Friday, January 9, 2009

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

We arrived in Big Bend, after running out of gas, on the leading edge of an arctic front. The wind was blustery and cold. As the twilight turned to darkness, we added layer after layer to fight off the plummeting temperature - a condition aggravated by the wind. But by mornings light the wind had calmed and the outlook for the trip promising. We drove out Dagger's Flat onto the Old Ore Road into a portion of the park into which we'd never been. The park is over 1200 square miles of deep dark Texas and there are parts that I'd be confident in saying have never seen hide nor hair of man. It is a desert wilderness of remarkable diversity and beauty. Our perspective offered us a distant view of the Chisos Mountains where a bit of snow was expected. 
With a pleasant addition of home brewed coffee - via a Coleman stovetop coffee maker - and a strawberry pop-tart or two, we were afoot to the nearest tall mountain for a look-see. 
Chris is the personification of Indiana Jones with a smidgin of OCD. Alex is "Dennis the Menace." I am Obi-Wan -and for two days we poked around the twenty five miles of Old Ore Road exploring between campsites and hiking nearby mountains. On the third minute of the third hour of the third day - somewhere in the world or, after we woke up - I turned the ignition key of my dependable truck in the drive through of a small store in Boquillas on the Rio Grande River and not a darn thing happened. I could not have been farther away from a parts store than I was at that moment.  Hmmmm - I thought to myself, I hope this is easy. 
If nothing else, I have a positive attitude and a hankering for problem solving. With a bit of direction from a mechanic back home and through the analytical process I learned from my dad - we narrowed down the problem to three things - the ignition switch was broken, the ignition module had failed or the starter had quit. After re-booting the ignition computer - we eliminated that possibility. We didn't really need the ignition switch and so to make a long story short - we jumped the starter solenoid from underneath and re-started the engine. We used a piece of aluminum wire we found in the parking lot which we fashion into a makeshift fork with Chris's trusty Leather-man Titanium plier, knife, file, fish scaler thing. The store clerk looked at us as if we were some sort of miracle workers - never before having seen anyone resurrect their car with such determination. He said something like, "I guess you'll be heading home". "Hell nah" I said. "We got it figured out. We came here to go camping and we can get by with a screwdriver from here on out." With a couple of wild chuckles, I turned to the back seat where Alex was sitting and told him "that's why it's so important to know a little bit about everything and that if you are determined enough to be successful, you will be." We drove into Pine Canyon for our last two days. At 9am on the fourth day, I started my truck with my screwdriver and we drove straight home. 

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