The Travel Gods Can Be Kind

by Bob Howard

It’s hard to tell what is fate, and luck; or what glories derive from practice, ritual, and faith. Trish and I took another trip down to Southern California last weekend. It was a long weekend, we drove down on Thursday, and back yesterday,Monday. That’s a helluva drive down Interstate 5. One full day after the fact and my ass is still sore, and my back is stiff and rigid. I can clearly envision the feeling of my t-shirt riding up my spine, the cotton-blended fabric is biting, and heavy with sweat. My shoulders are almost touching my ears. My fingers are stiff from a full day of intense clutching.

The old Toyota truck, with almost 300,000 miles on it, pulled us along, down the freeway. We traveled through the various Central California cities, up and over the Grapevine pass, and down to the edge of Los Angeles. Then we headed back north, and west, to an escape on the coast, Malibu. After the errands were run we did it all again, only in reverse.

The Arf and Arf

On the way back the truck was laden with a glowing red maple bedroom set. The box springs wouldn’t fit into the truck’s bed, so we strapped them to the roof racks, and on top of that we strapped the infamous “Arf and Arf,” an 18 foot long canoe. The canoe was hand-built – the design taken from plans distributed by the Sierra Club – with fiberglass leftover after construction of two other river vessels. Of the two original boats, one was yellow, the other red. The “Arf and Arf” was made from their remnant fiberglass; right down the middle lengthwise, one side is yellow and the other is red.

The going there wasn’t too tense – we were only carrying a couple of bags. The extra weight on the way back, from the dresser set, stressed me out. During the whole return trip north my mind was shifting from one worry to another: from the tension in the ropes holding the canoe, and the integrity of the straps; to the fluid levels, and heat of the engine; to whether or not the tires would hold. I wanted to check the engine’s oil level, but I couldn’t get to it, not without first untying the knots in the ropes that were holding the canoe in place. I’m no good with knots, so I left it alone, certain that would end up our jinx. I routinely peered at the tires, because they were about all I could proficiently check.

But we made it. Once we’d made it past Sacramento I think we both breathed a sigh of relief. By then, even if we did break down, at least we could get a tow without emptying the bank account. No tow ended up being needed. Sometime after sunset last night I unloaded the truck, and I drove it to work this morning. The drivers’ side rear tire’s tread came unfurled, a big chunk of it splayed loose. But the radial wasn’t so badly damaged that it wouldn’t hold air. I got the hell off the freeway anyway, and limped it over to Quality Used Tires. They hooked me up there with a good, intact tire, for a little under forty bucks.

Bob Howard has been living, working, and writing in Northern Califonria since he moved to Chico in early 2000. In January 2011, he and his wife Trish relocated to Los Molinos, 30 minutes north of Chico, where they are the proud proprietors of the Double Happiness Farm. There they grow organic food, ornamental plants and trees, and generally work to enjoy the beauty of this great region.