(Blogger’s note: I know, you’re all dying to find out how the Supermodel’s and my tenth anniversary road trip went. Well … too much happened to cover in one blog entry, so I’m going to have to do this in stages. Part II to come tonight, with a possible Part III tomorrow. Strap yourselves in, folks …)
I’m using the phrase “second honeymoon” in the title of this entry with some trepidation. You see, the Supermodel’s and my first honeymoon was something of a disaster. It was raining when we left Stockton, and we didn’t even get to our destination – Gleneden Beach, Oregon – on the first night. Instead, stopped by a snowstorm, we spent our wedding night at the Motel 6 in Weed, California, a town that probably wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Interstate 5 running through it. When we finally got to Gleneden Beach the next day, it was at the start of three days of non-stop rain, and when we insisted on persevering and going sightseeing anyway, we ended up totaling our car. Thanks to my father-in-law, we were able to get a rental car and come home, cutting the trip short by two days. It was a good thing we didn’t believe in omens, or we might have just gotten an annulment right then. So the word “honeymoon” carries an ironic tone in our household.
Our trip Friday started out quietly, though. We left Stockton a little before 8 a.m. and pointed the car south on I-5. We had packed a couple of shopping bags of snack foods, so we didn’t have to stop for anything but gas, bathroom breaks and chances for the Supermodel to stretch her legs. As we approached Bakersfield, we had to make a decision about destinations – south to L.A.? west to the coast? east to Nevada? – and chose east. Around noon, we stopped in Barstow, gassed up, used the facilities and picked up a copy of the Las Vegas newspaper to do some early scouting. Then it was off on I-15, setting the cruise control at the speed limit of 70 and occasionally interjecting “Viva Las Vegas”, which didn’t last long since neither of us knew the rest of the lyrics.
Everything was smooth until fourteen miles east of Baker, when I checked the rear view mirror and saw white smoke coming out the back of our car.
One thing I’ve learned in life is that you can’t just “gut through” car trouble. And white smoke, in my experience, usually has something to do with the transmission. I was over on the shoulder by a call box within ten seconds. After calling the roadside assistance people, who patched me through to AAA and a tow truck, I gave the car a quick once-over and found no broken belts, no spraying hoses and (turning the car on again for a minute) no more smoke. There was a little drip under the car, but when I checked it, it was just water – not transmission fluid, not even coolant, just clear, odorless, colorless, tasteless H2O. What was going on here?
Anyway, the tow truck arrived, and we and the vehicle got a ride back into Baker, or more properly to Freeway Automotive Repair outside of Baker. Baker, as far as I could tell, has only two reasons to exist: it’s almost the only town on I-15 between Barstow and the Nevada border, and it’s just south of Fort Irwin. It was apparently on the old Route 66, which told me that if it weren’t for those two factors, it would have turned into a real-life version of Radiator Springs from the movie “Cars.” Even with the interstate and the Army base, it’s basically Weed with warmer weather.
And no Motel 6, which means that after the mechanic at Freeway Auto told us he’d throw our car on the lift and should have a verdict for us the next morning, we spent the first night of our second honeymoon at … you know, saying it doesn’t do it justice. Here’s a picture:
I kid you not – the Bun Boy Motel! You can’t make this stuff up – it sounds like an R-rated joke looking for a place to happen. And other than it being on the same block as a Bob’s Big Boy restaurant, there is no reason I could find for the name! Bizarre. But there it is.
So … we checked in to the (snicker) Bun Boy Motel, found out afterward that there were no phones in the rooms, and had to use the assistant manager’s phone to call home and give my mom the details. (He had told us before that the rooms had phones. So I didn’t tell him I was calling Stockton on his dime. Let that be his punishment.) Then we went across the street to the allegedly “world famous” Mad Greek Restaurant, came back to our room, exchanged gifts and spent some time together before going to sleep. Though not staying asleep – somewhere around 4 a.m., we both found ourselves wondering what the Greek word for “indigestion” was …
Things had to get better, and they did. With no phone to use, I walked the ¾ mile to Freeway Auto Saturday morning and found out that there was no mechanical problem with our car. Turns out that the last time I’d gotten a tune-up, they had overfilled the transmission with fluid. This didn’t cause a problem until I was doing 70 up a 6% grade after driving almost 400 miles in one day. Between the car warming up and the tilt of the road, the tranny fluid expanded and a bit of it came out the overflow vent, hitting the even-hotter exhaust manifold – thus the white smoke. (The water drip? Just the catalytic converter – it’s supposed to do that.) He had an emergency service call to make, but once he got back he drained off a little fluid, cleaned up the spatters, told me to baby the car on hills the rest of the trip, and that was that. Cost: $94.50, but well worth it for the peace of mind. If you’re ever stopped in Baker and need your car fixed, I recommend Freeway Auto. Tell ‘em Ray sent ya.
So by 10:30 on Saturday morning, we were back on I-15 (in the slow lane). By 12:30 we were at a Motel 6 – but this one was on Tropicana Boulevard, just off the Las Vegas Strip. Now this was more like it. Viva Las Vegas indeed!
(Though the Supermodel and I did make one other decision on our way out of Baker: if we do a 20th anniversary trip, we’re taking a plane!)