Friday, June 24, 2011

Out Of Gas

Through the shimmering heat of the late morning stood the sun-baked buildings of Death Valley Junction. It was to have been our next refueling stop on our way heading east out of the dramatic scenery and high priced gas of the desert. There were only 3 of us now, with the remainder having cut north on their way back home. Ralph was a mile short of our proposed stop when his Harley-Davidson Springer had drained its reserve gasoline tank and stalled on the shoulder of Highway 190. Leaving Ralph and his immobilized machine on the side of the road, Jim and I drove into the Junction in search of a gas station. There was none. In fact, there appeared to be little in the way of life at all, with a somewhat ramshackled motel and an even more dilapidated café being the only businesses that appeared open. The next available fuel was almost 30 miles away. But after some persistent pleading, we were loaned a small siphon hose.  In short order we used it to drain gas from my tank into an empty water bottle and then into Ralph's motorcycle. "More than enough to get us 30 miles", we thought.
Before going on, we wheeled back into Death Valley Junction to return the hose to its owner, who appeared to be spending the morning talking to several other locals at the café. While we were anxious to press on, having already completed a whirlwind tour of several wonders of Death Valley (the Sand Dunes, Artists Palette, Devil's Golf Course and the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere, Badwater), we were also very thirsty. Anything cold to drink would have been sufficient, however, the portly young lady who served us proudly announced that she had just made a fresh batch of lemonade. It proved to be delicious as we each guzzled 4 or 5 large classes, after which we decided to have an early lunch there as well. For a town that appeared to have run out of gas, literally and figuratively, it continued to evidence a small spark of potential, as if surviving on hope through an unknown siphon hose.
Jim siphoning gas
The heat, gusting winds and higher than normal speed seemed to consume more fuel than we had expected. Only 20 miles up the road I looked back and noticed Ralph fading into the distance and then stopping. He was out of gas again due to our inaccurate estimate the first time.  We were now almost 10 miles short of Pahrump, Nevada, the nearest gas station. Again, Ralph was left with his stricken bike by the side of the road in the 100° F (38°C) plus temperatures, while Jim and I went to find fuel and a Jerry can to carry it.
We arrived mid-afternoon in Las Vegas, a mere 200 miles (300 km) for the day. Exhausted, scruffy with several days’ beard growth and our clothes sweat completely through, we looked entirely out of place.  Only after some effort did we convince the young woman behind the desk to let us check into the Silverton Hotel and Casino. Our main reason for coming to this gambling Mecca was not to put coins in a slot machine, but rather to buy a replacement for the bald rear tire on Ralph's bike. Heat and highway speeds tend to almost melt motorcycle tires and there is nothing more critical than the rubber that grips the road on each corner taken.
At the end of the day we shared a fine, inexpensive, prime rib dinner, and spoke about times in life when we had "run out of gas". These were times when we did not have the natural resources to go further so needed to help of others; friends or family from whose gas tank we could siphon a little precious fuel to make it further along the journey. Without them we would have been left in some figurative desert alone.

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