Friday, July 17, 2009

Gold Country Sleeps in Big Sky

A week late, and $7 short, here is the story of my trip back to CA. Of course nothing went as planned. Someone had the bright idea for me to get my back tires changed on the way out, rather than the day before I left. I will not mention any names, since I make a habit not to publicly blame my husband for anything. No matter which time zone you count, we left the tire shop in North Dakota very late.

2:30 pm Central Time
1:30 pm Mountain Time
12:30 pm Pacific Time

And it wasn't just me. My sister-in-law was riding along, with my 2 small nieces and 1 small nephew. The kids did really well, so once we started, we made good time, considering.

Montana is a really big state, if you've never noticed, and almost half the trip to CA is spent just crossing it. We made some interesting discoveries. One was that it now costs to get into Pompey's Pillar, and we didn't want to pay for a 5-minute pit stop. The other was that there is a little tiny town, also called Pompey's Pillar, and if you start driving toward it, there aren't very many places for a vehicle with a trailer to turn around. Interesting.

We stopped for the night in a little town named Big Sky, and all of us slept for a few hours in the car. I'm sure it could have been worse. Somehow. I don't know how, but it could. They were doing road construction, so bright lights shone in our windows while heavy equipment scraped, beeping every time they backed up. I ended up on my back, wrapped around the steering wheel, head on the center console, and legs twisted up against the door. At least when I drove the van out, the seat went back.

I still think I had it better than Dusty. Her seat didn't really go back either, and the baby slept fitfully on her lap. Every hour or so, she would wake up and cry, or just sit up and watch the construction workers. The other two kids sprawled out on the seat, end to end, and slept so well they didn't even notice the toes in each other's faces.

For many miles the road wound through a canyon, right alongside a deep, dark river. Dusty said it was the first time she'd ever really seen that part of the trip. My brother-in-law drives fast enough to make her uncomfortable, especially so close to the river, so she closes her eyes and goes to sleep.

In no time at all, we entered Idaho, the land of potatoes. In Idaho Falls, we stopped at the Army Surplus Warehouse, which is a lot like a museum where almost everything is for sale.

Covering more than 40,000 square feet, this place is awesome! Rows and rows, shelves and shelves, stacked with all sorts of military-related items from WWI all the way to the present. It's a real piece of history. My personal favorites were the pink camouflage outfits, and all the ghillie suits. Ah, the fun I could have with the kids with one of those! They'd never know where I was going to turn up.

The vintage posters are a fascinating collection. It's hard to picture living in the days when large parts of the population knew secret information that the enemy didn't already know, and had to keep their mouths shut to avoid getting our soldiers killed. Nowadays, Top Secret means ~ TOP SECRET ~ and everything else we just look up on Google Earth.

Leaflet bombs have been in use since the 1800's. In 1870, the French leaflet-bombed themselves, scattering pamphlets to the general population to encourage them in their resistance to the Prussians. (Germans.) America dropped billions of leaflets over Europe and Korea, and even in the Gulf War leaflet bombs led to the surrender of 80,000 Iraqi troops.

Some of the WWII posters that were made reflected the outrage of Americans following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Note the "Fruit of Doom". Of course we've made friends with Japan since that happened 60-some years ago, but there was a lot of bad feeling and fear at the time. And the way we make war changed forever.

It would have been a very long day, but we should have been able to make it the rest of the way to CA, or very close to it. Instead, in the desert wasteland between Jackpot, NV and Wells, the car sputtered and almost died. I pulled it over, gunned it, and tried again. It barely started, then lost power. That time I stayed pulled over.

It was at least 4 very boring hours of trouble getting the insurance company to figure out which tow truck we were getting, and also having them figure out where we were. "I need a cross street so I can put it into the computer," the insurance lady said. "There is no cross street," I replied. "There's always a cross street," the insurance lady declared, "you're always close to somewhere." Long pause while she looked at her map. "Hmmmmm. I guess you really aren't close to anything."

The kids spent most of the time playing in the sand and dirt, getting absolutely filthy. The first we knew that the baby had taken off her pull-up was when my niece said, "Mama, did you know Sister is nekkid?"

Because of the trailer, and having 4-wheel drive, they had to send one of the BIG tow trucks for us. He pulled us right up onto the bed, and then, to our amazement, let us ride ON THE TRUCK, while he was driving!!! It was just like flying, the way we glided across the landscape.

The shop was closed by the time we got into Wells, so we dropped everything right there at the Shell station and found a place to stay the night.

It was a nice change from wrapping like a pretzel around the steering wheel. And the mechanic, knowing already we would be there, came in a couple hours early and got started right in on changing the fuel filter, one of the most likely culprits. It worked fine afterwards, and everything else tested out ok, so we were good to go.

Calling a thankful farewell to all the kind and helpful shop employees, we started off. The car ran great, the kids listened to The Three Trees, and we steamed right along. All the way till the long desert stretch between Highway 80 and Fallon.

It's very important to point out here that this was NOT the fault of the shop. They fixed the only obvious problem, and did a good job of it. Their work allowed us to rule out all the common reasons why our car would just sputter and die, always in the middle of nowhere. This time, even though the motor died, I got it to restart and drove along at about 45 mph till we reached Fallon.

Dusty and I both noticed that the gas tank was just over a quarter of a tank, right where it had been when we had trouble before. We asked the menfolk if that was significant, and yep, it was. They said to try filling up with gas, and see if that fixed it. It did, and we made it all the way. See, in the gas tank, there's this little gizmo that sucks the gas out of the tank so the fuel pump can send it to the engine. If that stinger, as it's called, gets broken off, the car can run out of gas a long way from being empty. Eureka!

So I finally made it in time to have a yummy supper from Mom, and all kinds of stuff from the kids. Kisses, hugs, cards, was so good to see everybody. Out front, a slab of cement read:


Until the next adventure,
Noni Beth

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