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Backwards up the rockies!


Now driving up the rockies backwards sounds like a fun challenge, but fun was not how it occurred.

In 1999, I was living in Colorado with my boyfriend

and his friends.

(parental nightmare #1).

We had driven to Santa Barbara, California

to see another friend open for a band,

and just hang out for the weekend.

(parental nightmare #2)

The idea of hanging out in Santa Barbara sounds cool, but some un-cool things happened, but that will be another blog!

Then we had to head back to our jobs in Colorado

with our fire-breathing friend that had met us at the show.

The gang of us, then decided to drive through the Mojave desert. Our logic was sound at the time. "When's the next time, we will get the chance to go through the Mojave?"

We decided we would make it back in time to Colorado this longer way even if we were on a time-crunch based on my waitressing shift, but it would be totally worth it.

We had no way of knowing what was about to happen!

Everything was great at first, and our Vermont/New Hampshire eyes were feasting on the desert sites: cacti, Joshua trees, and the images of the tatonic plates that we saw as we drove there.

Now I had a Honda Accord that I had bought off my boyfriend when we lived in Montana (that's another blog!) This car had exchanged many hands and seen many, many miles, but it's a Honda....it'll go and go....right? Apparently, that stereotype is flawed! (like most stereotypes are:)

Well the Accord was a manual, and as we drove into the desert, it started making interesting noises. We were later told at the garage, that those interesting noises wear the sound of gears breaking within the transmission.

First we lost 5th, then 4th, then 3rd, and as we started to lose 2nd gear.....we pulled over. This happened all in under a minute, so there was no stopping it once it started. It was at that point that a decision had to be made. (Now I'm not good at decisions, just ask my sister, Rescue Ranger:)

We sent the most adventurous (my boyfriend) to hitchhike 30 miles back to the nearest town. The rest of us waited with the car, but my boyfriend never came back. It was getting dark, and we decided we needed to hitch a ride before it got pitch black.

Now this sounds all fine and dandy now, but this was pre-cellphones. We had no way to tell him of our plans. We waved down an extended cab truck, and it pulled over. Their were two guys and girls that had just been skiing in Tahoe so it was a pretty full truck with the people and all their gear. But they offered us a ride in the covered-bed of the truck.

So the three of us piled in and tried to fit ourselves around all their ski equipment. We made it to the next town, they dropped us off at the gas station, and just then my boyfriend came swaggering out of that gas station. It's weird when I think back on it now, but then we chalked it up to our normal hippie luck of it'll all work out, no worries.

Plans were made that we should get a room at the local motel, and start fresh in the morning. The next morning, my boyfriend rode with the tow-truck driver to get my car, while the rest of us, got a ride from a local that was headed that same way. My Honda was hitched up and towed 45 miles to a bigger town that had a garage. (Remember we were in the desert!)

At Mingo's garage I was presented with 2 options for the car: a new transmission which would take a week to get and install or buy a 'new' used car. Remember how I don't deal with decisions well? This was a decision of necessity, so I opted to leave my beloved Honda, and purchase a car that Mingo had in the back. I went to the local bank, took a cash-advanced of $700. After the money exchange, Mingo pulled up in my 'new' automobile....a 1978 Custom Cruiser station wagon.

This thing was sparkly light blue with wood paneling on the outside, and it got even better on the inside. As you opened the front door you were greeted with shag blue interior on the front bucket seat (it was like sitting on Grover from the Muppets), a blue velvet steering wheel cover, and a large ashtray that when pulled out of the console, was still full of menthol cigarette butts with bright pink lipstick. In the back was a hidden seat that when pulled out of the floor, faced the back-window. (Remember the crash-test dummy dolls, in that scenario with no seatbelt? I do, and can't get that image out of my head when I think about that car.)

Now, we were about 24 hours behind schedule, with no phones to call work, I was a broke waitress (remember that cash advance to buy this car!), and so I desperately needed to get back to Colorado so I wouldn't get fired.

I will admit the car was incredible, and drove like being on a cloud, as we gunned it down the highway. We needed to stop in Vail, Colorado to drop off the fire-breather. His brother lived their and so we planned our route around him.

As we got closer to Vail, we spotted two other hippies hitch-hiking with snowboards. We knew what that meant-snowboarding hippies+John Denver=bonus!

We started up the mountain again with the Rocky Mountain High-hikers and all their gear. The car started to lose power, cough, and sputter; then we were barely moving, then nothing. We told the hippies, "Sorry you are too heavy, you need to get out."

Without the extra weight the car was able to go up the hill about 50 more feet, but then it stopped moving again. We looked at each other, and since the car couldn't go up the hill so we turned around and waved as we went past the hippies.

Then my boyfriend had an idea. The strongest gear on a car is reverse, so why not try that. We only had about 10 more miles to hit Vail. So we stopped going downhill and put it in reverse and pulled into the right lane. We started to gain feet slowly then a little faster. Soon we were passing those same hippies again. Waving as we went by, backwards, and staring at them as the image of them falling to the ground laughing at us got smaller and smaller in the distance.

We made it to Vail, dropped off our friend, told his brother the story, added some carburetor cleaner as well as dry gas , and we took off again. Those two things helped us to get over the last mountain to start descending down to where the air was thicker. The car was much happier to be be going downhill and to take in more oxygen:)

We made it back to Colorado, but not in time for my shift. So I got fired from that waitressing job, but all in all it makes for a great story and interesting memories.

I wonder if those hitch-hikers are still telling the story about those crazy hippies that picked them up, kicked them out of the car, and then drove backwards up the rockies in there pale blue 1978 Custom Cruiser station wagon with shag blue interior?

#rockies