The internet’s a wonderful thing, ain’t it?
I don’t know who MrJoro is. He has a Saab and he posts photos on Flickr occasioanlly, hence I came accross this via my RSS reader.
Normally I wouldn’t post something like this, but I enjoyed the story so much I couldn’t resist.
Mr Joro’s on a roadtrip and he’s just left Joshua Tree National Park. I’m not an afficianado of horror films, but this had all the hallmarks…..
On our way out of Joshua Tree, we checked our Google Map giving directions from the park to Las Vegas. We had just over a quarter tank of gas left and my car was telling me that it’d get us another 110 miles.
I decided that since we were driving through the desert, we should stop for gas in Twenty-Nine Palms, the town just north of Joshua Tree. When we reached the first major intersection, there were no gas stations. Looking to the left it looked like there might be one, but Google Maps said to continue straight. Doing a quick calculation, I found that it would take about 90 miles to get to I-40. 90 is less than 110, so I decided we’d go. Even if there was no gas on the way, which seemed unlikely, there was BOUND to be some once we got on 40.
I probably should have turned around when we made our next right, onto Amboy Road, and a sign said "Next Gas 90 Miles." Benson mentioned it, but I brushed it off saying "that’s 90 miles on this road, not on the route we’re taking."
Soon enough we were out in the middle of nowhere, enjoying the drive through the desert on a two lane highway. It was surprisingly beautiful. I listened to my iPod some while Benson slept.
The whole time, I kept one eye out for a gas station, and one on the DTE. I was thankful for the parts of the trip when we were coasting downhill and the DTE mile indicator didn’t budge. I comforted myself with the thought that I had planned ahead with 2 gallons of water in the trunk. I thought about how if we ran out of gas we could rig up a shelter using a blanket and my camera’s tripod. And most comforting of all we saw another car every five minutes or so, so someone would help us.
As we rounded the turn into Amboy, it looked like there were some signs of civilization. We figured there must be gas there. Sure enough, just ahead on our left was a gas station!
Sure, the gas station looked a little rundown, but what did that matter?
Oh, and the pumps had analog numbers and didn’t take a credit card. If I’d looked a little bit closer, I would have also noticed that the pump I parked next to had its innards exposed.
I walked inside and found a man sitting in a LaZBoy with a wad of cash and a dog sitting next to him.
"Could I get some gas on [pump number], please?" I asked.
"Well, that depends."
Okay, now at this point, I have to point out that (a) we got up early after not much sleep, (b) we’d done a walk through Hidden Valley and (c) I’d just driven through the desert. I wasn’t in the sharpest of mental states. But when he said that, I started to get a chill. Memories of various horror movies involving city slickers stopping in old, rundown towns and not escaping alive flowed through my head. At least Benson was still out in the car–maybe he could escape.
I laughed nervously "Depends on whether I have the money?"
"Nope, depends on how much you need it."
I told a little white lie. "My low gas indicator light just came on." It hadn’t, but it was close to it. I sort of regretted this lie immediately, figuring he was going to demand to see proof.
"How many miles per gallon you get?"
"About 25." (Another white lie; on these trips it’s normally 30.)
"Well, there’s no gas between here and the state line, which is 90 miles away. So three gallons should just about do it."
"Okay, so do I pay first and then pump?"
"Oh, no, those pumps don’t work. I’ve got to go in the back to get it."
The creepiness was building. Was he going to go get gas or something else?
He continued sitting for a bit, straightening his money. Then he finally said "I need to finish putting my bills in order. I could’ve been Hitler, you know? That’s how anal retentive I am."
Yeah, you read that right.
I said "okay, well do you mind if I take some pictures while I’m waiting for the gas?" He said he didn’t, so I stepped out and took these pictures. After a few minutes he came out–finally, the gas! Or so I thought. Actually, he was just getting ready to go get it. With a cigarette in his mouth. He hopped on a little cart and drove around back.
What seemed like a ridiculously long time passed. Finally, he came back with a two gallon jug and a one gallon jug filled with gas. We chatted while he put the gas in, including a discussion about the "Military Operation Do Not Stop" sign at the motel next door. It turned out he was actually not a bad guy at all.
I hadn’t asked about price, so I was worried he was going to gouge me, but he just asked for $10–not much more than I’d pay back at home.
He also asked where we were heading and when I mentioned Vegas, he asked how we were planning on getting there. I told him–Google Maps told us to take I-40 to US 95. "Oh, that’s the long way." He pulled out a map and showed us a more direct route.
The moral of the story is: don’t judge a guy who compares himself to Hitler sitting in a somewhat defunct gas station in the middle of the desert with virtually nothing else around by his cover.