So, as you can see by my photo above, my hare-brained, hair-raising adventure to the Southwest United States is over and largely successful. Marjan the Series 80 Land Cruiser is safely ensconced in the garage, and I’m already working off issues caused by 19 years of on-again, off-again maintenance
The last phase of my journey, after being rescued by the great people in Mesa, was extremely anti-climactic. I left in the afternoon and made it to Lordsburg, New Mexico. Completely ironically, I stayed in the exact same hotel where a co-worker and I stayed back in 2012, while we were conducting cultural training to a SEAL team prior to going overseas. As part of our time here, I picked and ate a prickly pear. It tasted so good, I convinced her to eat some as well.
The pain subsequent to this was intense and nearly unbearable. Prickly pear thorns are completely un-noticeable going in, but while they are under the skin, it’s awful. I’m pretty sure she forgave me almost immediately, as we are still friends. I still haven’t forgiven myself, though.
The high point of Lordsburg is Ramona’s Cafe. A cafe that is literally in a junkyard and home to the best Mexican food I’ve ever eaten.
The flavors in this food are amazing and completely suck me in. I admit to being indifferent to Mexican food before this. Since that time I’ve made an effort to become more acquainted with the style.
Leaving Lordsburg, my suspension started making bad noises again, and Marjan developed a shimmy. My heart sunk to my feet and I pulled over. I looked everything over, didn’t see anything wrong and started moving again, and it started AGAIN! Frustrated, I pulled off the interstate onto a dirt road beside it, and magically, the noise and shaking stopped. Note to self: if your Land Cruiser ever starts to make a funny sound/vibration in the suspension, make sure to check if you’re driving in New Mexico, because if you are, it’s probably New Mexico roads, not your Land Cruiser.
The sun came up as I crossed the Texas border in the most spectacular way. I’d picked up a Janis Joplin CD the night before, and she started singing about “Me and Bobby McGee” as this came into view:
I pulled over onto another dirt road shortly after that in order to take a break and get a picture in this fantastic light.
Of course, I was there for about 30 seconds before being surrounded by Border Patrol agents. Here I was, near the Mexican border, in a multi-passenger All Wheel Drive vehicle, by myself during the early dawn. After a short conversation, I decided maybe I needed to get moving.
I picked up my sister in Iowa Park, Texas, and after a quick rest, we drove the remaining distance.
Kansas is one of the most beautiful states to drive through. Breathtaking.
Upon reflection, I realize everything I got from this trip.
I met some amazing people, tied together by their hobby of off-roading Toyota Land Cruisers, and their desire to help others.
I was reunited with a friend, who I had alienated before. As I mentioned briefly, immediately after we had fought, I went into a downward spiral of depression and self-imposed solitude, that took my mind directly to darkness and despair. Meeting her again has reignited my desire to become part of the outside world again.
My friend introduced me to CrossFit. I thought I knew about it earlier, and kind of made fun of CrossFitters when it seemed funny. But during a trip to a couple CrossFit gyms, the coaches there identified that the IT bands in my legs were frozen; a condition that has partially crippled me since I was 6 years old. In only three sessions, they helped me release those muscles, and my legs seem to be straightened, almost overnight. Truth be told, I’d adapted to this deformation, and they now hurt more than ever, but I have full range of motion for the first time in over 45 years.
I’m going to stop there about my disability. I have concealed it for a long time. I hadn’t mentioned it before, and I plan on writing it as one of my next blog entries.
And in the end, I now have the coolest car in the world in my garage. When I was first crippled, I spent all my time reading, especially National Geographic magazine. And ever since I could remember, I wanted a Toyota Land Cruiser, because all of my childhood heroes drove one. When I was issued one in Afghanistan, I was over the moon.
And now I have Marjan.