A week ago, I drove to the Santa Cruz, CA area to visit old friends. It has been fourteen years since I left there to move to Mexico, and when I spent the night with my friends Linda and Steve, they invited my other good friends Dan (pictured above) and Laurie to come for dinner. When we fell to comparing our present physical ills, as old farts like us are prone to do, I admitted that over the past year I have experienced a number of anxiety attacks when I go to bed, mainly centered around fears that I will soon stop being able to breathe. When I told Dan about these attacks, he said that he, too, had been having them for a long time but that he’d found a cure–that cure being Bob’s rope. The story goes like this.
About twenty years before, Dan and Laurie had decided to drive down to Baja and asked my husband Bob and me to accompany them. We took two cars because they had to come back before us as Laurie didn’t want to leave her elderly aunt for too long. Dan said he had felt terrible anxiety before the trip. What if their car broke down? With no big towns in Baja, what would they do? Nonetheless, we went, and on our second day of driving, we fell behind them a mile or two. We were nearing the crest of a big hill when we suddenly saw a big engine part lying in the road. We swerved around it and as we passed over the summit, we spied Dan and Laurie’s car down below at the bottom of the hill. We thought they were waiting for us to catch up, but then saw Dan get out of the car and wave us down.
Part of the engine had fallen out of their van! We went back to pick it up and discovered that it was the universal joint or some part of the engine that contained the universal joint, which is a vital part of the engine, or so I was told. Dan was sputtering a bit, but Bob just went to the back of our Blazer and pulled out this colossal hemp rope…maybe twenty feet long and about two or three inches thick. This he tied to our trailer hitch and to the chassis of Dan and Laurie’s van. We then towed them about 20 miles until we found a tiny “town” consisting of a small gas station. We pulled in and Dan, who knew more Spanish than we did at the time, (we knew none) asked the station man where the next garage might be. There were a sum total of three little houses in the town that we could see, and the man pointed to one across the road and said we should go see Jose.
Jose had about 5 old cars parked in his yard and when he inspected the part we’d retrieved from the center of the road, he said he’d see what he could do. He scrounged around in the various cars and came up with a part which he promptly dropped in the dirt, at which point all the bearings dropped out onto the ground, rolling every which way and burying themselves under powdery dirt and sparse grass clumps. He laboriously scavenged, picking bearings out and cleaning them off on his shirt before dropping them into wherever bearings go. He worked for a half hour or so–maybe longer.
This part of the story I didn’t witness as Laurie and I were across the street in the shade of the service station eating the best tamales I’ve ever had in my life. We’d purchased them from a little woman who had a stand by the side of the road. They were incredible in that every single bite tasted different from every other bite. She had put everything into them: pork, pineapple, cheese, mild chilis. Each bite was a totally new tamale experience and the masa was moist and light and wonderful. I was thinking that it was worth Dan’s U-joint just to get to eat these tamales! We thought we should buy some for Dan and Bob, but as time wore on, we ended up eating theirs as well. Only so much can be expected of girls marooned in the heat with only the shade of a forlorn little gas station for comfort.
At any rate, I’m sure we bought more tamales for the male members of our expedition and eventually, they drove up in Dan’s van. As they (probably) ate their tamales, Dan spoke in wonder of the fact that Jose had somehow been able to gerrymander the part from the pieces of the different cars–none of which were vans or even the make of his van. And, when he asked how much he owed them, they said, “Oh, 150 pesos!!!” This at the time was about $15. He said he would have paid more but alas, that happened to be all the cash he had on him and I’d spent all our money on tamales and gas.
So it was that we went on to a few more days’ adventures before they headed north again and we continued to Mulege and points south, took the ferry over to Guaymas on the mainland of Mexico and drove up the coast and back home. Later, Dan reported to us that he’d stopped by to see Jose on the way back up to California and left him with a couple of cases of beer and a bit more money, which he felt he had certainly earned, even though he had not commanded a higher price.
A happy Dan drove his van home and for 6 months it performed perfectly; but he started worrying about it and thinking it was bound to eventually give him problems, so he went to the authorized garage of whatever make his van was and had them order the correct U-joint and install it. Afterwards, he had had nothing but trouble with the van and they ended up trading it in. He admitted then that he never should have meddled with the perfection of Jose’s repair job.
Now, he said, every time he felt anxiety, he thought of Bob’s rope and it would calm his fears and remind him that things worked out because they had to and that there was really nothing to be so anxious about that it kept him from doing what he wanted to do. When Bob died and I moved to Mexico, I asked them what they would like to have from our house to remember us by and Dan quickly requested the rope! He’s had it ever since. They now split their time between their house in Boulder Creek, CA and a house near the southern tip of Baja and every trip they’ve taken down, they have carried that rope in the trunk of their car. Dan still suffers night anxiety attacks as I do but he said when he does he thinks of Bob’s rope coiled in the trunk of his car and that calms him.
That is the story of Bob’s rope–how it came to have such importance in Dan’s life and how it has come to have a potential for comfort in my life as well.
Laurie seems to have life whipped.
The Prompt: Tell us about a journey you have taken, either physically or emotionally.