Practical Magic.

At the moment I am sitting outside, having lit a fire, and used an extension cord to have power for my laptop. Wonderful ain’t it! To sit by a fire, by a lake, and type on a laptop.   I’ve written a lot about my internal experience and reactions to the things I’ve seen; and I’ll likely do a lot more of that. This trip encompasses a lot of things for me, one of which is a sort of reparenting of myself. Sound silly? Well, it isn’t for someone whose spent so much of her adult life trying too hard to be “successful,” when success is measured by something other than an internal compass.  In this moment, however, I want to talk to you about earthly things, and repairs.

We are in Hopewell Cape, a place where you encounter a marvel of nature that we humans call the Hopewell Rocks. These ‘rocks’ look like what might be left over after the gods who gave birth to Zeus carved out bits of mountain and tossed them aside.  They defy gravity, plunging deep into cinnamon colored muddy sand, and pouring up and out of that same sand. They twist around themselves, creating curves that look like women’s hips in motion.  Where these rust colored sand mountain pieces meet the sky, trees, brush and grass continue to grow, having foresaken their need for companionship, they reach for the sun itself.

Our campground, Ponderosa Pines, is a mystery of pulpy trees and swaying grasses, set amidst various watery bodies, including a river, a lake, and the Bay of Fundy.  At first glance, it might not look like much, but upon fuller exploration it is so much more than my descriptions can convey.  Our campsite has water and electric, and looks out onto a lake. There is a path around the lake that seems to go on and on, and as I walked Jackson there today I wondered if I had the stamina to follow it to its end. It didn’t matter though, because the scenery was satisfying in its variety and every step I thought, “where is my camera!”  It seemed to be marsh land, with lovely fine boned and barren trees that grew all ashy gray and bone white out of of grass that looked like water for all it moved and swayed. The river that runs through here is called Chocolate River, but I think the color is more like cinnamon, or maybe southwestern hot chocolate that bites your tongue; and where it rushes all over itself to dive into and out of the Bay of Fundy, you imagine great foaming milk sloshing about.

We drove up the coastal scenic route to get here. And, when you travel, remember that “scenic route” means generally the roads are curvy, with steep grades, and often made of gravel or other materials that are not always kind to the undercarriage of your vehicle. Fiona, my coach, did marvelously, considering that the belt on her alternator broke. Have you ever noticed how lessons are learned again and again, presented to you by the universe in uncomfortable ways until you “get it?” Mine is apparently, don’t wait to repair. Repair as soon as you can, or sooner. My mechanic, Jim Bounds, who is swiftly becoming the love of my life, talked me through testing out my battery and alternator, when my “Gen” light came on. One of your warning lights on the coach reads “GEN.” When this comes on it means you either have a battery issue or an alternator issue. It means you need more power. My testing showed that Fiona’s alternator wasn’t putting out the power the engine needs to run. While in St. John, and camping on a little peninsula, I had the alternator replaced. The most expensive thing was the part itself, at $200. The mechanic, also wonderful, did the work quickly and competently. At the time he replaced the alternator he told me that the belt was loose and should be replaced but that he didn’t have the part. I thought, “Oh, well I’ll just have that done in a few days.” Wrong, wrong, wrong! I’m not a bad coach owner, as much as an untutored one, and I’m learning my lessons hard and fast. Is it optimism or avoidance that has me think I should wait to make that repair?

So, today the damn Gen light came on again. Then the belt broke. I found this out after testing again, once again finding the generator had no juice, and then peering into the massive 455 Oldsmobile engine housed right underneath the front seats. The belt was hanging onto one of the other engine parts, like old snake skin. I connected the battery to the generator in the coach, using pint sized jumper cables, to make sure we had power, and we made it safely to our campsite. But remember, when I said a few paragraphs ago that we took the scenic route? Scenic, along the New Brunswick coastline means dramatic winding roads, that pitch and rise at alarming grades, and often are made of some quasi-gravel material. Not the most relaxing ride when you have a generator running, that doesn’t like to keep running on hills, and you wonder every time you begin the ascent of another monster hill if the engine will just poop out on you, and how on earth will you back it down the hill without killing your dog and mother? Some hills are just better taken in a little sports car.

Tomorrow (a weekday), we’ll go to a mechanic in town and see about getting the belt put on. It’s the part that will pose the most challenge I think. Apparently, belts are generally made “bigger” now, according to the St. John mechanic, and Fiona’s belts are from the 70’s, you know – skinny. As always, Jim was there to help me. He emailed me the part number and if (or when) I call him tomorrow, he’ll answer and help. Do I sound like I’m promoting Jim Bounds? I am. He is a prince among men. I have not always been patient with him, and he still answers when I call. He loves what he does, I mean LOVES it, like women love chocolate. He works only on GMCs, like my Fiona, and whether he likes you, the owner, or not (and he’s a pretty easy going guy, so he probably likes you), he LOVES your coach and wants it to be treated right. Jim is a wealth of information, and can talk someone like me, frustrated and with no mechanical background, through testing the electrical output of the battery and alternator so that I can sound like I know what I am talking about when I find a mechanic to do the work for me. Before this happened, I didn’t really know what the alternator was, let alone where to find it, or test it’s output. Maybe one day, I’ll be able to do some of the maintenance myself. I’d feel like a real champ then. In the meantime, I have Jim. And, I have a lesson. I, the grasshopper, promise to “stay ahead of the maintenance curve,” as Jim would say. And failing that, I’ll be leaning on Jim – a man who answers his phone.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kathy
    Aug 10, 2010 @ 12:54:24

    Laura, this sounds like an amazing journey. Please don’t give up. Reading through all these posts, I see the hard things but I also see the beauty, not just the scenery but the people. I know it is difficult to see the beauty when shit is flying. But you’d have hard things at your old life too — and you wouldn’t have the Bay of Fundy. Remember that. Thanks for letting me take this journey with you (via the blog). It is awesome. Be safe. Much love, Kathy
    PS Thank you for the email and the link.

    Reply

  2. Michelle
    Aug 10, 2010 @ 16:54:02

    Does Jim have this blog? You should send it to him. Or I can.

    Reply

  3. JIm OBrien
    Aug 10, 2010 @ 21:26:55

    Jim Bounds published your blog address on his web site. My wife and I are impressed with your writing on the trip. We have a GMC but not the nerve to venture out like yourself. Good Luck and we look forward to following your adventures on the blog.

    Reply

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