranger for a ride to the nearest telephone. I carried a jug of water in my car and at least once a week would open its cap, and see that, yet again, the reservoir was practically full. I took him to the shop to have the pressure on the cooling system tested and it was good. I could not explain the circumstances, with the exception of the smell, appeared to all be in my car’s head. I might have questioned Delano’s mental acuity were it not for the odor, and that Delano rarely let me down. At the ripe old age of eight, I put more trust in my car than in most people I knew.
That’s No Road
The reality exists that in the same summer that Delano tried desperately to tell me what was wrong, I likely took him to more locations off the grid than either of us ever visited in our entire lifetimes. We journeyed through Canada – no cell service there – and up and over the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park. We camped along the Little Missouri River in parts of North Dakota that to this day have yet to appear on any cellular service map. I spent more than two months on the Bighorn National Forest where the closest connection we had to the outside world was a satellite phone in case of emergencies. Plus, there were the Pryor Mountains and the road to the Big Ice Cave.
Never in my life have I been on a rugged path like this, and despite my confidence in Delano, he never goes higher than second gear. The rocks, jagged and plentiful, leave no clear route to our destination, and whatever may have been leaking prior to our trip risks being completely undone with one unfortunate bump. Yes, I admit I ought to turn back, and unlike most adventures, I keep both hands locked at ten and two. Like most adventures, however, I don’t turn back and I reach the cool, frozen cave, despite every boulder and bang Delano endures, not to mention every single one on the return trip. I make a deal with Delano right there: you get me out of this and I will never take you on a road like this again (see Delano from January 2020). Want to guess which one of us held up their end of the deal?