Three and a half hours of sleep is never enough, but somehow that has become our norm. The alarms went off, we rolled off the couch, waved goodbye to Cameron going to work, and began our day of work on the truck. Although this has been our life for the past two weeks, today was different.
Last night Cameron wished us an emotional goodbye because today Jordan and I are off to San Diego to begin the expedition. Most of the day was spent cleaning up what had quickly become a headquarters filled with boxes and gear for the trip. We loaded the truck and set off to southern California leaving a little bit after 4:00pm. We drove through Silicon Valley one last time and were planning on arriving in San Diego shortly after midnight.
We made our first pitstop to change a brake light and got back on the road half an hour later. Around Bakersfield we stopped for a short bathroom break at a gas station that smelt less like the fuel it sold, and more like the thousands of surrounding cows. Jumping back in the truck we turned the key to hit the road, but nothing happened; the engine didn’t turn over, no lights were on, and both of us panicking was the only sound to drown out the deafening silence. We started to frantically attempt to flag down the occasional car to try to jump the engine. After half an hour, we finally found a car to try to jump the truck – it didn’t work. We waited another hour and bribed a cherry man named Alonso with free ice cream to try to again. This time it did work and we were back on the road.
Very uneasy about the state of our vehicle we pledged to get to San Diego without stopping. Unfortunately, three major highways going through Los Angeles were closed for late-night construction, forcing us to take small city streets to get back on the right track. We ended up pulling into San Diego while the sun was rising at 6am, two hours before our news interview.
We crashed at a friend's house for an hour and put our best faces forward for our first appearance on Channel 6 news. The broadcast went well, and after meeting up with the National Geographic team were back on the road and on our way to our first test event at the San Diego Botanic Gardens.
The event was a hit! Everyone loved the free Ice Cream, the kids came up with amazing ways to conserve places that they had explored and drew beautiful pictures. Interacting with these kids was both energizing, and tiring at the same time. Jordan and I were able to stay excited and engaged with no food and one hour of sleep.
As the event ended, we hopped inside the truck as the kids sadly wished us goodbye. The truck, however, had different plans. It once again would not start, and this time in front of a crowd of people who were after free Ice Cream. As I called a tow truck, Jordan managed to keep his wits about as he talked to people about our expedition and scooped ice cream for everyone. Eventually the tow truck showed up and with his mechanical knowledge the driver identified what might be the problem. Still, we needed a tow and after a bigger tow truck came, we were rolling in to Scott’s Automotive.
Immediately it was clear that we were in the right place. Scott was in his sixties, and worked with his son, and grandsons. On the weekdays they joyously fix cars as a family, helping and joking with one another as they work. On the weekends, they race two hot rods that they modify all week long. Even while being exhausted and dejected from our mechanical failures, I couldn't help but feeling that this is what the trip is about as I saw Scott living a fulfilled life as he worked with his family. He would laugh with incoming costumers while chatting about their lives, and was equally pleased when getting to the bottom of their mechanical problems.
After expertly replacing a couple of bad fusible links to our starter motor, he came out to tell us that our truck was ready, once again, to hit the road. We gave the shop ice cream and chatted about our trip. He then told us that he wasn’t going to accept any money for the work that he had done and sent us on our way. After all the frustration of the truck break down, we were stunned at what an impact good people can make and can't wait to meet more people like this on the road.