Sunday, September 16, 2007


Well, this looks like it may turn out to be a really boring day—in fact, Joey just announced that he is bored (he’s driving down a featureless highway). I wish I had a book on tape (the one thing we didn’t bring!) After we left Lee Vining (where we couldn’t find our “borrowed” wifi, and so couldn’t upload the blogs), we headed out of California and into Nevada. This is the route I was worrying about before we left, which has a 170-mile stretch with no gasoline. After getting much better gas mileage than I expected (well over the 5 mpg that I was using as a base calculation, as pitiful as it sounds!), we figure that we can make 170 miles on a tank of gas. But we haven’t even reached that 170 mile stretch yet, and the landscape is beyond boring—flat sagebrush prairie, with uninteresting mountains on either side of us and no change expected until we reach Tonopah, the gas-up point and beginning of the 170 mile stretch.

The first part of the trip, however, was less boring. In fact, I was thinking of referring to it as God’s Amusement Park. First we had the spectacularly beautiful and nail-bitingly scary descent from Tioga Pass. After that, we hit about 30 or so miles of road which bore every resemblance to a kiddie roller coaster—up and down and up and down and up and down. After 10 miles or so of this, the road sign warns of “dips” and we wondered, it gets WORSE? It did, actually, for a while; several of the rises and subsequent dips were fairly significant. I decided there is a reason those amusement park rides only last about 3 minutes—it is all the human stomach can tolerate!

Speaking of tolerating, I have not been tolerating the altitudes very well. Last night I was awake again with chest aches and nausea. Joe says that there is a simple medication to take for altitude problems—who knew I’d need it? But for now, I think we’ve left the highest mountains behind. And so far today, the only really interesting photo I have to share is this sign:


I wrote the above at about 1:30 or so, just before we arrived in Tonopah, NV. Joe pulled into the first gas station we came to, which included a Burger King, which also had a wifi. So while he filled Mo’s tank and walked Roxy, I uploaded my last two blogs. We decided to splurge on a BK lunch just for a change, and then switched drivers. I pulled out onto the highway, accelerating as I turned left, and suddenly the most horrendous crashing noise came from behind me—it sounded as if half the RV had fallen off! It turned out to be not so serious—Joe had neglected to lock the refrigerator door while we were stopped, and it swung open, discharging most of its contents and those of the freezer (including a full bag of ice) onto the floor. I pulled over immediately onto the shoulder, and fortunately no harm was done, nothing was broken or spilled.

After Joe put the fridge stuff back, and picked up all the other items which had fallen off the bed in the back (it’s amazing what a simple turn + acceleration can do!), I restarted Mo, pulled out on the highway again, went about 200 feet, and the engine suddenly cut off. I steered onto the shoulder again, alarmed because of the suddenness and the loss of my steering. Joe, ever calm, said that probably the fuse had blown again. But when I went to turn the engine on, it turned over, but didn’t catch—meaning it wasn’t the fuse. We looked at each other and I told Joe that HE should take the driver seat and be the one to turn the car back on; for some reason he is better at starting the engine up than I am.

To our alarm, the engine continued to turn over, but refused to catch. It was exactly like what had happened two weeks ago in Sioux City! As a sense of fatality settled over me, Joe began to trouble-shoot, but after 30 minutes or so of trying everything, we had to give up and once again call Good Sam Road Service. I kept trying to look on the good side—this happened IN Tonopah, not 60 miles down that long stretch of highway coming up. Tonopah, small as it is, is the county seat, has a Dept of Motor Vehicles, a hospital, and lots of motels; I was sure there HAD to be a repair place somewhere nearby. OTOH, it is Sunday, and also, we did not NEED this again!!!

We talked to Good Sam, and as we were waiting for the rep to call us back with some plans, and I was examining the map of Tonopah in our DeLorme program, Joe, of course, was still fiddling with the engine, and suddenly, he started it and it caught! We sat there, stunned, trying to figure out what to do next! I asked what he’d done, and he said he had tightened the wires to the distributor cap. He voted that we should keep driving, but I was scared to move—what if it was only a brief temporary fix? What if we got stuck again, this time in a worse place?

I suggested we drive through town, and look for a “better place to be stuck”, such as a truck stop or even a large parking lot by a grocery—someplace a little less on the fringes of town; and then shut the RV off and see if it started again. So we did that, several times, and each time it started right up. So we decided that since it now seemed “normal”, there was no point in simply hanging around in Tonopah, we might as well keep driving and hope for the best. We headed down the road, but had driven only a mile when we had to stop to readjust the engine cover (inside the cab—we could tell it was on wrong.) At that point, I said I wanted to go back to the grocery store I’d noticed—I had suddenly realized we only had 2 gallons of drinking water left after 4 days in Yosemite, and I envisioned us breaking down in the desert with no water.

This turned out to be a good move, because both Joe and I were a bit unsettled by the events of the previous two hours, and doing something plebian like grocery shopping was good for us. After 30 minutes, we were back in the car going down the same road yet again, when I saw a mileage sign for Las Vegas. “Huh??” I told Joe we were on the wrong road—in our search for a “better place to be stuck”, I had not noticed the turnoff for Route 6. So back we turned around for the second time, in the very same place, found the correct route, and kept driving.

And now I am writing this tonight from a KOA in Ely, Nevada, 170 miles down the road from Tonopah. We arrived here with no further trouble from Mo. Needless to say, we are beyond relieved. But we did come up with the moral of the story from this episode. I told Joe I never wanted to hear him say “I’m bored” again on this trip! I told him that God was punishing us for saying that, and for having the chutzpah to complain about anything on this wonderful trip! He responded by quoting the book of Amos, with a twist: “Are you not like the Ethiopians unto me? Is not the desert I made just as beautiful in its own way as Yosemite National Park?”

And it’s true, as we travelled, we discovered that the landscape did have its own beauty, and that in fact it doesn’t stay the same anyway—we saw rangeland, we saw beautiful mountains of all kinds, and in the dark, a KOA after an 11 hour day can be pretty darn beautiful too! So we are here for the night, and we are hoping for the best for the rest of the trip. We really have no idea what might have happened—Joe thought maybe the engine flooded, and it was because we finally let it alone for 30 minutes that it finally started working again. All we can do is continue on our journey and be grateful for all of it—the beautiful and the scary.
Nevada Desert in the morning

ItalicNevada desert, evening coming, 60 miles south of Ely

Nevada desert, 30 miles south of Ely

We did have one casualty today--my MP3 player was fried by the wrong cable. It means our music selection for the rest of the trip will be VERY boring, I'm afraid--all my favorite stuff was on the MP3 player. But considering what else happened today, I am not fretting too much over it. We will just have to hope that we find some good radio stations along the way!

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