CITY: Newcastle, CO, or something
SMELL: Warm rubber, hot asphalt, and the always vaguely appealing and carcinogenic scent of gasoline
PLACE: Kum & Go
THE WAY: While driving from the Denver tour stop to a conference in Provo, UT, the Camaro suddenly bucked explosively and deathfully. When I limped it into a gas station with a name I feel uncomfortable printing on a blog children read, I discovered that my alternator was again at fault. This time, a bolt in the rear had worked itself loose, wrenching a wire completely in half and cutting power to things I had come to love and treasure in my time as a driver: lights, windshield wipers, radios, signal lights, a/c, the everything. Why would the bolt do such a thing, one wonders? Because earlier in the tour, another bolt had leapt free from the alternator and now all of them longed to follow their dreams.
PEOPLE: My co-pilot, Brenna Yovanoff, helpfully stripped the wire with a seam ripper from her knitting bag, and then we applied judicious quantities of electrical tape. I was determined to make it twelve miles down the road to buy a new alternator that had no dreams of its own. Enough of this. Benjamin Franklin had things to say about hanging together and hanging separately, and I needed an alternator that would remember that. Sadly, the battery had run dead, the car wouldn’t start, and every tow truck driver in an hour radius was occupied following their dreams. Then a truckload of boys, manboys, a man, and dirt bikes asked if we needed help. “Yes,” said Brenna, putting down her knitting needles. “Please jump start our aged vehicle.” They did. The boys, manboys, and man also kindly offered to follow us to our exit. At the AutoZone in Rifle, a man named Ryan sold me another alternator and installed it while I ate cookies and handed him various tools. He told me he hadn’t read a book since sixth grade. He recalled the last novel, he reported. He told me it had been about a man who’d tried to escape from a prisoners’ camp and gotten his legs shot off with a machine gun. I replied that I reckoned that was a pretty good reason to give up novels.
*The bikers said they were going to Moab to ride, a thing I ardently wished to do myself as soon as they had said it out loud. Unlike some car parts, however, I understood that one could not always wander off on one’s own agenda.