North Platte, Nebraska America is a big, big country and the open spaces require a bit of luck to go with navigation via Google and real maps.
I started the day outside Greeley, Colorado scouting radio tower locations. With a very early start, I was picking up a small U-Haul trailer in Worland, Wyoming by 1pm and loading equipment and gear from our post-Katrina Airstream, we had named the “silver bullet”, before 2pm, I was in Manderson, Wyoming, up the road. By 4PM, I was on the way back south, driving along the Big Horn River and then through the Wind River mountains to rendezvous with my cousin and his wife in Riverton, of course also in Wyoming, to transfer a half-dozen cat carriers needed by someone in Rock Springs, where they live, for my friend from Manderson.
All of that worked out amazingly well, but then it gets tricky. Six miles out of Casper, I blew the front left tire on my pickup. Mi companera, who has saved me from one catastrophe after another as my dispatcher and ground control, got me the number for AAA. They couldn’t locate me for a while, because in their crazy disconnected data patchwork, they had to connect me to three people before they realized that despite the fact I was in Wyoming and my card was from Louisiana on my home address, in their world that was under the jurisdiction of the Missouri AAA, so they had to access everything on a different database. Crazy, but nonetheless within an hour Trevor had me up and running.
That hour meant it was almost 11 PM when I woke up the motel manager. She turned out to be from Greer’s Ferry, Arkansas, so couldn’t have been more helpful, including insisting that I could bring Lucha, my Assuie, into the room with me because it was cold, ignoring the $150 warning against pets in the room that was taped to her counter. She mentioned I was lucky to even get a room there in this $60 a night motel, because there were so many riggers coming into the oil patch around Casper now.
On the road by 5 AM the next morning made it a short night, but I knew I needed to get a new tire before facing another 1500 miles as a road warrior heading home. I thought Cheyenne might work, but Google Maps saved me time and tolls and took me on the back roads into Nebraska. The spare was a real tire not a doughnut, so I wasn’t super worried. I hit Interstate 80 and my dispatcher found what looked like a good tire operation called Nebraskaland Tire in Kearney. No luck there. If my truck had been heavier duty like those in the farm and ranch community, no problem, but he said I might have a chance in North Platte, a couple of hours east. As I pulled out, a fella at the counter walked across the lot to me, and suggested another shop down the road. No luck there either, but how neighborly was that?
In North Platte, I showed them a picture of the tire number on my phone. They had one! It would take a half-hour. I said I’d walk Lucha. Hey, I thought, I’m not driving, let me check my email on my phone. The screen was blank. I tried to restart. Nada. I saw a Verizon store a couple of blocks away. Tying the dog up to a utility guy wire, I showed them the problem. No luck there. Could they send the phone to my next stop in Arkansas to their store? No luck there either, but by the weekend it would be at my address in New Orleans.
Oh, well, tire was on the truck, but they couldn’t get the spare ratcheted back under the truck. No luck there. Throw it in the back, I said, I’ve still got a lot of highways to cover. I have a second phone, a Google Fi phone, that I only use internationally, because it’s cheaper. I thought I would get the map from the phone, but wouldn’t connect to Google Maps for some reason. That was weird, I’m on a Google phone. We all live in Google’s world, what’s up?
Well, they wanted two-step verification. After I put in the password, they wanted to send a text to my phone, but that was my other phone. Oh, no, that wouldn’t work. That phone and its number was dead for now. They would send a verification number to my email though, my Gmail, that is. Ok, let’s do that. Typing in the number, Google then informs you that to make sure that you are really are who you are on their Google Fi phone, they now have a system where they send you a link to get a new password, but they won’t do that for 24-hours to make sure you’re not some kind of a thieving SOB. You’ve got to be kidding. No luck there. Remember, I own a Google phone, but Google is now pretending that don’t have any idea who I am, and in their view, I don’t really need the phone for 24 hours, so I’m stuck like Chuck.
Back on I-80, my home base controller, saves me again, as I head west along the wide, rolling plains along the Platte River, by sending my email – which I could get – the directions she copied and pasted from Google maps. You can’t make this stuff up.
The morale of this story of my 1000+ eighteen-hour driving day to Arkansas is simple: you need as much luck as skill and endurance on the road. Plus, you better have a backup at home base to save you when you’re still trying to make your way.