June 2009

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The final chapter of our story…

I stopped by the only bank in town, but they were unable to withdraw more than $300 from my account. It was not enough.

I explained my situation to the manager at the shop. I offered to leave a credit card as collateral and mail a check when I got home.

“Naw, what you’re gonna do is take Diaz here with you to the bank in Visalia,” said the manager. So we drove to Visalia.

Diaz served as my tour guide as we drove through the orchards. “Plums. Blood oranges. Walnuts. Almonds.”

“See that hill? My sister and brother-in-law live up there. Pretty soon, he’s gonna make me come through the servant’s entrance in the back.

“Got good and drunk with Humphrey last night. Yeah, he was celebrating after moving your car.” Having just paid the bill, I could imagine.

Diaz continued to discuss his family situation. “Yeah, pretty soon, my brother-in-law is gonna stop inviting me to Thanksgiving dinner.”

Traffic was bad. “Dumbasses didn’t plan for this many cars,” explained Diaz. We got to the bank just before closing, and I got my cash.

The tour continued on the drive home. “Some rich bitch owns all these fuckin’ oranges. Lotta millionaires around here, Sunkist growers.”

Hopeful that rest awaited not far ahead, I dropped Diaz off with the money. All that remained was the four hour drive home.

Mercifully, the trip back to SF was uneventful. Until, while unloading my skis, I locked myself out of my apartment building.


Our story continues… (If you’d rather read the unabridged tweets, go to: http://twitter.com/OriginalMaxican.)

We were broken down, but at least we were in an attractive place. The road hugged a steep, lush hillside, with creeks cascading loudly.

After about a half hour sitting by the road, a ranger happened by.

However, he did not have an appropriate tool either. So he called for assistance on his radio, and soon a second ranger appeared.

This ranger, too, lacked the tool we needed. So they requested that one of their colleagues visit the shop for the required wrench.

Some more waiting transpired, and a truck with a ranger and two maintenance workers showed up.

There were now five park employees on the scene, and we had the correct wrench.

One of the rangers began removing one of the four rear wheels. Midway through, the wrench handle snapped.

They had another handle compatible with the hex bit, but it was too short to get the nuts off the wheel.

So a steel pipe was produced, to enhance the leverage. By stomping on this extended wrench, the tires were finally removed.

However, the jacks on hand could not raise the truck high enough to put the replacement wheel on. So a hole was dug under the wheel.

The replacement wheel was affixed and two hours after getting the flat, we were once again on our way out of Mineral King.

Humphrey dropped me back at the cabin’s driveway. I wished him luck with the rest of the drive, and I really meant it.

That night we made an outdoor fire and relaxed by it, until the wind picked up and we felt it prudent to douse the flames.

Sam woke me up the next morning. “The auto repair guys are on the phone.”

“Hey man,” the guy said. “They ate all your hoses and wires. Chewed a hole in your radiator too. Gotta go to Visalia to get parts.”

Sam and I got lunch down in town, and then he drove back to Santa Barbara. I found a park and sat, hoping my car would be ready that day.

Finally, around 4pm, the guy from the shop called. “Your car is ready. Oh, and we don’t accept credit cards. Cash only.”

To be continued…


Our story continues… (If you’d rather read the unabridged tweets, go to: http://twitter.com/OriginalMaxican.)


The driver stopped and rolled the window down. It was the man from the campsite, with his wife and son in the car as well.

“Hey guys,” he said with a grin. “We spent the last hour discussing it and we changed our minds. Hop in.”

Our spirits soared. Finally, something was going right. The family seemed pleased to be helping us out, too.

It took about twenty or thirty minutes to drive to Sam’s car. We thanked our rescuers and drove back to the cabin, another five miles.

We had a celebratory drink and then turned in. But the ordeal was far from over. Something still had to be done about my car.

In the morning, we again called around to local towing services. A guy in the nearby town of Woodlake agreed to come out.

I found a shady spot on the side of the road and after about an hour the truck arrived.

My driver was Humphrey, also the company’s owner. He and I chatted a bit. We had to yell to be heard over the diesel engine and the road.

“This road seems to go forever, eh Max?” he said about a half hour down the road. “It sure does,” I replied, “And we’re not even close.”

We rounded the final bend and I saw my car. Then I saw a marmot scurry away. I knew what would come next, and grabbed my ice axe.

“You can’t kill them!” Humphrey shouted from the truck. “It’s a national park!”

I popped the hood and this time found two marmots dining on my car. One seemed surprised and ran off. The other ignored me.

I screamed at the marmot and, when that did nothing, I began to prod him with the point of my axe.

But the marmot was so fat, he could not free himself from the space he had crawled into. I poked him some more as he tried to wiggle out.

Finally the obese rodent dropped out of the engine compartment and ran off.

We loaded the car onto the truck, watched closely by the army of marmots now surrounding us from all directions.

I was pleased to be underway with my car, away from the marmots. But after traveling about ten miles, we began to hear a rumbling sound.

“Sounds like we got a flat tire,” said Humphrey. I poked my head out the window and confirmed his suspicion.

Humphrey pulled over. After several minutes of trial and error, he realized that he lacked the proper lug wrench to change his own tire.

We were still a long way from cell phone reception, and his truck had no radio. So we got comfortable and waited.

To be continued…


Synopsis: The OriginalMaxican and his friend, Sam, return to their car after a daylong hike in Mineral King only to find that a  marmot has chewed their radiator hose and drank their antifreeze making the car inoperable. Unable to roust a tow truck driver, they decide to hike the 15 miles to Sam’s car in the dark. On their way, they come across a young family camping along the road and ask for a lift…which they are refused.

Our story continues… (If you’d rather read the unabridged tweets, go to: http://twitter.com/OriginalMaxican.)


We replayed the encounter and discussed whether we would have given ourselves a ride. Both of us felt that we would. Probably.

“You can do the talking next time,” Sam said. “We’ll see if you’re more charming.”

“I don’t think there will be a next time,” I told Sam, remembering that we had seen no other campers on the drive in, or cars on the road.

We’d been walking for a little over an hour without seeing anyone when we took our first rest.

“If we are generous with our rests and ration the food carefully, we can do this,” I said. We anticipated another four hours walking.

We moved briskly through the darkness. A bit of banter and dark humor were employed to keep morale up.

We became aware that something large was shadowing us. It moved through the bushes with such force that we knew it was a bear.

“I guess we should start making loud noises,” Sam whispered to me. I started whistling.

The thrashing from below continued, as the animal matched our pace step by step. But slowly, it fell back, then disappeared.

After rounding a few more bends, we saw the headlights of a car coming up the road in our direction. We were elated.

A white sedan approached us and slowed. We waved them down. They waved back at us. Then they drove past us.

“That’s frustrating,” said Sam. I, too, was feeling frustrated. Why had they not stopped?

Perhaps they thought we were just out for a walk. At 11pm, miles from the nearest campground or cabins?

Or perhaps they were afraid of us, like the other family had been.

As we were discussing this, we heard another car coming from behind us. This time we stood in the middle of the road.

To be continued…


If you weren’t with us yesterday, this is a continuation of a Twitter serial posted by the OriginalMaxican. When we left him yesterday, the OriginalMaxican and his friend, Sam, had gone on a strenuous hike in Mineral King in the Sequoia National Park only to return to their car late in the day to find a marmot chewing up yummy engine hoses and deliriously drinking antifreeze. As the OriginalMaxican eloquently put it after evaluating the situation, “We’re fucked.”

Our story continues. (If you’d rather read the unabridged tweets, go to: http://twitter.com/OriginalMaxican.)


The car started, but only three cylinders were firing, and with no radiator there was no way we could drive it.

The situation was somewhat urgent because we had no camping gear, and as far as we could see nobody was camping in the valley.

Our combined food reserves comprised of an energy bar and half-empty packets of gummi bears and m&ms.

Luckily there was a pay phone at the trailhead. We started ringing towing companies. It was nearly dark.

The towing companies scoffed at our request to come out. “Nobody in their right mind would drive out there at night,” they said.

We had a quick discussion and decided to abandon my car and start walking to Sam’s car. Maybe we could hitch a ride.

After walking a ways we came across an occupied campsite on the side of the road. It was a couple and their young son.

We approached them and explained our situation, and asked if they would be willing to drive us to the other car, or at least part way.

“I don’t think I’d be comfortable with that,” the man replied. We tried to be gracious about it and resumed our walk.

Our story must have sounded absurd. And we were two scruffy men who had emerged from the dark woods wearing strange clothing.

But the reality of a 15 mile walk in the night, with no food, after hiking all day in a thunderstorm, was distressing.

To be continued…


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