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.

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."

Ummmm….

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.

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11 Comments

  1. Don’t know about you, but if I was driving around in the desert my trunk would be full with spare parts and extra gas… πŸ™‚

  2. Until the last minutes of the story it was really like a starting of a horror movie. πŸ™‚
    At last, it has a happy end. I like the pictures, anyway.
    But if it happenes with me I would worry about the quality of the gas. If it has some dross inside it can make the injector nozzles to become engorged.

  3. Ivan,

    I understand the possibility of the injectors getting clogged, but the alternative to rotting out in the dessert, would make the gas option look better regardless.

    Great story by the way, along with the photos!

    -R

  4. SG,
    Well, I mean if there’s no other choice I would do the same, but I would worry because if the car stops halfway out from the desert due to the clogged injector it is could become from bad to worse… πŸ˜‰
    Sorry, you can go across my small country within 6 hours on the speedway and you can find gas stations usually on every 50-80 km, so it was difficult to imagine why it’s not possible to get a quick help by mobilphone… πŸ™‚

  5. I was stationed at Twentynine Palms while training in the Marine Corps. I was warned to stay away from Amboy – rumors of cults and people dangerously unstable enough to worry Marines. The high Mohave Desert can be a spooky place.

    MrJoro should have kept going into Twentynine Palms. As you get closer to the base there are plenty of gas stations, restaurants and general civilization.

    The most important thing to have in your trunk when driving in that area of California and Nevada is lots and lots of water. There was always news of people dying of dehydration who got lost hiking or had a car breakdown. The air is so hot and dry that you don’t realize how much fluid you are losing.

  6. Great story. Drove an ovlov around the joshua tree park in 1995. great place- Palm Springs much better than its reputation too. Cheap motels with balconies and a pool for 20 bucks a night.

    Had a lesser version of this petrol story in Cornwall UK. Stopped at a country garage at closing time on a sunday night after coasting in on fumes.

    Could I have some petrol- say 20 pounds worth, I asked the old boy at the pumps.

    He replied: “Nope, petrols for locals only boy”.

    When I pointed out that I would have to sleep in the car on his forecourt for the night if would not sell me petrol, he gave me five pounds worth and told me to… off.

    Ah England in the summer…

  7. lol. his money seems to keep him “company.” (and i don’t buy the “anal” routine; look at the condition of the gas station.)

  8. Love this story.

    I know t-ssab is supposed to be a news blog Swade but more of this kind of stuff would be welcome in my view. Adds an interesting dimension without rambling completely off into minutiae….. Fits nicely with the SOTW theme where you put the car in context, not just on an ivory pedestal.

    Thats my 2c for a Friday morning.

  9. Funny. I’ve never doubted the kindness of strangers, and I’ve only been let down in a couple of places. (Both of them in Europe, for the record.)

    Lance: That story’s supposed to come from people visiting rural Alabama or West Texas, not England! Cornwall must be a vacation spot and that old codger is fed up with the tourist trade, eh?

  10. I just found your story! I was searching for things about Amboy because I had a similar experience. I was returning from Laughlin and came back through the back way to Palm Springs. I was low on gas, I was afraid this would be the horror movie ending to an incredible weekend I spent with the woman of my dreams. I told her to lock the truck as I went in.
    The people were actually really nice out there. πŸ™‚

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