It was a Bad Day at Black Rock the next morning. When I tried starting Ol’ Blue, I could tell the carburetor wasn’t getting any gas. Finally, I was resigned to remove the console, doghouse, and air cleaner to be able to finger-flip the butterfly valve while pumping the gas and turning on the ignition. After countless attempts, I figured it was time to call Triple A. To my dismay, there were no payphones in the rest area. I tracked down a young maintenance lady on a mower. I told her of my predicament, and she obliged by using her cell phone to call Triple A in Raton. Wow, she was a real life-saver, a veritable angel-of-mercy on a Toro. Working out in practically the middle of nowhere, I was curious as to where she lived, she pointed to the east and said, “Just over that ridge on a ranch, but I’m from Waco.” When I told her that was my birthplace, a kind of “Well, I’ll be darned” expression came over her face. She explained the absence of phone booths by saying they were all ripped off by vandals. A sad testimony to the low-life who rob for the sake of a sack of quarters. I had at least an hour to kill, so I started in by putting some more coolant in the radiator. An 18-wheeler had been dieseling directly behind me (aggravating noise) and a burly, unfeminine lady truck driver emerged, walked by and stopped, asking, “Radiator problems?” After telling her of my jeopardized situation back in Texas, she went back to her truck and came back with a gallon jug of coolant, saying, “Here, this is on me. I’ve been there before. Don’t worry about the “Windshield Washer Fluid” label. It’s really coolant. Trust me.” What a nice gesture. I gratefully thanked her. Appropriately, her annoying dieseling quickly faded from my memory. I continued biding my time by sitting on a bench and watching travelers come and go. I’d pick out license plates and wondering where they’re coming from and where they’re going. Because of its geographical location, this particular rest area catered to an almost predominant flow of traffic between Texas and Colorado. It was an absolute rarity to see a passenger vehicle there with New Mexico plates. Still waiting, I relaxed in my easy chair scanning the complimentary USA Today garnered from the Village Inn in Vernon. Several deadhead BNSF coal trains rumbled by on their way to the Powder River Basin in Wyoming to haul back yet another mother lode to various power plants in the Midwest and Southeast. The Triple A savior arrived about an hour after I had called. It’s such a condescending feeling to see your vehicle cranked up onto a flat bed, a kind of “I’m at your mercy now” feeling. Nevertheless, I felt very fortunate to have this service. I climbed into the back seat of the Ford super cab with my USA Today and settled back for the 45-mile drive. Jose brought his wife along for company, but they exchanged maybe two whole sentences the whole way to Raton. On the way in, I was thanking my stars that it was a Monday work day. Once in Raton, I told Jose to cruise Main Street so that I might spot a repair shop that had worked on the carburetor four years ago. When we passed by the shop, it was abandoned. We ended up at the downtown Chevy Dealership where the head serviceman informed me that they were backlogged for three to four days. I was feeling desperate. He obligingly called around town to numerous shops who all had the same back-up of work. I was really getting discouraged. Plus, Jose was getting antsy since time was money to him. I could understand his position, and I tried to assuage him that everything possible was being tried. Finally, the very helpful serviceman located a shop that could fit us in. What a God-send. We towed back south on Main Street to The South Baton Repair and Jose dumped Ol’ Blue off like a sack of potatoes. I thanked him for his help and expressed my appreciation for his patience. He nodded back in guttural Spanish.
With the head honcho Ramon, we did a tandem diagnosis with me at the gas pedal and ignition and he at the carburetor butterfly valve. After seeing no gas, he simply said, “It’s the fuel pump.” For the life of me, I could not remember ever having to replace that item. After checking my trusty service log, I said to Ramon, “That fuel pump has never been replaced. It’s lasted 216,000 miles.” He replied, “It’s not that unusual. Those pumps will last a long time.” I asked Ramon about motel accommodations in the area, and he suggested trying The Oasis just up the street. I unhitched the velocipede and pedaled up to the motel. I liked The Oasis immediately. It was a one level layout with an adjoining restaurant. What I really liked was the price tag – $44.00 (including tax). The room was modest but commodious with a full line-up of cable TV. The Oasis was one of those anachronistic Mom and Pop establishments that thrived on the traffic of old U.S. 85 before the advent of the circuitous I-25 that sucked the life out of their trade. I was the only motel guest, but it was quite obvious that The Oasis was one of the most popular restaurants in town (police cars and trucks were invariably in the parking lot), and that’s how they kept on ginnin’. I was especially charmed with the lady proprietor’s congeniality. I biked back down to the South Raton Repair and told Ramon that I took him up on his motel recommendation. He obligingly said, “Throw whatever you need into my van and I’ll haul you up to the motel.” After unloading my arsenal, I settled in to watch some baseball and write in my journal, noting what an eventful day it had been and how thankful I was that everything had turned out AOK. Just a little patience and perseverance had allowed me to weather a few storms during the day, not to mention the debacle of the day before. I was hoping that I had used up all my adversities for this trip.