Saying a fond farewell to Ann and Dick, we headed north from South Padre Island to San Antonio. We planned to spend two nights so we could visit the Alamo and River Walk on our day of not-driving. The trip was uneventful and we were settled in to a KOA by mid-afternoon Nice not having to pull in to a strange place after dark.
The next day was devoted to sightseeing. Without a clue as to the significance of the date, we got to the Alamo on the 177th anniversary of the final assault; the place was packed with a three hour line to get into the mission building so we just roamed around the grounds and visited the museum in the Long Barracks.
Then we strolled a few blocks to River Walk, a collection of shops and restaurants set on the banks of the San Antonio River. It’s about five miles of riverside promenade set one story beneath ground level. We had a delicious lunch at a restaurant that was more Mexican than Tex-Mex.
The next morning (3/7) we left for Fort Stockton Texas, step 2 in our route to Las Vegas. Nan and I both saw a white buffalo calf grazing in a field alongside the highway, an unusual sight.
McGregor is starting to get more comfortable with being on the road. He’s gone from hiding and yowling piteously to hopping up on the dashboard and reposing in the sun as we barrel down the highway. But mostly he just snoozes in his cat donut.
We made good time until we pulled into a Love’s Travel Stop. There were plenty of open fuel lanes. However, all the lanes except the rightmost were labeled DEF, for Diesel Exhaust Fluid, a mixture of 32.5% high purity urea and 67.5% deionized water. Yes, apparently DEF is actually 32.5% high quality piss, presumably synthesized without the involvement of kidneys. You’re probably more familiar with other people’s urea than you think. It’s also used as:
A flavor-enhancing additive for cigarettes.
A browning agent in factory-produced pretzels.
An ingredient in some skin cream, moisturizers, and hair conditioners.
An ingredient in many tooth whitening products.
An ingredient in dish soap.
All hopefully produced sans-kidneys.
We’ve learned we can’t use DEF in the Edmund and were surprised that almost all of the lanes were apparently dedicated to it. We pulled into the rightmost lane and discovered it wasn’t actually a lane but a pass-through. I tried to pull all the way through but the turn was too tight and I scraped the Edmund’s water bay door on the cement divider and came to a stop, not knowing what damage I’d done. Nan got out to see and told me that if I continued to pull straight forward I would pull the left rear panel off the Edmund. I got out to disconnect the Honda so I could maneuver out of this mess but the Blue Ox tow bars were torqued so much I couldn’t pull the locking pins. Nan got into the Honda to try to relieve some of the pressure on the pins but discovered the battery was dead (shades of the Honda Great Escape on the way to South Padre Island). I went to the Edmund’s basement to find a hammer but found the hand axe first, so I used the flat end to start hammering the pins, eventually working them out and no doubt startling the other Love’s patrons when they saw me wielding an axe on the tow hitch. At that point a Helpful Trucker stopped by to see if there was anything he could do. Since the battery was dead, the gearshift was locked in Park again. I managed to get the gearshift in Neutral thanks to the handy trick (gear shift release) I learned in Los Fresnos the first time the Honda battery died. We pushed the Honda back and, with Helpful Trucker’s assistance, maneuvered the Edmund away from the cement divider without further damage. The damage to the Edmund was mostly cosmetic. The damage to my self-esteem was high.
Helpful Trucker gave us yet another Class A learning experience; if the sign says DEF over the pump, both DEF and standard diesel will be available, never just DEF.
I looped the Edmund around to get it back in the pump queue. While Nan was filing the Edmund’s tank, Helpful Trucker and I tried to jump the Honda from the Edmund. No joy, just clicking. I didn’t want to hitch the Honda back up for fear the transmission would burn out since we can’t complete the pre-tow procedure without running the engine for a specific period of time. I pulled the Edmund into a parking slot while we figured out what to do with the Honda. Helpful Trucker suggested we ask the fuel desk woman if she knew of a mobile repair service we can call. Helpful Trucker then went on his way with our profuse thanks. We moved the Honda out of the way, Nan pushing while I drove, which was embarrassing for my manly man-ness, but she wasn’t comfortable operating brakes and steering with no power.
We go inside to talk to Fuel Desk Woman and she gives us the cell number of some guy named Corky. We go outside to call and manage to get through to Corky even though the connection is horrible. Corky is on his way to the doctors’ office and gives us the number of his company’s office. Neither of us has a pen and by the time I start to dial the office number we’ve both forgotten the last four digits. We get a pen and I call him back but this time the connection is so bad I can’t understand what the poor guy is saying. We go back to Fuel Desk Woman and ask her if she knows the name of Corky’s company. She doesn’t but tells us the guys down at the tire repair building will know. We go to the tire repair building and ask one of the guys there if they know the name of Corky’s company. It turns out the name of Corky’s company is Corky’s and one of Corky’s sons is on the other side of the building fixing a truck. We find Son of Corky and ask him if he can help us out once he’s finished what he’s doing. He’s reluctant because they normally only work on vehicles with batteries as big as the entire Honda. But he starts to take pity on us, warns us that his hourly labor rate is $95 and says he’ll come over and take a look at the Honda when he’s done. He also says that his dad Corky was on his way to the doctor’s office for emergency pacemaker surgery because of job-related stress. Hoping I didn’t push Corky over the edge with my phone calls, I go into the Love’s and get some food from the adjunct McDonald’s.
We’re eating our sandwiches by the Honda, which has its hood open, when a Helpful Repo Man pulls up and asks if he can help since an open hood is the international signal for car in distress. We tell him the battery’s dead, Jim. He offers to give us a jump. We tell him we’ve already tried jumping it, and not to worry, a mobile mechanic will be over to help us soon. He casts aspersions on all mobile mechanics, goes back to his truck, and returns with a shoe box-sized jump starter and says he’ll get it started. He hooks up the jump starter. I figure what’s to lose and give it a crank. It starts right away. Now we’re lusting after a Stanley 500-Amp Jump Starter. Helpful Repo Man leaves with our profuse thanks (we’re running low on profuse thanks by this point). I go tell Son of Corky sorry for winding him up but we got it started and are heading to a Wal-Mart to get a new battery. He spends five minutes giving me directions to the Kerrville Wal-Mart. “Go to exit five ninety. . . something and turn left then right at the second stoplight. . . no, maybe you should go past the second stoplight a ways and turn right, it’s kind of a tight spot for an RV. . .” and so on interminably. I thank him, only needing to hear “Kerrville” and “Wal-Mart” and we’re good with Google Maps.
We decide to split up, I’ll carry on in the Edmund in hopes of getting to the campground before dark and Nan will make the Wal-Mart run. Turns out Wal-Mart didn’t have the battery but directed her to an AutoZone where they not only had the battery but installed it for her! She caught up with me about 20 miles outside of Fort Stockton and followed me into the campground. We arrived just as it was getting dark. The wind almost knocked me off my feet when I stepped down from the Edmund. The first thing I see when we enter the office is a sign that says: When people ask me if the wind is always this bad I tell them, “No, sometimes it blows harder.”
I’m thinking we’re only going to stay at Fort Stockton one night.