So This Is The New Year

It’s 9 o’clock on New Years Eve, and to an outside observer, the silver mini van making it’s way through the desolate stretch of country between Wells and Las Vegas, Nevada would appear no different than the few other cars on the road this night. However, if you could zoom in and see what’s going on inside the car, you’d get a completely different picture. For one, you might wonder why the driver has no shirt on, and why they occasionally keep opening the window for several minutes at a time, even though it’s ten below zero out. And you might wonder why they have so many gallon jugs of water in the car. And what’s up with that massive freezer in the back?

We were on our way down to Las Vegas, after spending Christmas with the family in Idaho. Pulling into Wells, we were alarmed by massive amounts of white steam pouring out the front of the vehicle. That can’t be good! A few phone calls later and we pulled into an emergency roadside garage. The verdict? A leaky radiator. The prognosis? Tomorrow was New Year’s day, so nothing was open, they could order the part the day after and it would be here the day after that. Wait, what? You want us to spend three days here? Huh, OK. We thanked them and headed back into the car.

After some back and forth, and phone calls to friends with varying levels of expertise, from “oh yeah I’ve dealt with that” to “you’ll probably be OK,” we were getting close to making a decision. We didn’t want to blow up the car, but we also knew the problem had been going on for a little while, as we found out it was connected to our heater not working great over the last week or so. And as the temperature was dipping well below zero that night, we didn’t want to be stuck on the side of the road without any heat, waiting for AAA for hours on end. There were conservative options and risky options, and ultimately, we decided to go for it. We bought a bunch of water, planning on stopping to fill the radiator as much as necessary, and at 7pm, we were off.

It was nerve racking at first, watching the road but constantly eyeing the temperature gauge for any sign of fluctuation. We blasted the heat to take as much off the engine as we could (I’m not sure if this is a real thing, but if seemed reasonable at the time). It also felt good at first, since it was so freakin’ cold outside. We stopped at 80 miles, and had only lost a little bit of fluid, added some water and kept going.

We made it to Ely, and faced another decision point. Do we stay here or keep going? It’s getting late, and there’s NOTHING between here and Vegas. Keep going, let’s do this! Eventually it’s so hot in the car that we were down to our skivies, and opened the windows from time to time to get some relief.

It’s amazing how little there is along this stretch of road, and the moonlit mountains in the distance appeared as lone sentinels in a land that had been forgotten by all but a few stray travelers. The night had a magical feel, powered by the raw energy of this uncertain adventure we were living out. At midnight we pulled over at a random gas station, in front of an inflated dinosaur, and shared a kiss to welcome in the new year.

It was well after 2 am when we finally pulled into the driveway of my cousin’s house, tired but elated, we had made it. The mechanic had told us not to drive 20 miles, so we drove 400, had a great adventure, and a good story to tell.

What did we learn? Several things, I suppose, though really it came down to taking risks versus choosing the safer path. In this case, the reward to us, seeing family and getting to climb, were worth the risk of potentially being stranded in the middle of nowhere for a few cold hours, waiting for AAA to take us back to the garage that told us not to go anywhere in the first place. Sometimes the safe option is probably best, but calculated risk is a big part of this climbing thing, and in life too, sometimes you just have to go for it.


3 Responses to So This Is The New Year

  1. I wouldn’t expect anything less from the two of you! 🙂 hugs from MT.

    jess April 23, 2013 at 3:21 pm
  2. As you say a little more risk makes a much better story.
    Always go for a better story.
    You will always learn more from the retelling.

    John Smollen April 23, 2013 at 3:26 pm
  3. Thank you for the great story!

    Cooper April 30, 2013 at 8:14 am
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