Thursday, August 20, 2009

Off to Arizona.... indirectly

Gerald takes off down the street on a 500-mile drive to Tempe, Arizona, on Tuesday evening. However, his nocturnal drive through the remote mountain country wasn't all smooth sailing.

Gerald had chosen a somewhat out-of-the-way route to select small, scenic roads and minimize freeway driving, which is well for a jacked-up four-wheel drive Jeep Cherokee whose ride is better at slower speeds.

He'd chosen to drive at night because he wanted to arrive in the Valley of the Sun early in the morning, when it's relatively cool, in part a necessity because Der Gila Monster's air conditioning doesn't work properly. (Air conditioning technicians seems somewhat mystified; the system has pressure but doesn't produce cool air, and one theory is that the system hadn't been purged properly, leaving a mix of different refrigerant gases.)

We had a farewell dinner just before Gerald left Albuquerque, at Monroe's Restaurant near Old Town Albuquerque, where Gerald could get a Green Chile Fix before departing the Land of Enchantment. His route would take him south to Socorro, New Mexico, where he would then join US Highway 60 west past the Very Large Array radiotelescopes and on through Datil and Pie Town to Arizona, where he would pass through Show Low and Apache country before descending into the hot country of the Valley of the Sun and Tempe.

A little after midnight we received The Call. Parents don't generally get good news from the offspring at this hour.

Three of the wheels studs on the Jeep's front right tire had become stripped and loose, making the vehicle unsafe to drive. Gerald was in a middle-of-nowhere location on US Highway 60, west of Pie Town, and had to hike a quarter mile to get a cell phone signal.

He had a towing provision that came with his cell phone service, but his cell phone company couldn't find a nearby enough towing service. Only one vehicle passed by during a two-hour period while Gerald was waiting for a tow. At least Gerald was equipped for camping and was able to enjoy excellent star-gazing conditions.

Eventually (delayed a bit because he didn't have his membership card and had to get the telephone number or was worried about not having his member number), Gerald reached AAA and got a tow into Quemado, arriving at 2:30 in the morning. The next morning the tow truck driver/mechanic called in an order for the wheel studs. This involved a very lucky coincidence for Gerald; Quemado only gets a once-a-week parts delivery and very fortunately the deliveries are on Wednesday mornings. The mechanic got the order in ten minutes before the parts delivery left from Springerville, Arizona. By mid-morning Gerald was on the road again, with the wheel properly attached and with a new insight into rural frontier life.

Coming soon to this blog: The room!

Gerald packing "Der Gila Monster" before returning to college.

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