Thursday, December 13
My last post ends with me fixing myself a bowl of corn flakes and figuring out our plan for the day. The weather is cold wind and rain. I don’t feel like going outside or going anywhere on such a dark, damp day. I climb in bed with a book. Bridget and Spike soon realize there’s not much point in going out and content themselves with several long naps.
Friday December 14
First thing I notice this morning is the snow on the highest peaks in view from our campsite near Clark Dry Lake in the Anza Borrego Desert.
Today is a day to get things done. Even though a cold wind blows, I have to take action.
It’s time to dump tanks. I pack up everything and tow the BLT toward Salton City. We pull into the ARCO plaza and I fill up the gas tank for $75 ($3.39 a gallon).
Next I swing around back, past where the big trucks and motorhomes get their diesel. I park at the drinking water spigot, and pull out the fresh water hose from the back of the PTV. The wind is really whipping across the large, paved parking lot.
Once the tank is filled, I drive over near the store and park next to the water vending machine.
As I fill up eight one-gallon jugs ($.20 each), I hear “Excuse me. I like your rig.” A slim, dark-skinned man with grey hair looks admiringly at the BLT.
“Thank you. I’m very happy with it.” We exchange first names, and Curtis explains his interest.
“I’ve got a Class C, but I’m thinking of getting rid of it. I want to get something like you’ve got. Mine burns so much gas that I can’t go very far with it. Seems like all I do is drive to the gas station and back. Do you have a kitchen and bed and all that in there?”
“Sure. It has a stove, sink, and fridge. A bathroom with toilet, sink, and shower. ” A short chat follows about price and how he could cut costs by towing a small trailer. I wish him well and Curtis moves on.
Next task is propane.
The woman behind the counter tells me I have to hand her my license or a credit card if I want propane. I hand her my license. “Okay, the guy will meet you out by the tank.”
I park at the tank just as a man in a golf cart pulls up.
He jumps out and commences to help me remove the tank cover. What a cheerful guy! I notice the name Jose on a tag on his shirt. I mention the cold wind and Jose puts a positive spin on it. “We get enough heat around here. It’s time for some cold!” I ask him if it’s windy a lot, and he says no.
“My car did get sandblasted though. I bought a brand new Nissan Vestra in November.” He hesitates. “My credit’s been bad. I did a lot of things that got me off track, but I’m turning my life around now. I’ve got this job and a new car. I’m saving to have my car taken care of, you know, for the deductible. Brand new car and it get’s sandblasted,” he shakes his head and rolls his eyes, all the while smiling, as if to say, “That’s life!”
“I want to be able to support a family, you know?”
Jose turns off the pump, closes the tank, and starts filling the second one. “I’m forty years old. If I meet a girl, chances are she’ll have kids already. I’ve got to be able to take care of them.”
“You’re smart to prepare yourself for that, Jose.” His cellphone rings and he tells someone inside the store where to put the cases of water that were just delivered.
He turns back to me.
“I’ve already been offered another job!” he reports proudly.
“For more money, I hope,” I reply, smiling back at him.
“Yeah! More money and benefits!” I marvel at Jose’s enthusiasm and good cheer.
When he finishes filling the tank, he puts the cover back on for me.
The cold wind still whips around us.
I ask him if there’s a place I can throw my trash and plastic for recycling. Jose offers to take it over to the store’s bin. “I have the key. I’ll put it away for you.”
“Gee, thanks, Jose. What great service!” He flashes a wide grin as if the most important thing in the world at that very moment is making sure I’m happy with the service at ARCO. No wonder he’s been offered another job. Off he goes in his golf cart, carrying my trash bags. Darn. Why didn’t I think to give him a tip?
I go inside and pay $22.20 for 6.99 gallons of propane.
I dump the tanks and start up the PTV to head for home. The crew sits on the bench seat, quietly waiting for what’s next. “You guys have been so good!” I guess they know they’re better off in the warm PTV than out in the wind.
Driving back to the dispersed camping area, the sunny aura of Jose stays with me. He’s so full of hope for the future. I wonder what happened that put him “off track,” and what brought him to where he is now. What’s that phrase? A new lease on life. That’s what Jose has. A new lease on life. And I have it, too.