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Tennessee or Bust - Part 2

Posted by Admin on June 16, 2015 at 10:35 PM

Unidentified rolling object


The day came for us to pull out. The car was already packed, but we added a car top carrier and piled it about four feet high with last minute stuff we suddenly realized we couldn’t do without. The trunk was full. We had included pretty much everything except the stopper for the Pacific Ocean. And we were only carrying the bare necessities. I knew I would be needing those two antique leather bound tomes of Shakespeare that I had bought in a pawn shop for five dollars apiece. Together they wouldn’t weigh over forty pounds. I was taking a big block of solid walnut that I wanted to carve something out of sooner or later, and a few oil paintings I had done in class, so I could show the folks back home what I’d been learning.

Mick had his sea bag full of dirty clothes, but nothing else, except a pack of Kools he had swiped off Pop’s dresser.

It was Leon who showed me that I had no imagination at all when it came to packing only those items that were absolutely necessary to the trail.

Leon was bringing his scooter. You know…a scooter, like you stand on with one foot and push with the other. And he couldn’t do without his basketball, fully inflated. I didn’t recognize everything Leon threw in, but I wasn’t going to let him outdo me. I wedged my guitar in. Now we were prepared for any possible emergency. A body never knows when he’s liable to be needing a basketball, or a guitar, or his scooter.

Jackie…I don’t remember him taking anything along but the clothes on his back.

By the time we all got in, the old Ford was hunkered down so low that one of my sister Carla’s kittens couldn’t have crawled underneath. The running boards scraped the curb as we eased out into Steveanne Street. I wrestled the wheel around and got the car pointed in the right direction before I looked back over my shoulder to take a last look at my California home.

The picture is printed forever in my memory – the basic pink stucco tract home with garage, in this case overflowing with old TV’s, radios and other junk Pop collected to tinker with while learning electronics by home correspondence course. I remember the weed box underneath the kitchen window ( no flowers would ever grow there ). The family was standing on the sidewalk waving goodbye. My three-year-old sister Carla had one of her luckless little kittens by the tail, idly kicking it in the head to make it swing while she waved bye-bye with the other little brown hand. Pop wore a combination worried – relieved expression as he watched us creep away. My stepmother Ethel was shaking her head at the moving mountain of machinery, people and junk. She was mumbling to herself, “They’ll never make it…they’ll never make it.”

Blinking back a tear, I faced resolutely ahead, took a firm grip on the steering wheel and floorboarded it. A little kid eating a popsickle whizzed past us on rollerskates. His backwash rocked our car. I held the gas pedal down, and gradually we drew even with the next door neighbor’s house. We were picking up steam. We caught up with the kid on skates and passed him. The car strained ahead as I shifted into second gear, and we were on our way.

An hour later we were still fighting traffic through town when Jackie says, “Are we there yet?” Leon says, “I gotta use the bathroom.” And Mick says…well, maybe I better not say what Mick said.

As it worked out, we had to stop anyway, because the car quit on us. One minute we’re rolling along, and then suddenly the motor just dies. We coasted into a service station that happened to be handy, and the guy there checked under the hood. He informed us that we had us a vapor lock. I thought he was making some kind of crack about our intelligence or something, and commenced to get mad. But he explained that a vapor lock had something to do with overheating, so that the gas would vaporize before it got into the carburetor, or something. When that happened, he said, we had two options; we could either pour cold water on the fuel pump, or we could just sit and wait for it to cool off. Then the car would start and everything would be hunky-dory. Until it overheated again. No big deal. It didn’t happen too often, and we needed to stop and rest every now and then anyway. We’d definitely get there sooner or later, maybe.

Little by little we made it out of town without the cops stopping us. Not that we were speeding or anything. We were more like, obstructing traffic. I guess the cops figured it was better to go ahead and allow us to escape from their jurisdiction rather than to try to describe our vehicle in their report.


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