Thursday, September 3, 2015
Spring Break 1976
As I think I mentioned during my last post, we had friends visiting us from Arizona a few weeks ago. I went to college with both of them at the University of Missouri forty years ago. That doesn’t seem possible, but it is true. While they were here, Steve hit us up with a trip proposal for next year. He wants to recreate a trip he and I made in 1976 on spring break to Arizona. He had never been to Arizona before that trip, and because of it, he fell in love with the State. I had gone to High School in Tucson because my dad was in the Air Force.
That spring break trip would turn out to be 10 days of incredible fun, and we had enough adventures for me to fill several posts. I will use this one on just one night in New Mexico on the way out to Arizona. When we decided to go, word got out. Two girls who we didn’t even know heard about it and wanted to go to Phoenix. They asked if we would take them there and drop them off and then pick them up at the end of the week. We agreed. Steve and I did all the driving. They slept. We drove all the way out there non-stop. They joys of youth.
1976. The days of CB radios. My “handle” was silver slipper. Yeah, yeah, laugh it up. It had to do with my bowling shoes. We were both on the college bowling team and I had silver bowling shoes. Now you can shut up. Anyway, we were minding our own business, on highway 54 in New Mexico at about 1 a.m. looking for gas. There was none. As we passed through each town, and there were not too many of them, no stations were open. We kept going. Steve was driving.
We passed a trucker after we moved through a small town and talked to him for a little while. There weren’t many cars or trucks on the road at 1:30 in the morning. I saw Steve keep looking at the gas gauge. “Oh man, we are at the bottom.”
We topped a ridge and saw a glow on the horizon. A town. Could we make it? How far was it? About a mile later we found out. Nope. We ran out. Steve steered the car off the road and down the embankment. We went WAY down off the road, like 30 feet down vertically off the road. It is all sand out there, so no big deal.
I immediately got on the radio and called for help, saying we were out of gas, maybe 8 miles out of Tularosa. “Is that you, Silver Slipper?” It was our trucker friend.
“Hey there, it sure is.”
“Well, get your silver butt next to the road and I’ll give you a lift to town.”
Steve looked to me and said he would go. I looked to the backseat. The two girls had never moved. We both shook our heads. I thought seriously about going with him and leaving their butts alone. I smiled at the thought of them waking to find us gone. Okay, only for a second.
Steve left and told me later when he came back what happened. He got a nice ride in the truck to town to a truck stop that was open. He went in and bought a two gallon plastic gas can and filled it, then went looking for a ride with a trucker north to our location. He toted this can around to several trucks until he finally found one willing to take him. He said it was a large cab with a sleeper. The driver was rather grumpy.
“Hey, when you get in here, roll the window down and hang that can out the window. I don’t want to smell those fumes.”
Now Steve is tall, 6’3”, but the truck is big and he said he looked up to this big thing and opened the door and awkwardly climbed up. Someone must have been sleeping in the sleeper because there were two nice boots lying on the passenger floor. He set the can of gas on the floor and climbed in, and as he did, he accidentally kicked out one of the boots. The driver didn’t see it. He thought, “That’s a long way down there. I’m not going after it.” He closed the door, rolled down the window, hung the can out the window, and said, “Ready.”
Off they went. Every couple of miles he had to switch hands because of the weight of the can. He had to really pay attention to the road as they went along because the car was down off the road and hard to see. Finally, he spotted it after eight long miles. The truck pulled over.
Steve thanked the driver, rolled up the window, opened the door, swung his legs out, and kicked out the remaining boot onto the isolated desert road, eight miles from the other boot. He jumped down and shut the door. The truck took off and Steve looked down at the boot and smiled. He then ran over to where I waited and the two girls still slept.
He was laughing when he ran up, but was in an incredible hurry. I was in the driver’s seat. I rolled my window down as he poured the gas into the car. I then handed him the keys so he could put the can in the trunk. “We’ve got to get out of here.”
“I’ll tell you when I get in, but fire this thing up and let’s go. That trucker might come back for us.”So, next year, on Highway 54, the four of us will be looking for two boots eight miles apart in the middle of New Mexico. If you see a really old trucker in stocking feet wandering around looking for us, don’t point east or west, point north and say, “They went that-a-way.”