End of the road
We began the day before 8 o'clock. The first thing we did was to check out the Camaro;
some more coolant was added but it was clear that we needed a mechanic. First, however,
breakfast was included in the price we paid for the room so we went around the corner and
got a decent bite to eat.
Nobody at the motel could direct us to a reliable garage and for that reason Marco and
Manuel once again set out to find a car doctor. Half an hour later the Camaro was taken to
a large gas and repair station not too far from the motel. This time the mood was not as
optimistic as it had been in Tupelo. Now two mechanics had a go at the car. The diagnosis
was dire. The cooling motor had to be replaced; the new wiring installed in Tupelo had
caused the old motor to short out entirely. It was certainly going to be more than just a
few dollars this time. The manager of the garage noted the "California or Bust!"
in the rear window. He said a sign like that always brought bad luck but his statement was
largely ignored and the sign was left alone. We had more important things to consider than
superstition. Once again we were stranded, at least for some hours so we might as well
make the most of it.
Downtown Vegas was bustling even though it was still early in the day. None of us felt the
urge to gamble hence we just walked around absorbing the atmosphere. We hung around for a
few hours, had some refreshments, and returned to the garage. Naturally the car wasn't
done yet; they had problems locating the right parts. The spare time was spent writing
postcards or inspecting the used cars on the lot. The slippery manager offered to trade
the Camaro for an older, uglier, 4-cylindered model. The generous offer was categorically
Around 2 PM we took to the road. Despite being set back $261, Niels was glad getting out
of the clutches of Vegas. From this point we agreed not to use the Chevy in stop-and-go
city driving if it could be avoided. The electric system of the aging car was simply too
unreliable for us to risk any further meltdowns. After all it would have been
heartbreaking if another melted wire forced us to end the trip.
The highlight of the day was unquestionably when we entered California, which also
signaled an end to I-40. At that point, all our problems seemed trivial but fact was that
we'd traveled less than half of the entire planned distance.
Just before reaching Barstow we made a little detour to Calico Ghost Town. However,
quickly we discovered we had been wasting our time. Calico was apparently off-limits
because the road leading to the town was blocked.
We could have gone all the way to Los Angeles that day but decided to stop in Victorville.
Everybody was wary about going into the metropolis, looking for a motel after dark.
Instead we toured Victorville and had dinner at El Pollo Loco, a fast food place, which
has specialized in chicken; the Hispanic equivalent of KFC one might say.
Go to the next page in the Diary (May 22).