As I started getting the new part ready to go in, one of the employees stepped out and asked me how I planned to get the freon BACK in.
"In? I was just gonna hook up this can here..."
"That won't work. You need to have something to suck it in."
"Wait, what? Do you have that here at the store?"
"Uh no, not really."
Years of experience allowed the Autozone guy to recognize imcompetence when he saw it, and he suggested I take it across the street to the mechanic there and have them charge it. I told him that was a bit too pricy for me and I was gonna try it myself somehow. Recognizing that dangerous combination of incompetence coupled with ignorance, he took it upon himself to call the shop himself and explain that he had a customer who was systematically destroying an ugly truck in their parking lot and asked if they could fix it before meltdown occured. The instructions lying crumpled on the ground nearby probably helped my case, too... Fortunately they agreed and I took the truck across the street for a professional attempt at repair.
At Katy foriegn and domestic auto repair, the mechanic, Tink, assured me he could get the Bean recharged and I'd be set. After a bit he asked if I'd changed the filter, too. Filter? There's a filter? Well Tink the uncharged the system and checked the filter, which contained all sorts of parts of the old compressor. Not good. After seing this, he decided maybe the whole system should be flushed, too. Several bottles of flush later, 24 years of crud was removed and he set about hooking it all back up. Finally, several hours later and a lot more work completed than what they initially agreed to, the Bean was blowing 48 degree air and I was ready to get back on the road. I have to thank Tink and the rest of them there for being so kind as to work late into the afternoon before the 4th to get the Bean back to arctic goodness!
Back on the road I decided I'd drive late to make up time. I then promptly got stuck in the parking lot that is I-10 in Houston at late rush hour. Eventually everyone remembered they were supposed to be driving and traffic started moving and I headed out. I managed to get to Lake Charles, LA around 9:30 and looked for a camp. Jellystone was the only option, so off I went in search of Yogi and crew. Once there I was laughingly informed that if I didn't have a reservation there was no way they were taking me in. Dang. I then went to the local Econolodge, which happened to be on MLK drive there. I hate to make broad statements, but in my life, I've NEVER been on a MLK drive that gave me a good feeling and the fact that the Garminator was beelining me there wasn't reassuring.
At the hotel waiting to check in, I got my first clue when the clerk told security that there was someone on the second floor going door to door asking for drugs or money. Nonplussed, I bravely checked in anyhow and pulled around to my room. I hadn't even got the bean in park before there was a guy at my door. I got RTD and my knife ready and opened the door. he immediately asked if I could come across the street with him for a little help. I looked at the dark grove of trees he was pointing towards and followed my gut instinct and tasered the guy. Ok I didn't taser him, but at the sight of Rocky he lost interest and ran off. Still undeterred I headed up the stairs to my hovel... The room itself was disgustipating. The carpet was hideous and the smell was worse. I looked at the two beds and bravely pulled back the comforter. Blue sheets. Not good. For the hotel unitiated, colored sheets are ALWAYS a bad thing. Colored sheets indicate bleach is not a part of the washing process. I looked closely at the sheets and was impressed at the number of stains on the first bed. The second bed looked a little better, but then when I touched it, the bed was wet. I briefly considered getting the air mattress before realizing I'd PAID for this. Angry, I finally headed back to the desk where I stood around for about twenty minutes while the clerk did everything but unlock the lobby to let me in. My only solace was in scaring off potential customers with my tales of nastiness and funk in the hotel. Finally I was given a refund and I made my way on down the road to a Ho-Jo that was much nicer.
The next morning I set off for Pensacola to see the fireworks at the beach there. Along the way I crossed all manner of woodlands and bayou. Pines and hardwoods would yield to the cypress and other undergrowth of the wetlands. Herons and other waterbirds hovered just off the highway, taking advantage of the updraft off the water to hold them steady as if painted into the sky. Every time I got ready to pull over to take a picture, a local law enforcement officer would appear next to a "no parking ever" sign. Eventually I crossed into Florida where the wetlands gave way to the sandy soil of the Florida guld coast. Pines and dark undergrowth again became the masters of the land as I pulled into the RV park which was kind enough to let me park there. They were the only place that wasn't booked full, or so greedy they hadn't jacked the prices way into the hundreds. I watched the fireworks from the Outback there, and then headed back to campground for a humid nights sleep. I must say 75 degrees still sucks when you can swim through the air to get to the bathroom... Today I'm headed to Tampa for a day or three, and finally on to either Orlando or Jacksonville before making my way back north.
BTW, Ernie of http://www.ehowa.com/, get ahold of me!