“Well, it’s not the worst place to get stuck…”

 

After my scare with my emergency brakes in Grants and my unexpected refuge at Enchanted Trails in Albuquerque, New Mexico was already turning out to be full of extreme highs and lows. I ended up staying in Albuquerque over the weekend so I could get Betsy into a shop on Monday. A dear friend recommended Perfection Auto & Truck, and since they were quite close to where I was staying I decided to give them a try. They worked on Betsy all day, rebuilding my old drum brakes. Turned out I only had one fully functioning brake cylinder on the rear passenger side of Bets. The driver side rear cylinder was only working on one side, and the front two cylinders were completely locked up. I decided that this is probably exactly what my emergency credit card should be used for.

While I was sitting at a Starbucks down the road nervously waiting for Betsy to feel better, I received a message on Instagram from Tim. He said he has a shop north of Albuquerque where they worked on old cars and that I should stop by for a check up. Even though Betsy was already at the shop, something told me that I needed to do this. However, once I looked up the map, I realized Farmington was a three hour drive North West, directly in the opposite direction of where I was heading, East on Route 66 and then South to New Orleans.

I woke up early Tuesday morning and I dragged Betsy over the steep rolling hills of northern New Mexico to get to Four Corners Cool Customs where a stranger on the internet who said that he knew what he was doing was going to give Betsy a once over and send me on my way with renewed confidence about the rest of my trip.

At least that’s what I thought was going to happen.

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Betsy at Tim’s shop socializing with all the other hot rods.

I got to the shop and met Tim who got right to work. My uphill power struggles and my electrical issues were much bigger than a what a quick check up could cover so we did a quick valve lash adjustment and he showed me around the shop and we decided to call it a day. I decided I owed him a beer for his troubles and by the time we were done drinking, it was fairly late. So Tim graciously offered me a safe place to park Bets overnight at his place, all I had to do was follow him there.

As we got closer to his residence Betsy progressively lost power, at the point where I couldn’t get her to go faster than 30 mph. We had one last steep hill to conquer just down the road from his house and Betsy tapped out. Not even in first gear could we get her up the hill. We tried and tried and eventually we wore out the battery to the point where she wouldn’t even start. A quiet panic started to set in.

Tim, after towing Betsy and me up that damn hill, assured me that we would figure it out first thing in the morning. Tim offered a warm place for me to sleep in his house and dogs that I could cuddle all night for mental health reasons. I took him up on it even though I felt like a deer in headlights; stunned and helpless.

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I took this picture through tears of stress and anxiety at 6 am.

I slept for at most three hours that night. I woke up before the sun came up feeling even more helpless than the night before. I had no idea where I was, I had never heard of Farmington, New Mexico before. I didn’t know what was wrong with Betsy. I didn’t know if she was ever going to start again. I missed Long Beach. I missed my friends. I missed my family. At this point, my best case scenario included spending Thanksgiving alone in a Walmart parking lot somewhere in New Mexico eating ramen in the back of Betsy and I didn’t even know if that would happen now. I felt lost, scared, sad, alone and I had no idea how I would fix anything in my life at that point. Tears streamed down my face as watched one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever seen in my life.

Somehow I should have known that Betsy would never leave me stranded in a place I didn’t need be stranded in…

Baby’s First Breakdown

Sometimes you don’t know how or why something will affect you until you experience it. This has happened to me several times on this trip already.

Last Thursday I crossed into Arizona from California and in the middle of the bridge I saw the mile 0 mark and every emotion I’ve ever had and then some hit me all at once. I pulled off at the first exit and took this picture.

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Pretty sure I couldn’t even see what I was taking a picture of because I was ugly crying so hard at this point.

I didn’t expect for that to hit me as hard as it did, but there’s something about crossing into a new state in a vehicle that you didn’t know was ever going to run that really hits you. As big rigs were whizzing by I tried really hard to get a grip but then I realized that this might be the first time Betsy was ever in Arizona.

I’ve had this dream for so long, and I’ve pictured it, and planned it, and visualized it for the majority of this year. But I’m doing it now, I really am doing it. And it’s going even better and more magical than I could have ever planned for. It’s almost hard to believe it’s real because of how phenomenal it has already been.

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Oatman Hotel in Oatman, Arizona int he middle of the Oatman Highway

From the California/Arizona border I took a stunning sunset drive on the Oatman Highway, which was an incredibly exhilarating experience. As soon as I was out of those mountains, I wanted to turn around and do it all over again. However, I had plans to spend the night in Kingman with my friend Shawna’s family, who just happened to live there. They welcomed me like I was one of their own children. They fed me dinner, gave me a bed to sleep in, and a bathroom to get clean in. It was an incredible way to spend my first night in a new state. Shawna’s mother, Isabell, not only made me an incredible breakfast in the morning, but also loaded me up with a whole bunch of road snacks to keep me going, many of which I’m still eating almost a week later!

In Kingman, I stopped by a dollar store and stocked up on some essentials (toothpaste and trash bags) and an AutoZone (which was the biggest AutoZone I had ever seen) to get some Lucas Oil Stabilizer, which came highly recommended by Dan from Blackbird Ranch. After the essentials were checked off, I headed back down towards the mother road to check out the Route 66 Museum and also a short side trip to a older part of Route 66 from the 1920s and 30s.

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Betsy is so photogenic

I pushed through Hackberry (where I had a lovely lunch of tuna, crackers, a cheese stick and Route 66 Black Cherry Soda), Valentine, and Crozier. I was sailing pretty smoothly until my oil pressure light suddenly turned on.

And here I was at the side of the road with my first real break down of the trip! I was so excited! I was finally a real adventurer, vagabond, Instagram person! I had been looking forward to this moment and it was glorious. I was miles away from the interstate, I was in the middle of Route 66, and the sun was setting in the most beautiful pink and purple colors. It was beyond perfect.

It wasn’t long before a local hero, David, spotted me in his super clean looking mustard yellow Chevy C10. He offered to help, and at the time I thought Bets had just lost some oil because she’s old and leaky and the oil level was pretty low when I checked it. I added some of the Lucas Oil Stabilizer (Dan, really knew what he was talking about, unsurprisingly), tightened up the oil pan bolts, and drove her down a couple miles but the light stayed on. That is when I really started to get worried. I called my truck dad, Evan, he wisely told me to check the wires for the oil pressure switch, maybe it was just an electrical issue. And that’s when I saw that Betsy was spewing oil from the switch itself real bad. Like Monty-Python-tis-but-a-flesh-wound bad.

Again, local hero David came to my rescue to check up on me, even thought I was already a couple miles down the road. He told me that he knows a guy and he happens to be only a few miles away in Truxton.

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That guy there. If you’re ever in the area, go visit him! Tell him Betsy and I sent you!

We roll up just as it gets dark and this guy is closing up shop. He takes one look a me and Betsy and he knows exactly what to do. He hands we a wrench with a socket and tells me to take that oil pressure switch out. Betsy pukes a bit of oil to mark her spot. He hands me another switch that would plug the hole so oil doesn’t leak out but it’s not going to be helpful if I have an actual oil pressure problem. He tells me to just drive it and when I get to Flagstaff to find the right part. And that was that.

The entire time I never felt scared. Just when I would start to get minutely worried, a wonderful human would pop up and have a solution to whatever I was dealing with. If I were to try and plan a Betsy breakdown on the road, I couldn’t have planned a better one. Getting on the ground, with oil dripping, while the sun is setting is something everyone should experience at least once in their lives. The entire time I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be at every moment. That’s what I believe they call Route 66 magic.

Once Betsy was plugged up nice and good I drove through to Seligman where my friend Ian had magically arranged a great overnight parking situation for me behind the Delgadillos’ legendary Route 66 souvenir and barber shop. Angel Delgadillo is pretty much the reason people still know Route 66 even exists, so getting to stay behind it was an incredible and memorable treat. By the time I got to Seligman, I was wiped out. I made myself some ramen, scarfed it down, and passed out to the sounds of trains going by.

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The legendary establishment itself.

And that there was my first full day on the road completely on my own. There was no part of it that could be been better or more perfect and wonderful.