If you’ve been following our love story, you will have noticed sprinkled allusions to Wyoming, the roadtrip, the breakdown, etc.
TV’s off? Cell phone’s away? Snacks within arm’s reach?
Okay, here’s part two. The part that we like to call…
So, we’re on the road. It’s hot. It’s dry. It’s barren. It’s lonely.
Must be South Dakota.
The sun burst over the horizon, beginning what was a beautiful day, dust and all. That sunrise was one that permanently imprinted itself on my memory. Whenever wanderlust takes me, whenever I dream of being “on the road”, going wherever it may take me, I still feel that sunrise on my face. I taste the crappy gas station coffee, I ache with the sensation of freedom, of possibility, of adventure.
The coffee was particularly terrible that morning, but it did the trick. Drew and I were ready to face day number three, buzzed on caffeine and high on life.
Thus it began, innocently at first. It appeared, standing alone on a desolate stretch of Interstate 90. “Hark!” it told us, “Wall Drug Approacheth!”
“What is Wall Drug?” we wondered politely. Ah well, we will find out soon enough.
South Dakota meandered onward. But wait, another sign! “Wall Drug!” it encouraged us, “Forget the road to enlightenment! Come here instead!”
“That’s nice, but where is Wall Drug?” we asked the ether. No one answered.
At least 15 signs for Wall Drug later, we decided to take a detour to see Mount Rushmore (that’s a thing that people do, right?). To be fair, Drew decided to take a detour to see Mount Rushmore, as I was unceremoniously passed out in the front seat at the pivotal decision making moment. What to say about Rushmore? It’s large, rocky, and curiously shaped like the faces a couple of our country’s most famous leaders.
Seriously though, where is Wall Drug?
After what seemed like a lifetime (seriously, I think South Dakota stole most of our youth) and a hastily scrounged meal from Subway (one notch up from that roadkill Bucko is scraping off his truck grate as we speak), afternoon passed us by, the mountains loomed, and we crossed into Wyoming.
Wyoming. Must be nice this time of year.
We crossed several miles of non-descript wasteland. The rumor is: when you’re tearing down I-90, just trying to reach your destination, you miss a lot of beautiful national parks. This is an oversight that the current day Drew and Tasha fully plan to rectify, with slightly more time and money handy.
Memories from the road in Wyoming become a bit garbled at this point (ever heard of retrograde amnesia?), but I clearly recall paying a visit to a rather terrifying taco joint just outside one of the aforementioned national parks. If you’re wondering whether or not Wyoming is the best place in the world to eat tacos… it is not.
Perhaps those tacos served as some sort of cheesy harbingers of doom, because it was just after we ate them that things started to really go south. The Subaru, Drew’s beloved car that would “absolutely make it 3,000 miles across the country!” began to overheat. This was less of a “Hey honey, let’s throw some water in the coolant tank” overheating, and more of a “Get out your gas masks and combat helmets, cause this sh*t’s gonna explode” overheating.
So, like reasonable adults, we stopped, got a quick tuneup, and found a hotel for the night. Bed. Sleep. Shower. Shave. Those words had never been more glorious to us. We slept, trusting to the good people of Wyoming to not steal everything we owned out of the overstuffed Subaru.
We woke the next morning to warm sunshine and a steadily rising heat. We climbed into the car and set off. Before we knew it, it was time to stop for gas again. The first available gas station was straight out of an old western movie (if they had gas stations), complete with dust, wind, a few tumbleweeds, and a charmingly run down old shack that may have been a store at some point. Drew got out of the car to investigate, and to offer money to any human or machine to present itself. Neither did. I remained in the car, and soon noticed an old man, leering at me from across the way. This wasn’t your typical leering. This was loathsome, licentious, lecherous leering. Somewhere deep in my gut, I felt my dignity curl up into a ball and let out a pitiful whimper. It was wholly unclear who this man was, or why he was posted up at an old-fashioned gas station, waiting for eligible young women to leer at, but Drew noticed as well. Seeing no apparent way to obtain the illusive gas, he promptly got back into the car, and we hauled ass out of there, leaving the desire for fuel back with our creepy new friend.
All chivalry aside, it turns out that Subarus need gas to operate (or at least they did back then), and gas stations in Wyoming are few and far between. Some miles down the road and just past a sign that read “Next gas station: 30 miles. Suckers.”, the car sputtered and died.
There we were, stranded on the side of the road in Nowhere, Wyoming. Time passed, and the engine remained extremely hot, not aided at all by the 110 degree summer heat. We could see nothing for miles around, save for a few lonely travelers, all of whom seemed think we were merely taking a siesta, or communing with the buzzards. Finally, one kind soul pulled over, her shiny, clean SUV sporting an Oregon license plate. Chalk another one up for the fine folk of Portlandia. Our savior offered us a ride to the nearest gas station, but as Drew and I didn’t feel comfortable leaving the Subaru stuffed full of our belongings behind, we had to split up. Operating on the “don’t make your girlfriend get in cars with strangers” notion, Drew climbed into Kind Lady’s car and they set off, leaving me to my sweaty, sticky demise.
Here, I had two choices. One: stay inside the car. Even with the windows rolled down, I would quickly suffocate. Two: stand outside the car, frying in the heat, but catching a spare bit of breeze here and there. I decided on the latter, cleverly squashing myself into the car’s very small noontime shadow. Feeling more dramatic than I had since my 16th birthday, I called my parents and bemoaned my pitiful situation, telling them that I loved them dearly, but I probably wasn’t going to make it out of this alive. They calmed and comforted, but being unable to send any sort of high-tech air support, remained helpless.
After what felt like three days, Drew arrived back at the car, filled up the tank, and we set off once again. Crisis averted, right?
No more than 5 minutes passed, and the Subaru began to overheat, this time, with a vengeance. We pulled over once again. Drew took a look under the hood. Whatever he saw, it wasn’t pretty.
After giving the engine ample time to rest, and allowing the sun to wreck some serious havoc on our pasty white visages, we reversed course and headed back to Sheridan, Wyoming.
The Subaru, feebly tottering on its last legs, belched like a dyspeptic 80-year-old, croaked, and died as we coasted into a Midas parking lot. The head gasket had split. To those non-mechanically oriented readers, this reads as “Congratulations on your new home in the middle of nowhere!”
So, we offloaded all of our personal effects into a corner of the Midas auto shop, and took stock of our situation. As much as we are the cattle ropin’, cowboy hat wearin’, tobacco chewin’, tramp-stamp sportin’ type of couple (sarcasm), we decided that this was not the place for us, and that we would have to find some way to get ourselves and all of our belongings back to Washington.
Option One: Leave everything behind, catch a flight to SEA-TAC, and start life over with no car, no belongings.
Option Two: Pay through the nose to rent a U-Haul truck, keep belongings, drive to Washington. Return truck. No car.
Option Three: Wander through one of Sheridan’s three conveniently placed used car dealerships and find a new car. Drive to Washington. Keep belongings. Keep car.
Option Three won.
Oh, and if you’re wondering if we ever found Wall Drug... you can stop wondering.
Some things are best left a mystery.
*some events in this story may have been slightly altered, not necessarily for dramatic effect, but more because I can’t remember in what order everything happened. cut me some slack, it was 5 years ago.