‘are hobbits real?’

Posted: October 23, 2010 in everything else, life
Tags: , , , , ,

sitting in the treehouse coffeeshop in audubon with Ashley and Josh and Regine and we’re talking about which things are real and which are not…. I did my best to convince everyone that Hobbits really were real and that they lived in  Aberdeenshire.

anyway, so today is one of my few days off right now, and i am making the best of it… and do my best to fulfil a request, so Michael, this is for you. (sadly, my planner is still in the other house, so i’m bereft of notes for this… all from memory..)

(i need to preface this with the fact that we just made some new friends, Frankie and Bella, a single mum and her daughter who are regaling us with stories of their adventures since moving to this area, including seeing a hobo in the underground, spotting the new truck fads…)

warning- this super long, i’ll put a break in so it doesn’t take up the whole front page of this blog, but be warned, it’s a lot of writing. and not a whole lot of editing… ;)



after a fun filled thursday evening with my buddy Matt, Heather and i set off from LA on our grand cross country roadtrip. we had some half formed ideas of where we might go and who we might see, only a few definite stopping points, and lots of recommendations. we were only short on time. (we had allowed ourselves 5-6 days to travel the width of the US.) it was a glorious sunny afternoon when we set off, heading toward the Hoover Dam and Vegas. Arriving at the Hoover Dam, we met up with Willy and spent a fun couple hours wandering the dam, testing out a myth about how to get an elevator to miss all levels except the one you want, spotting mountain goats and at one point sitting wondering ‘where the frick did heather and willy go?’ before finding them on the stairs talking.

after some ramen making (and pouring into an urban trekkers nalgene, where it stayed for about 3 days. gross.) we parted ways, and hit the road again, aiming for Colorado. we were going to drive as long as we could and then camp out on the side of the road somewhere (we had a tent). After a pit stop somewhere on the Utah/Arizona border for food, an ice cooler, water and gas, we started out again.

we’d each been hearing the transmission make some funny noises, but had paid very little attention to it, until we realised that the cars passing us weren’t flipping us off, that the haze behind is wasn’t from the desert, and the weird smell wasn’t some other car, it was all us. at that point the transmission really started complaining, revving waaaay too high for a slight incline, sounding just a little crazy, and so, hazards on, we slowed down and pulled off to the side of the road. flashlight in hand, we checked out under the bonnet (hood) and sure enough we were greeted by a cloud of smoke. there was a fluid dripping down from under the engine and we were stuck. a call to triple a, a wait in the truck, and a short nap, and we were rescued. since Heather’d just had the truck serviced by the Ford dealership back in Cali, we got dropped off there, and slept the rest of the (all too short) night in the truck outside.

First thing saturday morning, we wake up in St George, Utah, and saunter on in to find out if they think they can fix our truck. we meet Brian, Braden and James (and a lady, and dang, but i cannot remember her name. i’m sorry- you were so lovely to us!) who take on the task of looking after us and our truck. they think that they (Braden and James, our mechanics) can fix the leak in about 8 hours, and so we rent a car from the local enterprise and head out with two goals, to see the headstone for Heather’s grandpa,

and to visit Zion National Park. both tasks accomplished (and a stop at the yard sale at the ‘doggy dude ranch’ where we procured a hybrid bike for $5), we swung by walmart for some food and got back to the dealership literally 5 minutes before they closed… at which point hey told us they’d tried to reach us to let us know that they thought we needed a new transmission…

after a little discussion, James and Braden offered that they thought we could make it back to Cali if we just kept the transmission full of fluid and drove really carefully. we decided that if we could get to cali, we could get to colorado. hmmm. we started out again (waved off by our lovely new friends who made us cry, literally, when they told us not to worry about the $700 bill we should have owed them…)

somewhere around 1am, approximately 5 hours after we set off again, the tell tale smokyness is back, and the truck is really struggling to get up the two hills that we have to pass in Utah. we basically made it about 220 miles further into utah before we broke down again. we decided to try letting the engine cool and give it another shot, and so we settled in for a nap. two hours later, we’re awoken by tapping on the window, and as we startle awake, we see a super creepy guy peering in the window, offering assistance. His name is Mike and he’s the closest triple a tow guy in the area, but he’s on his way into colorado with a tow already. he looks at the truck, pours all of our remaining transmission fluid (we’ve now put in the amount that was supposed to last us til we got back to cali…) into the transmission and then, satisfied he’d done as well as he could, he left. we eventually got triple a on the phone and they sent someone out to get us. we were told it would be 20 minutes, which we knew was never going to happen, then we were told it’d be there by 4am, and eventually, somewhere around 5am on sunday morning, we were picked up by Cassidy, the man driving our tow truck. when we asked Cassidy if he could tow us to St George (back to our friends) he said yes… at a cost of nearly $1000. (at $4 a mile, it all adds up..) since a tow to the shop he worked for in Richfield, Utah (70 miles away) was free, we decided to do that.

arriving at around 6.45am on a sunday is never a great idea, but it’s even less so when the town you arrive in is a Mormon town… we were dropped off at the shady-est (and supposedly cheapest) motel in town, where we were greeted by an older gaptoothed man (dressed in only boxers and with a giant goose egg on his forehead) who informed us that his ‘wife’ would be dealing with us. she promptly emerged from the back room, also dressed in pajamas, (also with significantly less teeth than she should have) and promptly charged up $39.95+tax for a two bed room… until midday. we managed to talk her into a 2pm checkout, and ended up staying til the next day anyway. having slept the entire morning away, showered for the first time in about four days, and failed to persuade our new friend Brian to drive 150 miles to pick us up, we decided that since we had limited options in this small town, a walk to see where the truck was resting would be a good way to spend the afternoon. several blocks of nothingness later, we turned left by the Burger King and found MAC (Mikes Auto Clinic) where we would spend a significant amount of the rest of our stay in utah.

luckily for us, John and Willie were not Mormons and so they had no compunctions about working or not working on a sunday. after we explored the outside of the shop and spotted the truck in the compound, we found John at the front, and he offered to take us in to meet Willie, who’d be the guy in charge of fixing the truck. (and every other car that came in, being as he was Mike’s shop manager) we passed a pleasant hour or so with Willie and Mike, discovering that without money or a vehicle, or preferably both, our stay in richfield was destined to be pretty boring. nevertheless we unloaded the tent, and John gave us a ride to our motel and then to the only bar in town so that we could get some decent food.

Detour turned out to be an interesting experience- we met some of the locals, ate some delicious food and got offered a backyard to stay in the following night. after a game of pool, we headed back to our crummy motel, just in time to catch the rerun of ‘my big fat greek wedding’, which we both fell asleep to.

Monday morning, and of course, it was labour day weekend, so nothing doing- as usual in richfield- however we didn’t want to stay any longer in the motel, and since John was up in the mountains with his grandkids, we called Willie and asked him to come pick us and all our stuff up which, being the generous guy we soon found him out to be, he did. we told him that we had been offered a yard to pitch our tent in, and so he cautiously agreed to drive us there. Joyce had also said that her brother lived across the street and was ‘much more hospitable, i’m sure he’s got a couple beds if y’all want to stay there’. sure enough, as we pulled up outside the house, there was a man sitting on the stoop across the street. the brother. Willie’s immediate reaction was, ‘f*&@ me girls, but that guy looks like he’s f&*@ing killed somebody.’ and promptly took us to the local KOA campground.

a sidenote about camping (at least campsite camping, not wilderness camping) in america. if you have a tent and around $25, and there’s a KOA nearby, go there, immediately. it’s going to be the best cheap place to stay, almost anywhere. the toilet blocks were beautifully clean and the water in the showers was brilliantly hot. we were kicking ourselves for not staying there in the first place… you live and you learn, right? the only downside was that we hadn’t brought towels, so we were drying off with t-shirts, but even so…

back to the story. at this point, the only consideration that we were worried about was that we were running seriously short of cash, now that we needed to somehow pay for a new (or gently used) transmission for the truck. however, Willie, our guardian angel (haha) once again stepped up, offering us the cash to pay for our pitch for the night. we paid (neither of us were too shy to accept the help he was willing to give us) and then, having scouted out the pitch, Willie took us to walmart to get dinner supplies.

shopping done (thanks Willie!) we settled into our new home. the afternoon passed in sleeping, wandering,the  consumption of a lot of chicken tacquitos, and the playing of a lot of phase 10. fire starting was somewhat of a challenge, but we got it going eventually and cooked up our chicken, sweet potatoes and corn. delicious. especially accompanied by the box white wine that we’d rescued from the truck. more phase 10 by lamplight and then we headed to bed.

that night was freezing. even with a million layers and sleeping bags and blankets, it was freezing.

Willie called to let us know that we had two options for a new transmission, a new one ($3100) or one with 80,000 miles ($2100). we went for the cheaper one, with some trepidation, and Willie was confident it would be there early the next morning and we’d be fixed. so, having nothing else to do with the rest of our day, and having paid for another night’s pitch, we grabbed our backpacks and walked on over to the shop. the rest of the day we pestered the boys working there, watched a lot of tv, and then, the highlight of the day, went with Willie to pick up his daughter, Ev from school. she ran toward the car, stopped, looked at us, at her dad, at us again, and slowly approached the car. her dad introduced us as, ‘Hey, Levelfinn, this here’s Pepperdine, and this’s Scotland.’

(perhaps i should mention something about the way Willie talked. he had the greatest hick new york accent. a military ‘brat’, he moved out to california from new york as a kid, whereupon his mother, realising no-one could understand a word out of her sons mouth, promptly employed a speech therapist. ‘i swear, it was that damn therapist that gave me this f*&@ing accent!’)

having fed Evelyn a chocolate muffin and water, we headed back to the shop, where we hung out and attempted to help her with her math problems. it was a stretch for me, that’s for sure. english, though, that girl has no worries, her creative writing skills are years beyond mine, and she’s started writing her own short story- she let us read the first part, and i gotta say, it’s better than twilight… we taught her how to play phase 10, and she showed us some of her anime, until it was time to close up shop. at this point, Willie decided that we should all go out for dinner, so they took us to wingers, a local joint that gave both Heather and i upset stomachs the rest of the night…

having learnt our lesson from the previous night, we took Willie up on his offer of extra blankets, and so, once he’d dropped Ev off and tucked her in, safe with her grandma, he came back out to pile us with blankets and to hang out for a bit, tell us some of his stories. since they are just that, his, not mine, i won’t repeat any of them here, suffice it to say, he’s an interesting man.

the evening having passed in this pleasant manner, we headed to bed, and, snuggled up in our extra blankets, slept amazingly well. wednesday morning we awoke, knowing that someone from the shop was going to pick us up around 11, but not sure if we’d be able to leave that day or not. even if the truck was fixed, we still had to pay for it, and until about 10.30 that morning, we didn’t have enough money to pay for the work. a frantic and slightly tearful email to my dad later and we had enough to have peace about being able to continue the journey, and not be stuck in Utah working off our bill for the next year… we began packing up anyway, and just before 11 Willie drove around the corner… in Heather’s truck. the transmission had arrived early that morning, and since they’d taken the old one out the night before, it was all ready to go- bar a test run, and a clean up. we packed the truck and headed out onto route 70 to check the acceleration and all that jazz. after about 5 minutes, Willie pronounced it perfect (i’m not even going to try and phoneticise his accent) and we headed back to the shop to learn about car washing with power tools.

we passed the rest of the morning working in the shop washing, buffing, cleaning and eventually waxing the truck. the offer of some free detailing if we hung around for another day was incentive enough for us- that and the promise that if we showed up the next morning, Mike’d put us to work, and pay us for it. we spent the rest of the afternoon in a similiar manner to the previous day, hanging out at the shop, picking up Ev from school and helping her with her homework, before she headed out to the airfield for her cadet training, and we hung out with Willie. we went for root beer floats and taught him to play phase 10 (‘this is the most retarded f*&@ing game i’ve ever played.’) and then went to find the geo-cache that was just around the corner. (‘what the f*&@ are you guys doing? a geo-what?… oh, Mike plays this game? it must be f*&@ing retarded if that jack mormon knows about it. ha ha ha.’) having let him grudgingly ‘find’ (‘what? no, i ain’t f*&@ing putting my hand there, i’m not picking that f*&@ing thing up… what the f*&@ is this game?’) the geo-cache, after falling down a hill, we returned to the airfield in time to pick up Ev and head home- to the second cheapest motel in town. This time, it wasn’t a dive, and it was seemingly run/attached to some christian ministry, unusual in the Mormon state…

thursday morning, and we were doing our best to get to the shop early so that John could get started on detailing our truck, but at the complimentary continental breakfast (cereal and hard boiled eggs) we got talking to one of the longest talking men on the planet. he was part of the ministry, had converted from the mormon faith and was escaping his addiction to alcohol and whatever… he was interesting, most of the time, but we literally sat there for 25 minutes longer than it took us to eat breakfast, and so we ended up being late for ‘work’.

when we arrived at Mike’s Auto Clinic, Mike set us to the task of cleaning a tow truck with the power tools we’d mastered so well the day before… that tow truck had never been so clean! once John was finished detailing our truck, we hit the road, $35 and change in hand from our morning of work.

we set off, toward Colorado, but we couldn’t resist stopping at ‘ranch exit 108’ where we got stranded the second time we broke down. it was a bittersweet moment.

our next destination, four or five days later than planned, was Fort Collins, Colorado, where we were expected by the Richards family, and then, Boulder, where we were supposed to stay with Alex, Heathers best friend from college. however, as we drove there, the radio was full of warnings about the fire that was going on around Boulder, and Alex ended up being one of the people who had to be out of their home for the night, so we stayed with the Richards. they welcomed us with open arms into their home, regaled us with tales of Heathers friends, and played some mean mexican train with us… and then, gave us their mexican train set! it was a pretty awesome night.

early the next morning, we started out for Boulder to meet Alex and pick up the stuff that Kelley had left for us to take for him. (it was here that we were supposed to pick him up and become a team of three, but our delays meant that he had to fly on without us… which was probably good because we could barely fit his stuff in the truck nevermind him too…) after a quick hello, we were back on the road, moving out of the state of colorado into Kansas. It was my first full day of driving, and by 10am, i had the hang of cruise control. we stopped a couple times in Kansas, to pee, refuel, eat, and to visit ‘prairie dog town’, an attraction boasting over 100 animals, lots of prairie dogs, the smallest donkey, and a 5legged cow and a 6legged cow. oh, and the largest prairie dog in the world.

(the best part about this particular stop was that i’d been advised to go see the largest gopher in the world, and here i was, standing in front of it, albeit under a name unfamiliar to me… prairie dog, gopher… same diff.)

having enjoyed the sights of prairie dog town, we kept on, aiming to be in kansas city by dark and then, hopefully, St Louis, Missouri by night. however, when a thunder and lightning storm, torrential rain and horrendous visibility delayed our arrival in KC til around 8pm, and our host for the evening, Barb (Heathers grandpa’s friend, since college days!), was adamant that we weren’t leaving til the morning, we conceded defeat. my friends from camden Sarah (yay, roomie!) and her twin, Stephanie, came round for a little bit too, since they also live in KC. a fun, though tired, night was had, wherein we attempted to teach Barb how to play mexican train… it was interesting.

early early the next morning (Saturday, September 11th.) we awoke, and, hoping for an early start dressed, ate breakfast, and proceeded to talk to Barb for about another hour… we eventually left, with yet another bike in tow. Barb had an old Schwinn that she’d been meaning to give away, and so, Heather, procurer of bikes, snapped it up.

about an hour into Missouri we spotted signs for ‘nostalgiaville usa’. this was too tempting not to stop for, and so we parked in what seemed like a time warp gone just slightly awry. the ‘girls’ behind the counter were decked out in pink lady outfits and there was everything you could possibly ask for, pop culture wise from the last 6 0r 7 decades. it was incredible.

we arrived in St Louis around 11, picked up my friend Jordan and headed out for lunch, ending up at the most ubiquitous of american eateries, IHOP. amid banter with our server and over some food, we initiated Jordan into the ways of phase 10. he was determined he was going to win, and actually, did pretty well. we passed a lazy two hours or so at the IHOP and then, once we dropped Jordan home again headed into town to check out the gateway arch. lots of pictures and silly posing and general tomfoolery later, we started on our last leg. the aim was to drive for as long as it took to get back to camden.

we stopped in effingham to see the giant cross- the largest cross in the (states? world? universe? i don’t know. but it was huge.) one which had, around the base, all ten commandments on marble slabs, with interactive buttons to push for a (no, there was more than one message per commandment, depending on how deep you wanna go, or how long you could be bothered to listen for) very inspiring message…

our next stop was two exits later for a cracker barrel, something we’d been recommended to visit, and where we ate dinner, and i finally beat Heather in a game. I may not win at phase 10, but i dominate at the wooden peg game. :) after some pretty tasty food, we hit the road again. Heather drove the next few hours while i slept, and then, sometime around 3am, we switched out. i was completely determined to drive into the sunrise, and while i did drive almost the full way across pennsylvania, the weather that sunday was miserable, and so instead of driving into sunrise, i drove into slightly less grey skies and then rain. around 8am we switched out again and Heather brought us home, where our first stop was the downtown house to drop off Kelley’s stuff and say hello. fortunately (i think that’s the right way to describe it, right?) we got back in time to join the rest of the interns for church! i was desperately tired and struggled to focus, but that’s what comes of driving all night i guess.

at any rate, we arrived home, safe, sound, and so relieved to see the familiar signs for camden.

  1. Lizzie says:

    Just clarification- I believe you not only had a fun evening with matt, but also a fun night. :)
    Thanks for all the details from your crazy trip.

  2. Niall says:

    Love reading the story especially after hearing you tell it on our trip through to Glasgow that first sunday you were home xxx

  3. reenie says:

    amazing stories and an interesting array of people you met along the way. Especially enjoyed the description of the first motel owners =o)

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