Hiking / Backpacking Adventures

Unexpected Interstate Travel

Auto ShopOn Saturday, when the car broke down, I had found my “zen place”. In the middle of the desert, waiting for the tow truck driver, I figured that everything was going to work out okay.

Waking up in a Best Western in Needles CA, with a horrible headache born of sleeping on a formless pillow, I lost the “zen place”. It was time to start making plans to escape this situation.

We woke up a little before 9:00 am, and got ready to head out around 10:00 am. The repair shop, according to the posted hours, was supposed to be open from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, Saturday and Sunday, and longer hours on weekdays. Of course, there is also a neon sign announcing “OPEN” 24-7, so I’m not sure why I put any confidence in the signage.

We had bagels for breakfast and then headed across the street. I bought the local newspaper to give us something to read, and also to find out what the Powerball numbers were. Unfortunately it seemed they had printed the paper before the numbers were announced – there was a big article on the front page about the high jackpot, but nothing showing what the numbers actually were.

Around 10:20, Dave called the number on the repair shop’s business card that the tow truck driver had given us. Of course, the phone was probably just ringing right inside, but I figured maybe the guy would check his messages remotely if nothing else. Dave left a message and we continued to wait.

Around 10:30, it started to sprinkle a bit, so I said we should go back to the motel to wait. If the guy showed up, he would call Dave’s cell. So we went back, only to find that our key stopped working. We went to the front desk, and the girl said that the key machine runs an hour fast for some reason. We explained our situation and she gave us a check-out extension from 11 am to 12 noon. She also told us that often, the guy across the street doesn’t show up until 11 or 12.

After getting that sorted out, we noticed a truck pull up to the repair shop. We went and talked to the guy in the truck, and it turned out to be a mechanic that the shop owner had hired, to start in 2 weeks. He was also looking for the owner, but decided to give up. Just then, a tow truck driver (not the one we worked with yesterday, but from the same company) showed up with another little car and two women in the back seat. We found out from him that the repair shop guy wasn’t coming in today, but would definitely be coming in on Monday.

It was at this point we decided that we couldn’t keep sitting in Needles waiting for a repair shop guy who seems to make his own hours. We went back to the motel room and called car and truck rental places. We reconsidered the possibility of renting a U-Haul with a tow package, but it was pretty expensive, and we weren’t confident in our ability to securely get the car onto the truck. There were, of course, no car rental places open in Needles on a Sunday, but after much wrangling, we managed to make a reservation at Enterprise Rent-A-Car at the nearest airport, in Bullhead City, AZ.

Unfortunately they didn’t offer customer pickup, so we had to call a cab to pick us up. There are also no cab companies in Needles, so the cab was coming from Bullhead City, which is 22 miles away. When Dave called, it was about 12 noon, and the dispatcher told us the cab would pick us up around 12:30 pm.

In the midst of all this we called the Arizona lottery’s 1-800 number to find that we had not matched a single Powerball number. This seemed to fit in with the way our weekend was going so far.

We went downstairs, checked out, and waited in the lobby. Dave got the rest of our stuff out of the car while I talked to the woman at the front desk. She indicated that it was a common occurrence for tow truck drivers to drop people off at this Best Western, who wait for a few days while the guy across the street works on their car. I just shook my head.

Around 12:30 pm the taxi driver called to say he’d be there in about 30 minutes. We figured, we had done so much waiting all weekend, why not wait for a taxi for another half hour? He actually did arrive right at 1:00 pm, and we were on our way to Arizona.

He dropped us off at Bullhead City airport (cab fare + tip: $53) and we went inside to the Enterprise counter and had few holdups in renting the car. We got outside to the curb to pick up the car and I realized that I had left my cell phone in the taxi. Dave called the cab driver (fortunately we had his cell phone number because he had called with his ETA) and sure enough, he had my phone. He told us he was on his way back toward where we had just come from, but would be dropping off his next fare in Laughlin, and would meet us there.

Bullhead City AZ and Laughlin NV are basically one city, divided by the Colorado River and a state border. Of course Laughlin, just like any other Nevada border town, has a strip of casinos, which line up along the river. Around 2 pm (Pacific time… Arizona is an hour ahead) we crossed the bridge into Laughlin, drove halfway up the strip, and managed to find an In-N-Out Burger. We got lunch and waited to hear from the cab driver.

After we’d eaten and waited for a while, we called the cab driver again. It turned out that his fare wasn’t headed for Laughlin as expected, so he had to figure out where he was going instead. Finally he told us to meet him back in Bullhead City, at a gas station. This seemed like a good idea anyway, because the rental car didn’t have a full tank, and Arizona has good gas prices. So we headed back to Bullhead City and found ourselves at a Fastrip gas station at 3:10 pm. The taxi driver showed up at 3:30 pm and handed over the phone. We thanked him profusely and then headed south.

We stopped in Needles briefly at 4:00 pm, then retraced our steps back to San Diego. The trip didn’t go entirely without a hitch, but we made good time and arrived at home at 9:00 pm. It was great not to be in the Best Western, and not to be in Needles. Unfortunately, we’ll have to go back on Saturday – hopefully our car will be ready to drive home by then.

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