After graduating from high school I was a young man without a plan. I was convinced by my father and uncle to try a winter in Phoenix to work at a golf resort. I worked at Marriott's Mountain Shadows for the winter, and thought I should head back to La Crosse for the summer. Over the winter I did take and finish a class at Phoenix Community College, and now had the desire to continue on.
The class was on computers, and in the mid eighties I hadn’t had much exposure to computers. It was called Survey of Information Systems. They ran out of the course book way before the class had filled up. I followed along with a similar QUE brand computer book on DOS 2.1 I had picked up at B. Dalton.
I had my final day at work, and I knew I’d miss the guys I worked with a bunch. From work I gathered my stuff from the apartment, and headed to the college to take my final. I left for Las Vegas right after I handed my final in. My mother lived (and still does) in Green Valley, NV right next to Vegas and I had to stop and see her before I left for the Midwest.
I Left Las Vegas to and headed out on the 1,700 mile journey towards La Crosse. I headed out of Vegas towards Utah. The first Utah city of any size I saw was St George. Somewhere after St George and before Cedar City I missed a sign. The sign should have said services 127 miles –
I have seen the sign on subsequent trips through Utah - I make sure I see it. Well, for this trip I’m driving my 1971 Mustang Convertible with a 302 CID V8, that got about 12 MPG. But hey, back then gas was still less than a buck, and global warming hadn't started yet, so we didn't need to do anything about it.
So, I notice a second sign telling me I have about 90 miles left to get to the next gas station, and I have about a half tank of fuel and I'm heading up a mountain. It was too late at this point to turn back, so I continue on my adventure running low on gas in the middle of nowhere Utah.
Finally I reach the top of the mountain, hoping my mileage will improve, and, worst case I can coast my way down the mountain. I finally ran out of gas, on the flat spot on the stop of the mountain. I wasn't going anywhere. I sat for a few minutes pondering options.
This was my second time ever running out of fuel. The first time I was, again, away from home up in the Minneapolis area, for the first time on my own in the dark, and my car ran out in the cloverleaf-type of exit. It was a messy area of on-ramps and cloverleafs, so not only was I out of gas, but I was semi-lost. My car was mildly blocking some of the exit ramp, so I had to back it off the road so it wouldn't get totaled. Fortunately, a guy with his girlfriend, or wife, stopped to ask if I was ok. When I explained my predicament he not only took me to the gas station, but he made sure I got right back to my car. That's what they call Minnesota Nice.
Back in Utah, I started to hitchhike, I used my thumb and the first truck raced by making me think my situation was hopeless. The second truck picked me up, we started out fine after he picked me up. I was just happy he didn't look like some movie-freak that would rape me. We drove 15 MPH as we started down the steep mountain incline, his over-the-road truck used air brakes, and they would heat up in a bad way.
The trucker informed me his brakes would actually catch fire when they got hot enough. Looking out his mirror, he said they did have some fire so he pulled over to inspect and cool the brakes. He walked around the truck a few times inspecting and looking for problems. We waited about 20 minutes for everything to cool off before proceeding back down the mountain.
At 15 MPH it took about 2 hours to get 65 miles, stopping a couple more times as the brakes would overheat. When I finally arrived at the filling station, I had to pay a huge deposit for the gas can. I had to wait around and beg people to take me back up the mountain, to get my car. At this point I was just hoping my car was still there.
Finally I got some hillbilly-like family to give me a ride up the mountain, and back to my car in exchange for 10 bucks in gas money. I went over the exact location of my car, and they said they'd be driving right by, and could drop me off. As we walked over to their vehicle from the gas station store a cold chill came over me, as their car was not a car. These strange looking Utah hill people were driving around in a van. I just had to sit in the back of the van with the kids.
Now I'm getting really freaked out sitting between next to one of their daughters in the back of the van. She was starting to remind me of Cousin Vicki (only less attractive) from the vacation movies! Well, about 15 or 20 minutes into my ride with the family from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Cousin Vicki winds up thinking her putting her hand on my leg was a good idea. I'm sitting in the back seat of this family of killers next to their daughter thinking this is either going to get me killed, or married be the end of the night. Should I ask her to remove her hand, move it myself, or tell her parents that her hand is on my thigh inching upwards towards my private area? I think I quietly just moved her hand to her side, to avoid death and body dumping at the side of the road in Utah only to be eaten by coyotes.
I really was wondering if I would I ever live through this. Would I ever make it back home to La Crosse to see my dad at the golf course?
As the ride continued, the crazy hillbilly father announced they had reached their turn-off point. Shit, I was a good 10 miles from my car. Their path led down another road towards their village of the dammed and the rest of the chainsaw family. I talked them into going the extra 10 miles out of their way for me. They could take the next exit and it would only be slightly out of their way. I handed over the 10 bucks gas money and they let me live! I didn't even have to marry cousin Vicki?
I did have to trek across the middle part between the freeway. In Utah, atop this mean-asses mountain, the distance between free directions was larger than normal. I had to trek about a 1/4 mile from the southbound freeway lanes to the northbound lanes. It was a little mountainous, but I finally made it over the guardrail, through the cactus field, near the diamond back rattlers and to my car. Thank goodness it was still there, safe and sound.
I poured the gas in the tank, and thank God my car started right up on the first try. I started the drive down the steep incline, down a gear, so to maintain a slower speed, and hoping my brakes wouldn't catch fire!
I finally got down the mountain and filled my car to the brim with gas. I got the remainder of my deposit back and had learned an important lesson. Do not run out of gas!
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