Day 4, August 27th, When I awoke in my hotel room I found messages. Lots and lots of messages. From family, friends, insurance agents, claims adjusters, sheriff’s deputies… It took a while to respond to them all, then again I awoke about 5am so I had hours to kill until the tow company could make its way out to the wreck. USAA ordered me a rental car from Enterprise (they pick you up!), so after I showered again and picked more glass shards out of my back and shoulders, I dragged what meager belongings I had with me down to the hotel lobby and waited there for the rental company. I just wanted to scream into everyone’s face who passed by, “I’m fucking alive, isn’t it incredible!?!”
I was even still shaking a bit a day later. I don’t know if it was shock, adrenaline, or enjoyment from not being dead or grievously injured. regardless my body had a little hum to it. When my rental lady came I loaded my belongings into a teensy little Kia and I resigned myself to this itty bitty K-car as the ride I would have to stuff all of my broken shit into to. When we got to the Elko airport the girl kept apologizing for how slow the computers were and how long everything was taking. I didn’t care. I was alive. Take as long as you want, honey; I’m not dead. Slow computers are at the bottom of my give a shit list.
When she gave me the keys they were to a Chevy. “So the Kia isn’t mine?”
“Nope, I got you a Malibu.”
“Sweet, Consumer Reports gave the Malibu 99/100, and it’s big!”
We unloaded my shredded bags from the Kia and into the Malibu and I was on my way. Man, fuck Consumer Reports. This Malibu is the most uncomfortable ride I have ever experienced. I swear I am more injured from the poorly designed head rest of this P.O.S. than I am from pulling 12 Gs dancing through the desert in my truck. If the head rest is low, it sticks out and will poke you in the back of the neck. Or, in my case, in the only part of my neck that was stiff from the accident. If the headrest is high and you sit back it leans out so far over the back of the seat that it forces your head into your chin so all you can do is look at your lap. There is no way for me to drive while sitting back resting my sore neck and shoulders. The lumbar in the seat back is up around my shoulder blades so my back was arched in two directions, one over the weird lumbar position, the other forward trying to avoid the headrest.
To add to my new mid-size, pseudo luxury car misery, the bottom third of the steering wheel is solid with nowhere to grip the wheel. How the hell is someone supposed to drive 2,200 miles and not be able to rest their arms in their lap on a long, flat stretch of desert road and still control the wheel? A few days later when I was on the ferry boat returning home I was talking to a friend about the Malibu and they had rented one once. He noted that the steering wheel doesn’t match up with the seat, it is off center. Holy shit, he was totally right! The entire steering column is 1″ to the right of the center of the driver’s seat. Who designs this garbage?! Moreover, who at Consumer Reports tested this garbage and gave it a rating equal to the Tesla S?
My first stop with the rental car was Albertsons for fruit boxes and some bags with which to store all of my detritus from the wreck. Then I called the tow company who the previous evening had informed me they would be ready to head up into the mountains to claim my beast by this morning. It turns out that they had to turn the job down because their own truck just broken down. It took a while and a few calls to tow yards and USAA to discover who the new tow company was, American Towing. I called them and the woman on the line said that the truck had left a little while ago to the site. I headed out hoping to meet up with them and find my glasses. Honestly I can see ok, I just can’t read anything. I can tell there is another car in front of me, or that there are trees, just don’t expect me to be aware of the road sign notifying me of the exit I need or if a woman is truly attractive at 100ft or just an old lady or a dude with long hair.
The drive up Nevada 225 was dangerous simply because the comfortable zone for my foot on the gas pedal of the Malibu was at a cruising speed of about 100MPH and I really had to focus on not driving that fast. The car really wanted to go that fast, constantly. I was missing my truck already. It couldn’t even go 100MPH, it just poked along at a comfortable pace, with a comfortable seat, and a comfortable headrest…
There are a couple large gold mines up NV225, most notable is the Jerritt Canyon Mine. It’s huge, a producer in the ten million ounce range by now. The mine extends over five miles of the independence Range and includes perhaps as many as ten open pits as deep as a 1,000ft. Since 1993 the mining operations have been mostly underground as miners follow the veins of gold deep into the Earth. Jerritt’s website states that, “Gold was first discovered there in 1972,” but the BLM’s claims records for this range, and where the Jerritt pit exists today, date back to 1918 and probably even before that. What their website should read is, “Gold was first rediscovered there in 1972.”
For miles and miles of NV225 there are crews grooming the hillsides just to the west of the road and some miles North of Elko is a large transfer station. Brandon had told me the day before that this was an extension of a natural gas line that was coming all the way from Minnesota on its way to California. Whoa, that’s a lot of mountain ranges to wind around and through with pipes.
After about an hour I reached the turnoff for 746 and immediately I could feel how terrible this sport sedan was on dirt. The speed limit is 45MPH and I could go maybe 15 without spinning around. This car blows. I am one day removed from a gnarly roll over in a sturdy truck designed for these conditions and now I feel like this Chevy garbage can is going to finish the job. About four miles up the road I meet the tow truck making its way out. I waved them down and they told me to follow them to the tow yard. I turn around and follow suit.
It felt like a funeral precession. Staring into the now one-eyed, toothless, “aw shucks” grin, of my trusty steed as she rides to her final resting place I come to the conclusion that I will never love, nor be indebted to, an inanimate object more for the rest of my life. It is because of her I have a “rest of my life.” I am locked in on the completely crushed passenger side of my stallion. How was all the energy of my impact focused on where I wasn’t? If I had a passenger they would be dead right now. I feel sick. The only people who ride shotgun in my truck are loved. If one of my dearest friends had died while I walked away unscathed I couldn’t live with myself. I want to puke. Instead I cry like a baby the entire hour back to the tow yard in Elko.
That truck was my way of life. It saved my stupid ass more times than anything should. Some of my happiest, and my most exciting, and my most terrifying, and my most hilarious moments were made possible by that noble beast. I even devoted two whole pages of my photo book I passed out to VIPs at Banff to her.
“My truck has sheet metal because I do not” was my philosophy. I feel that a truck is tool. So long as the mechanics are in great maintenance, what do I care how it looks? To me each scratch, every ding, and all the beautiful dents on her metal body represented a story, an adventure, and a dear memory.
The first scratches down her sides were from some over grown bushes at Gazzam lake when I drove my brother and nephews into the neglected parking lot. My brother looked at me like a fool as the long “screeeeeeeaaaach” sound of the branches dragged down her sides. I shrugged and kept going.
The first dent in the rear tailgate was from a tree trunk in The Cove at Topaz mountain as I tried to k-turn in a little flat spot between cliffs. I didn’t see the little stump as I backed up.
The dozens of dents in the tailgate were from when I purchased the “Honey Badger” a little trailer made out of the bed of a 1976 Ford Currier pick up truck. The man who sold it me for $200 attached the trailer to Dentasaurus and waved me on my way. He attached it poorly. A few miles later at a stop light it felt like I was being jackhammered into the intersection and I looked in my rearview mirror to see the tongue of the trailer standing high in the air. The hitch had popped off because the dude never tightened it down on the knob. the safety chains then did their job like giant metallic rubber bands and used up all the trailer’s momentum by repeatedly smashing the newly free hitch into the tailgate again and again.
The giant dent on the passenger side was from crossing Cornelius Creek in northern Colorado. I had to enter the creek at an angle and the turn sharply in the stream bed and around some trees on the bank. After some frustration of trying to thread this needle I just used the trunk to the tree to pivot the truck around it and out to the other side of the stream.
A year later Dentasaurus fell off a cliff and into a small canyon. As the truck fell the 6+ ft into the river below I resigned myself to my death acknowledging that I was about to die upside down drowned in a mountain stream, alone, with no one knowing where I was. instead I landed upright, the only damage was to the running boards which became dented and cracked. I managed to drive the rest of the river down and over water falls thanks to my spectacular truck. It had saved my life. I owed my truck my life.
“My truck has sheet metal because I do not.” I lived by it from the moment I bought her. It was August 2008 and I needed a big, dependable 4×4 to haul dredging equipment deep into the mountains. I didn’t care if it was a Chevy, a Dodge, or a Ford; old or newer. I just wanted an extra cab, an 8ft bed, 4wd, and a diesel engine. To begin my search I had decided to drive up to Everett in my sporty “Space SHOttle”, my sleeper white Ford Taurus with a Yamaha Formula One engine in it, and work my way down US99 and all the dozens of dealerships located between there and Seattle.
The first dealership I found had several big trucks, one was a white late ’80s 3500 GMC that caught my eye. The salesman came out, you know the type, the kind of guy that immediately tries to make the sale via emasculating you and achieving a position of power and authority then pressuring you into a sale for something you don’t want. He asked, “How can I help you?” I told him I was looking for a big diesel 4×4 with an 8ft bed and mentioned that this truck caught my eye. His response was an incredulous and slightly disgusted, “Do you think you can handle that much truck?”
My response: “Hey, fuck you, buddy!” I reached in to my pocket and pulled out thousands of dollars in cash along with my middle finger and walked back to my car.
“Hey, I didn’t mean it. It was a joke. I wasn’t serious! Come back!” I got into my car and drove away. The next dozen lots had no trucks what-so-ever. I couldn’t find anything. Being that it was August ’08 and the economy was on the brink of total collapse, and gas had just hit $4 a gallon for the first time ever… I guess no one was keeping large trucks in stock. What ones I did find were such garbage that I wanted nothing to do with them. With most of the morning gone I hopped on the Bremerton ferry and decided to head to Port Orchard and work my way back North through all the dealerships on my side of the water. My first stop was Grey Chevrolet. I told them my requirements and the senior sales-bro on duty passed me off to the most junior douche-nozzle of the crew who talked my ear off about what a wonderful, amazing truck he had for me as we walked for what felt like miles and miles out to the far reaches of the continent. Finally we reach a 1988 lowered, 2wd, single cab, shortbed, Chevy CK pickup.
I inform Dingus that this truck cannot drive off road.
“No, bro. This truck is solid. It can go anywhere. It’s really solid.” He tells me as he tries to open the door, but can’t. “Trust me, take it for a spin and you’ll agree.” He still couldn’t get the door open.
“No, I’m out.” I walk away and he shrugs at his failure to try to put me into what I don’t want and stays behind trying to figure out how to open the door.
I drive into Bremerton and exit the highway where all the mega autoplexes reside and make my first stop Parr Ford Used Cars. The first person to greet me is John Hart and I tell him what I want. He ruffles his brow.
“To be honest, we have been shipping everything used that doesn’t get at least 30MPG far away. We haven’t sold a full-sized truck in over a month!” He now wrinkles his face and rubs his chin, “But I do have a 2000 F150 extra cab 4×4 with the off road package this gentleman over here is trading in right now as we speak. I’m sorry, but it is a gas engine and a short bed… Want to check it out anyway?”
“Sure, this is farther than I have made it with anyone else so far.” I appreciate his blunt honesty. We meet the man trading in his truck, he is in is early fifties and a contractor. He proceeds to inform me how much he loves the truck, how perfect it is, how much of a baby it is, how many upgrades he has done to it. He doesn’t want to get rid of it but his business requires an even bigger monster of a truck, an F450, to get the job done. He gives us the key to the green F150.
Outside is the truck. It’s shiny. It’s green. It has Flowmaster pipes. It has rear airbags that can be filled or deflated according to the load requirements… I climb in, it’s comfortable and the interior is very familiar and similar to my Taurus. We drive around the block and up a hill. I find a big pile of dirt and John asks me, “What are you doing?”
“Seeing what kind of shape the transfer case is in…” I shift it into 4wd and climb over the pile of dirt. She goes.
We drive back to the dealership and John asks me how I like it. I admit I like it, but that it is not exactly what I’m looking for. John asks how if he were to give me a screaming deal could the tuck become what I was looking for.
“What kind of deal?”
“This is where I go over to my manager and actually ask him a relevant question. Here, sit at my desk.” He walks off and leaves me to stare at over ten years of “salesman of the month” awards lining his cubicle. Since 1997 John Hart has won salesman of the month every single month. Every. Last. One. He has each plaque lining the walls of his cubicle along with his honorable discharge from the Navy dated just a couple months before his first award. There are no other awards in any of the other cubicles. John comes back a few minutes later, “…Because we haven’t even entered the truck into inventory, and because we are probably just going to ship it off to an auction house or second tier dealership any way, we’ll give it to you for $6,600.”
This truck’s blue book is over $12,000. Fuck it, I see now how John has won all those awards; he’s just made a sale. John tells me that they need to detail it and go over the mechanics before they can release it to me and to come by and pick it up tomorrow. I give them the money and sign the papers. On my way out I meet the truck’s former owner once more as he is standing outside admiring his new giant shiny black train engine of an F450. “Thank you for the truck, I hate to tell you this, because it’s your baby and all, but inside a month it is going to be completely unrecognizable, dented and scratched. She’s a beaut, but now it’s time to go to work.”
The next day I swing by to retrieve my new ride and John is apologetic. “I can’t give you the truck today, we discovered that the brakes were completely shot so we are replacing them for you. I am so sorry, but you have to wait an extra day. Here, for the inconvenience.” He hands me a check for $2,200. So, now I am getting a $1,500 brake job, and a mint $12,000 F150 for $4,400… Forget salesman of the month, John Hart deserves “Salesman of the Infinity”.
I sold my fast car as the truck was too great. I added my own upgrades: a CB radio, antenna amplifier, canopy, navigation system, power inverter, a bed shelf, a larger alternator, big tires, etc…
As I drive in my uncomfortable rental car now staring at the dead/dying husk of a former powerful beast on the back of a tow truck I thank it for all the good times. I could have died, but I didn’t. She has saved my life one last time. It is the only truck in Valhalla. I know it.
When we got to the tow yard near the airport the tow truck driver and his copilot unloaded Dentasaurus off the flatbed. When they were done they walked over me and could tell I had tears welling in my eyes. They both wanted to meet and shake hands with the “Indestructible Man”.
In 20 years on the job the driver had never towed a rollover like mine that wasn’t bathed in blood. They couldn’t figure out how it was even possible that I am not hurt.
I quickly unload everything that is recoverable from the truck. Books, maps, loose change, shoes, shovels, rock picks, gad pry bars, tri-folding futon, blankets, gold sluices, bear spray, sunscreen, hydrochloric acid, tool kit, road kit… I finally find my eyeglasses under the passenger side floor mat. They are ok! I stuff everything I can into the Malibu, I take note of what I am missing or is destroyed:
- Both Thermarest pads are not there when they were yesterday.
- The piece of shit gas can I had to buy because Grace still has my good one is gone. That garbage is someone else’s problem now.
- My crevice sucker is obliterated.
- The cooler is done.
- I cannot find the awesome pocket knife my dearest friends Nick and Sarah gave me.
- I have lost a few pounds of gold concentrates in the buckets that were in the back of my truck. Obviously dumped all over the Nevada desert.
- About 1,000 carats of peridot from Black Rock, WY I had in my map holder is gone.
- Several cool pieces of obsidian from Oregon I kept in various cup holders are out there returned to the wild…
I stuff what I can into bags and boxes and the shove these into the Malibu. I thank the drivers for everything they have done for me and give the beautiful smashed green sheet metal a kiss and say goodbye.
That truck was my Old Yeller, and just like the end of that movie I am in tears.
The Queen is dead, long live the Queen!