An American Adventure

Emile and Ella


Busted again by the side of the road
My sonís 1929 Model A Ford stranded steaming
   still protesting with some serious heat
Something like a gallon of water left for all 3 of us
   radiator near empty in the middle of mile high Wyoming wilderness
Frustrated devastated he sits on the car floorboard
Years of sporadic weekend work accelerated by grad school acceptance
   into an intense month of 14 hour days friends pressed impressed
All subsumed to getting this car functional for the road
Now poised encore to end abandoned sayonara in this wild sunset


An impossibly crazy optimistic goal of crossing
   our huge continent in one short week
Rushing completion rushing to get us to get this car to
   Graduate School in Ann Arbor Michigan on time
Reporting for geek neuro-science cutting-edge study
next Friday morning, highly advisable do not to miss this beginning!
Just another over-confident scientist leaving no room for error
   his vehicle stalled overheated somehow strangulated inoperable again


Adventures start best with a good companion
   and this son I grew I raised couldnít be better
A rare opportunity for a week of his time out of a very busy life,
   sure-fire bonding experience a return to parenthoodís oneness
gladly accepting all crazy risk for this chance of a lifetime, yet


I suddenly feel too old for this adventure    any adventure
   too unprepared too out of shape too civilized
Adventures are not adventures without painful threat of loss
   very personal peril despair insufficiency to be overcome --
Putting aside the overwhelming need for haste the despair
   we begin to pick at the problems of this moment
Logic-ing reducing isolating her latest intransigent condition
Trying encore to solve the operational riddles
   of this wonderful enigmatic ancient machine


No time to savor this compelling hypnotic wasteland
Cogitating on the functional needs and deficiencies
   of this grand old woman heís named Ella
Gradually drawing out mechanical secrets of her operation


Let me say --- letís note certain absurd premises -Ė- engine only 40 horsepower
Maxed-out overloaded with personal possessions camping gear
Holding a long list of mechanical fixes for on the road
Traveling stripped of essential equipment accepted safety
No windshield wipers on board, with routine thunderstorms ahead
primitive cable brakes reputed to fail adjustment after the first panic stop
No gas can backup to a measly ten gallon gravity feed gas tank
   at fifteen miles per gallon so easy to run empty
Our cellular connection with the outside world evaporates inexplicably
   non-existent throughout the vastness of the American heartland
No seat belts utterly dependent on trained athletic reflexes
Irrevokably committed with 863 miles behind us
and 1562 miles before us with only five days remaining


Speed is a relative function of time and distance
2600 miles one week top speed 48 mph (when working)
Progress hemmed by our real reluctance to travel at night
Money fast disappearing, credit cards maxxed out
That is how this wonderful adventure began
   and somehow this scenario never changes only intensifies


Totally stymied gaining pitiful amounts of physical progress
What was weeks ago still rusted discarded parts in boxes
   today an eye-catching beauty by the side of the road
   was still an incomplete untested mystery
Ellaís mechanics still unfathomed unused to road rigors
No manual on how to operate this almost alien machine
We nevertheless congratulate ourselves daily on increasing
   the basic mechanical soundness progress of our mount
Like a farmer proud of his planted crop now dependent
   expecting speculating to beat the deadline of cold winter
Investing in functional soundness for the prize of roadís end
Yet time, time, time was always desperately short pressing
   she still reluctantly resisting running rebuilding


Every evening pressing fix-it projects while camping Midwest prosaic
   Rock Springs, Battle Creek, lake in the plains, Mormon Island,
lovely places spa swimming rivers lakes we barely have time to see
Multiple causes for concern frustration but obdurate we press on --
Returning going back becomes anathema to our quest


How strange how unreal distant that journey now seems
   returning jet cocooned at the speed of sound from 35,000 feet
Part frantic focused problem solving
   part just bashing on, making progress somehow
I frequently leaping out of the car still stopping
   grabbing a gallon jug of water from the wheel well
   splashing the radiator like reviving a boxer in round 10
   willing a fevered reluctant Ella on a few miles more
Sometimes she simply stops quits working
   then strangely subsequently works again


Sometimes itís just forcing through aged crud and inertia
This venerable machine with such grand-dame elegance
   was created for more brutal days of primitive dirt roads
   of personal resource no tow-trucks no cell phones no auto clubs
   breakdowns often solved by the local blacksmith
A tap here hammer knock there and the carburetor responds
   with sudden life and acceleration again
Terrifying abrupt cardiac arrest eventually explained
   by taped electrical connections forgotten in the rush


Finding a place to remove/grind down the water pump
   and the appalling water loss is averted -
A primitive welded thermostat and the overheating is lessened
The incapacitating overheating finally becomes clear in Wyoming
   where water readily boils away vanishes at 189 degrees
   in a car used to operating full throttle at 190 degrees or better


The alarming sound emanating from the right wheels
   explained by road corrugations for somnambulant drivers
   as we take to the shoulder again the Model A lane
Making way for frequent knots of modern high-speed drivers
Ameliorated by uncommon graciousness of our highway mates
   for this lovely painted relic of simpler traveling times


The learning process continues every day by the side of the road
   the solutions faster, distance covered longer, despair shortens
Young man and old metal merge, grow confident
   before my admiring eyes in my fatherís heart


Beautiful Ella has quixotically always been our best ally
Waiting patiently enduring while we discover her secrets
Even stopped by the road she entices beguiles
   stealing the heats of truckers, travelers, children
Stopping for gas and oil she brings admiring looks
   stories of fatherís grandfatherís similar adventures
   hints and tidbits come to mind once lost forgotten


People usually reluctant to help      they help us
Locals divulge shortcuts that favor slow old cars
Mechanicís selfless generosity essential for our success
Gas station parts store mavenís adoring assistance
Childrenís unabashed delight spurs us on in lightness
Our numerous deficiencies immune from cops consciousness


At tripís beginning venerable Hughes certifies our road ability
   while old man Holmes remembers for us gritty road reality
Napa John tries hard to wake up and remember cruciality
In Nevada City my sister locates Carl
the ex-Marine aviator machinist Model A guru
   who nearly single-handedly lifts us up into functionality


The Gabby Hayes grizzled U-Haul reprobate of Evanston
   steers us around time-stealing Rocky Mountain passes
The postmistress of Medicine Bow guides us past
   I-80 dexidrene paced homicidal juggernaut Colorado truckers
   to old highways so rich in local color      at Model A pace
all sorts of people who had, have, or once owned Model A Fords
But the bottom line is my sonís relentless indefatigable desire


In the middle of Wyoming we realize that all is not lost
For all the delays despite all the holdups frustrations
  our time and speed have grown robust beyond anyoneís expectations
That we actually can get there and possibly even just in time
  for a proper optimal beginning of his new doctoral life
Fight for survival becomes swift flight of schedule
Everything subsumed now for unlikely triumph success


Fighting off cumulative road-weary fatigue
   side-stepping appalling traffic congestion
   winning through terrifying agricultural locust pestilence
   pushing through blinding deafening thunder and lightning
Ignoring rain deluge without benefit of windshield wipers
Finally taking to the night to overcome the sum of our delays


Compress days , weeks, months, and years of effort
Thousands of miles    spanning seconds, minutes and hours
   squeezed stolen saved here and there along the road
Into 10 short minutes to spare     at the end of our journey


My son tosses me the car keys - please watch the car
   my professional equipage, all my possessions
No real sleep for the last two days, attacked by mosquitoes,
   no breakfast, not much dinner the night before
   no soap for a brace of days, ignore the road grime
He walks off to make that first crucial orientation on time
   to impress all with his command of neuro-science.


We have -- he particularly has won through
Beyond all expectations of the experts, the knowledgeable
What a joy that terrible adventure now seems


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