Thursday, January 13, 2011

A cold night on Interstate 80

"What are you doing," Sheree asked from the backseat of my brother's late 90s model GMC Jimmy.
"I am tapping S.O.S. with the brakes," I replied.
Our breath hung in the air in crystals reminding us just how cold it was. A quick look at my brother's watch told me it was well past 9 p.m. and we were going no where.
I had fallen asleep in the front seat of the Jimmy as we made our way across northern Nevada. The temperature had dropped far below freezing but we didn't mind because the vehicle was warm. We passed a motor grater when a loud pop tore me from my slumber.
"What was that," I managed to mutter.
Benjamin, my brother and current driver of our trek, didn't answer at first. A puzzled look was sketched across his face. He pulled off the road and turned the ignition.
Nothing.
He tried again, still nothing.
"That's not good," I said.
"No..it's not," was all he replied.
We were stuck on the shoulder of the eastbound lanes of Interstate 80. None of us were prepared for the arctic like temperatures we were experiencing. When we left San Francisco it was in the 70s. But it was late December and the snow on the side of the road was a clear indicator.
After a brief discussion Benjamin decided he would run up the road a bit. We could see lights on the horizon and assumed it was a town, or possibly a rest area. Either way, it meant a phone was close.
"Get in the driver's seat," he told me as he opened the door and stepped out of the vehicle.
I walked around to the front and looked at how he was dressed; a black leather motorcycle jacket, jeans, combat boots, and a t-shirt.
"If it's too far come back. It's too cold out here to mess around," I said.
He agreed. So there I sat, tapping S.O.S with the brakes.
"Think it will work," Sheree asked, the cold had found a way to seep into her voice.
A nod of my head was all I could muster. We had turned the head lights off to save the battery, but with the assistance of passing vehicles, I could see the form of my brother returning.
He got in the vehicle trembling. We pulled clothes out of the bags in the back to try and warm him some.
I continued tapping S.O.S.
My efforts soon paid off as red and blue lights began flashing behind us.
"Thank god," Benjamin said he opened the door and got out before I had a chance to stop him.
The state patrol officer went on the defensive immediately. He ordered Benjamin back in the car, one hand stretched in front of him, the other on his firearm.
My brother obliged quickly. The officer approached the car timidly, as he reached the passenger side window he asked who owned the vehicle. My brother said it was his. Asking Benjamin to step out of the car, he walked around to the back.
They spoke for a bit at which point the officer said a trucker saw us on the road and radioed in for help. There was one problem though,the officer said, "I think I smell marijuana."
"Seriously?" my brother asked. "Officer, feel free to search the vehicle, there is nothing there. The only thing we have been smoking is Marlboro. We are broke down and in need of help."
He stared at my brother. Hard. "Ok," he said, "I believe you."
The officer left us on the side of the Interstate with the knowledge that a tow truck was on the way. He never searched the vehicle. Before he departed my brother apologized for getting out the vehicle. He said we were very cold and he was relieved to see help arrived.
If only our adventure had ended there.
When the tow truck arrived and a very surly looking individual stepped out. He hooked up the Jimmy and told the three of us to climb into the cab of his truck.
We headed east to Wendover, the closest town.
"So," the tow truck drover said," I think you guys should know, Ronald Reagan was afraid of Bruce Springsteen."
Thinking he was joking we asked what he meant.
"Springsteen could have ended the Vietnam war. That scared the daylights out of Reagan," he said with all seriousness.
I looked at my brother, "Here we go."