In the morning we were eager to get going but had to wait hours for
the office to open.
We were weary and couldn't sleep, hungry and couldn't eat and bored and couldn't go anywhere.
But finally they opened and after another hour we had our money.
We ate, gassed up and took off into the Wild Blue Yonder
without an inkling to what it would be like to take on the Rocky Mountains..........
At the foothills our interest was piqued by the changing scenery.
The inclines became steep and we could smell the overheated brake pads of passing trucks.
There were Elevation Markers
.......3,000 feet......4,000 and
There were abandoned Minor's Shacks that bore witness to the past,
weather worn and lopsided but still standing.
Historic markers dotted the landscape sharing information about Events and Pioneers.
Rivers cut zigzag patterns across fields where Ranch Houses nestled in far off glens.
Passing through a little town we stopped for a bowl of chile where locals discussed
business with only an occasional glance at the 2 strangers in their midst.
Everything was different, the atmosphere, attitudes, the very air we breathed.
Did they really lead normal lives here?
They were sitting on top of Creation and the cares of the world seemed far, far away.
We sauntered back
to the Pinto and kicked over the engine which was running rough, shuttering and wheezing in the thin mountain air.
We drove on hugging the road as far to the right as possible, ogling Steep Gorges that fell
away beneath us in breathtaking views.
With the afternoon slipping away we decided to start looking for a place to stay the night.
We now had money for a
room but finding an inexpensive one
a Major Consideration. We didn't want to end up broke again.
Eyes peeled, we spied a Motel and hobbled across
the parking lot to the office where a man emerged from the back room.
"Can I help you?"
how much are the rooms?"
"One room, two beds, that'll be Twenty three dollars for the
"Twenty three?" I
said as though considering the price.
fact I thought it was a bit Steep (no pun intended).
Hoping for something cheaper I was looking to make a
"Okay, thanks. We're going to go grab a cup of coffee and we'll be back."
I figured that was the best way to handle it. Alf though, was not clued in.
"Why don't we
pay now and then go get coffee?" he said, putting his foot in my mouth.
"No, lets go get coffee and then
come back," I said in an instructional tone of voice.
"Why? Why don't we just pay and
then go get...."
"No!" ...lets...go...get....a cup of coffee..."
A knowing look
stole across his face and his inflection changes.
"Oh yeah, lets go get some coffee." .......
No subtlety at all.....
Embarrassed, I thank the Proprietor and we leave.
"Didn't ya pick up on the vibe man? I just wanted to get out of there."
"No, I didn't," Alf said and slumped into his seat as I devised a plan to avoid a repeat of what
"Look, if I don't like the next place I'll just say,
"Lets go get a cup of coffee, then we leave okay?"
A few miles down the road we asked about a room and were escorted to a series of cabin-like
The guy opened the door and we peeked in.
The room was small, unappealing and stuffy.
He then quoted a price higher than the first place. I knew instantly it was a "no go."
to linger, but there was a strategic moment of Dead Air.....
and I could immediately sense what was coming.
I thought to myself, "No,
no Alf don't say it...."
but the Universe ground to a halt and I could almost hear The Twilight Zone music playing in the background
and with exceptionally bad timing and in a contrived voice, Alf blurts out:
There was no way I could avoid it.
tried to purse my lips but a smile gripped my face, which in turn set off Alf and we both started laughing.
owner of the place was not amused.
Here he was showing his rooms to 2 smart ass kids with the audacity not only to refuse the room but laugh at
We made a bee line to the Pinto leaving him miffed.
We drove away laughing and it took a few minutes before I was
able to speak.
"Man, what did you do?"
"What did I do? You told me to say that ya creep!"
"Yeah, but not like that!!! Not when it was so obvious. Have a little class will ya?"
looked at his bewildered expression and we started laughing again.
That was one of Alf's gifts.
In a split second he could turn the tables on me and totally wipe me out.
We finally got a room down the road for the same amount of money.
Overtired, we hit the beds and went right out.
We never did get that cup of coffee.
Problems With The Pinto
In the morning
we walked across the parking lot to return the key and were astonished at what we saw..........
Arriving after dark the night before, we had no inkling of the Magnificence surrounding us.
It was as if we'd gone to sleep and awakened in Switzerland.
Snow capped peaks
looked like works of art. Distances were Unfathomable.
I kicked the engine over as
we lingered, taking in the view, squeezing the value from the experience.
One day we would look back on all this with a really good story to tell......
....Hours later Alf was fast asleep when I spied a train atop a trestle miles away in a distant Ravine.
If I didn't know
better I'd have thought it was a toy under a tree on Christmas morning.
Crossing the Rockies was
so Cinematic, so Symbolic, so Challenging.
We had to adjust for hidden surprises like slopes that were steeper than they
first appeared and hairpin turns that required almost a Complete Stop.
Oncoming traffic was another concern and we'd find ourselves pulled over, scrunched up as far to the right as possible when larger vehicles lumbered by.
At night, driving without Street Lights made things all the more difficult.
To keep alert I began scanning the Radio for the few stations able to reach us over the surrounding
struggled to keep awake but drowsiness was overtaking me.....then suddenly BANG!!!
The sound of rocks and gravel kicking up beneath us startled me.....
We were passing through a Construction Zone and rocks and debris were everywhere. I thought
that Alf would jump up but he remained asleep in the back.........
Continuing at 30 mph,
I was ready to apply the breaks if the road got any more hazardous.
Another rock shot up under the chassis, this time jolting Alf awake.
slow down man!!"
"I am," I said. "We're in a construction zone, the road's all broken
I knew I screwed up. I should have been going even slower.
As things were, anything but a crawl was hazardous and the next few miles had me wincing
every time a rock shot up underneath us.
I was Paranoid about being stranded because of a Flat Tire and my heart was in my throat
but we finally cleared the Construction Zone.
Alf had gone back to sleep which was okay by me. I was
into driving now......
The shock pumped me full of adrenaline.
After an hour I happened to glance down and saw we were getting low on gas.
This was surprising since we refueled not that long before.
It was now a priority to find a gas station and after several miles I spied one and
We got out
to stretch while the Attendant filled the tank and 10 minutes later we were rolling again.
passed through the most challenging terrain and were now in Western Colorado near Grand Junction.
I had my eye
on the fuel gauge and was keeping track of the mileage and after another hour I could see the fuel level dropping faster than
A half hour later....... I had to go with my observations.
"Alf, I think we've got a leak.
The gas level's dropping, I can see it."
"We don't have a leak," he said patronizingly.
"No, I think we do. We've only gone 80 miles and look where the level is. When we went over that bumpy
road a rock must have shot up and put a hole in the tank."
"It's fine man, we don't have a leak!"
"Yeah? Well we'll see."
We then traded places.
I made myself comfortable in the passenger seat and drifted off to sleep.
Later, I awakened and snapped to
attention, fixing my eyes on Alf as he gazed out the windshield.
"Where are we?" I asked.
"We're in Utah."
"Great, how's the gas?"
I looked over to see
the level had dropped noticeably.
There was no mistaking it now, there had to be a leak but Alf was not impressed with my conclusion. He just took
it in stride like he did everything else.
But I was responsible for the safe return of the Pinto
and I was counting on the 50 dollar deposit.
A leaky tank would have to be fixed and that would cost money and I had visions of our cash
reserves drip......drip......dripping onto the pavement.
The atmosphere became tense, me overly concerned
and Alf denying there was much of a problem at all.
When we again stopped to fill the tank I got down on my hands
and knees to inspect the undercarriage but couldn't see much without a flashlight.
We were in a hurry anyway, to put on as many miles as possible before having to stop
for the night.
There was a town up ahead and we slowed as we rolled down the main drag.
hours of driving in pitch darkness the place seemed surreal.
It was an older town with Stores on one side and a Refinery of some sort
on the other.
There were ramps where trucks were descending and under Star Light, it looked like a Science Fiction
Movie unfolding before our eyes.
To our surprise we came upon a Chinese Restaurant, went in and ate to our fill,
down to the last grain of rice......
When we went back outside I decided to get to the bottom of the mystery once
and for all.
We'd spent enough time in the restaurant for any leak, no matter how small, to evidence itself and there was
enough light from the street lamps for me to see under the car.
Sure Enough !!!, there was a small puddle under the gas tank.
I squinted my eyes and stared, waiting for the tell tale sign of a drip from
above and after about 15 seconds a drop hit the puddle.
I waited.....then another drop....then another......and
I reached out, dabbed my fingers and held them to my nose.....Gasoline!!!
I'd been right all along.
Judging the size of the puddle against the time we'd been inside, it wasn't
a major leak. It was steady though and could get worse.
I popped up from under the car and explained the situation to Alf.
"We've got to get to wherever we're going tonight man, we can't fool around with this at all!
On a wing and a prayer we forged ahead into Uncharted Territory and soon we were arguing again.
overdoing it, man."
"No I'm not. We're in a really screwed up situation. I'll
have to handle this myself."
"No, we'll fix the @@*&*%+""?# thing."
With what ##@#%%#@&^& money? If I listen to you we'll never make it."
"Oh, thanks a lot, that ###@%$$##*** helps!"
"**&%^$#@#" to you too !!!
It was so much fun to be 20 years old........
At least we'd eaten and were able to stay awake but I watched
as the Fuel Level dropped and also became more conscious of a knocking sound that had first started in Colorado.
At first we thought it was the Rough Terrain but the noise persisted.
We pulled into another station and I was out of the car in an instant.
Attendant, an older guy walked over and I explained the situation.
"We've got a leak in the
tank. Can it be fixed?"
"Yeah, it can be fixed. First ya got to pull it off....... then ya gotta ......."
"We can't do that. We have to have this thing in California in a few days."
there's nothing I can do then."
We filled up and split.
I swallowed hard but said little and an hour later we stopped in another Station
where the scenario was repeated.
"How did it happen?"
"We were coming through the Rockies
and we hit a bad patch of road.
We must've had a rock fly up and put a hole in the tank. What can we do?"
"Well I can pop
it off there, let it dry then weld it. Have ya back on the road in a couple days."
That was all I had to hear.
"Okay, just fill her up."
We made a bee line out of there and as we picked up speed the knocking resumed.
In the stress of the moment I'd forgotten to check into what might be
Up until then it escaped me that the knocking might have something to do with the leak.
It was getting late.
Were we going to find a motel or drive all night?
At the next station I jumped out and poked around to find the source of the knocking.
It didn't take much effort.
The muffler had come loose and I
was able to wiggle it from side to side.
The strap had broken, causing the muffler to swing repeatedly into the gas tank which is what
caused the leak.
I reached over and swung it to the right and sure enough, the edge of the muffler fit the
damaged part of the tank perfectly.
It wasn't very wide but wide enough to partially drain the tank of precious fuel.
I found the problem."
I ran to the office to ask for a Coat Hanger to stabilize the muffler but the woman
behind the counter had a sour look on her face.
"I don't have a coat hanger," she said in a tone
that left no room for further discussion.
Luckily, the young Attendant who was pumping gas was a different story.
He was about our age and he could relate to us and after Alf told him the story he wanted to help.
"Have ya got a coat hanger?" I asked.
"Yeah, follow me."
We went inside,
he reached behind the door and handed me one.
I undid its original shape, then lying on my back twisted it around the tail pipe, anchoring
it away from the gas tank preventing any further damage.
That was done but it didn't solve the problem with the leak.
we assessed the situation, I thought I'd pick our Attendants brain.
"Is there anything we can do to fix
the leak at least temporarily?"
"Soap? Will that work?"
"I've never seen it not work." (exact words)
asked if he had any to spare and he pointed to the rest room.
On the sink was a bar of Ivory. I washed my hands and returned to the car.
get under there and smear it all over."
He didn't have to tell me twice.
I scooted underneath, wiped the tank with a paper towel and slathered a thick
layer of soap over the slit.
Had the hole been any larger I don't think it would have worked but it was narrow enough for the soap
to seal it nicely.
I pictured us having to stop every now and then for another application but the attendant assured us the soap would
hold, for a while at least.
We drove off eying the fuel level carefully and when
an hour had passed the needle had hardly moved.
"Son of a gun, I think its working!"
had to limp to California so be it but we were going to get there.
We had a whole bar of Ivory Soap and it's "99 and 44/100's percent
I don't know how that guy knew about soap as a leak stopper.
How many situations like that do you run into?
But his words kept repeating in my ear. "I've never seen it not
I guess people in Utah know how to improvise.
Once we had that worry behind us we realized how utterly drained we were.
was almost midnight by the time we got to a Motel and fell on the beds exhausted.
The next morning we were barely
able to budge and it was long after sunrise before I was able to consider getting out of bed.
The first thing I did was run out to the parking lot to check under the
car for signs of a leak.......Not a drop of gasoline did I see to my great relief.
was afternoon before we were back on the road.
We'd gotten off 70 and were now traveling South on Interstate 15 heading toward Arizona
We chased the Sun through late afternoon until it dipped below the horizon and
softened into a haze.
Oranges, blues, yellows washed through the Canyons of the Sky......
In the last 24 hours our trip
had gone from Ominous to Manageable
and now was becoming downright Pleasant.
An Amazing Vision
At nightfall stars appeared in great numbers and wanting
to get a better look, we pulled off the road and climbed out of the Pinto........
It was like nothing we'd ever seen before.
The sky was so densely packed with Stars it was Beyond Surreal......
We stumbled around, our faces turned upward as Shooting Stars streaked across the far reaches of Space.
Each Star had a Depth, a Hue, a Message........
It seemed as though I could reach up and stir them around...........
.......but that would have been Sacrilegious.....
"Remember this my friend," I said to Alf.
"Years from now this is what we'll talk about."
We lingered for awhile before climbing back into the Pinto and pressed
After midnight, in the distant reaches of the desert an Other-Worldy
glow evidenced itself as we rounded a bend.
Over the next several miles it would disappear then reappear,
its Illuminations growing more intense each time it came into view.
Was it a power plant? Oncoming traffic?
Its reflections shot tubular beams skyward, manifesting itself as a
huge basin of light.
"That's gotta be Las Vegas!"
An hour later we were rolling down the Vegas Strip........
Having just driven in from the desert the eye stabbing brightness was
unpleasant and we shielded our faces.
We made a necessary pit stop to fill up and Alf handled the chores.
I had no energy to even get out of the car.
We pulled down The
Strip and peeled out of Los Vegas.........
It was 3:30 in the morning............
Once we were out of town Alf asked to change places and he climbed into the back to sleep.
To help fill the void I switched on the radio zeroing in on "Rock On"
by David Essex.
The screeching of bows being dragged across the strings of Violins was the backdrop for
It was one of Alf's favorite songs, one that decorated the air during afternoon drives around
I kept the pedal to the metal wondering as I drove........
How far could it be to the California border???
As the Shadowy
Desert world wizzed by I felt like a Marathon Runner looking for the finish line......
Then out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of a sign:
Welcome To California
This is California???
"Hey Alf, wake up man! We're in
I looked over my shoulder to see if he was stirring when suddenly a hand shot up over the top
of the seat and we slapped palms.
Our arrival, though, was Anticlimactic.
No Welcoming Committee....no Starlets....Nothing.....!!!
In a moment Alf was sitting up, his hair tangled, his eyes barely open but he was smiling.
In the Good Energy of the night we pulled over and got out to stretch.
Breathing the air was a tonic and I took a seat on the fender with
arms crossed staring into the darkness.
The door had been left open and the radio was playing
"La, La Means I Love You" by the Del Fonics........A beautiful tune........
I closed my eyes as the melody wafted all around me..............
............my emotions swimming
to the surface.............
It reminded me of a girl I knew back in Jersey and I savored it
like a glass of wine,
wanting to budge until the lead singer's voice melted away............
....there I was.....sitting in total
darkness........Three Thousand Miles from home........
...........on the Precipice of a Dream..........
back in the car, we drove until dawn then pulled into a rest stop, sprawling across the seats like Castaways who washed up
on a distant shore......