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story.lead_photo.caption Sean Clancy, Paper Trails columnist

#VANBROKELIFE There's this funny, thoughtful story by writer Chris Wright at about leaving behind the workaday life and traveling the country with his fiancee, Rachel Sweeney.

The pair left Pennsylvania last year in a 1995 Ford E-350 Econoline van they bought for $2,000, which would be their conveyance and home as they cruised the nation's highways and back roads.

It was not an artfully staged adventure like one sees so often in #vanlife Instagram stories. Wright tells of a trip filled with plenty of good times, but also nightmares and crushing anxiety over finances and the tenuous mechanical state of the van, which they named Little Honey.

They traveled through New England and made it to the West Coast before deciding to head home early. After a refreshing stay in Hot Springs, they were on their way east when Little Honey finally called it a day on Interstate 40.

"There was kind of like a bump and then everything died," the 29-year-old Wright said during an interview last week about the trip and their unscheduled Natural State stop.

Luckily for the weary and cash-strapped travelers they were near Hazen and Rick's Automotive and Wrecker Service.

"There are some people you can tell are being honest, and Rick was one of those guys," Wright said. "He was shooting it really straight. I immediately trusted him."

Rick Wiggins, who has owned the business for 30 years, diagnosed the problem -- stripped timing gear. It was too big a job to fix at his shop, so the next day he took the pair and Little Honey to a North Little Rock garage.

"He really was our guardian, and he looked out for us the whole time," Wright said.

After moping around their hotel room for a few days while waiting for the van to get fixed, the couple, who had never been here, got an Uber and went exploring.

"We ate barbecue at Whole Hog, which was great, and then we went to the Little Rock River Market," Wright said. "It was infectious when we were downtown. We went from being kind of depressed to having a good time again."

The van got repaired and Wright and Sweeney finally made it home. Little Honey resides on a farm owned by Wright's family in northeastern Pennsylvania, and the couple now lives in LA. When moving out there, they honked as they passed the Hazen exit and made a return visit to Hot Springs.

"Arkansas has a special place in our hearts, for sure," Wright said.

Read the entire story at

DOGGONE IT Last week's column about violations of city animal laws was wrong about the court where defendants with warrants appear. It's district court, duh. Many thanks to Little Rock District Judge Vic Fleming for setting us straight.

SundayMonday on 08/25/2019


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