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Drawn to the Desert An Uru Account

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  • rov nee (new person)
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Posted 20 December 2010 - 10:10 PM

It was August 21st. All my valuable possessions were wedged tightly in the back of an old CR-V, with only a small space at the top glowing brightly in the rearview mirror. I was making good time on my way from California to New York, where my girlfriend had recently gotten into med school. It wasn't the quickest or most efficient way of moving, but I liked the car, I liked driving it, and I didn't like the idea of entrusting my books to either movers or FedEx.

I took another swig from the water bottle and tapped my GPS to check some stats on my progress. (As an engineer, I like playing games with numbers, and a GPS is full of them.) The average speed it reported was about 20 MPH over the speed limit, but highway patrol didn't make it this far out into the desert. I'd already been driving for two days straight, and my generally cautious attitude had eroded after the first 8-hour leg where I hadn't seen one other soul on the road.

The scenery was similarly sparse. New Mexico was vast, barren scrubland, occasionally interrupted with an upthrusting of rocky sandstone towers to put on misleading postcards. Although I wasn't tired, the lack of any sort of visual stimulus made my eyelids fight drowsiness. Leaning over in my seat, I thrust an arm into the pile of belongings and travel amenities on the passenger's side of the car, searching for a bag of junk food to munch on and keep myself awake. When my fingers brushed something that crinkled, I took my eyes off the road for a moment to eye the bag of Fritos.

That was as far as I got.

There was a thump, and then a flapping sound as the steering wheel torqued in my other hand, the car rapidly decelerating. The Fritos and everything else in the seat tumbled onto the floor with a jarring crash as I gritted my teeth and wrestled the Honda back into a straight line, then slowly off to the side of the road. With a knowing sigh, I flicked the gear lever into park as soon as I'd stopped, and bitterly grabbed my Panama Jack off the dash as I opened the door to the blistering heat.

The tire wasn't as torn up as I'd been afraid of. I must have simply hit an inopportunely sharp rock when I'd drifted off the road. I could easily put on the spare and get it patched when I got to the next city, not needing to wait around for a triple-A truck to meander its way out to me. I turned and looked at the back of the CR-V, steeling myself against annoyance as I realized that the spare tire was under 100 pounds of belongings. After a half an hour of careful unloading and 15 minutes of not-so-careful-unloading, I finally lifted the mat covering the spare. The tire was pristine, with rubber whiskers indicating its lack of use and a fully pressurized tube...

...and no lug wrench.

Before you judge me, I think it fair to mention that this was my girlfriend's car that she had asked me to drive out to NY for her. I have never owned any automobile that was not constantly stocked with road flares, jacks, jumper cables, and a decent-sized toolbox in the trunk. My girlfriend had never shared my paranoia, and apparently, had never had a flat before.

Great.

I folded my hands, placed them atop my hat, and sat on the bumper a moment to collect myself, boxes of kitchenware about my feet. Calling AAA was starting to look inevitable, and it annoyed me; it always felt like giving up. I took a few calming breaths through my nose, leaning my head back slightly and thinking of the time I'd lose. My reverie was interrupted when a glare flashed in from the side of my sunglasses. Frowning, I turned and squinted over them. At the base of a ragged-looking sandstone hill, I could just make out a small Aerostream camper through the scrubs, the silvered retro lines flashing sun into my eyes.

My surprise quickly turned to enthusiastic optimism. Maybe whoever was camping here was a little better-prepared than I was.

I quickly stashed the boxes in the back of the Honda and grabbed my phone and my wallet out of the console. Locking the doors behind me with the key fob out of habit, I made my way towards the trailer, and hopefully my ticket out of New Mexico.

-Josh
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