to simplify     notes from the open road

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Back in Thermopolis, Wyoming – a memorable stop five years ago during my rookie westward crawl in The Falcon, and it's great to see that not much has changed in my absence. Mind you, there is a brand new microbrewery in town, but that's the sort of change we nomads don't mind.

So I've been soaking up the hot springs for the past three days, and it's remarkable how a 104 degree pool of mineral water can reduce any problem to a mere trifle. Like when I noticed a sudden and huge loss in brake pressure the other day, and while removing the rear wheel to investigate, I also discovered that the guys who rotated my tires back in Cheyenne had cross-threaded one of my wheel nuts. I think I might have cursed once, but then just calmly went about fixing the problem, pausing at intervals to submerge myself in the mineral-rich goodness.

An hour or so of going at it with a tiny file returned the wheel stud's threads to usable form, then a new (albeit non-matching) lug nut from the local auto parts store, and finally plenty of monkeying with the brakes to get them working again, and I'm back in business for now. Functionally if not cosmetically:

For the Vanagon nerds out there, the brake issue turned out to be the result of a rear push rod adjuster having popped out of place. Probably because yours truly failed to set it properly the last time I was in there. Dialing it in so that the outer diameter of the brake shoes is the recommended 1.5 millimeters less than the inner diameter of the brake drum, I put everything back together again, and the brakes now work better than ever. Another dip in the hot springs followed.

Then last night, I hopped off the curb while crossing the street to get to said microbrewery, landed funny (which is to say that it really wasn't funny at all), felt a "pop" in the middle of my calf, and went down hard. I did what any civilized nomad would do in this situation – got up, lifted my newly torn calf in the air, hopped the remaining distance to the brewery, ordered up a pint of porter, and only then asked for some ice. Priorities.

Another soak first thing this morning as I quietly pondered how I was going to handle the whole walking thing over the next several days, and I decided that a cane would be of great use. Gingerly driving to the local pharmacy post-soak, working the gas pedal with the very tip of my fully extended right foot to minimize calf flex, I passed a yard sale and thought, "what are the odds?"

"You have any canes for sale?" I asked after parking and gimping my way up to the wares, figuring it didn't make sense to spend $30 for a brand new cane that I'd probably only need for a few days. Moments later, the above home-fashioned and decidedly Gandalf-esque staff was offered to me for a lousy buck.

Yes, I paid a dollar for a stick today, but if that's not a triumph of the free market, I don't know what is. Worthless in the middle of the forest, but deemed a bargain to this temporarily disabled nomad here in town. Location really is everything.