The truck keeps feeling a little funny.. jerky a little. There are only seven more miles to go and as I think of a hot soak and smile happily, the engine suddenly quits…at sixty-five miles an hour. Towing a thirty-seven foot toyhauler. No trailer brakes, manual steering only, the truck rolls for at least three miles on the downhill side of the long hill I just cranked up hoping there is a good place to pull the camper over without having to slam on my truck brakes…. there should be, anyway…
Finally there is a large open area on the right, clearly used for large vehicles and perfectly flat. I evaluate a good place to crash into some bushes if the brakes don’t stop the heavy rig in time… and angle the slowing camper over to the side. The truck and trailer make a large arc into the gravel patch and the beast slows into a good position for a potential rescue.
I raise the hood and look around for anything untoward… there is nothing amiss. I’ve driven almost sixty miles, so I couldn’t possibly have put gas in the tank… again.. COULD I?
At any rate, it has to go to a repair shop and be taken care of…
I swing the back door down and roll the moto out…. and head back to the last place the phone was getting reception… about ten minutes away.
Forty minutes later, Triple A is towing the truck to the closest Dodge dealership 30 miles to Pahrump.
That done, I ride into nearby Shoshone and ask around about someone with a truck. Mary at the museum calls Susie at the resort who calls her friends the firemen who drive out an old beater pick up and tow my rig to a spot in town.
Finally, everything is settled.
Tecopa is where I sneakily find warm water bliss. I am in my happy place… a tiny town on the border of California and Nevada that I have been returning to for five years now.
It’s cold and my skin has been craving the hot soak I drove so far to enjoy.
I’m a fan of the deep pools on the other side of town, but also a bit curious about these springs.. It’s always a learning experience in new places and chances are, a good one.. Hot water is rarely a disappointment.
I grab my towel and shower kit.
The bathhouse is on the top of the property. It’s been redone on the outside.
Stucco with new tan paint… Here in the desert, it’s easy to tell when something has been neglected.. even for a short while. The sun, salt and the wind deliver harsh punishment to anything you might bring or build in this dry and varied climate.
I enter the squeaky, ill hung sliding glass doors. They stick and squeal and have to shove them a little. Inside there appear to be four tubs, only two of which are unlocked in separate rooms. I swish my hand in each of the two tubs.
I settle my things on a bench in the hotter of the two, click the thin metal door shut, strip down and slowly submerge my now goosebumped body in the crystal water. It is all of heaven I was hoping for. I close my eyes and drift into nothing.
Almost an hour later, bones healed, mind soothed, I step out… skin steaming, and very warm, I towel off and pull my clothes back on.
I settle into a chair on my camper patio, pull up a warm blanket and close my eyes in the cold, January night air… I listen to the coyotes yipping a hunt in the black, star speckled emptiness.. the only thing breaking the silence of the desert… that and some frogs. I drift off.
Sometime later in the dark, I wake to a dry wind swirling some leaves and knocking something metal. My mind takes a few minutes comimg alive enough to bundle into a thick jacket to go up the hill for another soak.
I finish my hot spring ritual and head back down to start my day… every time I return, there is a little camper that has its lights on. The yellow light inside the huge glass of the cab seems very warm and welcoming. There are lots of plants outside, a little porch area and sometimes I can hear a dog collar jingling..
Its a tiny, dusty town… Population 100. There’s only a bistro (open only on the weekends), a community center that makes a $5 lunch for whoever wants (it’s really the senior center), and a bunch of hot springs. Honestly, that’s pretty much it.
After breakfast, I rode my moto in the 36 degree air to the dealership. they are making progress. They have determined that it was not actually the lift pump, in fact, they say, it is the injection fuel pump but it will cost $2000 to fix. I ride home relieved that the truck will be fixed but upset that half of the money I saved for a new paraglider wing is gone to my truck.
Ah well, I will soak and have a nice dinner tonight at the restaurant in town and see my friend that works there.
The bistro is blue, has seven or eight tables, a mish-mash of furniture, stacks of books and CD’s and a handful of dim lights.. candles. It feels like an old friends home… especially when there are old friends here. It’s open only on the weekends and sometimes only for dinner. Depends if the chef/owner has something going on or how busy it seems. The waitress, Shelly, has been here for a couple years. She’s tall… well, her shoes make her tall-er. Chunky very high boots or sandals… depending on the season. She is fit, classically beautiful and sassy. There is something about her that is also a bit dark and delightfully sensual.. maybe it’s those boots. She’s a world traveler and speaks two languages but has landed here in Tecopa. She seemed somewhat out of place when I first met her here, but is an immovable fixture in my memory now.
There is a shriveled old woman sitting across from me and the books. I saw her at the senior center earlier.
Rose is in her seventies and short. I ask her about the weather. She looks at me in disgust. “I can tell what the weather is going to be when I look out the window.” Pause… thoughtful. “If my cat comes in wet, I know its raining outside.” She glares as if challenging me to ask another stupid question… scoops a spoonful of soup in her mouth.
I try to make small talk but it is a real challenge. I must quickly agree with all opinions or she levels The Eye at me… every bit of her blue sweatered 4’8″frame ready for combat. During our short debate, I discover that she owns the warm little trailer that I’ve been admiring, and is the town tailor. She will mend any garment for free.. she won’t accept money, but a bag of groceries or some help with the propane seem to be a welcome substitute. She used to live in Northern California. Her husband hated Tecopa…
Rose: “Well, he died, and now I can get in the hot water.”
I am delighting over a simmering bowl of the beef stew that Shelly just delivered. It is really fabulous. John, the chef, is miraculous in the kitchen. He used to be a chef in New York but got tired of the rat race and moved his operation to…. Here! Dinner is always fabulous…. middle of nowhere dining excellence.
There is some talk about a telescope outside. A local astronomer that stays here gives impromptu classes about everything in the sky…. which is a lot, because there is almost no light pollution. He’s happy manning a powerful telescope and feeding a very low fire in an old wash tub drum.
After some stargazing and a slice of raspberry cheesecake, I relax again on my camper porch and let the desert silence invade my busy mind.
I wake to my last day in town. It is surrounded by red, desert rainbow striped mountains, cliffs and a scattering of different sand and stone formations. Every hill in the area has a little rabbit trail to the top… I just walk around till I see it. They’re not marked. Cell service can sometimes be found at the top of one of these.. sometimes not. None in the town center. The locals can tell you the closest place to get a call. Most of them will let you use their phone.
The smallness makes it warm and comfortable. If something goes wrong, the entire town will rally to help out….
If you are skeptical of this utopia I describe, rest easy. I’m not under any impression that it is the perfect nest. There is plenty of small town drama and gossip… the hallmark of a condensed community. There is also a strange element here that I noticed the last time also, and it was even more pronounced this time. The town population is nearly doubled… with Asians. Koreans, Chinese, Japanese and Thai. The resort I like at the end of town is partly if not wholly owned by Koreans now that put up a lighted red and white sign above the original. It is in Korean. and big. There’s still some hippies running it, but there are ominous signs of change.
It has been frustrating all afternoon with the patronizing apathy of the Dodge dealership I had relied on to repair my stranded truck… three days later, it is at the same stage of broken as when it went in, but now cost me $2000 to get out of car jail.
There is a place in Las Vegas with great reviews, online.. Diesel Specialists.. so I have it towed there to be resuscitated. They’re closed on the weekend and I’m taking a gamble that they can help.
I spent the rest of the early evening having dinner with Shelly and John, chatting with the very nice local sheriff (ruggedly handsome body builder also) working out the details of my travel to Vegas. There is only one bus out of town every two weeks and it was here three days ago.
The gal that was manning the desk at the resort overheard the story and offered me a ride… an hour and a half each way.
There always seems to be kind people. Everywhere. Always, there is someone that wants to help. When the camper blew a tire in between Ely and Wendover, Nevada there was no means of changing it myself… the very first car that passed me saw my trouble and turned around to help. In Colombia, dozens of times. Hitch hiking rides in Brazil and Moab… new acquaintences opening their homes and kitchens to me. The number of kindnesses to me completely eclipses the amount of selfish or cruel behavior….
Now, as Suzie drives me into Vegas in her old two wheel drive pickup, we talk about Tecopa, and the trip to Omaha. I’ll be back in a fair bit and until then will be missing the silence, the warm people and some deep hot water.