Rolling Into the New Year

Rolling into Bandera, Texas ~ December 10, 2020

Increasingly, traditional New Year’s resolutions seem to be falling by the wayside, supplanted by the practice of choosing a specific word as a focus for the coming weeks and months.  The words vary as much as the people choosing them, of course. ‘Kindness,’ ‘hygge,’ ‘organize,’ and ‘persist’ all have been adopted by friends in the past.

I’ve never chosen a single word to guide my year, but I may have found a song worthy of holding onto in the coming months. The story of how that song came into my life is worth a short retelling.

I’d taken a long weekend to visit the Texas hill country in seach of fall color. Not long after I rounded the curve shown in the photo above, the alternator in my car went out. I reached a shop capable of doing the repair, but learned they didn’t have the correct alternator in stock. I’d have to wait until the next day to get back on the road. Still, they promised they could have the work completed by nine or ten o’clock in the morning, and that was fine.

On the other hand, I was stuck in a town I didn’t know with nothing but my wallet, my camera, and my phone; my other possessions were tucked into the bed and breakfast where I’d been staying — thirty miles away. After a good Samaritan overheard me discussing my plight with the shop owner, he put me in touch with a woman who managed local B&Bs, and she found a spot for me only a block off Bandera’s main street.

The auto repair shop was kind enough to provide transportation to my home-for-the-night. Once settled, I walked over to Main Street, sat down in front of a still under construction Best Western, and pondered my options. I happened to have the phone number of a blogger in town, so I called and asked him for dinner recommendations. “I’m across the street from two restaurants: Gringo’s and Mi Pueblo,” I said. “Which would you chose?” Gringo’s, it would be. I picked up a meal, stopped at the Dollar Store for a toothbrush, toothpaste, lipstick, and comb, and headed back to my temporary home.

The next morning, my car was ready to go at 9 a.m. A young man from the shop picked me up, I paid my bill, and headed down the road. After collecting my belongings from the bed and breakfast where I’d been expecting to stay, I was on my way home.

Then, forty miles down the road, every light on the car’s dashboard came on. My Princess coughed, vibrated, shuddered, and stopped. This time, I managed to make it into a parking lot at a convenience store, where I began again to ponder my options.

After a quick internet search, I found another auto shop five miles down the road that was willing to do a quick diagnosis. I called AAA, and in less than two hours their driver appeared, put my car up on his truck, and headed down the road to Bulverde. When we arrived, the mechanics confirmed what two Hispanic fellows in the parking lot had feared: the original repair had been poorly done, hoses had been left unsecured, the water pump was kaput, the radiator was empty, and my overheated engine had no compression. It was, as they say, a brick. “Hey!” one of my new friends said. “You’re going to need a new engine.”

Obviously, things became complicated, quickly. The owner of the shop that performed the original repairs agreed to have the car towed back to Bandera for another attempt at repairs. Homeless in the hill country, I found a room at the Bulverde Hampton Inn, and made arrangments for a rental car. The next afternoon, Enterprise picked me up, and after one more night in Bulverde, I drove back home to begin waiting to learn when my car would be roadworthy again.

Four days later, I was back on the road to Bandera. I dropped the rental car in Kerrville, had a friend drive me to Bandera, and picked up my car. Princess had a new engine (with sixty thousand fewer miles than her old one), a new radiator, a new water pump, new hoses, and a new alternator. The shop owner not only took responsibility for the damage, he wrote a check for the cost of the rental car. As he said, “We were the last ones to work on your car, and you only made it forty miles away from the shop. Our bad.”

On my third attempt to get home, I had nearly reached Rosenburg before the warning lights came on again. No longer shy about asking for automotive advice, I pulled into a Jiffy Lube. Their opinion was that I could make it home, but that I should have Toyota check things out. When I started up again, the warning lights were off, and I had no more problems.

I reached the Toyota dealership twenty minutes before closing time, and promised not to fall apart in their lobby if they’d only give me an appointment for the week before Christmas. They did, and the diagnosis was a single bad cell in the battery: enough to cause the ‘check engine’ light to come on even though the car would start. When they explained the battery was under warranty and I’d be responsible for only half the cost of a new one, all I could do was laugh.

Which brings me back to my song for 2021. After picking up my rental car in Bulverde, I discovered it had Sirius XM. When I clicked on the band and turned up the volume, I couldn’t stop laughing. Steve Winwood’s advice seemed especially apropos, and I decided to take it. The same advice may be useful somewhere down the road, now that I’m rolling again. Perhaps it will be useful to you.


Comments always are welcome.

69 thoughts on “Rolling Into the New Year

  1. Trying times Linda … that’s a great story to read but not so great to actually experience! I adore your song and if you don’t mind I’m claiming that for my 2021 song too, it’s perfect. I hope you don’t mind sharing.

    1. Sharing’s the point, Liz. It’s such a great song, and applicable in so many situations. It certainly brought a smile when it popped up during my Great Adventure. If nothing else, I learned a good bit about auto repair in the process, and met some truly wonderful people along the way, which made a chaotic experience something to remember with pleasure.

  2. Amazing what cars can get up to. You did well to be able to tell the tale. What a great outfit the original mechanics were. They gave you a total engine rehab and all that was connected to it and paid for the rental. I suppose in smaller places they do look after customers.
    I will now listen to Steve Winwood.
    Last night on New Year’s Eve, I looked at yet another Freddie Mercury(of Queens) Doco on TV. Great watch!

    1. I don’t know this for certain, but I suspect that the repair shop is a family business. I do know that, after repairs were made, it was a family member who took the car on an extended test drive to be certain all was well. I also know that the good Samaritan who put me in touch with the bed-and-breakfast woman was the superintendent of the school system. In a small town, you never know who might show up. It’s a reminder that there are angels among us.

    1. I’m not ready to judge the garage so harshly. Mistakes were made, but they did take responsibility, and that’s what counts. In my years of working, I’ve had my own experiences of things going very, very wrong. One was an accident, one was due to product defect, and at least one was due to inattention. The question isn’t “Will something go wrong, eventually” (it will) but what’s done to rectify the situation afterwards.

  3. Wow! What a series of experiences, mostly good to balance the larger bad. Like Derrick, I am amazed that the first garage was so responsible for their irresponsibility. Maybe what happened was similar to when I assemble things…hand tighten until all is connected then tighten evenly…only they forgot the last part. I wonder if that put a strain on Princess’ battery and burnt a cell. You must have had a momentary coronary when the light came on for a third time. “Oh no! Not again.”

    “Roll with it” has been the attitude for all of 2020 and a good one to follow now that the year is in the rear view mirror…just like your automobile troubles. Generally it is always good practice and I’ve had the impression that it is your style…unflappable.
    It was nice to ring in the new year with a good story and outcome. Happy 2021, Linda!

    1. Here’s the backstory I’ve come up with to explain what happened: in their eagerness to do the job and get me back on the road in a timely manner, they just forgot to reattach everything and tighten those hose clamps. The two Hispanic guys in the parking lot did their best to put the water lines back together with a ballpoint pen and some electrical tape, but things were too far gone. I couldn’t put all the details in the post, or it would have become too long, but one of my favorite moments (in retrospect) came when those guys opened the hood and said, in unison, “Ohhhhhhhh…. Your engine? It gone, maybe.”

      Because the car was starting fine and everything seemed to be working, it wasn’t until Toyota load tested the battery that the bad cell was discovered. Whether the alternator damaged it, or whether it was already gone, is hard to say, but that problem’s taken care of now.

      Generally speaking, being able to ‘roll with it’ is a transferable skill. Despite everything, it’s worth having a chance to hone that skill from time to time.

      1. Experience is the best teacher and some of that will strengthen our rolling ability. Your premise fits with mine. Was it near quitting time? That’s quite some splint they attempted on the hose.

        I’ve noticed that you must have some guardian angel watching over you. You always seem to attract benevolence of some kind whether help with a problem like this or just the gathering of information as you travel and find things of curiosity.

        1. Experience helped me out with this one. Years of traveling solo, especially traveling overland in West Africa, honed some other transferable skills that came in useful this time, although there were restrooms available and I didn’t end up riding between crates of chickens.

          It wasn’t even close to quitting time, unless they quit at noon. No: they were attempting to work me into a full schedule, and trying to get me on the road. I suspect inattention played a role, or someone thinking that another mechanic had finished up. It’s always a simple explanation in the end.

          As for the guardian angel business? I don’t think it’s all that mysterious. I like people, I like talking to people, and I try always to approach people with respect. Most people enjoy talking about themselves, and when someone shows up with questions about their lives, good things can happen.

    1. I thought of your life on the road a time or two through all of this, not to mention your occasional times off the road. You’ve had to roll with it as much as anyone I know, so I was certain you’d enjoy the song. “On the Road Again” is a great song, but this one has a little more attitude.

    1. If there’s anything better than Winwood, it’s Winwood with Clapton and Derek Trucks. And, yes: that song would have fit perfectly a time or two, even though I wasn’t precisely wasted. It’s a good reminder that “the way home” isn’t always a road.

    1. It’s really a great story, because of all the good people I met along the way. In life, things are going to happen. It’s learning to deal with them that counts. It always helps to have a good soundtrack playing in the background.

  4. The “angels among us” made me think about various angels that popped out of nowhere when I needed help. I think if we look closely back at 2020, we can find many angels that were there to help.

    1. That’s so true. The serendipitous nature of some of my encounters during this two week adventure was especially remarkable, and my conviction about the essential goodness of people was confirmed many times over. Of course, if something is going to go wrong, having it go wrong in a small Texas town isn’t the worst thing in the world.

  5. I have a phrase written on the wallpaper image on my laptop, and on my phone:
    “I woke up this morning, and that’s more than some people did…the rest is up to me.”

    That reminds me to stay present and alive in each moment, and look for those good people who put a smile on your face, even when the check engine light comes on.

    Happy 2021, Linda!

    1. Your comment reminded me of a favorite poem, written by William Stafford. It concludes with these lines:

      “For it is important that awake people be awake,
      or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
      the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
      should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.”

      A happy — and no doubt snowy — new year to you!

    2. My favorite phrase of a similar nature has to do with being old. “It’s a privilege and a state not everyone attains.” Of course bad health and infirmity temper that.

  6. OMG, Linda! what an ordeal, or comedy of errors except no comedy. how nice that the repair shop in Bandera took full responsibility.

    I’ve never selected a word for the coming year and I rarely make resolutions but when I do I tend to follow through. if I had to pick a word for life, not just a year, it would be ‘persevere’. a glass artist friend of mine had that word on a small sign in his shop and while I never put one up myself, I adopted it into my short list of guiding ideas/ideals.

    1. It occurs to me that ‘persevere’ and ‘roll with it’ are related, though not identical. Perseverance can be a bit clenched jaw and steely eye, while rolling with it is lighter, and probably not appropriate for true crises or complicated problem solving. Still, both have their place — and I was glad to have Winwood’s lighter lyrics to lighten my mood.

  7. Wow, man they put you through the mill! Somewhere on WP you alluded to some troubles in a comment, but said you’d be writing about it, so I’ve been braced for this, but wow that’s a doozy of a trip & tribulations, and that song comes on the radio and you’re able to roll with it and laugh, talk about a trooper. I think it would’ve taken me a while to get to that point!

    Well I sure liked the part when the careless repair shop came through as honest and rebuilt the whole thing, and dropping 60k miles is something to celebrate, for sure. And so is your attitude, or outlook is maybe the right word, you’re definitely rolling through life with a great warranty of your own.

    P.S. I looked this comment over before I hit Send, and wondered about “trooper,” so before Steve pounces on me, it’s “trouper,” so I guess, take a bow, Linda! Best wishes for the new year and hope you’re enjoying your semi-new car!

    1. My first thought about ‘trooper’ was, “How did Rob know that a State Trooper stopped by?” In the second parking lot, while I was waiting for the AAA tow truck to show up, both a county sheriff and a highway patrolman stopped to check on things. Apparently a white-haired lady + a raised hood piqued their interest.

      It did turn into a rather long-drawn-out experience, but being ‘put through the mill’ suggests intentionality, and there certainly wasn’t any of that. Inattention or mistakes aren’t ill will, even if the results can be as trying. The whole episode must have been even more traumatic for the shop owner. Whether automotive shops carry insurance for such events I don’t know, but I hope he had it. Having to take a hit like that just before Christmas had to be terribly difficult; when I saw the total cost, I felt sorry for him.

      1. I’ll bet the shop owner did have insurance to cover mechanic negligence, and he had to know where he could lay his hands on an engine from a car being junked. But even if it was a $ hit, he kept his reputation intact, so better for his business in the long run.

        1. The engine is a 2015 that came out of a car that was in a collision; it was trucked over from San Antonio. I’ve got the documentation on it, and it came with a 24 month, 24K mile warranty for parts and labor, so that’s good. As for insurance, he probably does carry it. I have to carry a minimum of a million dollars in coverage just to get into the marinas where I work.

  8. Having had some real-time contact with you during the adventure, I think you did an admirable job of hanging on to your perspective and sense of humor. That really comes through in the post. Collecting experiences is fun, but let’s hope your next visit to Bandera is less eventful!

    1. As long as I don’t run into a living, breathing Bigfoot, all should be well. I do intend to make another stop at Gringo’s, though. The burrito bowl they constructed for me was not only good, it was much better than I’d expected. In retrospect, the entire experience turned out to be better than I had any right to expect.

      1. I’m glad the burrito bowl turned out well. Gringo’s is owned and operated by a family member of Brick Gibson, who runs what many think is the best all-around restaurant in Bandera, not surprisingly called Brick’s.

    1. Indeed I was. I did feel sorry for him. I’ve had some work complications myself, and although they cost me more in dollars lost than dollars expended, it’s still a hard part of business.

    1. Despite everyone’s euphoria over our fresh, new year, I expect there will be a time or two in the coming months when the song will be a perfect fit. We never know what’s coming around the bend to greet us.

      On the other hand, there was one great benefit to this little automotive adventure. For nearly two weeks, it wiped my mind clean of any thoughts of politics or pandemic; that alone turned out to be rather refreshing.

  9. You’re certainly good at rolling with it, Linda! Glad things finally worked out and good you were at least in a scenic area, although not sure how much that helped. Have a great new year full of fun travels!

    1. I was lucky that none of the complications arose until I was on my way home. I’d already visited the Willow City Loop and Lost Maples, so I didn’t lose any of the time I’d planned for wandering. That might have left me truly frustrated!

  10. You balance things out quite well and have a terrific way of looking at things.

    I’m going to jump into 2021 with both feet – I’m anxious to find out how we can mess this year up!!

    1. I don’t think we’re going to have to expend much effort on messing up the year, GP. There are plenty of other people to do that; they’re probably already plotting and planning. If we can just roll with their antics, too, we’ll do just fine.

  11. Talk about ‘bad luck’, Linda. What a great story to share.

    Hope your 2021 is positive and without such dramas. :)

    1. Vicki, one thing I’ve learned over the years is that the ‘worst’ experiences often make the best stories. It’s obvious with sailors. Sit and talk with a group of them, it’s all about the storms, the error-ridden plot, the failed equipment. It’s true in families, too. No one wants to talk about the year everyone got along at Thanksgiving; they want to talk about the year Cousin Ned hit Grandma over the head with the turkey leg.

      It is true that a little drama can go a long way, though. I’ve never been so glad to get back to work.

    1. But it is a comical story! At least, there are comical elements; a few didn’t even make it into the post because I was concerned with length. For example: there was the clerk at the Dollar Store who looked at my purchases — toothpaste and brush, comb, travel size mouthwash, and a cheap lipstick — and said, “What kind of motel are you staying in, that they don’t give you these things?” Needless to say, we had a fun conversation.

      This is one of those stories that’s best told on a front porch with some sort of libation in hand. Trying to capture that ‘feel’ can be a challenge, but I was happy with the way this finally worked out.

    1. Maybe a “panic of angels” — at least, for those assigned to oversee me! Blessed and beset for sure, but that’s alright. I’ve always been a both/and sort of gal rather than one who goes for either/or, and this experience was a perfect illustration of the way both/and is a part of life.

  12. This is the PERFECT song for your recent escapades and to start the new year! Anne Frank — in spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart. You found the good ones! And yes, a little luck along the way. So glad you weren’t in a dead cell zone!

    1. You’re right about that. A dead cell in a battery is one thing, but no cell service could have made things even more difficult. I’m so glad I’ve trained myself to begin carrying a portable power pack. With my cables thirty miles away, and my car charger useless — well. As it was, I completely charged both my ipad and my phone twice, and had only half-drained the charger. Technology is a wonderful thing!

    1. To be honest, what would have made it much, much worse would have been the car throwing its hissy fits in areas where there’s no cell service at all. I was in several areas where even texting wouldn’t work, and the lovely “emergency messages only” banner didn’t appear. A rancher or other local would have come along eventually, but it might have been a long wait.

    1. Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow… Wait. That’s someone else! I’m still messing around with home chores today, but tomorrow? It’s going to be sixty, and I’m going somewhere: maybe Galveston. It’s time to get back on the road again!

  13. It is funny but not funny, how long it takes me to realize that something is amiss. I had seen nary a WP notice from my favorite blogger in quite sometime and decided that you were one of two things: Linda went on an extended road trip in Texas or she was ill. And then it dawned on me that you were not the only blogger that had stopped posting. So I went to look in good ole SPAM and there you were along with Kathy, Val, and Lorie and a few other bloggers.

    I so enjoyed reading this post but one of the best parts was seeing the gorgeous hillside photo of the area around Bandera and Bulverde. And honestly even though you will never admit it, I really believe you have a guardian angel. You wrote that you know how to talk to people and that I can believe but my goodness were you ever lucky to have your car sputter out in the hill country. And yes, it does help to have a family business work on most anything That business deserves special recognition. I fear I would not have been so fortunate.

    Steve Winwood is one of my favorite artists and yes that song hit the bulls eye with “Roll With It” which is a very catchy song with a great beat. I bet you smiled all the way home.

    1. There’s been the usual wonkiness with WordPress of late. I found myself unable to leave comments on some blogs, and one of the gurus discovered I’d been signed out of my account. I certainly didn’t do it — who knows how these things happen?

      I was lucky beyond words to have some time in the hill country before the ‘disaster’ hit. I’ll be posting more photos of the color there. It wasn’t exactly New Englandish, but it was pretty: especially around the rivers. The Sabinal, Guadalupe, and Frio may be my favorite Texas rivers, even though I live closer to the San Bernard, Brazos, and Colorado. The water’s so pretty, and the cypress trees are glorious.

      I think Steve Winwood’s one of our most underappreciated artists. He’s done a lot of good work, but I certainly did smile to have “Roll With It” to roll home with!

  14. Linda, you’re blessed to be able to roll with the punches. Not many can. Most, facing this series of trying conditions, probably would wail and complain, stomp a foot and throw something! I’m glad you found such agreeable people along the way, and this time, I hope your car is road-ready!

    1. I made a trip down to Galveston yesterday, and all was well. I’m going in Wednesday to have the tires rotated and balanced, and then, once I get caught up a little, there’s a brake job in Princess’s future. At that point, the spring wildflowers will be emerging, and I’ll be ready to roll — again!

      Weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth have their place, but they weren’t going to get me home. There’s really not much difference between a sailboat that’s run aground and a car that’s suddenly ground to a halt, so the problem solving skills I learned while sailing gave me a place to start this time. However frustrating the process, in the end, they worked!

  15. I’ve only had one request of my vehicles over the years, Linda: That they get me from point A to point B. Everything else is secondary. I have that discussion with my vehicles when I buy them. They are fed, watered and loved as long as they meet that simple criteria. They do have other duties. Truck, for example, is expected to help around the house and van is our home away from home. Neither is expected to be a social status symbol. I never ask that of our vehicles.

    Poor Princess. It sounds like she had serious problems through no fault of her own and definitely deserves a second chance. As for ‘rolling with it, baby,’ it sounds like solid advice, especially when there aren’t any other options! It’s the old adage. Why cry over spilled milk! –Curt

    1. None of it was Princess’s fault, unless the initial collapse of the alternator might qualify. Once I had her back home and running properly, I gave her a nice wash and wax, detailed her interior, and murmured sweet nothings to her. I think she’s as happy to be home as I am, and I suspect all will be well. I made a run to Galveston yesterday, and she’s getting better mileage than before. That engine transplant is doing its work.

      At one point in this little adventure, I remembered my sailing friend French Charlie’s experience of landing on an island with some sort of engine part malfunctioning — I think it might have been the head gasket. All I remember now is that he used shears to cut a replacement out of cooking pots, and used beach sand to polish it. It sounds improbable, but it would have been right in line with Charlie’s abilities to roll with it.

      1. Not the first sailor to having to punt on an island. As a youth I devoured Swiss Family Robinson and Treasure Island.
        Laughing. One of the advantages Anthropomorphism when dealing with cars is that it helps assure that you take good care of them and they respond accordingly! Plants and pets are like that too. –Curt

  16. I had a Datsun B-210 hatchback’s transmission go out on me at a stoplight, as in “dead in the water.” That’s when I got my first Toyota. I traded in my first Toyota because it didn’t have AC. The Toyota Corolla (the Crayola) I traded it in for, I had for 27 years. I’m on my third Corolla, now and I hope I live long enough to have the Greyolla for 27 years.

    Hope the Princess is doing better after her transplant. Notice you took a leaf out of Dixie’s book and landed on your feet. I had to laugh about your “word from on high” via SiriusXM. Good advice.

    If it had been me, I would have used this version:
    It’s my favorite of his music videos.

    1. My first Toyota didn’t have AC, either, but I’d brought it from Iowa/California/Utah to Houston. It didn’t take long to figure out that AC would be a good idea, but as it happened, an accident on the north freeway totaled that one, and made the decision for me. My second one got up to 356K miles, and I finally sold it. Now, Princess is my third, and I hope we’re together to the end.

      She is doing well. I finally took her out for a real spin down to Galveston, and all was well. I’m going to throw in a tire rotation and balance, and have the brakes checked for good measure, and she’ll be good as new. I even got her a wash, wax, and detail, to make up for leaving her in strange garages and storage lots last month.

      That version of “Roll With It” is my favorite, too. I used the other one for the lyrics, just because there are some people out there who don’t know them by heart!

    1. It sure enough was an experience, Pit. But, as they say, all’s well that ends well. I can think of several ways things could have turned out badly, but they didn’t — so I’ll just give thanks and roll on!

  17. Having traveled quite a bit, there is not much worse to make you feel helpless than an automotive breakdown. You had an overall good outcome to what could have gone so wrong at several different times.

    What a way to start your New Year! Just like returning home, it’s (hopefully) all downhill from here!

    I can’t help but think there’s a country song in here somewhere: “Broke Down In Bandera”, “I Lost My Engine In The Lone Star State”, “No Lipstick, No Car, No Matter”.

    (Don’t worry. I’ll stick to birding.)

    1. Those are some of the best song titles I’ve heard, Wally. Now the only question is, who will we allow to record them, and what kind of residuals are we going to demand? I especially like the last. Under the circumstances, the fact that I felt compelled to buy a lipstick amuses me no end.

      It has surprised me how much time it’s taken to regain a bit of balance. The car’s fine now, but three weeks without picking up my camera had an effect. Tomorrow morning, I am heading down to Texas City. There’s a Fork-tailed flycatcher that’s been spotted there, and it’s being quite accomodating when it comes to portraits!

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