Check Your Vitals

July 4, 2000


Two words: Big Spring. Jaren and I left Thursday morning at 4:30am from Houston expecting to travel straight through to Tucumcari, New Mexico for his family reunion. Just three hours into the trip, somewhere along the outskirts of Ft. Worth, our 86’ Lincoln began to overheat in the driveway of the bank we had stopped at. Smoke was coming out from under the hood, and when we got out of the car to see what was wrong, we saw a massive amount of antifreeze leaking down the sidewalk. There was a garage about five miles down the road so we chanced burning up the engine and took the car there. We got to Ft. Worth at about nine and we didn’t make it out of there until around three. Thirty minutes after being back on the road, the car starts to overheat again and we are forced to pull over a second time. Stranded under a bridge in some podunk town called Adina, we sweltered in the hot Texas sun, pissed off, tired, and wondering what we were going to do. We sat there for a little over an hour waiting for the car to cool so we could look under the hood and see what had happened. Back in Ft. Worth the mechanic replaced the thermostat, but told us that the car still had two more leaks. Thinking that he was just trying to rip us off, we disregarded his warning. After the car cooled off a tad bit, we pulled into the nearest gas station where we would remain for the next two and a half hours. There was actually no shade to park in this time. I sat in the car dowsing myself with cold water while Jaren made phone call after phone call coming up dry on all ends. The sign up ahead of us faithfully displayed the time and temperature outside fluctuating between 109 degrees to 111. We sat stranded, waiting for the car to cool down once again so we could take it to another nearby garage, probably the only one in town. Three vultures circled around in the sky above and I actually cracked a joke about them waiting for us. A few rain clouds began to form and I found myself trying to mentally pursue, or subliminally send messages to Mother Nature herself to let down her guard and invite the tears to flow. She wasn’t cooperating. It was now 5:30 and the garage, we were told, closed at six. With the temperature gauge still riding high, and a cavalry nowhere in sight, we finally decided to take it to the garage and ask them could they at least look at it and tell us what was wrong. Given bad directions from the locals, we located the garage down some dirt road ten minutes before closing. After telling two mechanics our situation, they told us that they were about to close and don’t open back up until Monday. Where do people get the saying “good ole’ southern hospitality” anyway? Feeling quite rejected, I went back to the car while Jaren continued to talk to them and convince them into at least glancing under the hood. I sat on the back of the car feeling like we had just stepped foot into the beginning of some horror movie – two city folks stranded because of car trouble in some backwoods town until Monday. What kind of things went on here? My ponderings were suddenly interrupted by a bolt of lightning that struck so close I could hear popping and fizzling. I swear to you, I think it hit maybe about three feet away from me. I high-tailed it into the passenger’s seat expecting more bolts to follow, but they didn’t. What did follow was a downpour of cold, refreshing rain. It was the fat kind that soaks you after only a few drops. Immediately I jumped out of the car and just stood there with my arms outstretched laughing as five other people came running out to their cars to roll up their windows. I felt like twirling around in circles and dancing but about that time, Jaren came walking out to the car with a friend of one of the mechanics. The three of us were the only ones still standing outside in the rain, and while I said my thank-you to Mother Nature, Jaren and this other guy were looking under the hood. “You don’t got no water in it,” he said. “What? But we just got it out of the shop, surely they put water in it.” “Nope.” They didn’t, and after pouring two gallons of water in it, the temperature gauge went way back down to normal. We decided to spend the night in Big Spring because we were too tired to keep going. The three and a half hour trip to Big Spring was hard enough as it was. I had been up for 24 hours so when we finally did hit Big Spring, I was actually happy to see it. That was yesterday. Today, I hate this place as much as I always have. I was awaken at eight this morning by Jaren so we could get an early start and it is now midnight and we’re still in Big Spring. This morning when we woke up and went to the car we noticed that it was still leaking antifreeze. Turns out the water pump needs to be replaced, and because of the curse of any small town, no garage is open on the weekend. Jaren went down to buy the part and is still trying to install it this very minute. We missed the family reunion but we are still planning on driving up to Santa Fe ASAP, which is the only reason I came on this trip in the first place.

Author: Lindsay Niemann

Writer | Graphic Artist