Bidding a Fond Farewell (Pt. 2)

RB and I have visited all 48 of the contiguous United States. I even took her to the Atlantic Ocean’s Newfoundland, the easternmost point of North America. We’ve been to Key West, Florida, seen the Pacific Ocean in Washington State, the Golden Gate Bridge shrouded in fog. My mother even dared to boldly go with me on one of my adventures.

I’ve posted most of the stories here, but there are some that I’ve chosen to keep to myself. One particular story would have distressed my family–especially my mother–but I’m going to share it now because after six years, it’s finally funny and a great example of how things happened with RB and me.

As posted at the time, I was on Day 15 of a 16-day marathon from Iowa to Fargo (North Dakota) to Seattle (Washington State), down to San Francisco (California) and back to Grinnell. Since I was making pretty good time on the drive heading east, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to go up to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Visitors drive up a narrow stretch that takes them safely through a large, marshy area that is covered by a thin layer of salt that would not support the weight of a vehicle.

(I’ll bet that some of you have just guessed where this story is going.)

The Salt Flats are just a salt plain that stretches for miles with no natural markers to guide those unfamiliar with its features. RB and I were the only ones up there that late afternoon. Over the years, RB had on more than one occasion easily reached over 90 miles per hour, so I couldn’t–okay, didn’t–resist the sudden idea of finding out just how fast she could go.

Of course, my mother later asked me the question we both knew couldn’t be answered aloud: who was steering the car when I took that picture?

I had a great time, but I did the one thing you can’t do when you are alone in a place you don’t know: I didn’t pay attention to the few landmarks available nor the direction I was driving in. Plus, it was beginning to get dark, very fast. I turned around and tried to drive in the direction from which I had come, but I got disoriented very quickly and kept adjusting my route to try to compensate. Ever heard of new pilots who don’t trust their instruments while flying through a cloud bank and exit flying upside down? Well, I was doing the equivalent on land.

Instead of finding the strip of road that would take me safely through the salt-covered marsh, I found myself stuck in the marsh, and every move I attempted only caused RB to sink more deeply. It was now pitch dark, and I had no idea actually where I was. Fortunately, I was in one of the few places at one of the rare times where my phone got a signal. (My cellphone service in most of the Northwestern United States was usually, at best, roaming, though more often than not, I had no signal at all). I called 9-1-1, and they were able to track my phone signal and find me. They had to send a tow truck especially designed to handle those conditions in order to pull RB and me out. Talk about CHANG-CHING!!!! It’s still painful to think about how much *that* cost. Let me put it this way, my apartment rent that month was less.

I wasn’t afraid at the time because I was too busy trying to deal with the situation to allow myself to panic. But once I was finally back on the interstate heading east, it hit me that all kinds of things could have happened out there. I started shaking so hard, I had to pull off the road and let the moment pass.

Eventually, I started RB up, and we were back on road home. I know that RB is an inanimate object, but at that moment, feeling her solid weight around me and hearing her (mostly) steady engine thrum helped settle me. I’m going to really miss her when she’s gone.

And you see why I’ve waited six years to post about it. But, don’t tell my family, okay?