In the morning it’s cold. Really cold. Maybe the coldest I’ve ever climbed out of bed to.
I jump out of the van, throw on my coats and hat, start the van and run straight up the mountain trail with Bro. I’m still a little warm from the down, and fifty feet up the trail I’m warm from the inside out. Another hundred feet later my coats and I are warm all the way through. I pause before I get tired and start gasping cold air, and Bro jumps at the opportunity to pee. It’s too cold for me to pee. We walk back down the trail slow and careful. At the bottom, the van is still cold, so we walk up again. Where the trail meets the creek the spruce are big and one has fallen across the creek. Now it’s all frozen up, the arctic version of a rain forest scene. We walk down the trail again, slow and hanging onto trees not to fall.
At the bottom I look at the van. It’s so wonderful to wake up so cold and have such warmth in just a few minutes. My attention settles on the rear tire. It’s flat. Very, very flat, and unfortunately I built my bookshelves on top of my jack and lug wrench. Oh well, there’s not a more beautiful place in the world to wait for AAA (my mom gets me a membership every year… thanks Mom!). I call AAA. An hour and a half, they say. Too cold for tire changing, they say, so they’ll tow me somewhere. That’s fine. I reach under Bro’s blanket for the water bottle and it’s already frozen solid. It thaws out nice and quick on the defroster, tho. With Bro watered and fed, I get some sausage and peas out and pop them in the 12v skillet to cook up for breakfast, and I curl up in the warm front seat, heaters blowing on me, to write in my journal and answer my phone, which is weirdly ringing off the hook.
Of course the tow truck gets there before breakfast is done. I grab breakfast, Bro, and the cash stash, and jump in the tow truck. It’s too cold for his hydraulics to work. He’s warming stuff up with torches between jumping in and out of the truck to warm up. Bro is staring at my breakfast. I growl at him and he lays down and turns his head away from it obediently.
“So,” the tow truck man is climbing back in the truck, “you living in that van?”
“Ah. Free spirit, then?” he asks.
What does that make him, an enslaved spirit?
The tire came from Sam’s Club, and he takes me there. When the van touches ground I stash Bro and my breakfast in it and go in to talk to the people. They say they’ll fix it even tho I don’t have an actual Sam’s Club card, since it did come from them. Yay! We go out and I climb in to drive it into their bay. I turn the key and nothing happens. Just clickclickclick. I have this short and this happens sometimes.
No worries, they say, they’ve got a jumpstarter. They pull it out, but it doesn’t work. They pull out their big machine, connect it to my battery, and it says “please connect battery.” They disconnect, reconnect, turn back to the machine: “please connect battery.”
The boss shrugs. “Get a jack out here and get the tire off. The battery ain’t our problem.”
A little bolt of panic runs through me. It’s cold and the van won’t start and I’m going to freeze to death in a Sam’s Club parking lot. My dad’s constant advice comes back to me: keep moving, don’t sit down, work hard, you gotta keep moving or you’ll freeze. That’s it! I’ll fill up my backpack and take to the streets of the big city. I realize this probably seems like an absurd leap, so I laugh at myself and decide to give vandwelling another chance or two before I take to a backpack.
My mom’s husband on the phone advises disconnecting the battery to charge it. I take it out and bring it into Sam’s Club. They hook it up for me, and it does work. My mom married the best mechanic.
Two hours later I’m on the road again, just in time to hit the internet coffee shop right before they close. 😀