Road Trip: Is that Smoke?

“There will be gas up there.”Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ Words that would come back to bite me, for sure.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ It was the early nineties, and I was living in Southern California, just outside of Los Angeles in the High Desert.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ I went with my sister and her husband to a race in the San Joaquin Valley in my ol’ 1965 Mustang.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ He raced BMX (bicycle motocross) so we had the bike in the trunk.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ The truck didn’t close completely, so we tied it down over the bike.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ Another thing that would have repercussions later in the trip.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

Anyone who has traveled through the San Joaquin Valley knows just how boring that can be.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ Not much too look at, that’s for sure.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ but interestingly enough, there is some wonderful scenery around it.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ I don’t remember if it came more as a reaction to the boredom of the drive or the desire to explore, the decision was made to go to Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park, to see the giant trees.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ Actually, I think I saw a brochure at a gas stop showing the General Sherman Tree that was the kicker.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ A little side trip to the mountains-no big deal, right?Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

The track we left from was on the east side of town.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ We talked about whether or not we should go into town for gas or not.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ I assured them both that there was sure to be gas up the road.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ As we left, We had to stop along side the road to repair a leaking transmission line, if memory serves.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ Regardless, it took about an hour.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ The time would prove critical to the gas situation.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ We had a great time seeing the trees, the drive up was pretty, all went well-except for the gas.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ As we got to what I think was the only gas station in the park, it was closing.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ “Just turned off my pumps”Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ Was the response to my pleading for gas.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ “The next one is quite a way down the hill.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ But it’s all downhill!”Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ Was his response to my questioning about any other gas.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ After giving him a not-so-heartfelt “thank you”Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ we headed down the mountain.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

Another one of those seemingly unrelated things that played into the big picture.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ About a week earlier, I had lost the keys to the Mustang.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ I was using a screwdriver stuck into the ignition to start it.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ It was working OK, so I hadn’t yet taken the time to get it fixed.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ So as we started down the hill, I would use the screwdriver to run the car only when I needed it to pull a hill.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ For most of the decent, we were able to coast just fine with the engine off.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ As it didn’t have either power steering or power brakes, steering and stopping were not a problem.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ Then came the fire.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ Apparently, I arced the screwdriver on the side of the ignition or something (I’m no mechanic, I don’t know for sure)Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ and a fire started in the dash.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ As I pulled to a stop, my sister bolted from the car and ran to the forest.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ The fastest I ever saw her run, she was gone!Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ We were able to get everything under control fairly easily though, and got headed back down the road.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ We made it to that gas station just as it was closing too.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ This guy was much nicer, and let us fill up. Back on the road again!

Ah, but the story isn’t over.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ We got close to home well after two in the morning.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ We came to an intersection with a cop car being the only other vehicle around.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ “He’s gonna stop us.”Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ My sisterÃ?¯Ã?¿Ã?½said.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ IÃ?¯Ã?¿Ã?½didn’t think so.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ We had done nothing wrong, after all.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ Sure enough, he did.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½Of all things, forÃ?¯Ã?¿Ã?½no plate light.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ In truth, I think he thought we had stolen the bikeÃ?¯Ã?¿Ã?½he could see in the trunk.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ He asked for ID for all of us, and went back to his car.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ As fate would have it, my brother-in-law had an outstanding ticket for some minor traffic thing.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ But he had notÃ?¯Ã?¿Ã?½paid it, so there was a warrant.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½He got taken to jail.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ He was a little bit angry with me later when he found outÃ?¯Ã?¿Ã?½I didn’t even get a ticket!Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½He had to spend the rest of the night in jail, still smelling like transmission fluid.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½(As I said, I’m no mechanic, he had fixed the earlier problem)Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½All in all, alot of trouble to see some trees.

But what magnificent trees!�¯�¿�½ I would recommend the park to everyone.�¯�¿�½ It is truly beautiful up there.�¯�¿�½ So we came, we went-we nearly ran out of gas, we had a fire, we were suspected of stealing a bike-but we got to see a great park.�¯�¿�½ Now, if�¯�¿�½I am heading to unknown and uninhabited areas, I fill up with gas first!

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