OXNARD, Calif. – So there we were, just one more night, one more stop and we'd have triumphantly arrived here on Sunday evening, having completed Road Trippin' 2015 without a major hitch.
Just another 170 miles.
But noooo, about 9:30 Saturday night, not far from the exit to Palm Springs, Calif., we're standing behind the Cowboys bus on the side of I-10, traffic whipping by with speeds seemingly equal to the winds sweeping across the desert, flashlights and cell phone flashlight apps in hand, beaming down on the belt compartment to the overheated Cowboys bus engine. One main one had broken, just snapped, and just happened to be the pretty intricate belt responsible for the cooling process of the engine.
Are you kidding me? After all the hours driving, after all the miles covered, within three hours of our final destination, and yep, they we were, me, Emory, Jacob and Rowdy (not in costume mercifully) doing our level best to wrap the replacement belt into place that the ever-prepared Emory had stored in the underbelly of the bus. But, just couldn't do it. Just couldn't. Didn't have the proper tool to loosen and then tight one of the rollers.
Now it wasn't as if everything had gone perfectly for three days. Remember the false start, the rear refrigerator drawer flying out of the cabinet, delaying the beginning to the journey 45 minutes. Then there was the picture Stacy Gray had texted us from the Cowboys Pro Shop in Midland, asking if we had left this cord behind. The blood drained from Jacob's face since we were 30 minutes down the road. But, his shame was mitigated when Stacy told me that I had left my coat, shirt and tie behind, too. The gracious lady and her guy said not to worry, get to the hotel in Monahans and we'll make the 45-minute drive over with your forgotten items. They did, too.
Good people, probably the theme of the trip, having run into so many over this four-day journey to Cowboys training camp.
There was one other glitch. That night we were going to spend in Tucson? After the great stop with the fan clubs there? Well, we arrived after 10 at the hotel, thinking we had a guaranteed reservation. Found out we didn't past 6. Oops, my oversight, forcing us to search, and successfully, for another.
But this, feeling like we were in the middle of nowhere? Come on.
So initially we waited until the engine cooled. Drove another few miles in the black dark, until the engine ran too hot again. Pulled over, and waited. Started and stopped one more time before exiting and turning back, trying to get to the nearest truck stop and call for help. Finally, we made it to one, and about 30 minutes later our savior, Dave from Bark's Mobile Service Repairs, arrived. He had the tool.
'Bout 15 minutes of work, ol' Dave had the belt on, engine running while he filled out his paperwork. Emory gladly paid the man, handed him a hat and a few items we had been signing, and off we went in search of a room about two and a half hours later after Emory initially pulled over. Finally we found a hotel that might have three rooms. Before we registered, it was down to two, a late arrival taking the third.
Emory put his foot down, "You guys take the rooms, and I'll sleep in the bus."
I said, "No, we go on."
He said, "No, we stay."
I insisted he not sleep in the bus after all we'd been through, especially him, only to be met very sternly, Emory stating, "I'm the captain of this ship, this is what I do, I live in this bus, I can sleep in this bus. That's it. Go."
Well, OK then, and off we went, taking the two available rooms and Emory camping out in the bus, bless him.
But hey, if you are going to go on a road trip you had better be resilient. Deal with whatever and move on. We did, happily heading toward our next and last stop, Q's on the edge of Los Angeles and Santa Monica off Wilshire Blvd.
And there, as we pulled up in front of the establishment just before noon, more Cowboys fans, and as we would find out, three separate Cowboys fan clubs were in attendance, thanks to Westside Dallas Cowboys Connection president Robert Chancellor, who organized our appearance and made sure members of the Star Status Cowboys Connection Fan Club and SoCal Dallas Cowboys Fan Club were aware of the appearance.
More good people.
They all showed up in great numbers, had a room to ourselves upstairs and a great time for sure, especially since the pressure was off. We made all six of our planned stops, Abilene, Midland, El Paso, Tucson, Chandler and now L.A., and no longer had any more deadlines, since Cowboys training camp here at the Residence Inn Sunday evening would not officially begin until Tuesday when the team arrives.
So not only did we sign and sign, afterward, after a little lunch and a beverage or two, we kicked back to just talk football with members of the fan clubs and also those who wandered in after seeing the bus parked out front on the street.
Around 3 p.m. we loaded up one more time, and sort of congratulated ourselves for having pulled this off, four days, three nights, covering roughly 84 hours from start to finish and like 1,700 miles. Someone on Twitter asked which was greater, the number of miles driven or the number of autographs signed. Didn't even have to think twice about that one, since seemingly the number we signed in El Paso alone exceeded our total miles, so yes, the autographs signed. Probably could add good people to that equation, too.
By early evening we were pulling over on the 101 frontage road paralleling the Pacific Ocean just north of Ventura to sort of consecrate the completion of our journey by stepping over the rocks and onto the beach to touch the water for a final group picture.
And wouldn't you know it, made one last acquaintance, a couple living in Moorpark, just up the road some, out for a Sunday afternoon. We chatted. They snapped a few pictures for us. Rowdy posed for a few more pictures with curious beachgoers. Jacob recorded our final videos, Emory chatted up about the bus and I did one last standup.
As we stood just staring out into the rough waters, Bobbi, the lady we met, who had just moved here a few years ago from Pennsylvania with her husband, remarked her brother, "Wouldn't believe this."
"And why would that be?" I asked.
"He's the biggest Cowboys fan I know," she said.
Amazing coincidence, time after time after time on this trip?
I think not.
Them Cowboys fans, they're everywhere.