I continued the drive toward Santa Barbara and with 10, 15, 20 miles gained, I became fixated on the idea of arriving that same night. It became a game. I’d accelerate toward the end of the road only to find more miles ahead of me.
As the rig reached El Capitan, a hazy full moon rose above the water leaving a yellow shadow on the Pacific Ocean. This peaceful sight made me long for a warm bed so I cracked open the window and cranked up the 80s station. While I was cozy in the car, the fierce ocean wind shook the trailer behind me and soon the Touareg felt like it was hydroplaning. I wasn’t the only one being pummeled by the wind. The semi-truck ahead of me was shifting in its lane. At this point there was no turning back or stopping since I was 20 minutes from Santa Barbara. I took a deep breath and continued on 101 South.
My plan was to stay overnight near Goleta Beach until the morning and then set up for the rest of the week at Carpinteria State Beach where I had a reservation for an oceanfront spot for the week.
As I drove past the area in Goleta where I thought I would park overnight, I felt uneasy. The area was deserted but worse the ground was sloped, which meant I would need to unhitch the trailer and spend time leveling it before I could settle in. This was too much to deal with late at night and my gut told me to move on.
Plan B was to park overnight in my office parking lot. I was pretty sure no one would complain about my being there. And if the cops showed up, I’d show them my badge and let them know I worked there. What a dedicated employee…they would think.
I pulled into the office parking lot and stepped out into the howling wind. I walked Butters around the lot and felt uneasy again. Even though the office building is a familiar and friendly place during the day, it gave me the chills that night. I drove away with the intent of finding a place near my old apartment in West Beach. I was held up at a stoplight at the freeway entrance when I dialed my Mom.
“Umma, I’m here in Santa Barbara.”
“Where are you?” It’s typical for Umma to ask me to repeat myself. I was about to tell her where I was but realized the engine had stopped. I tried to start the car again but it made a bizarre sound.
“Uh, I’m going to have to call you back.”
I turned off the ignition and tried to restart. The engine would not engage. I turned off the engine again. I tried to restart. Same issue. I thought about the situation. I’m in the middle of the road. I have a trailer attached to me. I cannot get the car to start.
I racked my brain to think about who to call. It occurred to me that my friends Troy and Katie live not too far from where I was stranded. I called Troy. He answered. I explained the situation to him: I was in the middle of the road with my trailer and the car will not start. I told him I was going to call VW Roadside assistance but didn’t know what else to do. Troy offered to wait with me while the tow truck got there. When Troy arrived, I felt a sense of relief and also extremely helpless. I was no longer the empowered, confident woman. I was a damsel in distress.
Everything happened in a blur. I told VW where I was. VW told me they could only tow my car and not the trailer. While I stood out on the road talking to roadside assistance, I smelled cigarette smoke off in the distance. Troy was busy under the hood filling up the oil. He asked me to get in the car and turn on the engine. No luck but I noticed that the “Fill with 1 and 1/4 quart oil” message was gone.
While I was ending the call with VW, Troy came over to the driver side and told me to call the police because a suspicious looking guy was checking us out. I peeked over to the sidewalk and a guy with a baseball hat, dark checkered/flannel button down shirt, smoking a cigarette was watching us from the the corner. Troy told me the guy was walking up the street and stopped and has been watching us for a few minutes.
I called 911.
“My car is stranded in the middle of the road and we are waiting for a tow truck to get here. There’s a suspicious looking man who is checking us out from the corner and is making me nervous.”
“Please describe the individual.”
“Early 30s, wearing a checkered grey shirt, baseball hat…” I went on to describe the person. The operator asked questions about what he was wearing…was he wearing shorts or pants? How far was he from us, five feet, fifteen feet?
I looked over to the corner. The guy was eyeing me and I tried not to make it appear as though I was calling the police.
“I can’t tell what he’s wearing on the bottom. I’m in the car and I can only see him from the waist up.”
“What’s the man doing?”
“He’s standing on the corner watching us. He was walking by and he stopped and is now watching us.”
I know this must have sounded strange to the operator. But given that Troy, who has military training was concerned about this person, I didn’t care what I sounded like to the operator. Troy told me to tell the operator that the man was wearing “gang affiliated attire.”
“He’s wearing gang clothing. And is now hiding in the bushes. Can you just please send a police officer? I’m scared to be out here.” My voice started trembling and the operator got the message. She said a deputy would be on his way soon.
Troy told me to grab my purse and my dog and get into his truck while we wait. And in a few minutes a deputy arrived. The man looked more like a meter maid than a tough police man. When I looked over to the corner, I didn’t see the man anymore. We asked the policeman to wait with us while the tow truck arrived.
Within the next hour, the tow truck reached us and eventually the Touareg was towed away. Troy was able to tow the trailer and park it right next to his house. It was 1:30 in the morning and I was in a safe location.
Fortunately, this unfortunate situation happened near friends who came to the rescue. Had I been stranded along 101, who knows what my fate could have been?
Butters, Bambi and I were near friends and parked under a pepper tree. Meanwhile, the Touareg’s fate is unknown. I hope it will be strong again.
Bambi, parked by Troy and Katie’s.