Engine rebuild (Part II)

Bandera, Texas

Note: This engine failed inside of its warranty. The builder, Randy, did not honor his warranty and we were out $5,000. I would not recommend him.

Leaving Ohio in early April is a drab affair—stick season as they say in New England about the landscape. Brown and branchy and still somewhat barren. Winter is gone, but spring isn’t quite here. The midwestern writer, Kurt Vonnegut, once called this interval “unlocking.” 

What things unlocked as we trucked southward?

Had I ever seen I-75 quite so empty? No. What few places along the road had their lights on were oddities and now seemed suspect, illicit. Does the state know that diner is open? We played classic country on the bluetooth system (another luxury of Neil’s vehicle) and we wailed along with Waylon Jennings and listened to a dozen versions of “On the Road Again.” Charlie Pride and Steve Goodman. We called David Allen Coe by his name and listened to the extra verse. When we passed through Memphis, we played all of Graceland. Miracle turned on some jazz—Bessie Smith and deep cuts of Satchmo, Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf. 

We stayed at a contactless AirBnB in Arkansas, where the weather was warm, muggy almost, where the trees were the three different shades of spring green and the grasses had the yellow chased out of them by the recent rains. We crossed in Texarkana, where George Strait once had a woman named Rosanna. 

Miracle spent a few seasons in Texas as a child, much farther west, in the browner, more desolate part of the state. “This,” she told me, gazing out the window at the green landscape, “is nothing like I remember.” We stayed in Bandera—a quintessential south Texas town outside of San Antonio that hangs its hat on being the cowboy capital of the US of A. We walked the one-lane streets of this homespun town, passing driftwood fences with dryrotted cowboy boots over each post. Antelope crossed a creek that rolled along like a deluge of glass marbles. To say it was idyllic would be an understatement. To say it was picturesque sells what pictures do short. 

Is it too much to say that I knew—walking down that Texas lane in the unlocking season of this heart of our heart—we were heading toward something big? Bigger than Texas, I told Miracle. I knew we would get married someday and I knew we’d see many more creeks, many more herds and murmurations of wildlife. We would go places. 

We drove out to Randy’s place the next morning, taking a ribbon of faded asphalt through large empty, rolling plots of land. Barb wire and chainlink fences lined the road and no trespassing signs were mounted to gates at the end of gravel drives. Plywood signs warning that the keepers of this land would shoot first and ask questions later leaned up against boulders. 

When we found the end of Randy’s driveway, I checked the address twice. Randy’s place was modest—a squat house on a large piece of property, several out buildings, including the large garage he called his workshop. 

“You must be Randy,” I said when I jumped out of the truck. 

Although no US officials had yet commented on the need or efficacy of face masks, Randy donned one made from an old t-shirt sleeve and rubberbands for earloops. 

“Can’t be too careful,” he said. “Already died once.”
“You mentioned that,” I said. 


Miracle came walking up behind me and I introduced her. 

“Your name’s Miracle?” Randy asked. 

“Yes,” she said. Then she said, “As in ‘it’s a miracle.’”

“Oh, I know all about miracles,” Randy said. Then he told us how he died once. 

One thought on “Engine rebuild (Part II)

  1. Coincidentally, or maybe not, it was another Randy who showed up outta nowhere to breathe new life into Adie and get you guys back… on the road- again.
    Somewhere in there is a story of redemption.

    Cheers, Volkswageneers!


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