19 April, 2014
Chris and I had woken up that day ready to leave Big Bend National Park. We were camped out in the bottom of a bowl of mountains surrounding us. As we started our car “The Bucket”, Chris drove up the one small road up the smallest hill. Immediately the engine began choking and back shifting. He would push down on the gas pedal and the engine would work, but the wheels wouldn’t. We immediately pulled off the road and got our phones out to call roadside assistance. No phone service… Chris and I started talking to people around us to see what our options were. It looked like we would have to hike to get service. Chris went and hiked while I attempted to see what I could do with the engine. WARNING: Chris and I have little to no knowledge about engines besides checking if there is enough motor oil… So I added a little motor oil and let the engine run while parked. It seemed to have helped as I tested it on the same small hill successfully. As soon as I felt bold to try the hill again, I picked up Chris who tried looking for advice rather than waiting a possible day for roadside assistance. We jumped into our 3 ton car ready to drive up this small, windy, and steep road for freedom! The car jumped back and forth, I felt like I was taming a wild horse. Moving about 20mph up this hill we finally made it. The rest of the way would be down hill and then flat road.
In a small celebration I let Chris take over the wheel as I pulled off one of our mountain bikes to drive down a monster of a hill. Since the RV was just rolling, Chris had no problems going down. I was following behind with my GoPro camera on my helmet as I was flying down at 40mph. It was a sunny day and the road was as free as my mind was at that moment. Re-strapping my bike in at the bottom of hill we had a 100 mile drive to our first city and our speed was capped at 45 mph before the engine would stall. We decided to stop by a hot springs along the way to ease the stressful situation of being stranded in a desert and get some happiness in for that day. We ended up making some friends coming from all around Texas including Austin and Houston. The hot spring was located right across from the Mexican border so we had to take a picture together in Mexico :)
Once we reached the later afternoon, we made our way to the nearest city 100 miles away. Going at 45 mph and below it took us almost 3 hours to get there. Arriving in Fort Stockton, we had the misfortune of arriving on Easter weekend and all mechanics were closed. We drove another 100 miles at 45 mph to Ozona who managed to change our oil filter, but couldn’t do much more until Monday or Tuesday. This did not help the engine so we finally decided to drive to our destination Austin, TX in the hopes that a big city would have more options and since it was our next surveying city. This 230 mile drive took us a mere 7 hours to complete. Driving on roads with speed limits of 75, I turned on my emergency lights at certain points to try and be less of a hazard than we already were.
We finally arrived in Austin at night and we would have to find a mechanic on Monday after Easter day. One of the friends we had made in Big Bend, Sam, contacted us to take us around the city night life. We counted our blessings to have made it into the city and enjoyed our night out. Sam let us stay at his house the next night and it was Monday morning when we were prepared to drive to the local mechanic that the RV simply wouldn’t start. I called a local mechanic after a few referrals and managed to find a shop, B&M Transmission in north west Austin, that would tow our car in and check out what the problem was for free. The manager’s name was Phillip and he turned out to be the best guy would could have asked to help us. If anyone ever has transmission or other car issues in Austin and you need a mechanic, they are great with their customers.
The car would be in the shop for the next 9 days due to a busted transmission. So the next question was.. where were we going to stay? Chris and I had the option to sleep in the RV in the mechanic’s parking lot, but we had no way to get into the city and do our survey.
Almost as if God was up there listening did an old middle school friend from Hong Kong from 10 years ago wrote me:
“I noticed y’all got towed!! (on Facebook) No bueno haha if y’all end up needing a place to stay for the night or need me to pick y’all up just holla(…)”
And sure enough, I holla’d immediately. After calling and talking to Christine, she picked us up and took us back to her and her roommate, Lisa’s, place where we had a place to stay in the middle of the University of Texas campus! The adventure in Austin had only started there as Chris and I found parties, food, philosophies, religion, music and people that would make this place one of our favorite cities and rekindle an awesome friendship with this friend from the past.
Here are some videos if you had missed them of our activities in Austin!