The Summer of 1998 Part XVI

There’s something uninspiring about waking up in the middle of a sea of asphalt, but then again, I was thankful for simply being there. I looked around for ol’ Raymond, my super-serviceable security man, but he was nowhere in sight. I should have realized his shift had ended hours ago, but I wanted to give him one more word of gratitude. I took off across the Interstate to the little town of Caldwell, in search of an auto supple store. I had decided to try one last-ditch panacea to stop the bleeding – a new radiator hose clamp (at the lower connection). You know, I didn’t even stop to ask directions. I just sleuthed along the main drags until I finally found a NAPA outlet.

I parked next to this idling, unoccupied Ford F-350 pick up. While I was waiting for service, I noticed a paunchy, thirty-something red-neck who was stomping around in his boots, impatiently waiting for his camshaft. I had him figured right off the bat…that dieseling truck out in front had to be his. I got my clamp, slid under the front end, and after about thirty minutes of grappling with the old and new clamps, I emerged successful. Well, not quite. I poured another gallon of water into the radiator, and there was still a small Niagara pouring out. Oh well, it’s better to try, and fail, than to fail to try.

As I was sitting in the van, contemplating my next move, here came Ol’ Pancho, with a cam under his armpit, scrambling into that air-polluting, fuel-consuming joke of a truck, still dieseling, as if for a fast get-away. What is it with these guys? The way I figured it, it’s unadulterated machismo…the longer you can diesel, the longer you can…well, you figure it out. Anyway, I did have that guy pegged, right?

Before departing, I scanned my handy Holiday Inn directory in hopes of finding one more inn of salvation down the road. Actually, I knew there was one in Boise (15 miles away). It was just a matter of pin-pointing the sucker. Back on the Interstate, I felt like I had just rounded the final turn, and was headed down the home-stretch. The temperature gauge had kept its cool as I rolled in to the side parking area of my favorite inn. It was like I had slid into home plate, just under the catcher’s tag. What a feeling of relief. Now, I was scanning the premise for a safe and secluded spot to settle down for the night, when I noticed an abandoned gas station right there on the corner of the Holiday Inn property. There was even a canopy over the derelict pumps for some shade. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I drifted over to the pump island and threw out the anchor. I had definitely found a home base, in a proverbial no-man’s land, immune from any infringement upon the hallowed grounds of the Holiday Inn. And I was only about a hundred feet from their front door. The beat of good fortune rolled on….the planets were still lined up.

I strolled across the street to fill up my jugs one more time. I’ll admit, it was getting tiresome. While I was filling up, a Brobdingnagian RV from Florida pulled in, ready to deplete the entire underground reservoir of gasoline. I approached the gentleman (obviously, a septuagenarian) as he was endlessly pumping away, and commented, “I was wondering what part of Florida you were from. I’m a collector of license plates, and I noticed there was no county name on your plates, like the ones I have.” He murmured; “We live in Dade County…ready to get back…tired of these mountains.” The Florida slogan was “The Sunshine State”, but this curmudgeon was the antithesis of Mr. Sunshine, in short, a real drone. I was just trying to be friendly (I hope your house is washed away in a hurricane), but sometimes you get responses like that which make you wonder: “Are they really enjoying the trip?”

The first priority of business was to locate a radiator shop. But first, I acquired a city map at the registration counter (they’re always so obliging), so that I could verify the most geographically desirable shops while scanning the “Radiator” section of the yellow pages. After compiling a list of half a dozen shops, one seemed to jump right out at me – the Boise Radiator Shop – not just because of its appropriate name, but it was the closest one, only about a mile from home base. After years of arriving in strange towns, getting a city map, and then thumbing through the phone directory for some exigent acquisitions, I think I’ve developed a sixth sense, knowing where to go and the easiest way to get there. It comes with the trail. I liken it to a cross-word puzzle – it feels so good once it’s solved.

It was Monday morning, and time to put things in motion. I found the Boise Radiator Shop without any trouble, and upon first sight, I had a re-assuring feeling about the place. It was dilapidated and dirty with a gravel drive and parking area, situated right next to a railroad track. And to top it off, there was a huge Peterbilt tractor parked in front with its hood pulled forward. I figured if a trucker can trust him, so can I. Ol’ Ed took one quick look at the problem, and diagnosed the symptoms as being a severe rupture of the bladder… “She can’t hold her water no more.” I thought a minute, then said, “I’ve heard that when replacing radiators, it’s always smart to go one step better. Let’s go with a larger three-coil (or tube) core.”

Naturally, he agreed, but said, “There’s no one in Boise that stocks three-coils, so I’ll have to order one from Denver. I should have it here by Wednesday.” “Hey, no problem,” I said, “I can use the time to look for an apartment. I’m looking forward to moving here.” Excuse the ruse, but that’s what I use whenever I’m confronted with auto repairs on the road. I contrived this subterfuge many years ago as an insurance against auto repair rip-offs, when the suckee never again sees the sucker…you get the picture?

The more I talked with Ed Guild, the less I thought about my deception. His operation was obviously a no-nonsense, no-frills business, which I liked right from the outset. I told him about my travails of not being able to find any service shops that could give Ol’ Baleau a tune-up, so what does he do? He gets on the horn for about an hour and finally finds a fellow mechanic that can “squeeze me in” for a change of spark plugs. Well, things could not have worked out better in the beautiful capital of Idaho. While waiting for Ol’ Baleau to get road-worthy again, I would naturally take extensive excursions around the neighborhood on the ol’ velocipede…the best, and only way as far as I’m concerned, to do some sight-seeing.

Back at the Inn of Happiness, I was able to watch several college football games (over the course of two evenings), those “Kick-off Classics” as they call them, in the comfort and semi-privacy of the TV lounge. The reservation counter was situated on the opposite side of the entrance, and instead of facing the front doors (as is the usual orientation), it was tucked away around the corner, facing in the opposite direction. I mean, the layout of that front lobby area couldn’t have been more ideal to facilitate my surreptitious movements in and out of the lounge. To assuage any guilt I might have had, I did patronize the restaurant for two hearty morning meals.