Michael and I had spent the last 4 weeks waking up at 7 and working on our Sprinter Van turned mobile home (her name is Lyra) until it got dark. We were sick of each other, sick of the van, and so so ready to get on the road for our two month road trip and test run of the #vanlife.
So we've just left our hometown, we are probably 45 minutes away. I'm just beginning to relax and cool off, and get excited for the 2 months ahead of us. We were going all around the country! It was gunna be awesome.
I'm driving and thinking of other things, when I hear the sound you never want to hear coming from your van.
First it was a PLINK THUNK.
"What was that?" Michael asks me.
"I don't know! Was that us? Do you think we should pull over?" I begin to brake and before Michael can answer, we both hear the grinding crunching smashing sound that means metal is coming into contact with other metal in a way it was not meant to.
"Oh my god is that us???" I'm trying to slow down and pull off the freeway and I keep hearing that grinding crunching sound. It sounds like heavy machinery gone wrong, it sounds like a tractor running over a shed of tools, it sounds like my hopes and dreams being smashed.
We limp off the freeway and into the parking lot of the nearest Starbucks. I am doing my best to remain calm.
I am not doing very well.
"What is that sound babe? What happened? Do you see anything? What's it look like under there?"
Michael is looking under the front tire where we think the sound is coming from.
"Can you see anything? What's wrong? Oh my god this is my nightmare. What if something is really wrong?!"
Michael is now looking at the other tire just to be safe. I'm sticking my head under the van too, although I don't know what I'm looking for.
"Should I call Allstate? Do we need to get towed? What do we do? How can I help? Am I helping?"
I am not helping it turns out.
We move ourselves in to the Starbucks and I do my best to breathe while calling roadside assistance. They'll be here in 45-60 minutes, I just need to sit and chill. While this is all happening, I'm texting a friend from home and freaking out through text while I attempt to keep up my calm exterior. Michael gets me a coffee.
Me: 'Vans going to die. Some horrible crunching, breaking sound is coming from the front right tire.'
Amanda: 'Shit are you ok?'
Me: 'Yeah it wasn't a crash, just the sound of $16k washing down the drain. And we're only 45 minutes in to this trip.'
Amanda: 'Wait, where are you?'
Amanda: 'Hold on.'
I hold. A few minutes pass, the Allstate people call me 4 or 5 times to get more information about my vehicle. The 5th time they call to tell me the roadside towing has been cancelled and I'll need to call again with my policy number. Michaels patience has completely run out at this point so I'm squinting at the tiny numbers on my ID card and shouting at the poor woman from the call center. My coffee is getting cold.
My phones blinging at me.
Amanda: 'Hey so Linus works in Freemont and he just got off work. He's going to come rescue you!'
Me: 'What? Thats amazing! Does he know cars?'
Amanda: 'Yes. Yes he does.'
Linus, it should be noted, is one of those guys who looks like he was born in the wrong era. He dresses in tan or beige three piece suits, bow ties adorn his neck, his shoes are always leather and usually lace up oxfords. He drives cars that are at least 50 years old at all times and carries a pocket watch. His beard is trimmed with antique silver clippers and a straight razor and he always has a mustache comb. He somehow manages to wear all of this and not look corny, on him it's natural and eye catching. Instead of looking silly, he makes others look underdressed, as if they were the ones wearing out-of-style clothes and not him.
He's the only man I've ever seen who can pull off overalls in a semi-casual setting.
Anyway, today our salvation comes to us on the back of a 1930 Lincoln. Sleeves rolled up at the elbows and suspenders fully engaged, Linus shows up at Starbucks and promptly sticks his head under the van.
After a few seconds he pops back up.
"Yeah so I know what's wrong with your van. The brake caliper bolt has fallen off, we just need to get you a new one and we can install it in 5 minutes."
We act swiftly.
The rest of the story isn't the interesting part. We drive to a Mercedes dealership, we buy the $4 part from the woman at the front desk prompting Michael to ask if they've ever sold anything this cheap at her dealership before, she does not smile. We drive back to Starbucks and install the bolt, it takes a few minutes and then just for good measure, we tighten all the bolts on the rest of the brake calipers.
The story isn't interesting because of what happened in it, the story is interesting because of the timing. I've been working towards the #vanlife for years now. I'd been saving up all my money, researching for years, building out the van for months, finding every which way to pack my clothes, strap things down, make it lighter, make it faster, more efficient, more comfortable, more roomy...
At this point, I had been putting all the spare energy I had into making my life the #vanlife, and I was terrified that something, anything would go wrong. Things had mostly gone smoothly, there had been no lengthy set backs, no unexpected financial burdens that kept us from continuing with our work, no break-ins. I was just waiting for the universe to smack me down.
Everything was too good to be true.
45 minutes out on the trip, the van breaks down. What does that mean for me? What does that mean for my plans? In that moment I realized that nothing was going to keep me from doing what I wanted to do.
If we hadn't been saved by a man in a flat cap and trousers, we could have gotten towed to a mechanic, we would have paid the money because we needed to get out on the road. There is nothing in our way except our own determination to succeed.
Breaking down 45 minutes away from home was a jolt of reality, but it was also a 'Calm down!' from the universe. Take your time, allow things to happen and let go of your need to control. We broke down again 5,000 miles away from our initial breakdown, but this time I knew it was going to be ok. Minor set backs mean you get to enjoy the moment, it means you have a good story to tell, it means you are on an adventure.
And things are not supposed to go as planned on an adventure.