My daily bicycle ride takes me long Old River Road, which is a gravelly, half-kept road here in rural San Diego County. Though there are some nice homes above the road that I enjoy riding by each morning, the highlight for me are the acres — the miles of tomato fields which rise up alongside the road. These waves of fully grown tomato plants, staked up and reaching for the sunshine are an aesthetic treasure.
On one section of Old River Road, just after I turn from Highway 76 not far from the old Bonsall bridge, I’ve noticed a late model Ford Mustang parked there for the last few weeks. This Mustang is in the middle of nowhere — the nearest house is probably a mile away, so it is just parked — on a rural road. About half the time I ride past it, which is early in the morning, the hood over the engine is up and there are two men standing beside the car looking over the engine.
This has gone on for weeks.
As I ride past them each morning, I can’t help but wonder why these two men can’t get this car running and relocated to a better place. I admire their tenacity working on it day after day, but after a few weeks I have assumed that the car would be running by now.
Yesterday morning, curious about what was going on with that engine, I slowed down considerably and looked into the engine compartment as I road by. I couldn’t see much, but it didn’t look like it was in any state of disrepair. Not wanting to be obvious, I just kept going, still curious about what they’re doing to that engine.
This morning I slowed down even more and attempted to get a closer look. What struck me first, and something I should have considered long ago, is that it appears that the two men actually live in the car. As I slowed down and looked toward it, I saw pillows and blankets inside the car piled on the rear dashboard as well as some clothing. As I processed that idea in mere seconds while riding by, I realized that the two men are standing there each morning with the hood up, not because they’re trying to fix the engine, but they’re using the heat of the engine to cook with. It’s their stove.
When I first started driving in 1977, I remember my friend Jeff and I talking about the heat of an engine block being hot enough to cook a can of Dinty Moore beef stew on. I have no idea why that ever came up, but it did and I’ve never forgotten it. So in the trunk of my car during Colorado winters, I always kept a couple cans of stew alongside a 1-gallon bucket of gravel, a snow shovel, toilet paper, and matches — in case of an emergency.
For these two gentlemen, the emergency seems to be present and ongoing. I’m going to ride by again in the morning and stop in hopes that they’ll talk to me a little bit — see if they will be willing to share their predicament and the circumstances that led them to living in and cooking on a Mustang parked on Old River Road. We’ll see if they’re willing to talk.
In the meantime, this is just another good reminder for me of how fortunate I am, and even better reminder that my cardinal-rule of life has never been more relevant…
… I will never buy a car I can’t pay cash for and also sleep in comfortably, because those two men could just easily be me… Jhciacb
If you have not already, please scroll up and subscribe. And please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there is this from Love As Laughter. Enjoy…!