Friday, May 30, 2008

On the road again

Moving to a new city, where a job and a place to live are waiting, is an adventure; that's how Rachael and I made it to the Florida Keys.

Moving 3500 miles cross-country on a leap of faith is something else, something that may not even have a name. But that's how we came to Seattle; in our SUV, towing a trailer that contained everything we owned, hoping there would be something for us when we arrived.

We were lucky, that first Sunday here; we found an apartment we both fell in love with the instant we walked through the door. Work took a little longer, but we are paying the bills these days, with enough left over to have some fun now and again. Not bad for a couple of aging gypsies.

But the real adventure was not settling into Seattle; it was the trip here, and the high point of our travels, was our stop in Malta, Idaho.

Saturday, October 27, last year, just after midnight, we had drifted into a truck stop outside of Ogden, Utah, to nap for a couple of hours. We were back on the road by two a.m., and neither of us thought to top off the tank before we left. Ninety minutes later, on an empty stretch of Interstate 84 in southern Idaho, we were cursing our carelessness.

Desperate for gasoline, certain we didn’t have enough fuel to make it to Twin Falls, we spotted an exit sign and saw high-pressure sodium glowing like faery light; we left the interstate and headed for Malta.

The sign at the village limits said 184 souls lived there; but at 3:40 a.m., the place looked like a well-lit ghost town. On Main Street, we found the Malta Fuel Depot -- two pumps, a convenience store and a bait shop. It was closed; the sign said the place opened on Saturday at 7:30 a.m. Four hours away. We planned to cross over into Oregon about then; instead, it seemed we would be in Malta, praying that the Fuel Depot opened on time.

And then, Rachael did something that never would have occurred to me if I had considered the situation for the rest of my life.

“The light on that pump is on and it has a card reader,” she said. She opened the car door. “Let’s see if it will take my credit card.”

I tried to stop her. I worry about most everything and I have a grand imagination; not a good combination. I had visions of large policemen springing from hiding, guns drawn; I saw the two of us – who do not fit the demographic for Malta, Idaho, in any way – being led to parts unknown, our SUV pushed off a canyon rim and our two cats left to find their own kibble.

Rachael wouldn’t listen. She marched up to that pump, slid in her card – and it worked. No cops. No sirens. No worries. Five minutes later, we were back on the interstate, with a full tank of gasoline bought and paid for; giggling like a couple of first-time drunks. And by the time the Malta Fuel Depot opened for business, we were crossing the state line; thinking about breakfast and about to discover that pumping your own petrol in Oregon is against the law.

So, from a distance of seven months and seven hundred miles, I want to thank the operator of the Malta Fuel Depot. I don't know if you forgot to turn off the pumps that Friday night, or if you leave them on 24/7 for the early risers in town. Whichever, it was the difference between disaster and delight.

And that is what adventure is about, isn’t it? Taking chances, latching onto serendipity and celebrating victory -- even over such a small thing as a full tank of fuel.