When Mitzi Died a Sudden Death


As some of you know, I’ve been a Nomad for almost thirteen years living mostly in mid-sized SUV’s. In all that time, the most help I’ve had to ask for was assistance to change a tire once, and a big push when I got stuck in the worst kind of wet clay in Nine Mile Canyon, UT. My most recent SUV was a Mitsubishi Montero Sport, and her name was…wait for it…Mitzi! She is the star in most of the posts I’ve published on this blog up to August 2016. You may notice that I’m talking of Mitzi in the past tense, that’s because in July 2016, Mitzi’s life came to an abrupt end, and left me in quite a pickle.

For the past two years I’d been considering getting a vehicle/home with more space. In part this was because I’m getting older, but also because I have some injuries in my spine, and I need space to stretch when I sleep, and well, to do my physical therapy exercises. These injuries have made it difficult for me to work and save money, so I’m not exactly rolling in dough, but I’m not able to get disability yet. It’s a tough spot to be in.

Anyhow, in order to buy another vehicle I needed to sell Mitzi, but I was living in her and I needed her to use while I was looking for a replacement vehicle; It was a logistical nightmare. So a dear friend agreed to loan me the money to buy a vehicle with while I made the swap, on the understanding that I would pay him back as soon as I sold Mitzi, hopefully within a couple of weeks.

So on July 26, my friend drove me to Denver International Airport in Mitzi so I could fly to Austin, TX, to look at an Astro Van that was a steal compared to prices in the Front Range area of Colorado. I hopped on the plane, flew to Austin, bought the van, and drove it back to Estes Park all in a couple of days, oblivious to what had happened on my friends drive back to the mountains.

When I got back to my friends house on the 27th, I noticed Mitzi was parked at an odd angle in the driveway, and that’s when he told me the story:

Apparently she had just died on the interstate, with no warning at all. He managed to roll onto the shoulder (barely), but she wouldn’t start. He had AAA+, and had her towed all the way to Estes Park where she was resting. I was horrified by this news, as was my friend; the timing couldn’t have been any worse, it was almost impossible to comprehend.

I was very surprised by this failure which appeared to be the timing belt, because I’d had a new tensioner and timing belt put on just three years prior and a ton of other work, and expected her to be good for another 66,000, at least with the maintenance I’d had done. Anyhow, I got in touch with the garage that had done the work hoping it would be under warranty, and three weeks later I learned the truly bad news; It was the BOLT that held in the new tensioner that had broken, and it wasn’t a warranty part.

After replacing the timing belt again,  we learned that the damaged belt had bent the pistons, which damaged  the valves, which had destroyed the engine!

My little road warrior had suddenly turned to a heap of useless metal and plastic.

I considered all the options, like replacing the engine, but after doing all the research and considering the expense, it just wasn’t worth it financially. I wouldn’t gain a thing.

So I ended up owing my friend money; money I promised to pay him back quickly. His kindness in helping me had turned into a nightmare for him as well as myself, and I wanted to fulfill my promise to him, and pay him back as much as I possibly could.

While going through my options, I actually considered selling my van to pay him back, but that would have left me entirely homeless. If I didn’t have the injuries to my spine and other places, I’d probably welcome moving into a backpack and travel overseas (actually, I would do it anyway if I could), but I can’t carry one right now, so it’s simply not an option. I’m facing an uncertain future with regards to my ability to work, so having long-term debt is not an option for me.

That’s when my friends came forward and encouraged me to ask for help in the form of a fundraiser, and assured me there was no shame in admitting I needed help, and asking for it. It wasn’t an easy thing to do (ask for help that is), but I created a GoFundMe account, and put out a plea for assistance. That was back in early September 2016, and the response I got was overwhelming. There were so many kind, compassionate and generous people willing to help me, and it only took a week to get me back on my feet again and pay my friend off. My friends, family, and My Tribe, came to my rescue, and as I promised everyone, I will be paying-it-forward forever.


Roxy ~ A Nomad for Nature



7 responses to “When Mitzi Died a Sudden Death

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  4. I meant to say “not the only mad woman” but I think you picked up on that : – ). I am hoboing in Colorado year round and yes, it can be rough. Thanks to my zero degree sleeping bag, I don´t have to stack blankets anymore. Take care!


    • Ha ha…I’ve done most of my Nomading in Colorado…many years now during the summer and winter months. Winter in the mountains in a vehicle can be brutal, never again. I hope you head for warmer climes in the winter…:-) and it looks like the goal will be reached! I am overwhelmed by the generosity of strangers. Happy Trails….Roxy

      Liked by 1 person

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