“Yesterday’s gone, sweet Jesus, and tomorrow may never be mine …”
— “One Day at a Time” 1975 song lyric written by Kris Kristofferson and Marijohn Wilkin.
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One day at a time. It’s more than a song or a saying. In the years since I first heard it in the 70s, the words have become a constant reminder that the best life is one lived one day at a time. Granted, I forget that from time to time, but the reminders get closer together with each passing year.
One reoccurring reminder is the story of the “weirdest and most surreal adventure” embarked upon by a trio of friends. We dubbed the vehicle employed for this journey the Starship Enterprise, but our version of the well-known stellar exploration vehicle bore no resemblance to the TV show ship. It was a well-seasoned old motorhome rescued from a wrecking yard.
We had no idea what lay in store before embarking on our first mission chosen for the newly acquired ship. To loosely quote Captain Kirk, “Our mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
Our 1987 mission: blaze a trail to Indianapolis, Indiana, for the 71st running of the Indy 500 classic auto race on May 24 and return successfully to Center without the loss of a single soul. And do it in an old Winnebago that should have been scrapped at least 100,000 miles ago.
“I have been, and ever shall be, your friend. Live long and prosper.” — Spock
Oscar Elliott and I were grade school friends in Mount Pleasant in 1959. We had survived numerous adventures, living to tell about the ones that we dared repeat. Gary Hart and I became friends when he moved to Center in the mid-1980s to open the community’s first McDonald’s restaurant. New galaxies were already being discovered in East Texas.
The three of us set out in Gary’s newly acquired project. Gary accumulated projects—neat old vehicles that needed anything from lots of major work to complete restoration. However, the Winnebago was different. It ran. Under its own power. Or at least he assured us it did.
“Don’t let all the corrosion, dents and duct tape fool you,” Gary smiled.
“Ahh, Mr. Scott, I understand you’re having difficulty with the warp drive. How much time do you require for repair?” — Spock
The wrecking yard refugee that was to be our trusty transportation sat quietly rusting in the parking lot next to Gary’s fast-food franchise at 9 a.m. on the designated departure date. After finishing lunch about noon, we rumbled out of Center, rolling north with plans to drive without stopping. The schedule was four-hour shifts at herding the old heavyweight with a refrigerator full of food and a heart full of hopes that the noisy little fridge functioned.
“She’s in tip-top shape.” Gary assured us about ten minutes before the alternator belt gave up the ghost with a nasty noise. Lucky for us, it expired within sight of a garage.
Later, somewhere in northern Missouri at about 2:00 a.m. on a highway with expansion joints the size of speed bumps, Oscar was bouncing through his sleep shift in the back bedroom. Gary was piloting, and I was riding shotgun. Sleeping was no easy endeavor with the smell of musty drapes flapping in the window and rotting plywood the only thing preventing us from plummeting to the pavement. Any sleep ended abruptly when a tire on the inside rear dual exploded, sending the elderly RV rocking and its passengers praying.
Once again, lady luck lingered when we determined the glow ahead to be an all-night truck stop. It was at that very moment on the side of a dark highway that we christened the worn-out Winnebago as the, “Star Ship Enterprise.”
“Ru’afo, we’re getting too old for this.” — Admiral Dougherty
The trip to Indy eradicated a few issues in the old Winnie. The races were great, the trip home uneventful, and the experience endearing.
“I think that is the weirdest and most surreal adventure we ever went on. I can barely remember anything that happened.” — Oscar Elliott
Yesterday is gone, and since I am now the sole survivor of that trip still on this side of eternity, it’s a “one day at a time” treasured memory.