Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Breakdown in Solola: (4) Abandon the Terracan

(Me and the Terracan...
on a brighter day that seemed a lifetime away.)
I could hear my breathing in that moment. I watched the bus sliding closer... I could hear and sense the on oncoming truck screeching around the bend towards us in the other lane, his tires also locked up trying to avoid us and the bus... I remember the look on the bus driver's face as he went by, missing us with a final jerk of the wheel and mere inches. As he passed by, our entire vehicle shuddered with the force of the near miss. My own body gave an involuntary shiver. My back was soaked in sweat. Somehow 3 vehicles passed on a narrow two lane road cut out in the mountain.

But it didn't happen just once... I lost track of the times that a bus or truck would come full force around that bend to see our large SUV motionless, blocking the lane. Blasting horns and shaken fists swerved by us. Each and every time I was sure that we would be hit. I remember looking at Kellie and saying, "I NEED SOME OPTIONS HERE."

I thought of Edgar, our friend who was nearly 3 hours away. He was the closest help I could think of... and so I began sending him a text. He responded and together we were desperately trying to brainstorm a way out of this problem.

Edgar said he was very worried for us. He said "hold tight, I will have to call you back. I don't know what we can do." I sat in stunned shock as he ended the call. He said this was bad. I had never before heard Edgar say something was bad. He is the man that I pour out my problems to and he replies, "ah, it is no problem."  Tires continued to scream past us while their drivers smashed on the horns. 

Somehow knowing that Edgar recognized this as a serious problem caused me to drop into a whole new mindset. It seemed almost primal.

This was survival time. The decisions we were about to make would determine whether or not we made it back to our home in San Lucas... I wondered if I would ever tell this story, or if I did, what type of ending would it have?

While we sat there, a small explosion came from the front of our vehicle and vapor began to rise all up from both sides and the front. I wanted to laugh with the madness of the moment. I was terrified that the engine might explode, but I just sat there, feeling like I was done. I had nothing left.

My mother in law, Sharon said it looked like smoke, and suddenly everyone was near panic.  I checked the mirror for traffic, waited until it was clear, opened the door and lunged out. I ran to the front and crawled down on all fours to look up into the engine. There was fluid spraying on the engine block. It was just steam, not fire. I dodged oncoming cars and jumped back into the driver seat, telling them it wasn't a fire.

Suddenly my phone beeped at me. The battery was about to die. You have got to be kidding me! No... this was my only lifeline. I jumped back into the Terracan, I frantically took out my phone and began to type on my Viber app a message... but it just kept processing, I never got a confirmation that it sent. And so I began to text him...

I was sitting there in that moment wrestling with thoughts... if we stayed in the vehicle, we would likely be hit. If we abandoned the vehicle and took off on foot, we would be exposed and easy targets of crime... and there was no doubt that the Terracan would be stolen.

I resisted the idea of losing our vehicle. This was the car that we held a benefit concert to get. Our friends and family had all dug deep in their hearts and wallets to help us raise $9500 through  donations and a concert. If we lost it, I knew we could not replace it.

But then I thought of our family sitting in that car on a blind corner on a steep mountain pass. Right at that moment another bus came screeching by and again we were nearly hit... nearly driven into that stone wall. Suddenly my priorities properly aligned. I no longer cared about that hunk of metal. I cared that my family get through this night.

I again began typing the words to Edgar. "We are abandoning the vehicle. Heading out on foot to Solola." I hit send, the phone again beeped, vibrated, and died. The screen went black and the power button was useless.

Putting the dead phone in my pocket I told everyone to grab their backpacks and carry anything they want to keep. Whatever we leave behind is lost. I grabbed our passport copies, our insurance card, the car title, my laptop, and Remus the dog. We had to wait until we had a clearing in traffic... and then rush out and slam the doors.

At Sharon's advice, I had ran back into the Terracan, inserted the key, and shifted it into neutral. There was an indentation in the wall where I could roll the vehicle back and get some clearance from the road. With no power steering or breaks, and with fluid spraying from the engine... it was difficult, but we got it done. 

The car was no mostly out of the road... but we still couldn't stay here. We were attracting the wrong kind of attention. Cars were starting to stop and people were staring at us in groups. We were an easy target. Americans with smart phones, money, a vehicle, and a little rich dog... come and get it. We had no other choice but to make a go of it on foot.

This was it. We were alone. Walking down the side of a mountain in the dark with trucks and busses roaring past us with inches to spare. My car was sitting on the side of the road with steam blasting out from the hood. I knew I would never see it again.

I told my family, "we'll just walk down the hill back into the city. Let's find a place to sit down and have dinner. We'll look for a hotel or place to stay. Edgar will come for us in the morning." I tried to sound light hearted and give a smile, but I think I likely just looked insane.

They all looked at me like I had lost my mind. But there was no other option. We silently began walking down the mountain.  Behind me I could hear cars swerving around our vehicle and I listened to voices as words were shouted I could not understand. 

This might be the moment when I learn how real my faith is to me. I wondered how I might face the various nasty possibilities that ran through my mind. I would not go down easy. I stiffened my shoulders and tried my best to look confident and casual. 

For the first time I came face to face with the reality that this was not going to end well. I cried out to God in that moment... I need YOU! I have NOTHING. I am OUT of answers. I need you. I need you. No matter what happens, I am yours... but I need you. I thought of Job. I thought of the disciples who suffered. I remembered that we are not promised safety.

And then...

...from my pocket I heard the theme song to X-Files. My ring-tone. I was getting a call from the dead cell phone in my pocket. I stopped completely still in sheer disbelief. I had watched that phone die. I had tried to turn it back on. It was dead. DEAD.

And now... it was ringing.

(continue the story here Breakdown in Solola: (5) My Papaw's Knife)

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