So, There I was......... *
In the middle of New Mexico, having left Holloman AFB about a half hour before, and now looking at an emergency fuel situation.
No, Sarge. I'm not recycling old posts (yet).
This was in the last few weeks of the Presidency of the second person to be impeached, but not convicted, while serving as President. (How's that for a "what if?" post, ah well, I digress into wishful thinking.)
I've been retired for a year or so, and the Juvat family (extended, more to follow) is visiting the paternal side of the clan for Christmas. Said side of the clan resided in Las Vegas where my Dad was the construction engineer for Summa Corp. (That would be the holding company for H. Hughes hotels and other buildings in the vicinity of the strip.)
Since it has been quite a while since I had spent much time in the Western United States (my Son at the time was 14 and had last traveled out west at 3. My Daughter at the time was 8, you can do the math), we decided to drive. An additional impetus to drive was provided by our Rotary Exchange Student. Let's call him Helmut. Helmut was 17 at the time and was a native of Rostock Germany.
As can be seen Rostock is in the Eastern portion of Germany, and since he had been born in 1983, that would have meant he'd spent his formative years in the German Democratic Republic. Let's just say his personality was "interesting."
Since Helmut had been living with us for the fall semester, we'd shown him around the general vicinity, but hadn't been able to get out and about to see the West. That was additional encouragement to drive rather than fly.
So, off we go!
|It's not my car, it's Mrs. Juvat's car!|
|This is my car!|
Rather than take boring old I-10, we've decided we'd visit places we'd visited/lived, so the first night was spent in Big Spring. Big Spring was where I spent grades 5-12 and was the former home to Webb AFB. I hadn't been back since HS Graduation and the saying "you can't go home again..." sure was true. Base closing was hard on the town and the oil boom hadn't taken hold yet. I've heard it's doing better lately, Fracking doncha' know.
The next morning we depart before sunrise and head towards Alamogordo via TX 176 through Andrews Texas. Unfortunately, we're not making very good time as it is VERY foggy, as in, 15mph is going too fast, foggy. We're a few miles outside of Andrews and the plan is being revised. Soon as we get to Andrews, we're going to find a place to eat and stay there until after daybreak when the fog lifts. That plan has been reformulated by yours truly as the family is all asleep in the car. I'm inching along, when I notice I'm passing a stop sign. Hit the brakes and stop, which doesn't take much as slow as I was going. As I come to a stop, an 18 wheeler comes roaring through the intersection. Hadn't seen so much as a glow from his headlights until he was in front of me.
Rattled me a bit, it did.
The family slept through it.
Get into Andrews, and see a Ronnie Mac's, so stop and execute the delay plan.
A couple of hours pass, and the fog breaks and we're back on the road through Carlsbad, Artesia and Cloudcroft. The intention now is to see our old home, grab some lunch, stop by the base and get gas.
As we're heading down the west side of the mountains into the Tularosa Basin, my daughter becomes a tad nauseous. Finding a pullout in the winding highway, we pull over so she can get a bit of fresh air. Checking her out, we find she's running, what to our hands, feels like a fairly high fever.
So, it's back in the car and we're headed for the ER at the Base Hospital.
Arrive on Base and at the hospital in short order. Fortunately, the ER is not overly crowded so we get seen relatively quickly, although the whole iteration takes a couple of hours.
The diagnosis is ear infection, antibiotics are prescribed and we're back in the car.
Out the front gate and turn right just in time to see a fourship of Eagles take off and fly over. Helmut asks what they were, so I regale him with tales of derring-do as we head west on US 70 towards Las Cruces.
We've passed White Sands National Monument and are on the Missile range when I hear a Ding from the dashboard of the car.
Nuts! (or some other phrase to express irritation at how one got oneself into a situation!)
We're about 15 miles west of the Base, but there's no place to turn around, and I don't want to go 4 wheeling in the sand in the median. It's about 35 miles to Las Cruces and part of that is up a steep pass.
I take the throttles out of afterburner and cozy up behind an 18 wheeler and draft off him. (I figure if it works for a race car, why wouldn't it work for a minivan?). I stay with him until he starts up the pass.
I mean 30mph isn't going to do me much good.
I come over the top of the pass and out of the Missile Range expecting that there might be a gas station close by.
Luck ain't bein' a Lady today!
But I'm headed down hill, and every mile I go is one less I'll have to walk.
The tension in the van was palpable, as in cut with a knife, palpable.
I then see a sign for a gas station, 5 miles ahead. I can see it! (It's New Mexico, I could have seen it if it had been 20 miles away.)
Just 5 more miles, Lord, just 5 more miles.
Finally, I turn on the blinker, cross the highway and pull into the lot as the car dies and I coast to a stop at the pump.
Everyone piles out of the car and heads into the convenience store for entertainment and resuscitation. I pump 24.5 gallons of gas into the car. As I'm finishing up, Helmut comes over and says "You know, Mr. Juvat, in Chermany, we plan our trips better!"
I ask him if he'd like to get a closer, more in depth, experience of the Western United States by walking the remainder of the way.
*SJC (and the remainder of the title quote is....when you're on fire!)