I promised I’d tell the story of my breakdown in Tecopa, Ca. It was the first of two breakdowns that added some zest to the last leg of my trip. I was driving a 30-mile unpaved road through the Kingston Mountains to China Ranch Date Farm. The views of the valley as I was descending were incredible, and the sun was bright enough I had to squint to keep my view clear. In my excitement, I ran over a rock. The rock was like an iceberg buried in the dirt, larger than expected. I heard a bang as the rock hit the underside of Carol the Corolla.
When I got to China Ranch Date Farm a few miles later I was taken with the beauty of the place: Palms heavy with sweet fruit, Golden light shimmering through the palms, tons of quail scuffing about. The dark fluid that was pouring out of the underside of Carol ruined the moment. I took a deep breath and took action. Service was spotty at best, the sky would be dark soon and I needed a plan for rescue. The car was no longer drivable. I immediately asked the workers for a landline. I called triple A and I sent a message to my dad. I knew my dad had broken down in this area a few years before and received a miracle repair from a local. Low and behold the man who fixed my dad’s car was available to help. His name is Paul Carter. He is the unofficial mechanic for the Tecopa area.
Paul towed me out of the farm, and we stopped off at Death Valley Brewing for a beer and to chat. DV Brewery is a place for the townspeople to catch up at the end of the day. With the community center closed due to COVID, the brewery has taken its place. There is a bakery next door that serves the same purpose for the town’s sober alcoholics. The one man who runs the brewery makes all his own beer. I had a boysenberry red ale, which was tart and delicious. We chatted while the sunset, afterward I went to his property for Thanksgiving leftovers. Paul’s RV is a work in progress and he is the first to admit it. He cleared some space for me and heated up turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy. I met Paul’s son Tyler who was working on a Honda CRX with over 400,000 miles on it (he got it for free). While I ate, Tyler ran some tests and determined it had a rebuilt engine, which he was very excited about it. I left Carol in good hands and went for a soak at the Hot spring.
In the morning I went back over to Paul’s to check-in. By 9am he had removed the transmission fluid pan, welded the hole, and was ready to drive to Pahrump, the closest town with an auto parts store. As we drove, Paul gave me a tour of the desert’s geography and history. Carol was ready to roll by 2:30. We decided to meet up later for dinner at a local restaurant called Steaks and Beer. I went back to the date farm for a few hours to explore the oasis I only had a peek at. I watched the sunset from the top of a mesa, I tried eating a date of the tree (they are awfully bitter before ripening), and I saw a dozen coyotes.
The restaurant Steaks and beer turned out to be much nicer than I expected. The chef moved out to Tecopa after becoming disgruntled with the restaurant industry in Las Vegas. But plenty of people make the drive from Vegas to eat there. The menu features fresh, organic, quality items created and cooked by a thoughtful chef. This restaurant is his baby, and despite his cool attitude, he takes great joy in astounding his customers with amazing meals.
The next day I was off to Santa Barabara to visit my friend Scirocco for a second time, on the opposite coast. Johnny and I visited her in New Jersey back in October, but circumstances have a way of changing quickly these days. I took the scenic route West through Death Valley, the drive itself was about 7hrs. It was dark by the time I arrived. I spent the next few days exploring Santa Barbara with Scirocco and her sister Kaila. The first day We walked State Street, went thrifting, and did cartwheels on the beach. I’ve determined it may be the perfect climate for me. I am a California girl at heart; the warm sunshine and cool breeze by the beach gave me the instant feeling of being home. Without cost considerations, the Santa Barbara area is a top contender for my next move. With the new COVID restriction about to come into effect, we had a final evening to explore the nightlife. We visited the restaurant where Kaila works and then went out for drinks.
I left in the late morning headed northbound on Highway 154, through the Los Padres national forest. I was taking in the hills, curves, and views when I felt a few seconds of wobble, then a sharp, hard bang as the wheel well hit the pavement. The wobble gave me just enough warning to slow down and check my surroundings. I put on my hazards, slowly braked, and pulled to the side of the road. The car’s momentum would only take me so far, so I was blocking traffic.
This trip has taught me to roll with punches. When shit happens, patience is key. Panic is a normal reaction in life-threatening situations. But a panic reaction is guaranteed to exacerbate the situation. I’ve learned to breathe and go slow when I feel stress come over me. I organized the tow and CHP protection. I accepted help from everyone who offered, and I was ultimately taken care of. In a matter of a few hours, my tire was back on and I was northbound for Marin County. I was not excited to be back in the death contraption that had betrayed me, but I had to get home.
I arrived at my mom’s apartment late in the evening after a phenomenal sunset. I gave a mom a long hug, and pet each of the 3 cats that looked at me expectantly. My cat Fern came to greet me immediately and spent the night at my feet.
Since being back home, I’ve been able to see the place I grew up with fresh eyes. I’ve never taken the beauty of NorCal for granted, but I’ve become jaded with the traffic, cost of living, and pretentious attitudes. Right now none of that is on my radar. I am falling in love all over again with NorCal’s Bay Area. In all of my travels, this place tops the list in terms of nature; it’s got mountains, forests, and beaches all within a 5-minute drive. I went for a hike up King Mountain in Larkspur, a place I’ve been a hundred times. But this time every tree, every plant, and every mountain peak felt more alive. The warm sun, cold air, and crisp smell of bay laurel energized me and I almost got lost in the web of trails.
I’m not sure what is next for me. But I am not worried about the uncertainty. I know I am ready to contribute to the world in a way that impacts and improves people’s lives. I have applied to select Doctoral Grad Programs in the Bay Area. I am learning about buying and developing a rural property. I am looking for a nonprofit organization, a Buddhist temple, or a family I can help through Work-a-way. Right now, I am taking my time to settle back into my body after prolonged travel, and make the right choices for the future from a grounded mindset. I look forward to catching up with friends, family, and soaking in the Bay Area while I am here.
If you are still reading, thank you for coming along on the ride with us. You are an essential part of what made this trip so special.