Day One goes smoothly. I buy a cowboy hat. Day Two starts early and by 10 am, I am in The Middle of Nowhere, an hour in either direction to the nearest town, when my coolant light comes on. I throw the Rover into neutral and coast to a dusty stop in the desert sun. Before I can even pop the hood, a hissing noise directs me south. The Rover is hemorrhaging, and I quickly find the leak. I have coolant in the back, but what I don't have is tape. I look at my cell phone: no service. I recall the last major breakdown I experienced, on the side of the autobahn. (It was essentially the same problem, only in a Land Cruiser. It lasted for fifteen hours. Excuse me do you speak English? Nein! Excuse me can I use your cell phone? Nein! Excuse me do you know where there’s an auto parts store? Nein! Excuse m— Nein!)
Within two minutes, a truck pulls over and out steps a man. I look at his shirt. It says two things: Ezekiel and Diesel Mechanic. It’s too good to be true. I quickly figure out that he doesn’t speak any English, and try to recall as much high school Spanish as I can, but they never taught us how to say lower radiator hose or tape. So I resort to pointing. Ezekiel nods his head, and we begin to drain the rest of the coolant and take out the hose. After we finish, he silently gets back in his car and drives off, without saying a word. I put down the tailgate, wonder if he's coming back, and pull out a book. Within thirty seconds, another cars pulls over. It's a fellow Range Rover owner who has spent his fair share of time on the side of the road. We chat for an hour or so while I wait for Ezekiel to maybe come back. He says he wants a diesel Rover and gives me a biscuit. I give him a business card.
An hour later, Ezekiel pulls back up. Again, silently, he gets out of the car, smiles, and holds up mechanic tape. We start taping the hose up, refit it, and fill the engine up with my remaining coolant. I use every word of Spanish I have to thank him and shove all of my cash into his hands, but he won’t accept it. God bless you he says, and gets in his car and drives away.
With my faith in humanity restored, I’m back on the road, and approximately forty five seconds later the light comes back on. I pull off. Approximately forty five seconds after that, another truck pulls over. A man named Jose steps out and hands me a cold can of coke. I explain that the truck is fine, I just need to keep putting coolant in. He explains that he is a welder and has nowhere to be right now. He proceeds to chase car me—all the way to the New Mexico border. We stop every hour or so along the way to chat, check the truck, get a cold drink. When we get close to El Paso we stop for burgers. He wants to keep going, but he has to go into town to buy his fiancé a dress. He gives me two gumballs. I give him a hug.
After that, it’s smooth rovering. I make it to Tuscon, then Phoenix where I pickup my copilot, then on to Joshua Tree, Santa Monica, and all the way up the PCH back to San Francisco. Along the way we stop for the world’s best boysenberry pie, go tidepooling, hot tub in the redwoods and on the side off a cliff, get offroad for a bit, eat seafood for three meals a day. And that southern hospitality holds the lower radiator hose together the whole way.