I almost ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere Wyoming. The gauge read 41 miles left, then 35, and then Volt no longer wanted to tell me how many miles were left. I really didn’t want to see anymore either. I actually told Volt “Thank You. I really don’t want to see your low numbers.” I was then greeted with lowering dashes on the gas tank icon leaving me to guess how many miles I had left. Eventually there were no dashes left and then a message displayed asking me, “Would you like to to be directed to the nearest gas station?” I replied, “Sure. That would be helpful.” However, like news you don’t really want to hear, I immediately regretted seeing the Volt’s fabulous idea of taking me to the nearest gas station. A gas station 45 miles away in the exact opposite direction I was going. Never mind that exits were 10-12 miles apart so I’d have to travel north 12 miles and then turn around and head 45 miles south. I’ve often admitted I’m not a numbers person, but that math I could do and it was adding up to me calling On-Star.
After I dropped Steve off at the Denver airport, I headed north on 1-25. Smooth sailing, sunny skies, and reflections of a great lunch back in Denver with a family friend were floating around in my head. Conversational reminders of severe thunderstorms and possible tornadoes going across Wyoming to Nebraska, like notes on a calendar were also present. I kept my eyes on road and sky. The sky darkened up ahead and an overhanging traffic sign warned of possible tornadoes , hail, and significant rain. No problem. The Wyoming Welcome Center was 2 miles away. I pull off, go inside, and wait.
The Wyoming Welcome Center is a lovely place to land to wait out a storm. There are interactive displays, bathrooms of course, free maps, warm staff, and guides to Yellowstone National Park and all things Wyoming. The T.V. is also on and every 10 minutes or so would broadcast an emergency broadcast alert to viewers. A small crowd of strangers gathers around the TV to hear and watch what is important. Well, what seems to matter is that there is a tornado warning. That might be a wee bit important, but the staff in this center seems unfazed by this news. They discuss the difference between tornado watches and warnings as if they are comparing apples in the grocery store. They finally determine that it’s really no big deal and head back to their offices. I’m thinking, where I come from we take warnings a bit more seriously. I’ll be heading back to that cinderblock bathroom I just came from if I see a tornado out of these 15 feet windows we are standing in front of discussing the definitions of weather instead of finding shelter. I pace and watch and pace and watch and then finally hear the tornado had touched down near Cheyenne and was heading north east.
Perfect! I’m heading north west.
Elated to be on the road again, I notice I need gas relatively soon. About 121 miles sooner than later. I’m still watching dark sky and the road and feeling happy to be on my way when I notice I have passed Cheyenne. The darkened sky did not look welcoming in and around Cheyenne: the sky still looked dark and ominous. No worries. I have 70 ish miles left on the gas tank icon. I’ll stop at the next exit.
Famous. Last. Words.
If you’ve ever traveled through Wyoming, you know it is a glorious thing to fly through the state at their posted speed limits of 80 mph as if you are racing in your own Indy 500. You also know you can go miles and miles and miles without seeing anything or anyone. There are no gas stations or food or shelter or human kind for 60 or 70 miles at a time. I look down at my Volt’s LED display and there are 3-4 exits coming up. “Perfect!” I say again. Only it is not perfect. First exit I take looks hopeful, but the nearest town is west 21 miles. Hindsight says I should have traveled 21 miles west and loved it as much as I love chocolate frosted cake donuts. I instead kept going north.
Exits 2-4 have nothing. Zero. Zippo. Zilch. I’ve coasted down hills, turned off the AC, turned off listening to Rob Bell’s new book. I’ve Kept Volt’s optimal gas mileage bobbing bubble right in the perfect space so that it shines a bright green at all times. A travel along snail’s pace speed of 50 mph. I pull over, but don’t stop when 80 mph semi trucks come barreling down 1-25. As I move over to the side of the road; I beg them silently to call the police on me. “Maybe someone will think I’m drunk.” I say to myself. They will interpret my slow, weaving driving as a danger to society and help will be summoned.
Nope. Besides, it feels a bit odd to be wishing someone would think I’m a drunk driver. I’ve never had those kind of aspirations before. I keep going north.
“Chugwater” pops up on Volt’s digital display as the first word I’ve seen in many miles. This is a great sign I think to myself. Chugwater must actually be a town. The exit won’t be a road directing you to another road, such as, Bear Creek Road to Little Bear Road or Little Bear Community Road to Hirsit and Moffett Roads. Until I see that Chugwater is 17 miles a way. I keep praying, coasting down hills, and willing Volt forward like a new toddler taking first steps. I finally get closer to Exit 54 after what seems like hours. A sign tells me Chugwater has a Chili Festival. I’m hopeful that a Chili Festival town MUST have a gas station. I’m also really amazed and happy that I have made it to Chugwater without running out of gas.
Happier yet when I get to the Chugwater exit and can coast down the hill. Ecstatic when I see a gas station to my right near the bottom of the exit ramp. Whoo hoo quickly turns to Oh No when I see that the Chug-Chug Gas Station (no, I did not make up that name) says they are open, but looks empty and deserted. I travel further down the street encouraged by the rest area located here, an RV campground, and houses. Although, I am beginning to notice that this is not a big town at all. In fact, later research tells me this town has just a smidgen over 200 people. I pull into the Chugwater Soda Fountain. I avoid looking at the post apocalyptic elder hobbling and wobbling into his old pick up truck as I exit Volt. “We sell beer, gifts, and liquor” their vintage sign hanging above the door tells me. “I need a drink of something!” suddenly pops into my head, but I ask the young woman behind the counter where I can get gas.
“Do you have a credit card?” she asks me. “Why yes I do.” I respond hopefully. Inside thinking I will pay 25 bucks a gallon for gas at this point. “You need to go to the Chug-Chug.” she tells me. I tell her I went by the Chug-Chug Gas Station and it looked closed. “Nope. It’s open. There is no one there, but if you have a credit card you can pump gas.” I think that is a brilliant idea. Why has no one thought of this before? Just pull up, swipe your credit card, and pump gas like self-checkout groceries lanes at Meijer.
I go back out to Volt and I wonder if she will start. She does and I silently thank Jesus. I pull out of the Chugwater Soda Fountain wondering if I will make it the 3/4 mile back to the Chug-Chug Gas Station.
I do. I fill Volt and can’t stop smilingly widely.
More thunderstorm, hail, and strong gust warnings greet me again near Douglas, Wyoming. I wave the white flag. It is past 7:00 p.m. I book a room at the historical LaBonte Hotel which has it’s own stories to tell, hop into a sheet covered 10″ mattress and fall asleep to rain tapping on the windows.
I wake up thankful.
How about you? Any road adventures you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them. The good, the bad, the ugly. Do tell.
Peace and JOY!