This piece concludes Part II of “Stranded,” and describes my consistency in hitting my brother Matt up for help, back in the mid-seventies, when the preferred mode of transportation was VW’s. In retrospect all I can say is that I am glad I worked in an auto parts house, one that sold both domestic and foreign car parts.
“Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide
No escape from reality.
Open your eyes
Look up to the skies and see
I’m just a poor boy, I need no sympathy.
Because I’m easy come, easy go
Little high, little low
Anyway the wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me, to me…” Queen
The gray line running down the center of California, paralleling both Highway 101 to the west and Highway 5 to the east, indicated that the road(s) was dirt. Nancy and I were in Old Paint, our VW bus, and we were experiencing technical difficulties of a mechanical nature. As long as I kept the bus crawling along, we could continue to make forward progress.
If I exceeded either 25MPH or 2,500 RPM’s, someone with a sledge hammer started making a bodacious amount of racket, inside that little 40HP engine. So we limped down from Mt. Shasta to our newly acquired twenty-acre parcel of land along the ridge on Bell Springs Road.
We spent fourteen hours, torturously inching our way down paranoid that we were going to be left stranded in the middle of nowhere, with no phone, and no way to even tell folks where we were, exactly. My lack of adventurous nature, was balanced by Nancy’s surprisingly resilient force of will. She had the map clutched in her hands and she was convinced that if we kept heading south, we would hit our property.
|Robert, circa 1976|
My folks, Robert and Pauline, along with my youngest brother Kevin, who would have been ten that summer, were already there, having driven up from SoCal to spend a few days assessing the lay of the land. This being August of 1976, Robert was only seven months away from retirement at the shop, and a March relocation to BSR in order to build the barn, the initial structure the folks would live in, while building the big house.
Shockingly, it was mizzling as we made our way down from Shasta, a phenomenon that remains rare in August. Back then it seemed to us, it rained every time we were in northern Mendocino County. It was hard to take the old rancher's words seriously, when he told us water would be scarce in the summer.
After spending the night with the folks and Kevin, we took off again in Old Paint, and made our way down the five miles to the highway. We set off on 101 at our 25-MPH rate, pulling over whenever a vehicle approached from behind. In this way we limped the eleven miles into Laytonville, where we hung a right onto Branscomb Road, and eased our way over to Westport. Branscomb was still mostly dirt, so that worked out well for us.
Highway One was also reasonably user-friendly, affording us the opportunities to pull over when traffic converged on us from behind. We made our way down to Point Arena, where we were scheduled to rendezvous with a whole crew of family and friends at Manchester Beach.
I can’t for the life of me remember where Matt and his partner Paul, were in San Jose, but I tracked them down. They were driving the old ’64 Dodge 3/4 ton pickup, the one fondly referred to as the Limo, and they were also heading up to Manchester Beach. There they would join in the festivities that had been planned in advance during the previous few weeks.
A crew from United Auto was driving up to camp, and we had all agreed to meet and camp among the dunes. What Matt and Paul ended up doing is simply tacking on the extra distance between Point Arena and the town of Mendocino, which is ultimately where Old Paint threw a shoe.
It was nothing that I did, in cruising along Highway One, so much as that connecting rod bearing eventually giving up the ghost. One minute we were making fair progress, and the next I was easing our way off the highway at the exit we happened to be passing, and drifting to a complete stop.
The Sounds of Silence prevailed.
We found a pay phone, made the necessary call, and settled down to wait about six hours on the side of Highway One.
|Bro Matchu, a minute or two ago...|
I know the tow-bar had to be rented, along with the running lights, but at least this time it was mid-morning when the call went out, so that was not an issue. When Matt and Paul showed up, we hooked up the bus without incident, and drove the rest of the way down Highway One to Manchester Beach, where we spent a couple of days not worrying about a thrown rod, and just enjoyed the company of good friends.
After having been rescued the previous summer from along Highway 5 by Matt, it was getting to be a regular thing. He wrote me recently, “…I can’t really imagine doing that now. It takes a lot to get me out there, on the road, having an adventure. How we change, huh?”
Oh, I can so identify with that. It takes a lot to get me out there too!
Of course, now returning to San Jose meant the engine being back on the kitchen table, but we were used to that. And that tow bar that was fastened to the front of the bus?
I decided to buy one and leave it permanently in place on the front of that bus. We won’t say I was being pessimistic, so much as being prepared.
It has a much more positive spin.