To hell and back

It was a dark and stormy night.

And by “storm,” I don’t mean a weather event characterized by high wind and driving snow. I am referring to the other type of storm, you know the one of slang vernacular, where a maelstrom of unfortunate events leads to a big, stinky, crappy mess.

Yes, that kind of storm. And on a recent mini-skication to Telluride, the Mo-tel family stepped right into it, sort of giving new meaning to the whole “To-hell-you-ride” thing.

As for it being a dark night, that I can attest to. In fact, it was so dark that the black Mustang – or was it a Grand Am? – nearly ran the Spousal Unit off the road as he tried to flag it down waving his arms in the universal distress signal. Sure, the brown Carhartts and navy jacket weren’t exactly high visibility. And his appearance apparently didn’t scream “I’m perfectly safe. Please, stop,” but I’m pretty sure the car sped up as it passed us.

“Who does that?” I screamed through a crack in the car window, before answering my own question with the universal seven-letter word for “male donkey.”

Sure, I would have thought twice about stopping if I had been confronted by a maniac in the middle of a dark and deserted mountain road. After all, I think that’s how Ted Bundy lured his victims. But then again, what self-respecting serial killer drives a white Toyota mini van, with a wife, two kids and a dog?

Fortunately, the children were oblivious to my colorful salutation. In fact, it’s safe to say they were oblivious to the desperation of the situation all together. Sure, we happened to be marooned on a barren stretch of highway, in the middle of nowhere, with no cell phone service and a rear tire that resembled black leather fringe, but thank heaven, we still had Sponge Bob.

Technology has a funny way of mocking you like that, at your darkest moment. Like when the ATM eats your debit card, and then tells you to have a nice day. In fact, you could say the entire situation was one big technological comedy of errors. Yes, I realize a spare tire would have saved us from the entire boondoggle. However, thanks to the Toyota Motor Corp. – which has brought us such fine innovations as sticking accelerators – things like spare tires are obsolete relics of the past. With its latest modern abomination, run-flat tires, one need only heed the “low-tire pressure” light and calmly pilot the wounded grocery-getter to the nearest service station within a 50-mile radius. There, a happy and knowledgeable Mr. Goodwrench will fix the tire and send you on your merry way, ensuring you need not ever dirty your hands or know jack about jacks. A great idea in theory – sort of like those electronic toilet flushers or robo-vacuum cleaners – until something goes wrong. Like a low-tire pressure light that has been on since you bought the car two years ago, despite numerous attempts to turn the annoying thing off and reassurances that it is “nothing to worry about.”

Which is why, by the time the Spousal Unit detected a problem with one of the rear tires, we were well out of the 50-mile worry zone and into full-blown panic

mode. We rumbled along at a snail’s pace plotting our next move, when the wheels fell off, literally, about 13 miles south of Rico. Let’s just say, 7:30 p.m. on a Thursday in rural Montezuma County is not exactly rush hour, and those drug-sniffing deputies are never around when you need them.

Alas, we came to the conclusion that we were up the Dolores River without a paddle, and Spouse Man stuck out the thumb. After the first drive-by, we were able to reel in a good Samaritan in a shining white shining Hyundai. It was agreed that I resembled much less of a serial killer than the husband, and thus, would make the 13-mile trek to Rico with the female driver.

Although, truth be told, I didn’t have a plan much beyond that. It’s not exactly like there would be a 24-hour Big O there, let alone a tow truck. In fact, not even my cell phone was registering signs of life as we pulled up to the Rico gas station, where I was granted permission to use a land line only after being told to “make it quick because we’re closing in five minutes.”

By now, the sole tow driver in Telluride, a 30-mile trek that would likely cost my firstborn, was hunkered down in his Snuggie with a cold into a sixer of Bud. Perhaps it was the desperation/near hysteria in my voice, but after some reluctance, he agreed to pick me up – in an hour and a half.

“Do you know where the Enterprise is?” he asked. “You can wait for me there.”

Of course, I had passed the local watering hole numerous times, and even entertained thoughts of someday bellying up for a cold one. And while I’m sure my choice in mismatched roadtrip sweats would probably be within the dress code, I knew it was only a matter of time until Sponge Bob wore out his welcome back on the Titanic.

I was debating if the $20 in my purse would be enough to get me through an hour and a half at the Enterprise, when my much-saner chauffer, Nancy, hatched another plan. It was agreed that the tow truck would pick the van up the next day, and tonight, she would drive me back to the minivan, pick up the refugees and drive us all to Telluride. She was headed back there anyway, she argued when I feebly protested, and besides, the car was a rental. And with that, I left behind visions of boarding the Enterprise, drove back to the van, packed up the fam and essential gear (it’s a sad state when the Goat vodka makes it over the skis) and finished off the final leg of our journey, better late than never.

And maybe it was a stress-induced hallucination, but I swear on that drive, I saw the biggest, brightest, longest, shooting star of my life streak across the nighttime sky. I was so awestruck that by the time I could formulate words, a good five seconds later, it was gone. And although I was the only one who saw it, I took it as a good omen. I thanked that lucky star that everyone was safe and sound, and I wasn’t drowning my sorrows alone at the Enterprise, or worse, riding shotgun in a tow truck with Charles Manson. Maybe the ride to hell isn’t so bad as long as you have a guardian angel.

– Missy Votel



In this week's issue...

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January 26, 2024
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January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows