Don't Leave Home Without It!

David A. Wright

On a warm September day in 1995, I decided to take a leisurely drive from my Owens Valley home of Big Pine, California, out into Esmeralda County. I wished to get out and stretch my legs a bit, to enjoy stomping about in the sagebrush, to do some outdoor photography explore a few ghost towns. I selected my car, a 1991 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, since my truck was in the shop, which limited me to Palmetto, Lida and Gold Point. I had been to all these ghost towns (or semi ghosts in the case of Lida and Gold Point) in the past.

I left my home about noon. I was dressed for summer - shorts, T-shirt, light sneakers. I drove east on California and Nevada highways 168 and 266, air conditioner running, stereo playing some soft jazz music. It was to be an easy drive of about an hour to my first destination at Palmetto.

Arriving in Palmetto I shut down the Cadillac. As soon as I did, I heard a faint popping sound, then the unmistakable hiss of a blown coolant hose. The adrenaline rushed through my system, for I knew I was in trouble. I had no tools in the car, nor anything in which to make a temporary fix that could get me home. Nor did I have any water. I had brought along an ice filled cup of cola and nothing more. It had been a leisurely drive of an hour out, I knew it would be a very long walk to anywhere for help. My cellular phone did not pick up any signal. My mind raced - should I walk for help at Dyer, Lida or …?

I opened the hood of the car. A small heater hose coming off the back of the engine block had sprung a pinhole leak and had not yet released a great amount of coolant. I opened the trunk desperately in hopes that I was wrong about not having anything to make a temporary fix to get me out of my fix. Nothing. I opened the cover to the spare tire well to see if I had crammed a rag or duct tape or something to use to wrap the hose. Again, nothing. Since Palmetto is a Nevada Historic Landmark, there are always a couple of trash barrels to be found there. I thought that I might be able to find a plastic bag or something in which to wrap the hose. As I dug around in the barrel, an angel of mercy came upon me.

As I was digging around, I overheard a vehicle approaching. I didn't pay it any mind until I realized the vehicle was slowing down, then heard the tires hit the gravel as it pulled off the highway behind my disabled car. When I looked up, it was a wonderful sight to find the dark blue cruiser belonging to the Nevada Highway Patrol.

I walked over to the officer, who saw my cars hood up and stopped to see if he could offer assistance. I showed the officer the problem and asked if he had a roll of duct tape handy. Indeed he did, and we used it to wrap up the blown hose.

The officer, who's name I never did get while in my worried state of mind, mentioned that he seldom patrolled Highway 266, but did so this day. I'm certainly elated that he chose this day to do so.

I drove the car back to Big Pine, keeping the air conditioner off and driving moderately to keep engine temperatures down. I arrived home about an hour and a quarter after leaving Palmetto. I checked the water in the radiator and found that I had lost about two gallons during the ordeal.

That day I drove to Bishop to have the offending hose replaced. It was an oddball size hose and it took some ingenuity on the part of the mechanic to make a suitable fix. A couple of weeks later I had all hoses replaced, a very expensive job on that car.

But it taught me a lesson. There is a roll of duct tape in all of my vehicles, and a gallon jug of water.

Editors Note:

Our Thanks to David for this story.

So many times folks from other states do not realize that Nevada is a vast desert and very unforgiving. Please Be sure to carry extra supplies, water, nuts, blanket, flashlight, batteries, matches, candle, a small shovel, and most importantly, water. Also be sure to let folks know where your heading, what time you expect to return, and if you change your mind and plans, let a local store keeper know or gas attendant, anyone. Play it safe on your trip to Nevada.

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