jenn April 22nd, 2009
I got my taxes squared away. Unfortunately, Johnny was still doing his and seemed like he would be for hours. I wasn’t in any mood to lounge around the camper and decided it was time for some fun. So, I talked Johnny into unhooking the scooter for me and proceeded into Joshua Tree National Park. I wasn’t sure if we were going to drive in there before we left our boondocking area just outside of the park, and I wanted to see a damn Joshua Tree.
After working the scooter through the loose sand, I hit Cottonwood road and headed into the park. It was a pleasant ride, albeit slow. The first part was all up hill and the scooter was moving between 10 and 15mph. It was during this part of the trip that I realized I didn’t bring a jug of water. Not good. Once I made it up to the visitors center it sped up to about 30mph. From then on, it was smooth sailing. I stopped at all of the various markers and checked out some Ocotillo trees in bloom. I was lucky enough to see a rare purple aster that supposedly only grows in this area. The only wildlife I saw were a few lizards and a rabbit. No sheep for me… sigh. After a long ride in the Colorado desert, I finally made it in to the Mojave. I looked at my fuel gauge, but it hadn’t moved. I decided to go all of the way to White Tank Campground.
When I arrived there I was overcome by the scenery. The giant boulders surrounded by Joshua Trees were an awesome sight. I was so entranced I almost didn’t notice the time or my fuel gauge. I didn’t have a clock, but the sun was pretty low in the sky. The gauge read 3/4 tank. I thought, “Plenty of time and fuel, but I should head back.” I got to see a Joshua Tree! Too bad it took 30 miles.
I headed back home. This is where the fun started. My hands were a little cold, so I stopped to warm them up at a pull out. When I started off again the fuel gauge said 1/2. I started to get concerned. I was still about 27 miles from our campsite and 20 miles from the visitors center. Uh oh! Panic sets in, and I start driving slower to conserve fuel. The scenery had disappeared. All that was left was the gas gauge, the odometer, the road ahead of me and the faint hope that some off-roaders with gas cans would be around the next bend.
The next 20 miles were like that. Slowing down seemed to help. My gauge was moving very slowly. I thought that I might make it. I even chose to pass up stopping at the visitors center, because the gauge still showed fuel. But, it was not to be. As I made it up the hill just past the visitors center, the scooter died. I tried to start it, but it was futile. Grrrr… Most of the rest of the journey back to the campsite would have been down hill. I debated trying to coast down the 7 miles to the campsite. Then, I remembered that I didn’t have water. Seven miles, desert, no water… not good. Had I had water, I think I could have done it. Alas, I coasted back to the visitors center. It was closed. There were three cars in the parking lot. Only one wasn’t a subcompact. It was an SUV. I figured it was my best shot at a fuel can. Nope. He said I was in a good spot though. There was a campground up the road. By then all of the other cars were gone.
I started hoofing it up to the campground a half mile away. As I topped a hill, it looked like I could coast the scooter down the rest of the way to the campground, so I went back and got the scooter. I also figured that people would be more willing to give me a couple ounces of fuel if I was pushing the scooter. Damned heavy scooter. My brilliant idea of coasting down was destroyed. The scooter wouldn’t move on its own. More pushing.
Then the guy I asked for fuel at the visitors center drove back by. Oh joy. Here I am, alone, with a disabled scooter and now I have a stalker. Lovely, buried in the desert… ugh. He said that he thought I said “I could drive a few miles” instead of “I only have a few miles to go, so I only need a few ounces”. He offered me a ride or to try to find me some fuel. I told him that I would be grateful if he brought me fuel, but I am going to continue to the campground. He drove away. Relief. I tried to run beside the scooter to get it rolling down the hill, but when I jumped on, it would crawl to a stop (no fat jokes!). Back he came. Said that no one would answer at the ranger houses and that he would try the campground.
So close. I got to the campground sign but saw no campers. All up hill from there. I pushed a little further. No campers in site. I spotted a tent camper and his son. I asked if I was going the right direction to reach the campers. It was up hill. I was tired. I didn’t want to waste any energy. He said it was his first time there and he had no idea. He asked if I was the “one who ran out of fuel”. Obviously, the creepy longhaired guy in the SUV had been there. Maybe he didn’t want to kill me after all. Then, the tent camper offered to take me to the campers. I declined. He jumped into his jeep, started it, and told me to hop in. I accepted. I pushed the scooter into a parking space and locked the steering.
Being a big believer in self sufficiency, it was pretty hard for me to go around begging folks for help. I was more comfortable pushing the scooter up the sides of mountains than asking for fuel. I was still out of breath when I asked the first person I saw. They said they couldn’t help and asked who the guy that dropped me off was. The next folks, a man and his grandson, were much nicer. They offered me what they had, stove fuel. I asked if they had cell phones, but neither could get a signal. They let me know that if I couldn’t find fuel they would be happy to drive me to my campsite. Nice folks. That trend continued. Then, the stalker pulled back up with a can of gas. Hooray! I hopped in the “serial killer’s” vehicle.
I was happy, but worried that I had killed the battery when I tried to start the scooter earlier. Thankfully, I hadn’t. Greg, probably a nice guy and not a murderer, poured the gas in. I tried to start it. No go. Plenty of battery but no start. The scooter can be a pain to start when its cold. I figured after a couple hours it was probably cold again. I tried again and again. Ok, kickstart. Nope. Greg wanted to try to kick start it. Still nothing. Try the electric start again. And, again. Greg took the gas can back. I finally killed the battery. It was over.
I walked away and asked the tent camper if he had cell signal. Of course not. Greg returned. I told him the bad news. He offered jumper cables. I turned it on and tried to start it again. Omg, the battery recharged itself. Second try and it started. Then, it stalled. OK, I tried again and this time opened the throttle right away. It started, but then stalled in milliseconds. I tried it a few more times and it never started.
I decided to let it rest and Greg and I chatted. Turns out that he is a rock climber who used to work with a team training people. They have all long since moved on, got married, had kids, etc. But, every year they meet up in Joshua Tree on Palm Sunday and climb together. He was on his way home from it when I pestered him. He turned out to be pretty cool. He is now an Earth Science teacher who would rather mountain bike or surf than scramble around on rocks. I wish I would have met him and his lady in better circumstances. Good people.
OK, time to try it a couple more times. It was getting dark. The stupid scooter wouldn’t start again. I asked Greg if he was leaving the park for the night. He was. I decided to take him up on the offer to shuttle me to my camper. So I grabbed my helmet, locked the scooter and left it for dead.
Not much happened after that. Greg and I chatted about adventure sports, environments, and life on our 7 mile ride. I started to feel a little guilty about him sticking around so long to help me. He wouldn’t accept any cash for his trouble.
The scooter is a liar. I almost wanted to leave it at the campground. But, when I got home we packed up and went to rescue it.