The Fugitives: An Extreme Dog Rescue Story

From The Road Has Eyes: A Relationship, An RV and A Wild Ride

The Fugitives
We are full time RV dwellers, and we love it. We live in a safe, well maintained Kountry Kampground north of San Francisco. Rent is cheap. A small community of “monthlies”, as we’re called, live year round in our big coaches, trailers and fifth wheels. There’s an unwritten social contract here. We leave one another alone. We want space, peace, we want to keep a low profile.
When we arrived in March of 2005 we didn’t know how to conduct our lives in a campground. We hadn’t learned how to choose a strategic site for our RV. We took what was available, a site that was at the center of the northern campground. We had people coming and going on both sides, as well as fore and aft. We had a continual round of new neighbors.
At first this was somewhat unnerving. Soon enough we discovered that if we wanted to schmooze, we could say hello, and if we didn’t, we could keep to ourselves and be left alone.
The only problem that wouldn’t go away was the strange couple living in a tiny trailer in the row immediately behind us.
When I say tiny, I’m talking about an RV model called “The Casita”. It is nothing more than a sleeping bag with walls. It’s interior is about the size of a Japanese capsule hotel room. A person can just about sit upright without banging the head. It has a little sink, a hot plate and a tiny porta-potty.

There were two people and a full grown Dalmatian dog living in this wheeled packing crate. It was hard to imagine how they could survive under these conditions, yet they were there, coming and going. Unfortunately, the dog didn’t get to come and go. He stayed locked in this dreadfully tiny space. He howled his loneliness and claustrophobic misery in a way that turned our lives into hell. This was our first month at the campground.

These were our neighbors .

Fox and I we went helplessly berserk over this dog. We tried to hatch schemes to liberate him from his plight.
There was something dreadfully “off” about the couple who owned the dog. If I make the statement, “I couldn’t look at them”, I want you to take me literally.
I…could…not….look…at…..them.
Every time I tried, my eyes seemed to meet a force field that deflected vision. My sight could get to within a foot or so of Ms.X or Mr. Y and then my eyeballs would physically bounce a few feet farther along, repelled by a barrier occupying the space at which I was attempting to look. This was one of the strangest things I have ever experienced.
I asked one of my neighbors to look at the couple next time the opportunity arose. I asked for a brief description of the people who were living within eight yards of our coach. The dog was no problem. I could see the dog when he was let out on a chain. I couldn’t see the people. I could hear them, I could make out their voices if not their words, I knew when their pickup truck pulled into and out of the parking space. Fox and I said hello a few times and were completely ignored. That’s weird, to greet a person who responds by behaving as if you don’t exist.
The next day my other neighbor came over and said, “I’ll be damned if I can figure out what they look like. I can’t really see them. Maybe they just move so fast I can’t draw a bead.”
The human eye moves extremely quickly. It wanders, far more than we consciously know. Eye movement is the fastest muscular action in the human body. These lightning quick movements are called saccades. I read a science fiction novel recently in which alien creatures knew how to scan human eye saccades and move only during those micro-seconds when human beings were looking away. This created a ‘just-at-the- edge-of- -vision’ effect, and gave the aliens a tactical advantage in outmaneuvering their enemies.
Whatever the cause, I could not look at, I could not see these people. They must have wanted so badly to be invisible that they had created a psychological force field. This mysterious couple evaded eye contact, they moved in such a manner as to attract minimum attention. They did not engage in conversation. They had taken the adjective “furtive” to a new level. Somehow, they had established an invisibility matrix, they had tuned in to the collective saccade. Fox couldn’t see them. My neighbors saw them more than we did, but not much. My neighbors could detect a few details of clothing or hair color. He couldn’t describe their height, weight, features, ethnicity. Nothing.
Only the dog provided a common ground of agreement that they were there at all. Otherwise, they would have been “the people who weren’t there.”
When they were home, the dog came out on a chain. He looked at us sadly, wagged his tail and sat quietly, licking his paws. If one of us said, “Hi buddy,” he would come to the limit of his chain, hoping for friendly contact.
When the Xys left for the day, which was most days, the dog got stuck inside the little house on wheels. He keened piteously. We were going insane.
Other neighbors began to feel the hurt that lived so pitifully in our midst. There was no question that this was animal abuse. Solving the problem was not simple. We could call the Humane Society, but that was tantamount to a death sentence for the dog. We didn’t know what the dog’s owners would do. If they were criminals, we could find ourselves targets for retaliation. It wasn’t our style to call the authorities. Other and more imaginative solutions had to be found.
The first thing, the simplest thing, was to leave a note.
“Hi neighbors,” the note said, “if you would like help with your dog, we would be glad to take him for a walk. Just leave a note on our car (the white Jeep) if this sounds like a good idea. signed, your neighbors in site 45.”
I crossed the lane and taped this note to the door.
The next day there was a response, in the form of another note, on bright yellow paper, attached to THEIR door. It seemed reasonable to assume that this paper was their response to our request.
I went across the lane. The note was terse. “Buster’s fine,” it said. “He gets exercise.”
Buster wasn’t fine. His howls changed to a continuous scratching sound. He was tearing up the inside of the tiny RV. We began hearing a low haunting wail, followed by frantic scraping sounds.
One day the Xys came home, and I heard the woman shouting at Buster. Thwop Thwop Thwop!, she was beating him with a magazine.
We couldn’t stand much more of Buster’s agony.
Help came in the form of Roscoe and Lulu Martin. They came to the campground with their dog Barkley. They were regulars. They came almost every weekend. Roscoe was an Aussie merchant seaman with arms full of crude tattoos. He looked the part of the classic rough n’ tumble Australian. He was tall and fair, windburned. Lulu was a petite Jewish woman from Long Island, with a great cascade of red-brown hair. She had endured twenty years of an ugly marriage, then more years of frustrating single-ness. Then she met and fell in love with Roscoe.
They spent their weekends around the campfire, drinking beer and laughing at Barkley. Roscoe played wonderfully delicate songs on his guitar. Lulu sighed with adoration. They were an eccentric couple, a love story of people from opposite ends of the earth who might not meet in a million years. Yet they met, clicked and had been married more than a decade.
Barkley was a Retriever-sized mutt who was obsessed with the hammock. He would jump into the hammock as Roscoe snoozed with a half empty can of Foster’s perched on his belly. Together they would tumble to the ground in a tangle of arms, legs and tail. Lulu would emerge from the Winnie to untangle them, and the process would start again. No one begrudged Barkley his love of the hammock. He just didn’t understand the concept of sharing.
“He needs a playmate”, Lulu said. “We’re looking for another dog.”
We knew about a dog that needed another family. All that was required was for the Xys to relinquish Buster.
We described Buster’s plight to the Martins. “Alrighty,” Roscoe said, “on the morrow we shall pay a visit to these blokes and straighten things out. Eh Barkley? You want a friend?” Barkley jumped up into the now-empty hammock, his tongue hanging out, his eyes saying “I love everything about you and everything you do.”
The Xys seemed to spend most of the afternoon and evening away from the campground. They left at about eleven, returning at nine or ten o’clock.
Roscoe was going to be the point man. He would knock on the door of the tiny trailer. He would make his offer: we’ll take your dog off your hands and give him a good home.
Roscoe had balls of brass and could talk anyone into anything.
At about ten in the morning, Lulu, Fox and I took positions at our picnic table. Roscoe, leading Barkley on a leash, went across the way and knocked firmly at the door of the tiny RV.
We knew the Xys were home. Their pickup was parked in front. When Roscoe knocked, Buster began shrill barking from inside the RV. The door did not open. Roscoe knocked again. Barkley sat back on his haunches and uttered a low “Ooooo” in response to the frenzied hacks of Buster.
The Xys did’t open the door. I saw the curtain move at the tiny window. A frightened eye briefly peered out, then vanished. Buster’s shrill alarms must have been deafening from inside the tiny trailer. The Xys couldn’t hold out very long.
Roscoe circled the little vehicle, stepping over the hitch, going to the other side and around, back to the door. He knocked hard. “Come on, mates, you’re in there,” he shouted over the sound of barking dogs. “I don’t mean ya harm. I just want to make you an offer.”
Four or five minutes passed. It really seemed as if the Xys intended to just wait us out. We were prepared to wait longer.
At last the door opened, the little screen flew against the trailer’s flank and Ms. X, came outside.
Roscoe stepped backward in sudden revulsion. Even where we sat, the stench was palpable. “Bloody hell,” he muttered. Ms. X carefully closed the screen door behind her. I tried to look at her. I could see lanky brown hair, long and dirty. That’s all my eyes were permitted to register.
“What do you want?” she asked, flatly.
“This heah’s Bahhkley”, Roscoe said in his rounded Aussie vowels. “He’s lonesome and we heah you have a dog that might want a friend that…..”
“Fuck off,” Ms X interrupted Roscoe. “I love Buster. He’s my dog.”
She did a one eighty and went back inside the tiny rig, closing the door. The stink filled the air. How could people live inside that cloud of dog shit smell?
“Fuck off to you too,” finished Roscoe. He stood there for a moment. Barkley rubbed his face against Roscoe’s leg. Together they walked across the roadway.
“Unbelievable,” exclaimed Roscoe. “You would not believe what that place looks like inside. There’s stuff everywhere, and most of it’s stuck together with dog shit. Ucccchh!”
Thwop thwop thwop, we heard Buster yelp as he was hit with Ms. X’s instrument of discipline. The poor animal stopped barking.
“I think, “ I said, loudly enough to be heard all up and down the row,
”that we need to talk to the management about these people.”
Quietly, Roscoe said, “they’re up to here with the dog. I sort of saw the guy, or at least I saw something like a man, well, I saw a baseball cap, that’s all I saw. Bloody ‘ell, they’re hard to see, those people. Anyway, he was saying, Let em have the fuckin dog.’ He imitated a redneck American accent perfectly. It was funny but our hearts were breaking. “I think something will break loose in the next little bit. No worries, we’ll get poor Buster.”
I wish I’d had his confidence. We could report the Xys, we could get them thrown out of the campground, but that wouldn’t help Buster.
We went down to Roscoe and Lulu’s campsite. We wanted to put some distance between us and the Xys. It was Saturday and the campground was full. The weekly mediocre blues band was warming up on the slab surrounding the pool. Soon they would be belting out “Mustang Sally”, and we would go inside, close the windows and read until evening fell.
Barkley jumped into the hammock. Lulu spoke firmly. “Get down, Barkley, down!” Reluctantly, the dog vacated the swinging net. Roscoe popped a Foster’s and lay down in the hammock with a sigh. Barkley pushed off with his rear legs and landed atop Roscoe, and the two of them fell to the ground, foam lager slopping from the can and wetting man and dog.
“You bugger, Bahkley,” Roscoe laughed. “Got to put him on his lead or he’ll never quit.” He took the dog and fastened him to twenty five feet of nylon. It put the dog just out of range of the hammock. Barkley lay with his head on his paws. Roscoe picked up the Foster’s, brushed some leaves away and returned to the hammock.
“We’ll see mates, something will come up. Old Buster’s a nice looking dog. He doesn’t deserve that treatment.” Roscoe took a sip, closed his eyes and drifted with the breeze. Lulu was inside the camper preparing bangers and English muffins. The day went by the way so many spring Saturdays do in the campground. Fires were lit as night fell. Beer and wine were consumed, kids raced around on skateboards, people laughed. The Crazed Laugher cackled her resonant campground-filling laugh, which made everyone within hearing laugh all the harder.
We returned to our coach. Across the way, silence emanated from the tiny trailer. It was hard to keep despair from our hearts.
I experience more pain when I see animals abused than when I see pain inflicted on human beings. Maybe that makes me weird, I don’t know. It’s just the way it is. Animals can’t effectively defend themselves when humans are bent on causing them pain. They’re caged, restrained, and otherwise helpless. They have no words to express their grief. They have only cries, yelps, whines, screams. They probably don’t understand why they’re being hurt, why a man or woman is beating or tormenting them. I get very upset when I see an animal treated badly. Buster’s plight was like an ice pick in my heart.
Fox was beyond words. Her inchoate stifling made me burn with helpless anger. She could see Buster’s thoughts, read his images. It was terrible.
We went to bed that night without hope. It seemed as though we must report the doings of the Xys to Woodson, the campground owner. Woodson set a standard, and when his customers violated his rules, they were out of the campground with no warning and no second chance.
We had trouble getting to sleep that night. Buster’s pain and the ugliness of the Xys were making our first month of campground life a misery. What if it was always this way? What if there was always some horrible person to make life an ugly ordeal in campgrounds?
About one thirty, we drifted off to sleep. Both of us had bad dreams. My nocturnal visions were a chaos, a commotion of dogs howling, hands beating, pickup trucks spewing pebbles.
I always wake before Fox. I start a pot of coffee, check my email. When the coffee’s ready I take a book and go outside, to sit in one of our folding chairs.
I did the usual things. There was something odd about the world, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Something out of place, something missing. For thirty seconds I looked around. I was half asleep, not really connecting the dots. Then I realized that the tiny Casita trailer was gone. The Xys had hooked the thing to their ratty old F-150 and vanished in the night.
They had left Buster, chained to a tree.
I crossed the lane, squatted in front of Buster and said hello, giving him a sniff of my hand. He was sweet and friendly, delighted to see me. I unhooked his chain and walked with my hand through his collar over to our coach. I dragged the chain behind, and hooked Buster up to a D-ring on our awning. Then I went inside and woke Fox.

The Miracle Of Highway Six

 An excerpt from AVOIDING THE POTHOLES: ROAD STORIES IN A CHANGING AMERICA
 Highway 50 through Nevada is reputed to be the loneliest road in the USA.  It has a rival, and its name is Highway 6.  It takes a northeasterly diagonal the entire breadth of Nevada before vanishing into the wilds of The Great Basin in Utah. It is far more isolated than 50, a hard hot eerie stretch of rocky desert and bare crags.   There is one Flying J truck stop a third of the way across the state. After that: nothing.  The town of Ely  (pronounced E –Lee) is the road’s first destination.   It’s a crossroads town with signs pointing to Las Vegas, Reno, Salt Lake City. Highways 50, 6 and 93 enter and leave the town in a few confusing blocks.
            After surviving our plunge down 89 with a broken steering column, we made it to Bishop, and, god knows why, we wanted to get onto 6 and put another fifty miles on the odometer before stopping for the night.
            Rule number one about driving an RV.  DON”T DRIVE AT NIGHT!  It’s hard enough to control a bulky machine without playing with peripheral monsters at the side of the road, highway fatigue and caffeine nerves.           
            We pushed out of Bishop after stopping at a Super K-Mart, where Fox and I got separated and I couldn’t find her to save my life.  I was reduced to calling her pet name, knowing that she would hear it more readily than a shouted “Fox, where are you?”  So, I stood in the middle of an aisle full of hosiery and started crying plaintively, “Boo Boo!  BoooooBoooo!”  Everyone wascertain I was retarded. I was wondering myself if my previous life of risky activities hadn’t finally damaged my brain. From now on we carry cell phones or walkie talkies, I don’t ever want to go through this ordeal again.  “Booooo boooooo!”  Where the hell did she go?  One second she was right THERE, looking at skin cream, and the next, she had vaporized into the merchandise, wandered off like an un-tethered toddler. This store occupies ten thousand acres and you can’t see more than twenty feet!  I might never find her, or wander for two and a half years before fetching up at the customer service booth, begging the teenage girl in the silly uniform to speak into her microphone:  Will Booboo come to the customer service counter, please?
            At last, re-united by calling booboo until I got within sonic range of Fox, I was able to carry supplies out to Yertle, our beloved RV, in the darkening afternoon.  Why did we continue driving?  We were nuts.  As I navigated the final stoplights of Bishop, a nearby driver began honking repeatedly and gesturing towards Yertle.  I pulled over and discovered that I had been driving with the steps still sticking out of the camper.  Keep a check list, RV rovers!
               After fifty miles, we came to the tiny one-store town of Tonopah.  Fortunately, the store was open.  A very large young man, Native American, confirmed that there were no campgrounds before Ely.  He said, however, that we could park in the school parking lot and spend the night.  The school was just behind the store.  “Lots of people get stuck out here,” he said.  “It’s okay.  Just try to be gone before school starts in the morning.  Nobody will bother you.  I’ll tell the sheriff when he drops by, tell him you’re back there.  But if he sees you before I do, tell him Bear said it was okay.”
            This kindness was touching.  We began to realize that we had met kindness at every obstacle on this trip, and that kindness came in all sorts of disguises, in the most unlikely places. 
            In the morning there was snow on the tops of the mountains.  Nevada is a washboard, an undulating series of mountains and valleys, and the roads cut straight across this ancient seabed.  At the top of each peak, the view spreads down the road ahead, which goes in a straight line for miles and miles until it disappears into the next rise of the landscape.  I had never expected Nevada to be so beautiful.  There were huge clouds casting shadows upon the vast valley floors.
            Tomorrow’s drive was supposed to be easy: a hundred sixty miles to Ely, where we would join up with our old friend, Highway Fifty. It was November;  bright, clear, and warm in the valleys, crisp on the peaks.Yertle ran well, but I continued to be apprehensive.  It’s one thing to drive a car. It breaks down, you call a tow truck.  An RV is another matter:  we were carrying our lives in the damn thing.  The water tank held twenty gallons. We had food, propane. There was no shelter on Highway Six, no trees, no roadside stops.
If Yertle broke down, there was no telling how long we might be stranded. I imagined our quandary if something happened.  Out here in the desert, way beyond cell phone service, we could be truly stuck.  Therewas little traffic.  Every hour or so, we’d pass a car, going the other way.  Everyone, it seemed, was going the other way.
            Gathering my nerve, I hit the accelerator, and the old Chevy 350 gurgled forth, up the highway, into the brightening day.  My gas tank had been filled in Bishop.  The truck seemed happy.  Yertle was whispering, “don’t worry, I’ll get you to Arches, don’t worry.”
 I can’t help but worry, Yertle, I responded mentally.  It’s my nature to worry.  I am the son of my father.
            This was ‘lower’  Nevada, an uncompromising landscape.  Sandstone blocks tipped by ancient floods and earthquakes littered the northern side of the road. On the south was nothing but miles and miles of scrub, tumbleweed, creosote bush. The stuff gave off a smell, a pleasant goldish earthen odor. We were skirting the northern fringe of Nellis Air Force Base, with its old atomic test sites.  If they once tested atom bombs here, they must have considered this the ultimate in remoteness. 
            At fifty miles an hour, the noise from Yertle’s engine and various parts bouncing around made conversation or music impossible. There was nothing to do but drive, and look at the landscape, however monotonous or downright eerie.  Occasionally a vulture would mark the sky like a comma on vast blue paper.
            We pushed north and east, and everything seemed okay.  Then, about fifty miles out of Tonopah, I heard a high whining sound from the engine.  Yertle kept on going, so I said my  prayers and continued to drive. 
            We had entered a  wide valley.  It looked like thirty miles to the next ridge, and I could see all thirty miles of road, slightly undulant, like a road-kill rattlesnake, until it disappeared between the breasts of the next rise in the primordial earthbody.
            Then I was brought to alertness by a loud bang, and a nasty smell of burning rubber.  Yertle was running, but I had to pull over.  I was afraid to turn the engine off; afraid she’d never start again.  I got out and pulled open the hood.  Pieces of fan belt were shredded all over the motor compartment.  I picked them out, saving the biggest piece for reference.  Fan belt for what, I wondered?  How I wish I understood cars, how I wish I were a competent mechanic!  Then, as I inspected the various parts of the motor, I saw a thumb-sized hole, right through the metal rectangle of the I-don’t-know-what.  Pieces of this metal were strewn about.  It was as if we had been shot by a  high caliber rifle.  I knew, however, that it was a case of metal fatigue, that this porous, cheap material, this aluminum casing for some part of our vehicle’s innards, had met its deadline. 
            Yet, the engine was running fine.
            What the hell, I thought.  Let’s go until we can’t go any more.
            We kept driving, praying for Ely.  Seventy miles to go.  Come on, Ely, come on. About half an hour later, I saw a convoy of vehicles in the distance.  Two highway patrol cars were parked at the side of the road.  The officers were waving us to stop.
            I was glad to see a human being, a person of authority.  To make that statement, “I was glad to see a person of authority”, is indicative of  how scared I was.  I don’t have anything against policemen.  I have a significant resentment of all authority figures, always have and always will.  I learned that there are times when one might be thrilled to see a person of authority, and this was one of those times.
            We pulled out onto a wide margin.  A mile down the road, a gigantic truck was hauling a gargantuan pipe, long as a freight car and wider than the entire road.  I took a chance, and turned off the engine. I got out of Yertle and approached the officer. 
            “Sir”, I asked respectfully, “can you spare a moment to look at our truck?  Something broke a while ago, and I don’t know what’s going on.”
            The policeman was half my age.  He was short and compact, and looked like someone who could tear three phone books in half with his bare hands.  He glanced under the hood, while the monstrous pipe rolled slowly past our place beside the road.
            “That’s your air conditioner belt,” he informed us.  “And that hole, well that’s your air conditioner.  Looks like the belt shredded and then popped the AC unit right through the guts. Good thing it wasn’t the fan belt, or you’d be stuck out here.”
            Greatly relieved, I thanked our benefactor, started Yertle and proceeded down the ever-lonely road.
            Things happen to people. Events are events, but our interpetation of these events overshadows the events themselves.  For me, the most important thing is to react with imagination, to view life as a process of gaining understanding, regardless of whether good things or bad things happen. 
            I didn’t know what the hell was going on with this crazy trip.  All I knew was that it was scaring the bejesus out of me.  I asked Fox, several times, ‘Do you want to turn back?”
            Fox is made of stronger stuff than I.  “No,” she always said, “We’re supposed to go to Arches.”
            God, I felt like a pussy.  Men don’t enjoy feeling cowardly.  It’s not a good man-feeling.  It’s a feeling that lurks in some small fetid bathroom down in my soul, a bathroom with a naked bulb worked by a pull-string with a knot at the end, a bathroom with old squeaky faucets that give out brown water.  It has a frosted window that’s jammed shut, with a paint job where the streaky white paintbrush overswept right onto the window and the painter didn’t give a shit to scrape it clean.  That’s what my cowardice feels like, it feels like that cheap hotel bathroom and it’s not fun at all.  I was going to have to brace up.  That’s what the wise old samurai said to the Toshirure Mifune character in “The Seven Samurai”.  It’s become an in-joke for Fox and me.  “Brace up, Kikuchiyo”, we tell one another.  “Brace up.”
            And Yertle, in spite of her perfidy, kept reassuring me.  “I’ll get you there,”
she whispered, “Stop worrying so much. I may be old but I’ve got plenty of miles left in me.”
            Never once did I wonder if I was completely nuts, talking to an RV.  I was simply being swept along by events as they occurred.  What else could I do?
            The landscape began to rise, as we came into another range of the Humboldt-Toyabe Forest.  I looked at the gas gauge and with a shock realized that we were down to a quarter tank.  Where did the gas go?!  The tank was filled in Bishop, only a hundred fifty miles down the road.  I had badly overestimated the mileage of which Yertle was capable.  That, and a headwind, had drunk our gas, and I had been so preoccupied, I failed to fill her up at the one and only truck stop between Tonopah and Ely.  Now, I wondered if we were going to run out of fuel on some tricky mountain curve without a shoulder. 
            Fox was an active participant in all this, of course.  By mutual agreement, I was and would always be the driver of our RV.  On rare occasions I would give Fox the wheel, but it was a shaky proposition.  Fox is given to seeing things, especially when the light is low.  A rhino can pop out of the sagebrush and give chase.  Osama Bin Laden sits in the back of a pickup truck, grinning smugly.  Fox is n’t crazy, but she is psychic and sometimes has trouble separating vision from reality.  Maybe it’s the Apache blood. The closer we got to the ancestral homelands, the weirder she became.  But she was calm where I was not.  She was stoic where I was terrified.
            Compulsively, I watched the gas gauge, then chastised myself and equally compulsively avoided watching the gas gauge.  I forced my eyes to bypass the little meter as it quivered, ever downward toward EMPTY.  Why weren’t we carrying a gas can with five exrtra gallons.  Rule Number Two of RV’ing. ALWAYS CARRY EXTRA FUEL!  The fuel consumption of the most innocent looking RV is a ravening dragon, an elephant sucking up fluids faster than they can be replenished.  Motor homes LOVE fuel,  the way kids love candy or the way addicts love dope.  Gimme some gas! they breathe, panting with appetite.  Gimme some gas!
            Thirty miles to Ely.  Okay, steal a look at the gauge.  It’s hovering over the little line that says, EMERGENCY!  hurry up and get a fill!  I’m calculating. Let’s see, if we are getting ten miles to the gallon, and we have three gallons, we can just get to Ely.  But if we’re getting eight per gallon, we’re totally fucked. That’s assuming there are three gallons.  There might be five; or there might be two. Does the gauge read short when we’re going uphill?  That’s possible, I suppose.
            Naturally, the headwind grew more powerful and our route took to yet another interminable climb up into the Toyabe-Humboldt Forest.  The road was Nevada-smooth, paid for by gambling taxes, well maintained.  But here, on the undulant highway, there was no shoulder, just a line of white fence posts, blocking all exit from the road.  Run out of gas here, around a blind curve, and some truck can come a’whamming along and crunch us like an old  Pepsi can before the driver knows what’s happening.
            I spent the next forty five minutes waiting for the engine to sputter and die. I watched the side of the road for potential escapes, and watched the rear view mirror for the following eighteen wheeler that spelled our doom, like the monster truck from that early Spielberg movie, “Duel”.  The forest grew thicker, looking like a real forest.  Now there were signs touting campgrounds and tourist sites, in the southern approach to Ely.  They were little comfort to me.  The gas gauge quivered and teased me as it sat on Empty.  My heart was beating in every pore of my skin.  Why so scared, I chided myself?  Everybody runs out of gas at least a couple times in their lives. Yes, I responded, BUT NOT HERE!  Not in Yertle, noble RV, not on a curvy road with no shoulder, where the last vehicle we saw was a FedEx truck, and it passed us going uphill in a no pass zone, like we were standing still.  People drive crazy in Nevada on Highway Six.  They think the roads are empty. Crazy.
            We came to a crest of the mountain range, and I thought with relief, it’s downhill from here!  We can coast, we won’t burn our precious bits of fuel climbing laboriously up every steep curve of the road.  Alas!  After going down for a bit, the road turned upward once again.  The gauge was on EMPTY.  I played games with it.  If I looked at it from the side, it kinda looked like there was more gas in it.  I leaned right, leaned left, but I wasn’t fooling myself.  Yertle soldiered onward.  I was running out of gas on a road with no shoulder, I had a shredded air conditioner belt and a fist-sized hole in the engine.
            The roadside sign said, “Ely—12mi”.  And there we were, at the real crest of the range.  I put Yertle in neutral, took my foot off the gas, and coasted down and around the mountain curves.  At last, the ominous white fencing beside the road vanished. A few houses appeared.  Billboards advertised motels and gift shops, gambling casinos, banks and auto body garages.  More houses.
            Ely!  My eyes were pealed for a gas station.  I made a left onto Ely’s main drag and made a beeline for the first gas station I saw.  Yertle coasted over the curb, I put her in drive, lined her up  to the pump, and then….and then…..she gurgled and died, out of gas.