“You know what I’d like to do?”
Reggie and Bridget perk up and eye me curiously.
“I’d like to take a ride to Patagonia. Look at the town, buy some groceries, wander around, maybe eat lunch in a park. It’s another beautiful day. C’mon, let’s go!”
Soon the crew and I rumble out of our campsite in the Perfect Tow Vehicle.
Before leaving Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, five miles north of Sonoita, Arizona, we ride over to Empire Ranch Headquarters.
I fill up several one-gallon containers and load them into the PTV.
Good! Now we have plenty of water. Funny how obtaining water gives me such a happy feeling. Never when I turned on the faucet in my house in Georgia did I exclaim, “Yay! I’ve got water!” I didn’t even think about it.
I slide behind the wheel of the PTV.
“Okay, guys. We’re off to Patagonia!”
I turn the ignition key.
Nothing. Dead. I turn it again. More dead.
Oh, boy. This is not good. The battery is practically brand new and I know the connections are secure.
I get out and lift the hood anyway.
While examining the engine (as if I know anything about auto mechanics!), I discover shredded tissue paper behind the coolant reservoir.
Oh no, I hope this isn’t an electrical problem from rodents chewing wires. Well, maybe it’s the starter. I’d rather it be the starter.
As I’m pulling out shredded paper, I hear a young man’s voice.
“Got a problem?” he calls out.
I look up. A man in his twenties is walking toward his van, having come out of one of the buildings. His is the only other vehicle in the parking lot. Nobody else is anywhere near here.
“Yep. I sure do.”
“Wanna’ jump start?”
“Yes, that would be great!”
He climbs into his van and drives it around to the battery side of the Perfect Tow Vehicle.
He gets out, pulling back his dreadlocks and securing them into a ponytail. As he’s hooking up the jumper cables, I remark, “It’s awfully nice of you to do this for me.”
He looks up with a bit of a smile and says, “Always happy to help a fellow traveler.”
He starts his engine and revs it. I turn the PTV’s key and . . . nothing. Nada.
Well, that’s that. I guess I’ll have to call emergency road service. Darn. This started out as such a nice day.
Instead he puts away his jumper cables and appears with a screwdriver.
“Make sure it’s in Park and turn the key like it is when it’s running,” he instructs. “And put on the emergency brake.”
“Okay, done,” I respond from the driver’s seat.
What is this guy gonna’ do? He’s crawling under . . . . ?
In less than a minute, the PTV’s engine comes to life!
Oh, how wonderful to hear her purring again!
The young man’s head pops up.
He smiles through the open passenger window, past Reggie’s head.
“It’s the solenoid on your starter,” he reports.
I’m still in shock. “You’re kidding me. You got it started.”
“The solenoid is like a plunger,” he explains. “It gets gunked up. All I did was touch it with the screw driver. Go to an auto repair place. They’re gonna’ want to replace the starter which will cost you about three hundred dollars. Mostly for the part. The labor isn’t much.”
“This is great! Thank you so much!”
He comes around to my side of the PTV.
“My name is Kyle, by the way.”
“I’m Sue. Thank you, Kyle.” We shake hands. “Where you from?”
“Tucson. I had some time and thought I’d check out Gardner Canyon.”
“I was just over there!”
We talk. I explain how I live, traveling, camping for free on public land, and he says that’s what he wants to do.
“This repair cost doesn’t bother me,” I point out, “because, to me, it’s rent.”
“Yeah, it’s the cost of traveling,” he adds.
I mention my blog and ask if it’s okay that I write about this.
“I’ll refer to you as Kyle from Tucson, okay?”
As we’re talking — me in the PTV’s driver’s seat and Kyle standing in the open door — I lean over and pull a twenty out of my purse. I place it in Kyle’s hand and before he can shy away, I say firmly in a this-is-the-way-it’s-gonna-be voice,
“Take this, Kyle. Don’t be proud. You saved me today and I appreciate it.”
I thank him again. He wishes me safe travels and returns to his van.
“Enjoy Gardner Canyon!”
Well, there he goes. Gosh, nobody around and he walks up at the exact moment I need help. I didn’t even have to ask. Always happy to help a fellow traveler, he said. What a kind and gentle soul . . . .
The sound of the PTV’s engine is as glorious as any song angels might sing. I sit with arms folded on the steering wheel, listening until the stares of two sets of eyes break through my reverie.
“Change of plans, crew.”
I pull the seat belt from behind my shoulder and click it into place.
“We’re going to Sierra Vista!”
POSTSCRIPT: The crew and I ride 35 miles to Sierra Vista (without stopping) and find an auto repair shop. The PTV receives a new starter. $209 for the part; $68 for labor; $19.39 shop supplies; $3 hazardous materials. Tax: $17.93 Total repair: $317.32
~ ~ ~
To my fellow Christians, may your joy in the Easter miracle be renewed this weekend.
To all my readers, whatever your faith, wherever you are, wherever you go, may you encounter angels along your path.