The Emigration To California: Denver To The Middle Of Utah


Thursday was the day of bad burritos.  Friday was far, far worse.

It didn’t start that way.  It started with a beautifully scenic drive through the Rocky Mountains.

My iPod died on our way down.  Instead of open road songs streaming from my speakers, I got the little Macintosh frowny face and a URL for online support.  Still, I remarked, if that’s the worst thing that happens on this road trip, we’re in pretty good shape.

Then my car’s alternator died.

This happened in the middle of Utah, before we reached a town called Richfield.  Richfield is the biggest city in central Utah, and it’s not even big enough for foreign car dealerships.

The stretch along the 70 in Utah is a gorgeous tableau of red rocks, rocky crags, swooping canyonlands, and clear blue skies.  But the landscape goes from breathtakingly beautiful to annoying as hell in about as much time as it takes for the red light from the electrical systems warning icon on the dashboard to travel to your eyeballs.

Once we were aware something was wrong with the car, I didn’t care how pretty it was.  All I wanted was some assistance to help get us past all that natural beauty.

I learned from this experience that the car can still run after the alternator dies, but when that happens, the battery powers the car all on its own, and no battery can last too long doing all that.  Certainly no factory-installed battery.  My car is about three and a half years old, and no one was surprised to learn that the battery was pretty much incapable of holding a decent charge.  Everyone, however, was surprised to learn that a Toyota-built car like my Scion xD should lose its alternator after such a small amount of time.  Obviously, Scion thought that might happen, since my car was about six months past its warranty.  So much for the fucking reliability of a fucking Toyota, I thought.  Then I thought the word Fuck some more on a loop for a while.

We crawled into Richfield on a Friday afternoon.  That particular weekend, of all weekends, was a long one for the state of Utah.  Utah holds its own self-important holiday called Pioneer Day, and they celebrate it by taking the entire weekend off of work.  So, no mechanics.  No rental services.  No car dealership service departments.  So much for fucking Utah, I thought, and then I thought Fuck really loudly.

I couldn’t wait around five days for the weekend to wrap up and a mechanic to come back to work.  I had to start work in California the following Monday.  Even if we could order a new alternator, it wouldn’t get there till Tuesday at the earliest.  So we racked our brains all night to find a solution.  I looked up the KBB value of my car, subtracted the cost of an alternator, and seriously considered a straight trade for a used piece of junk from one of the domestic dealerships in town.  A 2001 Taurus is a really nice car, I thought, even with a hundred thousand miles.

Luckily, the AutoZone in town was open, and those men are just about the most customer-friendly bunch I’ve ever seen.  They made all sorts of phone calls on my behalf, pulled some favors, got a guy to take my car that weekend, and told us where we could get various services.  Human decency scored a victory that day.

It relied on availability of other people, though.  The plan we decided upon was to rent a car and travel on to California, leaving the Scion behind, and just come back again the next weekend to retrieve it.  We’d have to deal with these things in the morning, though, so the last thing to do that night was eat dinner and drink beer.  This was definitely a time when I felt like I needed a beer.

Only we were in Utah.

But the Mormon God took pity on us that day, and the steakhouse attached to the Motel 6 in Richfield does indeed serve beer.  Beer and steak.

You can surely destroy a massive boulder by chipping away at it with little rocks.


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