It’s a good thing we left our summer home when we did, because we had obviously become complacent about life on the road. But I think after all that we went through in our first two days traveling again, we’re back in the game.
We left Red Feather on Saturday, after a light snowfall that seemed like Mother Nature’s final warning to get out before it was too late (and no, Balloon Boy couldn’t have helped us either). As soon as ascended the 10,000+ foot Rockies heading West, the sky turned dark, then snow, sleet and wind followed. Strike One.
Ignore Native Hitchhikers at Your Own Risk
We hit the Utah state line at dusk, looking for place to boondock. But the welcome center was quite unwelcoming, with it’s ban on overnight camping, so we jumped back on I-70 to find another spot. We had forgotten to fuel up then, but freeway signs said a gas station was ahead, so we weren’t concerned. We exited to fuel up, but when we got to the station, our jaws dropped. The pumps were closed. Permanently. Strike Two.
Our Dodge’s Distance to Empty readout said we had 110 miles left on the tank. The next fuel was 65 miles away. In 2 years and 35,000 miles of fulltiming, the only other time we pushed the envelope like that was in Texas, and we made it. So we kept driving, holding our breath and trying not to panic. As we got back on I-70, we drove past a hitchhiking Native American, who gave us a long look as Jim muttered “Sorrrrrrrry guy.”
We were confident we could make it to the next station. But what we didn’t count on, was the heavy crosswinds that made our fuel economy drop faster than we expected. Before we knew it, our DTE readout just kept flashing the words “FUEL LOW…FUEL LOW…FUEL LOW”
That’s when we knew we were in trouble. The old Native had put a hex on us. Strike Three.
The engine shut down on the side of I-70, less than one mile from another visitor center and four miles from the next gas station. We rolled to a stop and I did my best not to panic (staying calm is not one of my best attributes). Jim grabbed our two cans of gasoline for our generator. Being a good environmentalist, he didn’t want to just dump it, so he thought he would give away the gas to someone at the visitor’s center then bribe another driver to refill them with diesel. He rode off into the night on his bike.
Down and Out but Not Alone
While he was gone, I stayed in the rig with Wyatt, who was doing a good job panicking for the two of us. As I looked out the back window, hoping to see a cop stop (do they even help stranded travelers anymore?), I spotted a car slowly moving toward us in the emergency lane.
The car’s hazards were flashing, then it came to a stop behind us. At that point, two scenarios are going through my mind; either he’s a psychopath who saw Jim leave and has plans to kill me, or he’s stranded too. But what were the chances that on this 100 mile stretch of highway, another traveler would break down behind us?
The chances were excellent that day.
The guy got out and went over to the rig, but kept walking. Being a lone female on the road, I wasn’t about to get out and talk to him, and figured he might catch up with Jim. I thought to myself how nice it was to have a vehicle as a crash barrier behind us.
Minutes later, Jim returned with a kind stranger from Arkansas, who was driving a Mercedes Diesel. I got out of the trailer, assured that the other stranded traveler wasn’t going to kill me with Jim and the other guy around. I asked him what happened. Apparently he ran out of gas too. As we stood outside commiserating, I did my best to ignore Wyatt Ray, who was inside, panicking and tearing at the screen door.
The Arkansasan was nice enough to come to the rig so Jim could siphon more than the 3 gallons our cans would hold. But siphoning wasn’t working. Apparently the geniuses at Mercedes have put anti-theft devices in the car’s tanks. Another strike! The stranger wished us well, and left.
Jim headed back to the visitor’s center, where a generous trucker let Jim fill up his cans. When Jim returned with diesel, he remembered: we still had a gallon of gas in our generator. By 8pm with enough fuel to get our fellow traveler started, and diesel for us, we all headed to the filling station, less than four miles away.
The stranger turned out to be a decent guy, who had a great old dog with him. I think the universe sent him our way, because if it wasn’t for him and his dog being there to lighten the mood, Jim and I might have killed each other.
Thing Couldn’t Get Worse, Right?
We said our goodbyes, and minutes later found a truck stop with a restaurant. Poor Wyatt, he was in a complete state of panic now. This is his first real road trip experience, and he was losing it.
We fed and tried to calm him, then crated him in his RV-friendly soft-sided crate. Off we went to grab a bite to eat, but with each tick of the clock, I keep hearing the warnings I got from other dog people, who said that collapsible crates won’t hold a panicked dog inside.
With food in my belly and feeling much better, on our way back to the rig, I fell into a ditch.
A wet, mucky ditch. Yep. No joke. And that’s when I lost it. I cried and whined as I walked back with my foot soaked in what I hoped was just mud.
We approached the trailer, and could hear Wyatt moving around. As Jim opened the door he was greeted by a hideous stench, and copious amounts of runny dog poo all over the floor.
Then, I really lost it. Flipped out. Cried, Threw a tantrum. Made Jim take Wyatt away for a very long time while I wet down the rugs with our outdoor shower. The trucker next to us got dinner and a show.
With the rugs outside and Wyatt tucked in for the night, Jim and I crashed hard. Late at night we heard Wyatt whining at one point, but opted to see if he would whine a little louder, figuring if he really had to go . . .
He never whined again that night. Instead, he just crapped all over the rig. Again.
Such a lovely way to wake up the next day, our second day on the road.
Keep Smiling, Keep Driving
Things could’ve been so much worse. In 12 years of marriage, we’ve never tried harder not to fight or bicker. And through this ordeal, we think we did pretty good. In the middle of it all, we just had to accept that no amount of screaming was going to fix the “crappy situation” we had gotten ourselves into.
Keeping a sense of humor is definitely key to living on the road, which brings with it a life of uncertainty, and oftentimes, mis-adventure.