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August in the Desert

Tuesday, August 30, 2016 – The thermometer in my car says its 108 degrees outside today. This is one of the hotter days this summer (and we had nice, mild weekend weather, too). Over the years, on hot August days like today, I think back to that August day, in 1980, when I was driving with my family across the Mojave Desert. Traveling in my dad’s 1969 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham, we were returning from visiting family in northern New Mexico. It was around one o’clock in the afternoon when our commute turned into hell.

I was sitting in the front seat with my dad when I noticed steam rising from under the hood. I advised my dad to pull to the side of the road and to check it out. He was reluctant and actually wanted to keep on driving. Finally, he pulled off on the shoulder and, jokingly, asked me to go out and check the radiator. At this point, my mom, and my brother Randy –who was wearing a cast from the broken shoulder he suffered in a swimming pool accident– were sitting in the back napping before waking to the stopped vehicle we were in.

“What’s going on? Why are we stopping in the middle of the desert?” My mom asked.

“The god damn car over-heated.” said my dad, as he pulled a More 120 cigarette out of his shirt pocket, and then lit it. He let out the typical smoker’s hack after taking his first puff, and then he puckered his lips and pulled the cigarette for his teeth to hold at the center of his mouth, while he perused the situation.

My dad lifted the hood and I was standing right next to him when we both saw the steam streaming from the where the radiator was shooting out water. As my dad reached for the radiator cap, my mom walked over and yelled, “Danny, don’t pull the cap, you’ll let out all the anti-freeze!” Dad, out or ignorance and possible spite toward my mom, grumbled and lifted the cap lever anyway.

Steam and anti-freeze began to blow out of the radiator’s filler neck. Dad, who was nursing his burned hand, started and cussing and backed away. My started screaming, “Jesus, we’re going to lose all our anti-freeze if we don’t put the cap back on. I picked the cap off of the ground as  Randy rushed over and –using his cast-free let hand — planted the cap back on the filler neck, stopping the gush of steam and fluid that blew out.

“Nice job, dad, where did you learn about mechanics?” Randy said as he strolled back into the car and plopped down in the seat, nursing his broken right shoulder all the while. Randy felt discomfort during the whole drive. The day before, he was checked out of St. Mary Hospital, in Pueblo, Colorado, where he spent several days recovering from surgery to his broken shoulder.

I had thought my mom picked St. Mary’s because it was the only Catholic hospital in town. But my dad actually picked the place because it was the first hospital he found when he sped up the Interstate 25 several nights earlier. Randy broke his shoulder from hitting the bottom of the swimming pool slide as he slid down on his feet. I was in the pool with my cousins Katy and Chris when he did it. We all thought he was insane. As soon as he came out of the water he quietly grimaced in pain  and got out of the pool.

Watching him stagger back to the motel room, I thought he was exaggerating his injury, and proceeded to continue having fun with my cousins in the pool. A short time later, my mom arrived and ordered me out of the pool. She said we were taking Randy to the local medical center there in Raton, New Mexico. My whole family was there for my grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary. The celebration was going to be there the next day, but Randy wasn’t.

Fast forward to several days later, dad, mom, Randy and I were stranded in the middle of the Mojave Desert. As cars whizzed by, I waved for help. Mom and dad told me to stop but I told them that someone has to have some anti-freeze or water that we could use to refill our radiator. My dad scolded himself for not letting the gas station attendant check the radiator level when we filled our tank in Needles, 60 miles back. Dad said “no” to the guy because he thought all the guy wanted was a tip.

Dad reminded me of the unhappy customer in the old Aamco Transmission commercial that used to air on TV back then, where the background voice said, “you can pay now, or you can pay later.”

We roasted in the heat for about a half hour before a CHP car arrived. That was probably the first time my dad was glad to speak to a California Highway Patrolman (dad got his share of speeding tickets). Dad explained what happened and the CHP man asked if our radiator was leaking. My mom said, “no, it just overheated and my husband lifted the cap and let a lot of coolant out.”

The officer chuckled a little and said he would give us some water that he had in the trunk of his patrol car. I was happily amazed when I saw all the reused one-gallon anti-freeze bottles he had filled with water. The patrolman grabbed several and gave them to my dad to fill the radiator. He warned dad that since it was only water, our radiator could overheat again. So he advised us not to use the air conditioner and to drive approximately 35 miles per hour the rest of the way into desert town of Barstow. We all weakly moaned because it was 118 degrees, and the humidity was around 85 percent. A monsoonal flow rain came up from Baja California the night before.

As I watched the officer speed away, I asked my mom why we couldn’t ride in his car to the next town, and let dad drive the overheated Cadillac himself. She said the officer has more important things to do and that we need to stay with my dad.

It was a long, tortuous and slow three-hour drive to Barstow. My dad did keep the windows down and the AC off, as he drove 35- 40 mph, like the officer told him to. Randy passed out near the start of the slow trek. He took a couple of codeine pills that the surgeon in Pueblo prescribed him for pain — lucky for him.

We stopped at the first service station we could find in Barstow. Dad got an attendant to drain most of the water from radiator drain plug, and fill it up with a new mixture of coolant and water. Mom suggested that we find a motel for the night and drive the rest of the way home tomorrow. We were all tired and beat and could use getting some rest in a cool place.

But dad was having nothing to do with that. He told the whole family he was going to get us home from Albuquerque, New Mexico, in one day — and he wasn’t going to let that plan fall though. So we toughed it out for those last 100 miles and arrived home at sunset on that hot August night.

Besides learning about dangers of traveling across the Mojave Desert in the summer, and the importance of checking my car’s fluids before and during a long road trip, I learned something else from that excursion: that a husband and wife need to always work together as a team, especially in the face of adversity. There’s never really room for ego, especially during tough times like that day.

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The Mandela Effect : snopes.com

The Mandela Effect is a name given to the phenomenon of the collective misremembering of specific facts or events. Does anyone know why it happens?

Source: The Mandela Effect : snopes.com

Revisiting December 16, 2011

This is an update to my very first blog post, written on Dec. 16, 2011. The weather here now — five years in the future (8/29/2016) — is considerably different than on that December day. If someone told me then that the Los Angeles Kings would win 2 Stanley Cups by the time I post another entry on this blog page, I would’ve said, “whoo-ya!” If I was told then that the Los Angeles Rams would be playing their first game back in LA by August 2016, I would have said, “I told you so!” So much can happen in five years! I wonder what kind of changes will have taken place five years from now. We’ll see, won’t we?