Traveling through six states and about 3,500 miles, we knew something would inevitably go wrong. Bodily injury, car trouble, fluke weather. Something.
We didn’t travel with a sense of continual unease, but the clock was ticking.
Sure enough, as we drove deeper into West Texas the road got a little more bumpy.
Buckle up! It’s a bumpy road ahead.
Shredded Tires and Texas Barbeque
En route to Fredricksburg, Tx, we swung off the highway into Llano and stopped at the first barbeque joint we saw – Laird’s Barbeque.
A small, family run business in a small Texas town – just the barbeque experience we had been hoping for.
The namesake was outside slow roasting meats, while his relative took our order. We were clearly an anomaly requesting our plates without baked beans, potato salad or white bread, as our order was repeated back to us about ten times. “No beans? Ya sure?”
As we dug into our late lunch, Laird commented our trailer tire looked a little low. We graciously accepted the remark, but secretly brushed it off. The barbeque was too good to start worrying about a tire.
We should’ve heeded Laird’s warning. The tire was certainly flat and very shredded.
An hour later we were back on the road. As a result, our planned afternoon of exploring Fredericksburg turned into a quick nighttime stroll.
But hey, Laird’s parking lot was a significantly safer mechanic pit than the interstate. And if you’re going to change a flat tire, an appetizer of phenomenal barbeque is probably the best way to go.
Life Lesson: Listen to Laird. He knows his barbeque and his tires. But really, the life lesson here is to be prepared. Without our spare tire, car jack and first aid kit, we would’ve been posting up in Laird’s parking lot for the night.
Encounters with a Grumpy Man at Big Bend National Park
Some people just love to be angry and shove their “power” around. The first human we interacted with in Big Bend National Park was this person.
Due to road weariness, we mistakenly started setting up camp in a reserved section. I was pulling out the grill for dinner and Kyler was about to pitch our tent. Then we heard, “Hey!, Hey!”
We just looked at each other with confusion. Was someone yelling at us?
“You’re in my spot! I have this reserved!”
Not yet knowing our mistake, we responded the campsite was first-come, first-served. This just set him off even more. He balked, “There is no such thing!” (There is). “Come look at the post.”
Facepalm. We had completely missed the reservation notice in the creeping darkness. We apologized and said we’d pack up. He retorted he’d be waiting and we’d better not take to long. Shesh!
After we had re-loaded the car, Kyler apologized again. The man literally waved his finger in his face! Who does that?!
Throughout all our exchanges we had been polite and apologetic. And, it took us about five minutes to pack up.
This man clearly needed someone to squash and Kyler was his victim.
We were flabbergasted. It was hard to shake-off his rudeness and it gnawed our psyches.
Life Lesson: Do not let other’s behavior determine your own happiness. This just gives them the power they wanted.
Nail in Our Tire and Thorn in Our Side
After a solid day of adventuring around Big Bend National Park, we wearily pulled up to our campsite.
Our car’s tire pressure indicator had been flashing on and off all day and we had rationalized it due to swinging temperatures and elevation. Boy were we wrong.
Kyler put his ear to the tire and heard the stream of air. After some investigating a massive nail reared its ugly head.
A few curse words and a banged head later, all the air had seeped out of our precious tire.
To give you a better sense of our predicament – it was 10 p.m., we were ill equipped with tiny flashlights, there was no cell service and the nearest town was at least two hours away.
When it became evident that our bike tire repair kit wouldn’t do the job, we felt even more deflated.
After talking through different scenarios and with some advice from a helpful park ranger, we landed on a plan. We would put on our spare tire, use the park’s payphone to call the closest tire shops, and slowly make our way to whichever shop had our tire in stock.
Our biggest concern was the weight of a fully-loaded car and a trailer on a spare tire. Could the spare tire handle the load?
Thankfully, after three and half hours, we made it to Alpine, Tx by slowly inching across the expansive park.
Life Lesson: Again, be prepared (for anything) and have a spare tire. Also, by keeping a level head you can better gauge the “disaster” level and devise reasonable solutions.
Stuck in the Mud
The website seemingly indicated visitors were only welcome on the weekends so we thought we’d do a driving tour. Sky City came and went quickly. We drove deeper into the reservation to see if there were any other hidden historical sites.
When it became clear that we’d seen what we could, we started looking for a place to turn around.
Kyler started turning off into a muddy area as I said, “That looks dangerous.”
Ten seconds later, all four car tires and half of our trailer were sinking into sticky mud.
What the HECK do we do now!?
Kyler got out and instantly started sliding around in the mud. He unburied our tow ropes with hopes an idea would come to him.
I like to think of myself as someone who takes up arms when the going gets tough. In all other instances on the trip so far, this had been the case. But this was the mud that broke my back.
I felt waves of anger, sadness and numbness.
I admit, I was not at all helpful. I was throwing a big pity party in my head.
Not even five minutes later, local Acomas pulled up in a truck and offered to tow us out. With our tow ropes and their industrial strength chain, our car and 1,000+ pound trailer lurched back onto solid asphalt.
Yep, we were those tourists…
If they had not come to our rescue, we would’ve become fossilized.
Life Lesson: Regularly build your mental strength. When disaster strikes, you’ll be ready to respond appropriately. Oh, and listen to your wife.
The Road Ahead
In the exact moment, these events tested our patience and will. In the big picture, they are just minor bumps along the road of life.
In all cases (except the grumpy man episode) someone came to our aid – whether it was providing phenomenal barbeque or yanking us out the mud.
Without the help of these kind strangers, the bumps would’ve been difficult to navigate.
The overarching life lesson I pulled from these events is to offer help when you see a need. Someday, you’ll be on the receiving end.