After a gloriously relaxing week in the White Mountains of Arizona, playing Mexican train dominoes with friends, lunching out and sleeping in, Marika and I headed back to Phoenix early Friday morning. I left at 8:30 and she and Mabel stayed an hour longer to watch the birds in the trees.
It’s been years since I’ve driven the route from the northeastern part of the state to Phoenix. They’ve widened it to two easy lanes in each direction, separated in many places by the changing Arizona landscape. It was like a new road, a new way home.
Driving west along the 260, the sky above the Mogollon Rim was filled with going-to-be-storm clouds, fat and greying on the edges. The elevation was still above 6000 feet and I chugged up the steepest mountain passes, barely reaching 35mph as SUVs passed me going 65. Still, I was going faster than the semi-truck behind me.
I drove through Payson, a small mountain town that is now a congestion of fast food and traffic lights and housing developments. But the Beeline Café, famous for it’s pie and homestyle diner food is still there, tucked between an America’s Best Value motel and a Big O Tire.
Past town I turned south onto Highway 87, and continued my descent from the mountains to the valley. Pine trees turned to scrub oaks, green grasses morphed into golden brush as the landscape shifted from forest to desert.
I was thrilled by the patches of red earth peeking out of the rocks that lined the road, and the way the rocks looked like they had been intentionally stacked by ancient people. And then I saw the saguaros. At first there were just a few, standing like sentinels among the desert rocks. And then both sides of the road were filled with the two-armed cacti.
There was very little traffic going south on a Friday mid-morning. The sky was blue with fat white clouds and I was making good time. I got on the 202 in Mesa, drove through Tempe and South Scottsdale, past the airport in swift but not-yet congested traffic. I switched the air conditioner to MAX and smelled some kind of chemically odor, so I put it back to normal.
And then, just as I rounded the curve after 52nd St, my speed dropped from 65 to 45 mph. Pushing on the accelerator did nothing. Out loud I panicked, Where are the hazards! Where are the hazards? They weren’t on the dash like on my RAV4. I remembered the button was on the steering column and I pulled it while moving into the right lane. My speed was quickly dropping. I got a few yards past the on-ramp from the 143 and lost the power steering too.
Somehow I maneuvered the RV to the side of the road where there was just a slice of shoulder. I was just far enough beyond the on-ramp so that the merging cars could pass me without stopping traffic. And I had just enough room to open the RV door without hitting the concrete barrier.
OK, I said to Cody. We’re OK.
I opened the dinette window and the one behind the barrel chair, hoping for any kind of cross breeze. It was already 90° in the RV and now, with no cab air-conditioning, it was going to get very hot, very fast and the little portable fan wasn’t going to help much.
I called my friend Judy, who had just returned from her own camping trip and was, miraculously, available to come pick Cody up. I thought it would be less stressful for both of us if he was safe and cool, somewhere else. Then I called AAA. They said it would be an hour at the most before the long bed tow truck could get to me.
Then I called Marika. She was about 45 minutes behind me. I told her what happened, that she didn’t need to stop if she saw me, but could she could pick Cody up on her way to the house.
Then I peed, had some yogurt and cried. I kept going over what had happened, what could have happened. I was so grateful that I was able to get to a safe place without an accident.
I started to freak about what could be wrong, how much it might cost to repair, and what if I needed to come up with that new living option sooner than later.
The RV shook with each passing car. It was close to 100° now inside, but I kept drinking water, distracting myself by sharing what had happened with my Facebook friends. Several said that my angels were really taking care of me. Call it what you call it – I agree that some power bigger than me helped me to safety.
The tow truck driver called about twenty minutes later and said he was on his way. A DPS officer arrived and put up some cones to divert traffic and the tow driver, Pops, cinched my RV up on the bed of his truck while I waited in his air-conditioned cab. He towed it to Marika’s house because my usual RV mechanic retired and the new owners don’t work on motorhomes.
So, instead of living in the RV in Marika’s driveway, I moved into the room that was my office when I lived in the house. I inflated my queen-sized Aerobed and put Cody’s bed under my work table. We carried everything out of the RV refrigerator into the house fridge, brought in my single-cup coffee maker, and then Marika and I got in the pool.
The sky was overcast and darkening quickly as the storm that had followed us from the mountains was moving in. My body felt so happy in the water; loose, relaxed, completely unstressed.
What had happened with the RV was in the past. What I might need to do was in the future. But right then, in that moment, I was moving in water, the air was cool, the sun was hidden and the sky was magnificent. And Mabel and Cody were outside with us, Cody dropping his ball into the pool so I could throw it in the grass. Over and over again.
We were watching the sky for lightning and I said to Marika, “This, this is just as weighted as what happened on the freeway. It’s not better, or worse, it’s the same. To just be fully in it and experience it. Yes, I was brave and calm, I did all the right things, I got us to safety. And now I am in this amazing pool, with you, with the dogs, under this sky and it’s not even hot out.”
Every moment we live is what matters. The hard ones, the delightful ones, the boring ones and the scary ones. By not getting attached to any one moment, allowing each moment to lead to the next, that is living in the present.
Being in the NOW moment allowed me to release the worry of what I might need to do with the RV, with my life. I would deal with it on Monday or Tuesday, when places were open for business. But in that moment, the only next big question was what to do for dinner.
I could have easily stayed home and grazed, but Marika wanted Chinese food and felt like taking a drive, even in Friday dinner hour traffic. I was happy to just be a passenger as we drove to her favorite eggroll place on the far west side of town.
The streets were wet the further west we drove, and the sky was ominous. We sat in a booth by the window but there was no rain. The eggrolls were better than average but not to drive for, but it was fun to feel like we were still on vacation.
It started to drizzle on the walk back to the car and we drove home in a cool, steady rain. We sat out back under the patio cover, watching the drops bounce on the surface of the pool. Both dogs were with us and it was the perfect coming home.
The next morning, the RV started up like a dream. But there was a new hard-clicking sound in the engine. And so this week I will find a new mechanic and see what needs to be done. I am praying that it is a minor repair, and that I will be able to continue with my plan to return to the beach in the RV on September 1st.
The practice is to not get too far ahead of myself with what if’s; to stay right here, right now, embracing what is, and recognizing that I am exactly where I need to be and that all will work out as it is meant to, with grace and ease for the benefit of all.
Last night I took my first after-dark swim. There was a random breeze, barely strong enough to move the wind chimes that Marika bought to honor her mom when she passed. I played with Cody for a while, throwing his ball from the pool onto the grass, then I eased onto my back to float. The sky was dark and clear with just a few shadows of clouds in the west. I couldn’t see any stars, but I knew they were there.