Saturday, May 02, 2009

Beatlicks Travel: A Long Road to N'Orleans

Beatlick TR: Not in the desert anymore

Next morning the skies are still gloomy. There is so much moisture in the air that neither Joe nor I look like ourselves. Joe’s hair is a mass of curls the size of quarters and my hair is looping out like it has been set on juice cans. Over coffee we debate the route this time. Now I know I can hang with the big dogs on the interstate with safety and confidence, but is that the best route.

Me: I just can’t decide what’s better.

Whatever you say.

I just can’t figure out what’s the best decision.

You’re the one who wants to drive on the interstate.

I just want to make a good decision. Which way is best for the van. I don’t know whether to wear the van out on the interstate and get there faster or wear me out taking the slower roads.

Whatever you say.

Joe, you are bringing absolutely nothing to the table. Don’t come back six hours later telling me you could have turned here, you could have turned there.

But already the noise of the trucks was droning in my ears. We had one more chance to pick up a route to Highway 90. Finally Joe gets out his map and we decide to pick up Highway 14 before we hit Lake Charles.

And I keep my mouth shut as we passed through a few small communities posting 30 mph. But within 20 minutes we were in some beautiful Louisiana low country which looks like Holland with a series of levies and dikes in a big agricultural area. I’m happy and the van purrs along. We enjoy the bucolic scenery as the seagulls begin to proliferate. Joe’s curls build higher and higher upon his head. We’re not in the desert anymore.

Happy Trails
Beatlick Pamela

Beatlick TR: Broke down in Bayou Vista, LA

Clouds were breaking up and the sun was getting hot as we passed through Patteson, LA, nearing Morgan City. We are beginning to realize we might make New Orleans before dark. In my thoughts I was already shopping at the French Market when I stopped at a red light and couldn’t get the transmission back into gear.

Well it finally happened – breakdown. After all those hours on the road to San Diego almost incapacitated with anxiety, now I have an eerie calm about me when real trouble hits. Somehow I know this will turn out alright if I just keep- my wits about me, keep calm. A few things are going in my favor.

I am directly across the street from a Wal-Mart Supercenter. Thank goodness I didn’t take the interstate. Pamela Hirst, roving reporter, goes into action. First I find a cop in the Wal-Mart parking lot and ask him if he knows of any VW mechanics. No luck but he gets me the number of a nearby transmission shop. Very helpful. The policemen are usually the first ones I approach when I’m in trouble like this, especially in a small town. And he couldn’t have been nicer. “Call the station if you need us,” and Officer Bryant gave me his phone number.

It was 4 p.m. on Saturday. I called the transmission shop knowing it would be closed. It was. So we gave up on accomplishing anything before Monday. Our luck held. We went back to the van and I was actually able to put it into gear. I put the van in reverse, turned the key, and it lurched backwards. I was able to back up to the red light. When the traffic got sparse I was able to put it in first and bolt across the street into the Wal-Mart parking lot. Sanctuary until Monday.

Further questioning of Wal-Mart customers gave me more leads. Someone told me about a mechanic on down Highway 90. “Do we both have to walk there?” Joe asked. Of course not.

So I walked about three miles to the next town of Berwick. I headed out thankful to have something to do. When I got there all I found was a tire store, closed of course. Then I walked across the street to a bar to investigate. Bingo. I left the bar within 20 minutes with the names of the best foreign car mechanic and tow truck driver in Morgan City. I called AAA and learned I wouldn’t have to pay for the tow either, Excellent.

So we settled into the Wal-Mart parking lot for the weekend. We learned quickly about the local flora and fauna. Overhead the parking lot is full of squawking seagulls. Both of us got attacked by red ants when we made the mistake of walking off of the pavement and into the grass and in the drainage ditch right in front of the store I noticed something of a sizeable proportion splashing around as I walked by. Later I saw a nutria, a giant water rat about the size of a beaver, out basking in the lush green grass as all the traffic passed on Highway 90.

Really we had a good time. We finally got to start sleeping in our upper bunk. This doubles our living capacity at night and really makes the van comfortable. In the course of the weekend a few people stopped by. One really old heavy set man in a big expensive truck with a little dog by his side stopped. He wanted to tell me he was looking for a small camper himself.

“My wife has left me and now I have to start all over,” he shrugged.

I mentioned I was broke down and he told me about a nearby mechanic, wanted to drive me over there, but I declined. He wanted to know if I was traveling alone. I guess he didn’t see Joe. I said no. I thanked him for the directions and bid him adieu after he basically divulged his life story to me.

Before too long a VW bug pulled up in the next lane. I waited a few hours for that guy to show up but he didn’t know a mechanic, did his own work, and went to Baton Rouge if he really needed help. Oh well. I passed the time sprucing up the van, giving it the message I hadn’t given up on it, doing the Sunday crossword puzzle, and organizing our gear.

When in situations like this I never rest until I know I have done absolutely everything I can to be my own best advocate. So I pressed on. In a while I asked Joe if he wanted to enjoy the Sunday afternoon sunset and take a walk in the neighborhood to see if we could find that mechanic. I could get the number maybe off a door or a sign. Somehow I had the feeling that just the right person was out there for me, I just had to find him or her. In these cases it’s always best to deal with a real VW person. Most commercial shops and parts departments aren’t set up to deal with VW issues. We pressed on.

The old man’s directions were a bit sketchy so I asked more questions of the neighbors washing their cars, putting out the garbage cans, and watering lawns. We finally arrived at a big garage in the neighborhood, no signs, a lot of cars outside – and lo and behold – a mechanic sitting in the doorway reading a parts magazine. I approached him.

His name was Randy. His garage was filled with dune buggies, little race cars, and motorcycles. He said this was his hobby shop, he wasn’t a business, but he was willing to help me. I had found my man.

Randy is a monster truck mechanic. He has traveled all over America working the car show circuit and recently retired. He was well familiar with VWs being an old hippie. He put us in his truck and we drove off to a parts store, no luck, it had just closed, but he went back to the van and checked out the situation.

I need a clutch cable. So for now we are currently parked at Randy’s garage in Bayou Vista, LA. If we don’t get a cable from the O’Reilly parts store, and that is looking unlikely, then Michael is going to send us one UPS. So for now we have a good place to park, food and drink is within walking distance, and we are thanking our luck stars. It’s all good. We’ll get to New Orleans maybe by next week. The Jazz Fest is still going on.

Happy Trails
Beatlick Pamela

Date: Apr 30, 2009 4:27 PM
In the last five days I have been through some right of passage in the tiny town of Bayou Vista, LA. I am never going to spend another moment frightened or worried about breaking down. I have fallen into loving arms here in this town and we are so humbled by our fortuitous experience and the obvious unforeseen forces which guide us.

My van broke down within five blocks of Randy Jenkins, who has traveled America as a mechanic on the monster truck circuit. He also works on Nitro Harley motorcycles and his son was one of the top "pilots" not racers in the country.

I needed a clutch cable and I decided to take the path of least resistance, allow Randy and his neighbors to take us under their wing, and just wait for Michael, my mechanic in Organ, NM, to send me a cable. As it turned out it would have taken just as long for O'Reilly's, an auto parts store next to Wal-Mart, to get me the part. As it turned out the auto parts store would have cost me $80 and I don't know if that included overnight air freight or not. Michael mailed me the cable for less that $30.

Randy set us up at his shop where we urban camped for five days. His neighbor Tim invited us to his house everyday to eat, shower, and pass the time. Last night we enjoyed a crawfish boil. Randy's girlfriend Wendy was one of the first female crane and big rig operators here around and about Morgan City. She was a real trailblazer in her day. She and I went blackberry picking along the RR tracks yesterday. They were our dessert last night after all the sausage, crawfish, corn, potatoes, and red onions.

Randy got us back on the road this morning and took NO MONEY. I just can't believe the warmth and generosity of these people. We insisted on at least providing them with one good meal, as we did. But they have given us so much more than we gave. From now on I will see breakdowns as opportunities.

It took less than two hours to get to NO. I am hooking up with my old girlfriend I used to live with down here. She drove down from Atlanta and I'm gonna call her cell as soon as I finish this report. We are urban camped at the Nix Library on Carrollton Ave. We parked here on our first VW tour right after my momma died. It's like coming home. Hope we can get away with it again. Looks good.

Happy Trails to all
Beatlick Pamela

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