Thursday 18th May – Bang! Whack, Whack, Whack, Whack, Whack!!!!

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I woke pretty early thanks to the sun reflecting brightly off the snow/ice mix that covered the ground. I was definitely happy to have been inside a metal box overnight instead of a canvas tent. Pete was already up and making coffee by the fire so after making myself some oats, I joined him. I was still coughing my guts up, my cold obviously not appreciating the turmoil I’d put it through yesterday and reacting appropriately. My oats went down well as me and Pete chatted about life and travel.

I was keen to escape the cold, so as the fire dwindled, I heated my hands for the last time over the small flames, then bid Pete ado, thanking him again for the stay last night that made my hike possible. Not only did I want to get out of the cold, I was apprehensive to get my tyres fixed. With an egg-shaped tyre on the front and a nearly shredded tyre as a spare, I wasn’t too comfortable being fifty miles from the nearest town. I wobbled out of camp and turned away from the biggest hole in the ground.

The snow had reached nearly all the way to Fredonia and made the drive out very pretty. All the trees had a thin layer of snow on them and since it was fresh, nothing had turned into a slushy mess yet. I drove paying a lot of attention to the feel of the car, trying to detect any changes in the vibration that were coming from the front end. I was also looking forward to being back in service. After a few days out of contact with friends and family, I was keen to be back in touch with people I love. After turning onto the highway, I came over a rise and the phone went mental with bings and dings, filling me with love. I resisted the temptation to look at anything and kept my eyes on the road.

About 15 miles out of Fredonia, the inevitable happened. BANG! Whack, Whack, Whack, Whack, Whack!!!! My front left tyre had blown up. A quick glance in the rear view mirror as I slowed down revealed a huge piece of rubber flying off. My brakes locked up as I pulled up and the noise was terrible so I assumed I was driving on my rim. I managed to stop just beyond a dirt road. I got out to have a look and the carcass of the tyre still had air in it but a lot of the tread had gone bye-bye. That meant it was good enough to drive off the road and onto the dirt where I could change the tyre. Shit!

I levelled up and took forever to jack up the car thanks to the rough ground, but eventually got there and took the destroyed tyre off. Serves me right for buying a second hand jobbie for $30 from a random shop. Not feeling too happy about it, I put the near-shredded tyre on the front as a spare and Googled the closest tyre shop. I had to get to Kanab which was about 20 miles away. I got going and turned the music down, willing the Astro to make it. I stopped at two tyre shops I saw on the way but didn’t get a good feeling so carried on into Kanab.

When I pulled into Best Tyre and Wheel, I was relieved. I’d made it, by the skin of my teeth! I spoke to Shannon inside and he said he didn’t have any tyres on hand but that he could order them to be in the next day. It seemed like that was the best I was going to get and I didn’t mind spending a day in Kanab. After a quick look at the car, we determined that a full set would be needed. Most of the tyres had done 45,000 miles, which is about what you’d expect according to Shannon so I didn’t feel bad paying $110 a piece for a complete new set of boots. I asked for a wheel alignment for good measure as well, just to make sure everything was on the straight and narrow. Shannon seemed happy for the business and once I was all paid up, we got my car on the hoist. He didn’t seem to care about the insurance sign on the door leading to the workshop explaining no one should pass, letting me drive my car onto the hoist as he lined me up.

We thought we could get away with leaving the bike on the roof, but we ran out of room when he started jacking it up so I took it off and we carried on. He didn’t mind me sticking around to watch the wheel alignment, something I’d never seen done before. A good learning experience! Before we got to the wheel alignment, I was having a poke around underneath and found that two bolts holding the driver’s side idler arm on (which I’d installed) were finger loose. Whoops! I suppose that’s female tightening muscles for you! Shannon tightened them up for me with proper muscles so they won’t come loose again. It was good to catch that early, maybe my steering will feel a little tighter now.

Shannon got to work on the alignment, explaining everything to me as he was doing it. With his fancy laser fixture it was quick work and the data showed that everything looked pretty good. Always good to check. Seeing the car up on the hoist and knowing I had a day to kill, I asked if there was a parts shop in town where I could buy oil and a filter since I was overdue for an oil change and Shannon got straight on the phone, ordered the parts for me for $13 and they were soon on their way from the Napa store around the corner.

As Shannon got to work on another job, I went across the road to buy lunch and catch up on all those messages I’d received. At Honey’s Marketplace, I had just started reading through a bunch of them from Dan when he called. He was on his way back from Ocean Beach after chilling there for a week or so and surfing since he’d bought himself a second hand board off Craigslist. Being in the cold weather, I was envious of the sand, water and sun he’d been soaking up. We talked a while to catch up on the last few days of zero communication. It was good to hear his voice.

I got some lunch from the deli and took it back across the road to keep Shannon company. In the time I’d been gone, my oil and filter had arrived! After talking about doing the oil change in the carpark, Shannon was happy to let me do the change with the car still on his hoist. What?! How kind! I used his drain pain and for the first time since owning this car, I could get the filter off with my bare hands. I had the oil drained, a new filter on and new oil in within about ten minutes. I now understand how shops can offer super quick lube changes. Everything is so much easier when you have the right gear! I couldn’t believe this guy was letting me have full use of his workshop and tools!

My work done, Shannon asked if I could drive down to the servo and pick up some beer for him since he was tied to his shop. I happily obliged since he’d already done so much for me. I was back five minutes later with a dozen Clamato beers. In massive cans, this is a drink Dan had told me about that is a mix of beer with clam juice and tomato juice. I know, disgusting right? Shannon and I cracked a couple and hung out in the back room so the beers were out of sight to any potential customers. Shannon opened right up now, telling me all about life in Kanab after his life in California. It sounded like he made the most out of life and what it delivered and loved the town he lived in.

The Clamato was going straight to my head so I was keen to finish and go find a camp somewhere and crash. My body was craving rest. Beer finished, I took Shannon’s advice and drove five miles out of town to Hog Canyon where I found a sweet spot by the river where I parked up, drew my curtains and crawled into the back for a nap. I dozed in and out for a while until Mum and Dad called and woke me up. I was pretty much coming out of it anyway and I was dying to talk to them. We spoke for over an hour, catching each other up on the last few days. They’d just left Mackay, heading back west across our home country and I told them about my crazy hike and all about Shannon.

I spent the rest of the afternoon catching up with friends and family, constantly on the phone to find out what all my people were up to. I let myself get starving in the process and so when I couldn’t stand the hunger anymore, I heated up some leftovers and complemented it with an egg sandwich. Despite the late sun outside, it was still cold, so I was happy to remain couped up in the van. Just as I was climbing back in to eat my dinner, a car rolled up and honked its horn. It was Shannon! Did I mention that he’d showed me the pistol on his hip when I was back at his shop and also his giant knife that he used to cut some limes to go with our beers?! But this isn’t a drama series. He’d been out to get some cigarettes and thought he’d stop by to see if I made camp alright. I explained that I’d conked out as soon as I’d got there and he lit up and we talked a while. After I’d finished my dinner, his girlfriend texted him asking where he was so he was off and I had camp back to myself.

After dinner, I did some video editing, but it didn’t last long, I had another early night.

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