Taking the Road Less Travelled

In the years before Dauntless, we developed a mindset of what we wanted a boat to do and how we wanted to do it.  Much of it depended upon being as independent as possible, without having to be independently wealthy.  And much like all of our land travels, our travels would take us off the beaten track, to the little restaurant near the Rio del Muti in Venezia, where English was not spoken, or a year earlier at the place where we knowingly ordered the specialty of the house, shark cartilage. Now, that was an experience that comes under the category of, been there, done that, won’t do it again.

But that’s who we are.  Given the choice of 625 miles across Montana on Interstates 94 & 90 or the little used US 12, we’ve taken US 12 twice.

Now, I do have a history with US 12, I ran out of gas in the early morning hours taking a short cut from Missoula to the Tri-Cities in Washington.  It was a good shortcut, only took 8 hours of driving overnight thru the Bitterroots and across the Continental Divide, but at that time in my life, (my first of many trans-continental car trips) it never occurred to me that there would be no gas stations open anyplace, even Lewiston, Idaho!

I ended up running out of gas about 20 miles from my girlfriend’s house in Kennewick.  Now, that should be the end of it, but if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you must realize there is a bit more to come. So, at 5 a.m. my car sputters to a stop in front of this typical farm/ ranch sheet metal structure, a warehouse, and wait for someone to show up.  Within minutes, a young guy (in hindsight, probably my age, about 19) shows up on a motorcycle. Very helpful, we proceed to find a one quart glass jar and then in a mind that had been driving for the last 22 hours, I decide that one quart of gas is enough to get me my last 20 miles. It’s not.

8 miles later, I ran out of gas again. Still nowhere and this time with nothing close, other than a farm at the end of a drive way that must be at least a mile long.

I set out on this long walk, arriving at a barn, you know, where the windows are two feet high starting at ground level.  So, I am bending over, trying to see inside, hoping I don’t get shot (City folk know that every Westerner is packing and shoots first and asks questions later) and I see a woman milking a cow.  I knock on the window, hoping that’s not a shotgun by the milk bucket and knowing that she probably has never seen a brown face peering in the window at any time of day and probably never will again.

Being a farmer, this woman didn’t look shocked or even surprised, and when I told her my predicament, she went to get her husband.  He then promptly took me to his pickup with the big fuel tank in the bed and drove me back to my car and asked me how much gas I wanted and whether I wanted Ethyl (Hi-test or now Premium for you young’uns) or regular.  I did prefer (or better said, my engine) Hi-test, but not to be too greedy, I said half a gallon was more than enough.  He gave me two; and of course, would take no money.  This also started my love affair with the western US and the people who lived and worked there.  I never moved back to the east coast until 1999, but then that’s another story.

So why tell this story now?  This is how I deal with my angst.  That was my first cross country trip in my first car, to start my second year of college with my second girlfriend.

Reflecting on this, makes me plan so that I do not let this happen on my first trip across the Atlantic, with my first boat in our second year.

And if it does, you can be assured I won’t tell the story for at least another 40 years.


Categories: Driving


  1. He Ric,
    At that age you do not always foresee what the consequences are, I recognize that. Love your story.

  2. Don’t worry; you’ll make the crossing allright. You always do.

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