This must be the place: There were oh so many roads, I was livin’ to run and runnin’ to live
It’s Saturday evening here at my parents’ 1840 farmhouse in Upstate New York. The temperature is hovering around 15 degrees with a wind chill ducking below zero. It’s Jan. 8 and I was supposed to be back at my humble abode in Western North Carolina on Dec. 30.
It wasn’t my plan to still be in the North Country for New Year’s Eve, let alone more than a week thereafter. But, that’s how the cards fell. And here I am. Why? Well, on Christmas night, following dinner with my family and such, I headed into downtown Plattsburgh to meet up with my best friend from high school.
Rolling up to some random dude’s house, my old teenage crony was standing in the driveway, walking through the snow and ice pack that coated the landscape. He needed a ride to the local bar where he works (he doesn’t own a car), seeing as it was too cold for him to walk that far to the establishment. I said OK in a simple act of kindness towards a kindred spirit.
Pulling into the bar parking lot, I slowed down to about 5 mph or so. As I tapped the brakes to pull into a parking spot, the truck kept going. I let go of the brake and it kept going. Just as I yanked the wheel to avoid the inevitable, my truck slid into a parked car.
Getting out of my truck, I assessed the damage. A small, somewhat insignificant dent on the parked car. My truck? Shattered bumper and front fender pushed up into the headlight. Cracked front grill. Broken brackets. Broken this, that, and the other. Shit. Dammit.
Thankfully, no injuries or totaled vehicles. I exchanged information with the owner of the parked car. We shook hands and parted ways. I said goodbye to my old buddy and immediately headed home with my tail between my legs. A once-promising night of holidays encounters and adventures had just begun, but I just couldn’t seem to enjoy it under these circumstances.
The day after Christmas, I found myself caravanning to the local body repair shop with my father. The shop was a place my family had gone to get work done for years, perhaps decades at this point. Walking into the office, the overwhelming smell of paint from the nearby spray garage wafted through the room.
The shop owner/repairman wandered outside with me to look at the truck. He took his pen and started pointing at broken pieces and mumbling to himself, then scribbling onto his notepad each and every single thing that needed to replaced.
“The whole bumper is just flimsy plastic. There’s really nothing behind the plastic shell, which is why it all shattered so easily,” he noted. I shrug in brutal acknowledgment, constantly figuring out and readjusting how much this repair bill will be with each movement by the pen at the truck, every mumble of the repairman directed towards me.
Order the parts (numerous parts) from across the country. Wait several days due to shipping inconsistences. Drop the truck off at the body shop. Wait a couple days to get it repaired and get it back. Return to the shop. Hand over most of my rainy-day fund, of which the funds were originally saved for a bucket list road trip along the Trans-Canada Highway that was to happen this summer (fingers crossed it might still).
With the truck back in my possession, all that stood in my way from finally hitting the road back to Carolina was a simple oil change. Scheduled for last Friday, I decided to go for a trail run on Thursday afternoon. Wandering down the backcountry roads of the desolate Adirondack Mountains, I parked the truck at the trailhead and jogged down the snowy path.
On the way back to the farmhouse, I put the truck into four-wheel drive due to hazardous road conditions. It was then the driver’s side front wheel started making noises. Creaking. Squeaking. Steering wheel vibration. Taking the truck out of four-wheel drive, the noises and vibration slowly dissipated.
The next day, with the truck up on the rack at the mechanic shop for the oil change, the cause of the noises and vibration was discovered — a broken stabilizing bar and cracked CV axle. The pieces had been damaged for a while, pretty much going unnoticed until the noises and vibration, and until I felt something just didn’t feel right while in motion.
“Good lord, I’m surprised you were even able to drive this truck into the shop today,” the mechanic shook his head in awe. His somber tone indicated another hefty repair bill in my future before all is said and done and Carolina is once again in my field-of-vision.
Thus, by the time you read this column, I’ll hopefully be heading down the interstate, the nose of the truck aimed for Southern Appalachia, trekking to my current home as I say goodbye to my hometown — the starting line of nothing and everything.
It’s a New Year, and another amid uncertain times of the here and now. Another fresh canvas of unknown interactions and moments ready to happily surprise you around the next corner. Though I’m starting 2022 with a pretty empty bank account, I remain optimistic in still making that lifelong dream of traveling down the Trans-Canada Highway a reality — let’s start with the pennies in the cup holder.
And now, the truck has a new bumper, grill, random brackets, stabilizing bar and CV axle. Add in a full tank of gas and Bob Seger’s greatest hits cranked high on the stereo, and you have a curious, vibrant soul eager to see just what those surprises around the next corner might be. It’s a New Year, eh? Count me in.
Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.
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Nothing better than Bob Seger on a road trip!
Thank God for family.. safe travels!!!