Travels in the American Southwest

Meeting New Friends and Thanking AAA

{When we last left our intrepid Nevada explorer, he was walking away in disbelief from his disabled rental vehicle at the end of a lonely dirt road near the ghosttown of Millers.}

It was easy to see which way I'd come. All I had to do was follow the trail of transmission fluid. For the first time, I noticed that the dirt road ran alongside electric poles which ended at a substation. Seeing a white trailer well off the road with a car out back, I made my way up the long driveway hoping that the inhabitants were, if armed, at least friendly!

It was the home of a retired couple who had moved west for their health. After giving me the old hairy eyeball, they patiently listened as I explained my predicament. "Bumpers loves folks like you," he said reaching for his cell phone. I found out that Bumpers is a towing company with a AAA affiliation. "Call AAA," they advised "and we'll send the truck out while we're waiting for AAA's authorization." Called the AAA's 1-800 roadside service department. Gave them the general location of the vehicle and let them know that their local affiliate had been called an knew exactly where the vehicle was located. I thanked the folks for their hospitality and they refused any monetary thanks from me, instead offering to refill my water bottle. I said good-bye and headed back to the van, tossing part of my colorful sun shield over the roof to both cut the rays of the still fierce sun and make it very easy to see the van.

Forty-five minutes later, a flat bed tow truck appeared on the horizon. Ralph, the driver, said, "It was easy finding you...All I had to do was follow the trail you left!" I was heartened when he said, "Looks like you started leaking all at once right here," as we passed a spot on the dirt road. "Don't see how you could have kicked up a rock...the road's just dirt." Well maybe this little fiasco isn't due to something I did. It's 5:45 and Ralph tells me that the garage mechanic has gone. "Wait'll I get a hold of Alamo," I muttered. Reaching for his cell phone, Ralph says, "Let me call him. He won't mind coming back." Not believing what I was hearing, we pulled into the garage parking lot and unloaded the van. Within five minutes, the mechanic rides in on his Harley. We exchange pleasantries as Ralph reported, "Started all at once...No rocks...Maybe a blown hose?" John, the owner of the business, conferred with the mechanic as I called Alamo's Roadside Assistance. Overheard the mechanic say to John, "Never seen anything like this before," my heart sank as the Alamo rep answered the phone. "I'm halfway between Las Vegas and Reno", I explained to the rep. "Rather than sending out a new vehicle, how about we let the mechanic take a look and report?" I asked. He hesitated. "Only Alamo personnel are allowed to work on our vehicles." "But if it's simply a blown hose," I protested as the mechanic entered the office. "May I speak with the company" asked the mechanic? "This vehicle has been disabled due to a manufacturer's defect," he began. "The hose entering into the compression coupling which carries the transmission fluid into the radiator for cooling was not fully inserted. It'll take about an hour to fix, replace the fluid and have this guy on the road." On simply a time-basis, this made great sense to me but Alamo needed a little extra coaxing. "I can be on my way for a little over of 'C note'. What'll it cost Alamo to bring me a replacement vehicle?" Permission granted, but the owner wants a credit card number from Alamo. Alamo only uses purchase orders! Alamo agrees to reimburse me if I use my credit card. "No problem," I confirm as the mechanic gets to work. A moment later, everyone freezes as a series of tones comes over a loudspeaker. Bumpers is often called to tow vehicles which have been involved in accidents. The tones were from the Emergency Rescue Dispatch and as second nature, everyone stops when the tones are generated, fearing the broadcast of yet another fatal rollover accident as happened earlier that day. This time, it was just an ill-timed test. The mechanic gets back to work. Bumpers Towing (CPCN7097) offers repair, recovery and towing services. They're an independent contractor for AAA and wholeheartedly receives the CmdrMark Seal of Approval for both price and service! If the need arises, they can be reached at (775)482-3478.

An hour later, I'm back on the road heading east on US6/95 through Tonopah (rigidly observing the reduced speed limits after last year's little incident!). I declined the guys' invitation for a night of beers somewhere northwest of the city as I was due at the Monitor Inn an hour and a half away on SSR82. After hooking up to SR376 from US6, I took the very dark SSR82 turnoff. Zipping along at the speed limit of 65, the headlights caught a flash coming off the side of the road...Followed by a single thump from beneath the van. In that flash, I recognized it as a suicidal long-eared jack rabbit. Ewww, I thought slowing down to 45. A mile later, flash, thumpity thump thump. Oh no, a second one! Rationalizing that a single thump at 65 is better than a thumpity thump thump at 45, I speeded back up arriving in Belmont around 8:30, hours later than planned. Despite my late arrival, the folks currently running the inn offered me a cold beer while they quickly fixed a large garden salad, slices of fresh bread and a delicious dish of pasta wrapped around a meat and cheese filling. I can't remember anything ever tasting so good! I ate at the bar, the same bar that served miners rotgut whiskey decades ago, while two other guests and the hosts sat at a table discussing the area in general. The guests owned part to Tybo, a ghost town a short distance away. While eating, I was entertained with stories about that site from those of recent vintage to its historical past. (I gotta buy myself a ghost town!) My exhaustion must have shown for after dinner I was shown to my room containing the most comfortable brass bed and feather mattress I've ever experienced. Within minutes, before even finishing my thoughts on what I had planned for the next day, I was asleep.

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