We did reach Houston safely and as expected. Without a speed bump or two what would this be? TOO EASY and not us! I mean to be honest, in the preceding months our must do logistics came together so easily and quickly that the train was on the track and rolling before we were ready or willing to do anything about it – and, besides who are we but a couple to just ride the ride… That being said, the puzzle pieces laid out in a jumbled picture, we would be naive not to expect a few hitches, snags, stumbles, hiccups, or whatever word comes to mind, along the way – Practice gloves off cause we’re on the road and this shit is real.
We’re lucky enough to have our old friend Anthony, who was wooed back stateside from Oz by his new bride Rachel, living in Houston and they graciously invited us to stay with them and ‘save some pesos’ before we took flight. It was a perfect opportunity to spend an evening getting acquainted with Rachel, Val and Moe (the cats) before the work week started and our countdown continued. We were also pleasantly surprised that Scott and Kim along with their son Cooper, whom we enjoyed spending time with at the February wedding, had recently moved back from Australia and were there to help with the send off as well.
An amazing launching pad and thankful we were able to help ease those kitties into this dog eat dog world – or wait, do kitties really rule?!?!?!? It was a good canine feline introduction where one really observes the bitch V pussy showdown. Both with their strengths and weaknesses – why don’t you want to play ball?!? The best part about it is that sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which. Almost like that silly skiing vs. snowboarding feud.
With so much unknown we’re not quite sure what we are or aren’t ready for but there were a few must dos that need immediate attention. Shipping the truck was priority and has been the most evasive logistic to date. Preparing the truck for the container required removing all articles out the cab, off the top and ensuring it was secured inside the bed of the truck. That includes everything inside as well as the cargo rack with all its pieces. The silver lining being that with everything stacked and the monstrous spare tire front and center it may deter any sort of customs search on either side of the border. Officials have full right to confiscate anything they deem as prohibited and customs regulations are subject to change at any time. We can confirm this as things tend to change on a whim depending on what day it is or who we talk to. Again, shipping has been the most elusive, complicated and costly logistic.
Our shipping agent has been courteous, responsive and fairly informative but as a middleman simply coordinating logistics like the wizard behind the curtain fear of the flying monkeys set in when we pulled up to the dodgy receiving location. Chad walked out of the office and firmly said “I hope this isn’t the right place, they know nothing about us dropping the off truck.” An immediate call to our agent who reassuringly said to give him 15 minutes he’d have it straightened out and apologized for the lack of information. Just like he said, 15 minutes later out they walked with a camera and what looked like a scrap piece of paper with a bunch of incorrect information scribbled out and they asked us to write the contact information of our shipping agent. SKETCHY! They began to take pictures, note the condition of the truck and somewhat inventory the contents – I looked straight at the guy and said ‘Don’t lose our truck’!
So, that was it. The truck was gone and all we can do is hope it shows up in Buenos Aires with all it’s contents as we expect.
Here we go, this is it, ready or not… That last hug and the final good-byes make it feel a little more real than surreal; we pulled away and both sighed over the gravity of this adventure that has finally come to fruition. The first leg of our trip involves the final prep logistics of getting the truck shipped and the three of us to South America. Keeping the dog in mind we decided to drive to Houston and ship the truck from there as it was the most direct flight option to Buenos Aires via United.
We barely crossed the Texas border and had to hide the road snacks, in particular the spicy pecans or should I say,“crack nuts” since they were already just about gone. Hoping to get as far as possible and just sleep when we were tired we didn’t really have a destination in mind for the night but hoped we could make it to at least Wichita Falls, TX to put us in Houston earlier rather than later. It was dusk when we stopped for gas and decided to switch drivers. The truck started with a slight chug but nothing to slow us down; although the dash lights didn’t come on and a slight concern came into the air. One of those things that neither of us wanted to make a big deal but didn’t want to let go either. We decided to pull over and try turning the car off and restarting – when in doubt reboot, does that work for automobiles too? Well, the truck was completely dead, nothing more than that lifeless click, click click. That’s when the dread takes over; here we are on the outskirts of some random west Texas town dead on the side of the road with no explanation. The truck was running just fine until it just didn’t start. All I could say is, “at least we’re still in the US”. Concerned of an electrical issue we reluctantly decided it was probably necessary to pull everything out of the back and take a look at some of the wiring. Needing some ventilation and air in the cab I tried to roll down the windows and all the gauges chirped and chimed as expected so why not give it one more try. It turned over just like it was supposed to, as if there was nothing wrong. Was this a bad dream? Or just a quick test of confidence before we go. After a deep breath and as we were about to pull away Chad remembered that he dimmed the dash lights the previous night and we realized there was nothing wrong there; so with the truck started, the dash lights back up to normal we were ready to get back on our way.
A few miles down the road, I was convinced I was smelling something burn. Sure my nerves were a little rattled but something was not right, I was sure it smelled like something was going to catch on fire. So once again we pulled over at the next little town, population 350, and popped the hood next to the railroad tracks. We did a full once over – and under – to see any sign of anything overheating, everything seemed fine. So with that and a few moments to address what we’re embarking on and remind ourselves that things are bound to go wrong, it’s about how you solve the issues that counts…off we go again.
Just before getting on I40 we needed a pit stop and a little stretch of the legs; all back in and ready, and once again just the sound of the lifeless clicks, ugh! Now dread has turned into panic; what was going on, what was wrong? Are we even going to make it to Houston let alone South America? Is this that omen crushing the Pan-American road trip dream? Alright, deep breath where do we start? What did we rule out, what can we rule out? What did we do last time just before it started? And with a slight touch to the battery cut off switch a light went off, or on to be literal. That was it. Something was wrong with the cut off switch and the battery wasn’t charging. Feeling slightly relieved to at least know the source of the issue and knowing we could get the truck started again we decided to truck on.
Reaching Amarillo, we needed a break and dinner was a good excuse. The clock was ticking to get the truck to the receiving dock for shipping on Monday and time was of the essence to get any issues identified and fixed. Thinking through the wiring scheme and considering what the issue could be we removed the battery power cut-off to find the connection had become loose and began melting the casing. There was a problem, there was the problem and there was a smell… At least feeling relieved that we identified the issue and could now sort through the solutions we rewired a temporary connection to ensure the battery would charge and after dinner headed off, again. It didn’t take too long before we realized we weren’t going to make it all the way to Wichita Falls and decided we needed a place to sleep.
Being our first official ‘night on the road’ of course we were going to sleep in the truck, and for lack of a more clever description (I am borrowing the term) “Pirate Camping” was on deck. So we found a nice Best Western parking lot and picked a spot. It must have been the first week back to school for the small college across the street because it was crowded and there were a handful of rowdy parents loitering around their trucks/cars drinking beer and reminiscing about trips they’ve taken with their kids. Some things never get old, lol. Being subtle we walked the dog and crawled in, to which we all slept until we were rudely awaken by a train blaring it’s whistle at what seemed like full speed not much more than 20 feet away. A few minutes later we heard someone rustling around in the car next to us and we decided it was past time to get back on the road. Pirate Camping success story #1, although we didn’t help ourselves to the “complimentary breakfast” we did laugh about it and joked that we do grow out of some things.