The summer after college I worked for an insurance agency in North Carolina. It was a temporary job, just enough to get me through the summer with some money in my pocket and funds for my great adventure to California.
I had decided sometime during senior year of college that I was not going to go right into the work force and found a friend to travel with me to spend the winter at a ski resort.
It was early October when I decided to take the journey just in time to get settled in and find a job before the snow started to fall. We chose Squaw Valley, mainly because we had several other friends that had moved there earlier and allowed us to sleep on their couch while we looked for a place.
I packed my bags and made all the necessary arrangements to meet my friend in Cincinnati, told my parents goodbye and headed down the road. Living in Greensboro, North Carolina, I was going to travel Interstate 40 until I reached Tennessee and then get on I-75 to go up through Kentucky.
I was not across the border for more than ten miles when my car started sputtering. For some reason the gas guage was not reading correctly and my car basically stalled. I was heading up the east side of the Appalachian Mountains and apparently the hill caused the car, since it was already low on gas to essentially run out.
I had my bike on the back of the car so I grabbed it and started down the road to the nearest house that I could find and called a tow truck. A few hours later I was standing at the gas station in a small town just off of the highway. Unfortunately it was a Saturday night and the mechanic was not there until Monday morning, so I had to stick around and wait.
Saturday night in Lake City, Tennessee was interesting to say the least. Basically I purchased a six pack of beer and sat in the hotel room watching bad television. At least football was on Sunday so I got to watch the games as I basically waited for Monday morning.
Monday morning came along and I spent the greater part of the day travelling to Knoxville in a tow truck, hoping that the Honda dealer would have a better reason that my car was not running properly.
After what seemed like an eternity the mechanic explained that the car was running on two cynlinders out of four and that I would be lucky to make it to Cincinnati. Of course at that I called my friend and asked if he wanted to pick me up and we would rent a Uhaul for the rest of my stuff. Needless to say he was slightly upset by the fact that he had to drive down to Knoxville, but he would leave right away.
I spent long times waiting before, a cancelled flight at JFK during ‘the perfect storm,’ a few hours in Salt Lake, the Sunday in Lake City, but that day was the longest wait I experienced. This was the start of a new life for me and already it was starting on a bad note, although I would realize years later that it was my luck for travelling rather than bad luck on that particular day.
When my friend arrived, we had two hours before the dealer closed to transfer the belongings from my car to his. I agreed to sell the vehicle to the dealer and use the money to rent a Uhaul. Slowly but surely we moved all my belongings and left the keys in the car. As we drove around to the front of the dealer’s lot we realized that the gate was locked and that all the employees had travelled home for the evening.
Of course, all we could do was call the police and let them know what had happened. Apparently the mechanic was still across the street at the Gentlemen’s club and would meet us in a few minutes. So after a few he emerged from the entryway and made his way across the street to let us out. Leaving the lot we laughed at the irony of the situation and decided that if we turned back now we would admit defeat way too early in the trip, so we kept on going… and that will be a story for another day.