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To listen to a message from Dad, press 2

We’re heading west on Nevada Hwy. 50 a few months ago when we heard a loud bang and our motorhome suddenly started shaking like Charro with a chill. At the time, we were passing through the Fallon-Tonopah aerial gunnery range in central Nevada — an area clearly marked “danger area” in our GPS. So, my first guess is the Navy is using us for target practice and the next missile will end our worries.

Something like this happened once before when we were crossing the Organ Pipe National Monument in Arizona. A couple of F-16 pilots had a competition to see who would be the first to shear off our antenna at supersonic speed. You’ve got to love pilots with a sense of humor.

The bang came from our left inside rear tire, one of the hardest to change of course, which had exploded. There’s tread sticking out all over, so we can’t move without doing a lot more damage. We always check our tires carefully before starting out but like they say, stuff happens. Stuff like this never happens right around the corner from the tire place though, does it?

Picture this. We’re out in the middle of the desert on what’s called “America’s Loneliest Highway.” Maybe you’ve been there. It runs from Ely, Nev., west to Fallon, Nev., and roughly parallels the Pony Express Trail. It’s the only road I know of that comes with a survival guide. We’re at least 50 miles from the nearest civilization and, aside from the occasional passing semi which is also traveling at the speed of sound (truckers have a sense of humor, too), there’s not a soul to be seen!

There’s no place to pull off, so we’re hanging several feet into the traffic lane and my wife, God love her, is giving me her best Oliver Hardy “a fine mess you’ve got us into this time” stare. We’ve got our hazard lights flashing. Out there on the road, where I’m setting up our reflectors and frantically waving a white flag every time a truck comes along, the temp is 110 degrees which is not helping. To top it all off we look to the south and here comes a thunder storm about the size of Oregon. Lightning bolts are coming down not one at a time but in bunches out of angry black clouds and we’re the only thing within 50 miles that’s taller than a jackrabbit.

The wind’s coming up and blowing dust all over the place which is causing a virtual white-out and this, as you know, causes trucks to go even faster. My wife is totally resigned to our fate now and goes silent, which is not a good sign. I’ve always been pretty good in tight spots, but now I’m beginning to think I can use a little help here.

We’re a catastrophe in the making so I figure a 911 call might be a good idea. The operator agrees and promises to have an officer out there ASAP to help keep us from being vaporized by a passing 18 wheeler. ASAP means something different to her because we’re out there for a good four hours and no officer ever shows. But, to the credit of 911, we get a live person after the first ring. The next call is to our emergency road service provider who shall go unnamed. This is a different story.

A guy comes on the line. I take a breath to speak, but wait a minute! He’s still talking. What’s that you say? I’m very important and you appreciate my business but you don’t have anybody available right now to take my call? So now you’re having me listen to music so I’ll feel better. A few minutes later he’s back on the line to tell me he still loves me, but it’s my patience he appreciates this time and asks if I will just hold on a bit longer? Music again. Once more, buster, and you’re toast! The line goes dead. Wait! I was just kidding about the toast!

With gale force winds now threatening us with lift-off, I grit my teeth and give it a few more tries, each time going to the end of the pecking order. Finally I give up and call Les Schwab. They know the road, get the picture and dispatch a truck right away. The young man who comes to our rescue proves to be very fast on the job. Very fast indeed.

Crawling under the coach to retrieve our spare tire, he finds himself nose to nose with a scorpion of considerable proportions. I haven’t seen anyone move this fast since my brother found a snake in his sleeping bag. He’s out from under there like his pants are on fire. But, instead of dispatching the little fellow, he says something like, “Hey, this is his territory, got a coffee can?” Whereupon he captures and later releases the beast. We are impressed with his compassion, but quickly get out of there when the job is done.

By the way, I don’t want to shortchange Nevada Hwy. 50 as a scenic route. It’s going to be one of the most beautiful and interesting drives you’ll ever take, especially if you are into national historic sites. The desert ghost towns are what keep beckoning us back. And then, if you run out of ghost towns, there’s always Reno.

Anyway, you’re wondering if I will ever get to the point. Let’s see, what was my point? Oh, yeah. We’ve all listened to those irritating recorded messages. We’re on the government “don’t call” list, but this guy named Andy calls every day wanting to loan us a quarter million dollars. Every day! Doesn’t Andy know how irritating this is? If he wanted to “give” us a quarter million, that would be different!

My personal favorite is when the recording hands me a long string of options ending with, “to end this call, press nine or hang up.” End this call? Hang up? But, I haven’t talked to anybody yet! I don’t know how you feel about it, but recorded messages tell me my business is not important and I need to take it elsewhere. Try calling your health care provider sometime or your insurance or credit card company. Try calling your government! We can’t even reach a live person at our bank anymore and they have our money! Well, actually, so does our government.

I have an idea! We’ll go big time and put something on the phone for our kids. “Hi kids. You’re very important to us and we appreciate your patience, but we’re too busy to talk to you right now. So, to listen to a recorded message from Dad, press two, or to leave a message for mom, press four. Well, maybe we better not. They might go looking for new parents, and you know what? We wouldn’t blame them.

About Robert Sears

Robert Sears is a professional driving instructor who once owned a company that trained more than 70,000 people to drive. Today he is an author working on several non-fiction books and writing traffic safety articles for consumer and special interest publications. He is a 30-year motorhome owner who has logged several hundred thousand miles of RV driving experience.

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