The famous Red Hot Chilli Peppers song talks about a California that has lost the meaning of life. We lost the meaning of our trip while driving in the state for different reasons, so forgive us for using the song’s title arbitrarily.
text and photography: Akis Temperidis
I admit that May and June have so far been the most exciting months, at least from the moment we stepped on American soil. They have definitely been the most photogenic. But July was much different from the first to the last day. Evil eye? We could believe in it after all the happened in thirty days.
First, we contracted Covid-19 and were all sick for the first week of the month. We don’t know where, we were somewhere between Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks. We still felt sick the second week and till the first days of August we were not 100% fit yet. We still feel lucky the symptoms were realtively mild, something like a persistent flu – especially Anastasia. We believe this is a persistent illness more than anything, bringing a variety of different symptoms to each of us.
The week we were still tested positive and tried to stay away from other people, our Iveco started presenting some technical issues. In Idaho, we had to stop on the road one day to fix a turbo tube that was off and since then we were uneasy because of the oil that was spread on the engine surface. It proved to be a minor problem after a visit at a local workshop, where we were assured that the turbo was healthy. But when you travel for so long the smallest issue starts polaying mind games with you.
Another moment we lost power and I was sure that the turbo went off, but it was only the gas pedal cable that broke as soon as we entered California from Oregon. We stayed on the roadside inside the Redwood state park, with all those giants at the backdrop and we had to drive without gas pedal to Crescent City at 5-10 mph. And when we locally fixed the cable and hit the US1 to San Francisco, we started having brake servo issues. As a result, we drove to SF practically with no brakes (with 20% brakes to be precise).
All these issues create a nice travel story after everything is past, but they overwhelm you when you experience them. I have written again that since this trip is our whole life and given that all this life depends on a single vehicle, when it happens that it faces a problem, we all get sick, we lose all our positive energy for adventure, exploration, photography and life.
This is not just a psychological issue but a practical problem more than anything. And financial. In case we have a serioud technical issue and the Iveco must stay for long in a workshop, where do we stay instead? In a hotel? If this happens to be in a developed country in the US, a week in a hotel can destroy our monthly budget. and what happens of we have a serious engine issue? The budget for fixing it can be prohibitive, so it can bring our whole project to a complete stop.
These thoughts are always well hidden in the subconscious and surface every time we have a technical issue on the road, even a minor one. The day we were going to Yosemite national park, looking for a local workshop and a skilled and well intended mechanic to look for the brakes, we had different highs and lows. First we found a decent guy who cared and tried to fix the brakes and get us back on the road. Second, he made a mistake and 2 miles after we left his place, the brake calipers got stuck on the discs and on our effort to get back in time, we did it with our brakes in fumes.
Those moments, when I was pushing hard to keep the Iveco mooving and people were getting on the road shouting “fire, fire!”, I couldn’t keep my temper and and started shouting and cursing like a lunatic! “I will crash it right here, I will leave it as it is and go back home”! It was a low point that made me feel I was on the absolute limit. I felt I would never stand a more serious technical issue, like the engine block we had in Sumatra, back in 2008.
I admit that growing up, and after so many years on the road, I want no more technical issues, since we have serviced perfectly and driven carefully our vehicle. I am 55 and the last think I want in my life is stopping at the roadside and getting under the vehicle to fix something to keep going. I am not a mechanic and I will never be one, I am sorry. If you think that this approach is wrong, probably you are right. When you live on four wheels, you must be ready that one of them might break one day. I admit that sometimes, I am not ready for this any more.
But every problem has a solution and now that I am looking back to those issues from last July from the safe distance of Baja California, I feel recharged and readfy to face whateven happens. It’s a matter of farique in the end. Body and mind fatique. When this gets overwhelming, you simply become a loser. A lame duck.
After all those turbo, cable and brakes issues we had last month, one thing is sure from now on. Whatever happens, we will keep travelling. Even it the Iveco betrays us one day – something that hasn’t done so far, despite certaine issues. We will continue even on foot with a backpack only._AT.