Welcome to the Monty Wolf Blog!
Here you will find random bits of me

Sunday, September 16, 2007

tales to tell: staying warm in a volkswagen

on christmas of 1992, after living in maine for far too long, while talking with my parents who had moved to nevada 6-months earlier from socal, i decided it was time to pull up stakes and head back out west.

at the time i had “retired” from radio for the first time about two years previous and was working for a telemarketing firm (not a scam outfit, thank you) as an office manager traveling from community to community throughout northern new england. we were working in rockland and i was living out of the tradewinds lodge on the waterfront, overlooking the bay.

i was making pretty decent money at the time. but, by living in hotels, i was spending a pretty good chunk of it on eating out 3-times a day. so, very little of it was going into the savings account.

besides: i never did get comfortable living in new england. and in my opinion: there is no worse place in the lower-48 to live in the winter than maine. not that summer is any better; when it’s 85° you can count on the humidity being up around 100%! there is really only about 2-weeks at the end of spring and 2-weeks at the beginning of fall when the weather is tolerable.

so, when we wrapped up rockland, i was in my volkswagen and on the road for the silver state.

there are some things you need to know about my volksy before i go much further into the story.

it was a 1976 super beetle. now, if you know anything about beetles, super or otherwise, you know that the heaters are not the best in the business. it also had a feature they called “auto-shift”. it was sort of a semi-automatic transmission in that you had to shift it, but when you moved the shifter more than a quarter of an inch a servo disengaged the clutch; there was no clutch pedal. that servo turned to junk about 200 miles after i bought the car and it was going to cost more than $2000 to fix the thing; more money than the car was worth. so, i just dealt with it.

one of the problems the servo’s lack of integrity caused was you could only shift it by turning off the engine, shifting it into a higher gear, and turning the engine back on. since it wasn’t like a “real” automatic transmission, it was much like rolling a 4-speed with the clutch out and the key on. only a little smoother; it just fired right up, without a lurch.

it would also not go into reverse! so, i either had to park on an uphill grade so i could let issac newton back the car out or pull all the way through a stall so i could drive straight out.

this was the car the i chose to leave new england in that january.

because of the heater being just about anything but, i bought some vacuum hose and duct tape and directed what little heat was coming out of the heater ducts to just below the front of the driver seat. it worked, but it was still far from a “real” heater.

i just dealt with the transmission issues.

by the time i got the car and myself all packed up it was about 9 in the morning before i was actually on the road and heading south to the maine/new hampster border. not that i could head directly to the border - there were people i needed to say goodbye to before leaving. so, by the time i got to portsmouth, nh, it was dark.

i spent the first night in port jervis, new york on the new york, new jersey, pennsylvania borders.

the morning brought only bad news: freezing rain in the mountains where i needed to travel!

but, i had miles to get under my wheels and hit the road as soon as i got breakfast under my belt.

it wasn’t long, however, before the freezing rain put a thick sheet of ice on my windshield as the defroster didn’t work nearly as well as the heater.

i pulled off of the interstate and, fortunately, there was a mom & pop convenience store at the top of the off ramp.

knowing what it was going to take to get the heat to the windshield from the vacuum hose coming from under my seat, i headed directly to the paper goods isle.

i exited the store a couple of minutes later with 4 rolls of paper towels and began to unroll the toweling from the rolls in the center and began to duct tape the empty rolls to the vacuum hose until the collection of tubing reached the ice-encrusted windshield.

i fired up the bug and stepped out to scrape the ice from the glass as the frost on the inside slowly began to melt.

when there was about 12 inches of clear glass, i headed back to the interstate. it was necessary to keep moving the “nozzle” across the windshield, but i was able to keep the glass clear until i reached the trailing edge of the storm.

when i got into wilkes-barre, pa, i stopped at kmart to grab some handwarmers to, hopefully, add a little more heat to the windshield. fortunately, i did not need to use them, as they didn’t put out enough heat to have any affect whatsoever.

before leaving town, i stopped at a gas station for a fill up.

one of the employees came out as i began to pump the gas and, seeing my license plates said: “you’re a long way from home!”

i told him i was going a lot farther as my destination was nevada.

“nevada?” he said. “you got a lot of balls driving a volkswagen all the way to nevada!”

replying with my motto, which came from a song by the bears, i said: “fear is never boring!”

he replied: “adrian belew!” and pointed at me.

i didn’t bother to correct him. since the song, in fact, was originally performed by the raisins, the other 3 members of the bears, a few years before adrian joined the band.

but, i took that as an omen that the rest of the day would be a good one; adrian being my idol and all.

it was!

i drove all the way to la salle, illinois (on i-80, about halfway across the state) where i spent the night.

the next day was the coldest day of the trip!

i had a thermometer from l.l. bean hanging on the dashboard that never got about 10° on that day. the only way i was able to stay warm was by keeping a blanket over me and trapping what little hot air was coming from the vacuum hose.

i drove all the way to cheyenne, wyoming where i spent my 3rd and final night on the road.

the next day was the longest of the 3-and-a-half days of travel.

i started out at about 7, drove into laramie for breakfast and began to cross the rocky mountains.

after having spent the previous day in a car where the temperature never got about 10°, i actually drove through the rockies with the window down. there was snow all around the highway, but it was a very pleasant day, maybe in the low 40s.

coming down the western slope, of the uintahs into salt lake, i was loafing the engine in an attempt to save a little gas. the only problem was, i loaded up the sparkplugs and the engine would hardly rev to get up the next range. after a little coaxing, and keeping the transmission in 3rd instead of 4th, i was able to clean out the engine and drive comfortably (well, as comfortably as one can in salt lake city during peak traffic-time) into slc and headed west toward my old stomping grounds: the bonneville salt flats and wendover, beyond.

knowing i was in the final stretch, i spent some extra time in wendover, eating a meal i could not find in new england: chicken friend steak, stretching my legs by walking around the casino, and looking at my picture on the wall in the state line casino’s convention center. 1978 was the last year the casino placed 200 mph club inductees pictures on the wall.

from wendover, it was just another 6 hours or so before i pulled into fallon at 1:30 the next morning; my parents, and grandmother, who was visiting from socal, stayed up to welcome me home.

the next morning when i got up and saw all the snow on the ground from the storm that raced across the country and into new england the day before i left i decided i was going to buy nordic skis so i could ski off the patio and into the desert. it was the one and only time i ever saw that much snow in fallon.

but, i was in fallon for the first time in about 40-years and it already felt like home. within a couple of days i was working at the nugget casino as the night club dj.

but, that is another tale to tell.

No comments: