That sinking feeling...again.
17 Oct 1997 22:45:25 -0700
Creek RV Park; Lone Pine, California :: 17 OCT 97
Hmm. Wrote down the date and noticed it's a famous one. Bolshevik
Revolution, if I recall correctly...
Yesterday I left Malibu/LA after a nearly 2-week hiatus from
traveling. I've got old connections spread all over North America, and
one of them's in Venice, just a block off the beach. Rob's the youngest
son of an old Air Force buddy of my dad. He, his girlfriend and their
entourage made it hard to leave, a hardship compounded by hot, sunny days,
unseasonably warm El Nino surf and an unparalleled group creative energy.
But, eventually, I did leave.
The day before yesterday, my last night in Malibu, I rummaged
through the trailer for some reading and found my dog-eared and unravelling
copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. This thing's
never far from my thoughts and one of these days, I always tell myself,
I'll get around to tackling a little project I've had in mind for a few
years. I read a few pages of the first chapter and the notes I've scribbled
in the margins. There's something important in here, apparent right from
the start, an important lesson even if it's not the one the author, Robert
M. Pirsig, intended. I read the first chapter, grew weary and fell
21:15 Behind the Jack in the Box; Bishop, California
:: 17 OCT 97
Some might say today was a low-quality day. I suppose it was.
Tomorrow's not looking significantly brighter. Today the bearings blew
on one of the trailer wheels. No false alarm this time. I've had the wheel
off for a look. In fact, it's still off. Drove twenty miles into Bishop
with only three wheels. I get to pay a towing company $150 for the privilege
of having them follow me the distance into town.
It could be worse. It could be Saturday night instead of Friday.
I'm parked across the street from a repair shop which opens tomorrow morning.
Still, I'm not optimistic. The spindle shaft--the bit of steel the bearings
roll across--is shot. Unfortunately, the spindle is at the end of the
axle. I'll most likely have to replace the whole axle. I would be a very
lucky man if such an axle were to be found in Bishop on a Saturday. A
better bet would have it shipped here no earlier than Tuesday.
Hold on Kathleen, I'm coming.
Did I tell you all my kid sister's having a kid? Due October
28th. Trying to make Whistler, where she lives, in time for the miracle.
It shouldn't take more than 5 long days to get back, but I was hoping
for some sight-seeing along the way. May have to forego the sight-seeing.
Up until a big white Bronco pulled up alongside early this afternoon,
it was a high quality day. But the Bronco's occupant gesticulated wildly,
"Pull Over!" pointing to the trailer. Thin plumes of white smoke billowed
from the wheels on the driver side. I pulled over and jumped out. They
pulled over and jumped out, brandishing a fire extinguisher. But the smoke
was coming from one of the wheels. "The brakes have seized up," said one
of the occupants. He explained that it had happened to him before. "Give
it a half hour to cool down, and while backing it up a bit, hit the brakes,"
he suggested, "that should unlock them."
I thanked them for their help and let them get back on their
way. But a half hour later, after following the instructions, I got under
way and in a few hundred yards, more smoke. I pulled over, waited another
half hour, same instructions, drove away...more smoke. That and the bearing
dustcap had blown off...and the spindle now revealed by the missing dustcap
seemed not perfectly centred on the wheel...and the wheel had about half
an inch of play if I pushed it. Oh dear.
After removing the tire and hub it was already obvious. Disassembling
the wheel revealed the sparest ruins of a cartridge and loose roller bearings
splattered about the inside of the wheel. Worst fears confirmed. Well,
not the worst yet. Inside the trailer for some paper towel to wipe the
grease from the spindle. Ahhh, yes. Worst fears confirmed. And the outer
cone was quite shot too. Ohh dear.
I was just about to unhitch the truck to drive into the nearest
town in search of assistance when the California Highway Patrol showed
up. About time. Two hours later, I'm still waiting for the tow truck,
and wondering how they're actually going to tow a 35' fifth wheel that
only has three wheels. I'm thinking things like loading it onto a flat
bed, or mounting a dolly wheel, or...I don't get it but the Highway Patrol
must know something I don't.
Finally, at least an hour later than the ETA given, a regular
old tow-truck arrives. The guy's pleasant enough when he confirms the
patently obvious, "does the wheel touch down if you pull the jack out?"
That is, he can't possibly tow the thing in. "I don't know," I tell him,
"the jack's blocked up so I could get the tire off--now, even if I lower
it all the way I can't pull the jack out."
Driving in on three wheels had been one of my two possible options
before the highway patrol arrived. The other, which I was in the process
of attempting at the time, was to drive into Bishop and hope someone had
the right bearing in stock. Given that the spindle was shot, simply replacing
the bearings would never get me all the way home, but it would get the
trailer to Bishop for sure, and on four wheels. However, that was at 2PM
and it's now 4:30PM. Too late to find an bearings tonight. We use his
jack to get my jack out and then lower the wheel. It stops about 6 inches
from the pavement. We look at each other. "Just take it slow," we both
That's when I tell him about the nail in the very lonely remaining
tire on that side of the trailer. Hey, when it rains it pours, even on
a warm sunny day like today. We look it over. We look at each other. "Just
take it slow," we both say.
I could've parked in a campground in Bishop, but we'd already
passed it when the tow truck operator pulled us over at the edge of town
to discuss options. The Jack in the Box parking lot is often used by big
trailers, the operator told me. Something about staying the night in a
parking lot waiting for mechanical repairs seemed symmetrical. Last time
it was a Canadian Tire lot. Just to round out the symmetry, I went and
caught a movie. Bishop hasn't as many cinema screens as Val d'Or, but
they're all in English so after seeing In & Out--which wasn't that good--tonight,
I've still got The Edge--which I've heard is not so hot either--for tomorrow
At least this time I'll be able to use the truck and do some
sightseeing. If it starts looking like Tuesday waiting for parts, perhaps
I'll just go spend a couple days in Death Valley. Bishop's a nice enough
town, but I would like another look at Death Valley.
~~~ Responses Sought ~~~
It's a problem of our time. The range of human knowledge
today is so great that we're all specialists and the distance between
specializations has become so great that anyone who seeks to wander freely
among them almost has to forego closeness with the people around him.