I woke up at 3am in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In a few hours I’d be purchasing my dream camper, a vintage 1968 Donhal Oasis Motorhome. My brother and my husband had both warned me about the pitfalls of owning a vehicle with a 1968 Dodge 318 gas engine, something about carburetors and what-not, but my rose-colored glasses were firmly planted. I was getting this camper no matter what! At that moment, however, I was afraid. I thought, “What if it’s junk?” “What if I break down in the desert?” “What if this is a Craigslist nightmare story?” “Why don’t I have AAA?” So I did what I always do when I can’t sleep, I prayed. I asked God to please, PLEASE send me some angels for that 250 mile trip home in a 45 year old bus that I had never driven and knew nothing about. I went back to sleep for a few more hours.
The next morning we met the owner and his cute little daughter, Steve and Anna, at Denny’s. Anna gave me the grand tour of the interior and Steve gave me a few tips on driving the machine. We made the deal, then I ran over to Starbuck’s for a Venti Vanilla Iced Latte for the trip home. As soon as I got behind the wheel and started driving, I knew I was in for an adventure. Over the years, having power steering and power brakes had become the ‘norm,’ but this was far from normal! It reminded me of riding with my dad in a grain truck from the field to the elevator, back in the 70’s. That was a special treat because there was a Coke machine at the elevator and Dad always got a Coke, at least when I went along. He would bring the cold glass bottle of soda out to the truck and take a drink, “glug glug glug,” then hand it to me. That old truck didn’t have air conditioning- it was hot and dusty-and a cold soda pop hit the spot! I loved riding to the elevator with Dad.
We decided to ‘loop around’ Albuquerque by taking the Tramway Road, avoiding city freeways. The highway had a bit of an incline and it was slowing me down, so I did what anyone would do to pick up speed – I punched it! (the accelerator pedal) With a puff of smoke from my tailpipe, and a rumble of my engine, I picked up speed. Only about 2 mph, but speed. Within a few seconds I knew something was wrong. The entire cab was engulfed in gas fumes. (Yuck! I don’t remember Dad’s grain truck smelling like this!) That reminded me to look at my fuel gauge- I needed fuel so I stopped at the Kicks 66 Convenience Store to fill up. I turned off my engine just in time to hear my friend say, “you need to back up-you won’t reach the hose.” I turned the key to start my engine back up, but nothing happened. Nada! She was completely dead.
We spent the next couple of hours getting people to help us. Fortunately, we were in a very nice neighborhood and everyone who stopped was friendly. One guy told me I needed fuses. I bought fuses and changed them out. NOTHING! The next guy suggested we boost the battery. I got out the cables and did just that….NOTHING! Then I called the former owner, Steve, to ask him if he had any ideas. He answered! It turns out we were boosting the wrong battery.. that one is for the cabin. The engine battery is behind the driver’s side wheel, underneath the bus! I crawled under there and hooked up my cables from the RV to my SUV. Still.. NOTHING! I tried to call Steve back but apparently his.. um.. phone died? He didn’t answer….this was turning into a Craigslist nightmare story! I was ready to give up and call a mechanic.
I went inside and flipped through the yellow pages looking for someone- ANYONE who would help me on a Sunday. All I could think about was, “this is going to be expensive” and “my husband is going to blow a gasket” and “they were right- I should have known better!” Then she appeared. A tall, slender woman with long, dark hair sat down across the table from me, sipping her very large cup of coffee. “Are you guys having trouble?” she asked. I told her my story of how I just bought it this morning and Steve won’t answer his phone and I can’t find a mechanic and it’s not the battery and she said, “I have to get to church, but call my friend Bo. He owns a mechanic shop. Maybe he isn’t busy and he could come help you guys out. Tell him Wendy sent you.” She gave me the number and promised to come back in an hour to see if we were still stranded, and away she went. I called Bo and explained the situation. He said “yeah-OK, I’ll be there in 30 minutes.” In about 30 minutes, an immaculately clean, older white Toyota pickup pulled up and a man got out. I thought, “There is no way this guy is a mechanic. Maybe a professional model or a bodybuilder, but not a mechanic.” With a big smile and a handshake, he introduced himself as “Bo” and hopped into the RV. Actually I think he went in sideways because his shoulders were so huge they wouldn’t fit through my narrow doorway. He turned the key, and nothing happened. He placed his hand on the gear shift and lowered it from “park” into “neutral.” He then turned the key again and she cranked right up! That rumble of the engine was music to my ears! I was so relieved! He explained that it was my safety neutral switch. He also said that I had probably flooded my engine and explained to me how to drive an old vehicle like this on inclines. “Just pick up speed going downhill, and when going uphill don’t overwork your engine. Just let the other cars pass you by and take your time.” I reached for my purse and said “Let me pay you!” He said “No, I won’t take your money, but I will take a Red Bull.” While my friends went inside the store to buy him a Red Bull, I thanked him again and he asked “Which Wendy was it? What did she look like?” I described her to him and he said “Oh, Wendy! She’s a therapist.” “No,” I thought, “she’s an angel.. and so are you. I asked God for y’all around 3am, and He said yes.”