On our recent move to Los Angeles California, we came in via I-40, which crosses the Mojave Desert. This is not country to mess around in. You better have a plan before you cross it. Which we apparently did not, and we are darn lucky to be here talking about it no worse the wear.
My first words of advice are: Trust your GUT. If you think you should get a bit more gas before traversing this barren (but God blessed and painted)land, then you better dagon listen up!
I did not realize we needed more gas. I got in to drive just before the California border, to drive my family to their new state by the mama born there. I didn’t pay much attention to the gas because I was hell bent on getting us to the border before the last wisps of evening sunset were blackened out by the night. I needed them to see California as they entered it.
So we crossed and I was thrilled. And then we passed the sign that said “Next Services 53 miles.” As I passed the exit, I looked down and to my dismay, I was less than a quarter tank full. Now mind you, with the speed limit at 75 and a late hour, the day and trip long, we just wanted to get to our destination.
I was doing about 80 (slower than most traffic by far). Yup. Looking like the Clampets headed to Beverly Hills, we were loaded up. The winds were whipping and it did not take but a few miles for me to start doing math. Our car says that it has 2 gallons left once the light comes on for gas. I figured I probably had at least 20 miles left before that would happen so we were going to be fine. I was not considering the speed nor the wind resistance. Within a couple more minutes the light came on.
Mmm hmm. Crap. It’s okay, you can say it.
As the numbers figured in my head, I thought about reducing speed but didn’t. Yet. After about 10 miles, as the gas gauge was now firmly in the red, almost level with the empty line, I knew I had to do something. So, down it went…. to 55. Now I was simply drawing out the misery and inevitable and trying not to hum “I can’t drive 55!”
It was pitch black, the only lights were the those of cars in the distance heading away or ahead of us. Like a spotlight, the shone against the deepest black you have ever seen. No moon. The stars were amazing!
As we rounded a curve or peaked a rise I would think, surely this one will show the gas station. But to my dismay, it did not- and we would view a valley or canyon ahead of us that was many miles wide, cavernous and black as pitch.
Neither Lance nor I spoke a single word. The children, silent or sleeping only added to the deafening awareness that we were highly likely to run out of gas in the middle of the desert in the middle of the night.
Now, you are thinking how hot a desert is unless you grew up around them. In the winter, the desert can get snow. It gets COLD. Really Really cold. Snow Cold. Hypothermia Cold. And we had not packed any winter coats with us. Not one.
I was beginning to wonder if AAA would bring gas out there.
Rise after rise, I would hold my breath, then let it out in a silent long sigh as yet again, no lights were seen. The needle had now fallen well below the empty line. I am pretty sure it was now indicating ‘Hell’, not ’empty’.
In my head I was like a teeter totter. One minute I was claiming that there was going to be enough- just like the oil in the lamp, which many now celebrate as Hanukkah, surely God would make sure there was enough in our tank. Then the other voice spoke up and it went something like this: You DUMB broad!!! Do you really think you can compare being stupid and forgetting gas with being trapped in the temple in battle and insufficient oil? You will be damn lucky if you coast in on fumes.
I would respond with simply begging. Dear God, please let there be enough. I know we screwed up… but please. please, let there be enough.
And then it happened. We topped a peak and there in the distance were lights that were not in the line of cars that snaked across the valley. YES!!! Those HAVE to be it!! YAY! I will pay $10 a gallon if I have to.
As we got closer I kept waiting for the engine to sputter, thinking at least we were close enough to walk now. But it didn’t. It kept going, nice and smooth, right up to the gas pump, where gasoline was $7 a gallon if I recall correctly. Lance reached out as we reached the exit, touching me for the first time in 53 miles. Smart man. Any sooner and I would have gone poltergeist on him I am sure. Instead I was simply thankful.
As he pumped more then enough gas to get us the other 50 miles again, I trotted inside the store only to notice the sign with the hours. 8 pm was closing. It was currently 7:46. 15 minutes from closing and NO gas. Mmmhmm. We sure were lucky. Those few minutes I kept us at 80 mph were probably our saving grace that night.
On a side note, I kept saying to God that if he wanted me to run out of gas, that if there was someone for me to minister to along the way I was willing and not too focused on my own drama. Funnily enough, the gal behind the counter ministered to me. She blessed us and told us to have faith, it would all turn out just right.
Okay, as big of a smile as that put on my face, I walked away thinking, ya know… I really could have received that message just as well without the drama and stress that brought me to it. Maybe.
So, lesson learned. DO not ignore your gas gauge as you approach the Mojave. You might not be as lucky.