That all changed when Matt called.
"Hey Rosler. How's the drive?"
"Going good," I replied. "I'm about 20 miles outside of Laramie. Gonna grab dinner and crash. Will probably get to you sometime mid-afternoon tomorrow."
There was a moment of silence where I could hear the wheels turning in his head. "Laramie is only six hours away. You can make it here by 2, go to sleep, wake up, and come riding on Thursday."
"It's been a long day, man. I don't know that I've got another six hours in me."
"Ok," he was disappointed. "I'll see you tomorrow."
We hung up and I started wondering if I could make it to Sandy. I was a day behind schedule because of the shomit-induced delay to my departure, but if I pushed through the night I could start riding on Thursday like I had planned for the past number of weeks. Besides, I thought, college Evan never would have considered stopping when he was so close. Older Evan could channel that spirit. I pulled into Burger King and grabbed some dinner to go.
"Matt," I said when he answered the phone, "I'm coming tonight."
I made good time once the call ended. It was hard not to on the stretch of I-80 after Laramie. The speed limit was a posted 75 and there were no cop cars to make sure I was sticking to that number. Slight bends in the road made me keep both hands on the wheel, but there was nothing so major as to make me take my foot off the pedal. Trucks stayed in the right lane, I passed on the left, and their headlights disappeared quickly in my rear view. If not for the need to stop and fill my tank, I don't know that I would have hit my brakes once.
My general rule for the drive was to start looking for gas stations once the tank hit a quarter full. The system worked across the country but I started to wonder if it would fail me. The first station I saw, a Sinclair about eighty miles past Laramie, was closed. Thirty miles later I saw a sign for a Shell station. Also closed. I cursed under my breath and looked at the gauge. Getting too close for comfort, but enough to get me to the next open pump.
Maybe if I want it bad enough, I thought, a station will just pop up and save me. Then the gas light went on and a mild panic set in. Being stuck on the side of the road was a headache I wasn't prepared to deal with. What would happen if I ran out of gas? How long would I have to wait on the side of the Wyoming road before help arrived? Would a truck pull over to lend a hand, or would they just shake their heads in disappointment and disgust as they passed?
Just when the worry started to overshadow my rational thoughts, I saw another sign for Shell. I pulled off a mile later and cursed my luck. There, on my right, was an abandoned station that looked like it hadn't seen a customer in forty years. The Shell sign featured a logo I had never seen and there were no pumps to be found. I smacked the steering wheel and let a few profanities fly.
That was that. It was only a matter of time until I ran out of gas.
I kept going on the service road and let out a whoop of triumph. I saw a sign in the sky for another Shell station a few hundred yards further away from the highway. Everything was going to work out. The system came through once again.
My elation turned to curiosity when I pulled closer. The sign was illuminated, the pumps were turned on, but there were no other lights in the station. It was dark as the night.
There was an abandoned station wagon parked against the fence. The sides were rusted through and the windshield was broken in two places. I wondered if someone was hiding in the backseat with an ax, but I shook off the thought and slowly rolled over the unpaved dirt and gravel to what I hoped was a functioning pump.
The debate over keeping my car lights on was short. They went off. If there was someone waiting in that car, let him try and get me in the dark.
|The camera flash barely cuts|
through the darkness.
I leaned back against my car and watched the numbers on the pump tick by. I felt a familiar sensation and looked down at the ground. Gravel, I thought and looked around at how alone I was. There's no reason I can't just pee right here. I started undoing my fly but stopped. I looked towards the station wagon and shook my head. That's just what he was waiting for. As soon as I started to pee he would pop out and attack me at my most vulnerable.
"Nice try," I said into the dark and re-zipped my fly. "I'll just hold it."
When the tank was full I replaced the pump and stepped back into the car. I blew into my palms and rubbed my hands together. The snow was waiting and the mountains were calling. I turned on the lights, left the derelict station wagon behind, and returned to cruising speed on I-80.
There were only four more hours to go. The drive was nearing its end, but my trip was just beginning.