Fight to the Core

Happy First Anniversary, my Love 

I sat on a toolbox in the garage trying to get a feeling for Jeff the Jeep – what exactly was he trying to communicate to us. The vibe told me he was old. I’d run him hard and then let my daughter run him harder. He needed rest. He wanted Jim to back off and call a tow truck and get him to a graveyard where he could rest in peace.


But Jim was not ready to give up so easily. Jim believed Jeff had more miles to go, as was obvious by the sound of the engine still strong and humming. But Jeff kept overheating and that was a big no no, according to Jim.


Some kind of crap has clogged the engine.” Jim says more to himself than to me. “It’s gotten in there and clogged the cooling system.”


What about the radiator?” I ask.


Can’t be! Changed that last week. Changed the water pump too.” Jim motioned for me to come look. “See when you hold here, there should be pressure on this hose. But there isn’t. Tells me the coolant can’t get through, it’s blocked.”


I peered in pretending I saw a hose and nodded, marveling at Jim’s intense contemplation and clear understanding of what looked to me like an abstract art-project-gone-wrong rattling there under the hood.


I must admit however that on this day I was more interested than usual about mechanical things. I had just started reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Now I am mid-way through. In the book I am journeying with the narrator through the philosophical exploration of my limited ability to adequately understand the Zen of world around me. The fun part is that the narrator does this from the seat of his motorcycle, and we ride along while he relates these invisible yet challenging concepts to the simple understanding of the motorcycle engine and the world around it. At least by comparison it seems simple.


The narrator explains that some people are romantic thinkers who focus on form (how things are), most of the time this would describe me; while others are classical thinkers who primarily see things in regard to function (why things are, how things work) and of course that’s Jim all the time. Romantics tend to value the whole, paying little notice to those pesky parts; classic thinkers tend to focus on the parts and only recognize the whole through the value they place on the role and function of each part.


Looking at Jeff, I saw an old truck that would not stop overheating despite several attempts at repair. It had given me what I considered my money’s worth. So in my romantic view that was enough. I did not really care how much more life we could strain from its guts, it did not seem worth all the extra pain and energy involved in getting Jeff back to health. He’d lived a good life.


But, Jim, well he knew there was plenty of good function to be had in Jeff’s parts, and he valued the investment he had in the machine both financially and physically. Jim was ready to press on - or to at least to part the old boy out.




So it is this motorcycle book I’ve been reading that has really been scratching my traveling itch. Now, sitting on my couch on Sunday morning, I can’t help but wish we were headed out of town. I know 200 bucks won’t get us far, and I scan the paper for some day-trip event. A chili-cook off, a small town fair, some traveling circus, anything and then I see it!


I think I’m gonna slit my wrists,” I shout from behind the paper.


What,” asks Jim a tad alarmed at the dramatics.


This weekend is the Wine and Music Festival, Little Folk! How could we have forgotten?”


Damn,” he smiles and keeps washing dishes. “We could have been camping all weekend.”


I know.”


So what, let’s go now?” He smiles that devilish smile I love and after doing the math on the gas, the camping fee and the cost of the festival we decided we can just afford it. “But we can’t take a bunch of crap,” I add. “This time its low maintenance all the way!”


Hell let’s take the Miata!” Jim adds. “All we need is a tent and some chairs and couple towels. No food, we can eat there.”


Now I am getting really excited. We love the Kerrville festival, its home away from home tucked in the rolling Texas hill country. Neither one of us has been to the fall Little Folk Festival. Usually on the way home from the main Folk Festival held in late May, we’d moan about having to wait another year to come back and perk up and say, “Hey maybe we can make Little Folk in September?”


This year’s May festival was quite the experience. We had decided to arrive post midnight to save an extra day’s charge on camping, but we never made it. Torrential downpours left us stranded in Kerrville proper and we spent half the night in Denny’s playing Gin and the other half in the Motel 6 - so much for the saved night’s camping fee.


We woke up to more rain, drove into the festival and put up our whole campsite in the rain. This was something to be proud of, but we were most impressed with our ability to pack a shit-load of gear into the Slimmer, Jim’s 15-year-old hatchback Mustang.


The campsite was a masterpiece. We put a tent-in-a-tent, set up a canopy, covered one wall with a tarp, tied another tarp over the gap between the tent and the canopy and basically brought it all under one roof. We had a nice table for cooking supplies, a BBQ pit that Jim put together when we got there, ceramic Tiki torches, a cooler full of food including lamp chops and gulf shrimp, two kinds of vodka, a bottle of tequila, beer, wine and mixers.


This was my sixth year at the festival, Jim’s third and our first year with no kids. It rained all day everyday for four days straight. The rain was actually a blessing as we quickly realized that life had left us completely exhausted. We needed the break and kicked back in our water-proof abode, played cards, ate like royalty, slept a lot and listened to the wind, the rain and the music for four peaceful days. We even commented that had it been hot as it usually is in May, we probably would have had to pack it up – we were that tired.


Today I am not thinking about rain. It’s warm outside and we know it, but we’ll be getting there by about four. It’s just a two-hour drive from Austin; and with our goal to pack as little as possible, setting up camp will be a breeze. We both start running around the house pulling things together. We make it a game to see how fast we can get ready from concept to concrete under the tires.


We make it in two hours flat. It would have been faster if I had not decided we needed to watch our wedding video for the first time before we left. I stood there crying with Jim’s arms wrapped around my shoulders. After the ‘I do’s’ I did not want to turn it off, but a nice pat on my behind reminded me we were on a mission.


Suddenly we’re on the highway, top down, tunes blaring, smokes for the road, big Arizona Ice Teas between our legs and suntan lotion on our shoulders. “I love that we’re grounded,” shouts Jim over the wind “but I also love that we fly by the seat of our pants when we want to!” And he smiles a big smile and blows me kiss. I turn around and look out of the back of the Miata and my world is just overflowing.


Our next game is to get to Kerrville in two hours making the time from concept to concert exactly four hours. Strategy involved my eating an apple on the way and banning bathroom breaks. Jim says he ate two packages of oatmeal and a banana, so we just lean back and listen to music and watch the world turn slowly from gray buildings to green hills.


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