I look longingly as I walk through the lounge chairs sprinkled in amongst palm trees, patches of green grass, and tall rocks. The adult-only pool and hot tub are empty. The water is still and waiting. A level below, my children are splashing and diving in another pool. There’s a sandy beach landscaped around one side, but my kids stay at the deep end, reviving themselves at regular intervals by dipping under the heated water. A young mom stands on the other side of the pool playing with her baby while her toddler stays on land throwing a fit over Cheerios. I sigh and adjust my purse on my shoulder. The sun is too hot to stay out of the water or the shade for long. But I have to keep moving, I have inquiries and phone calls to make.
So far I’d spent the morning exploring the grounds and seeing how the web of RV lots and access roads are laid out under the desert sun. There is a surprising amount of green grass here, fitting for the name Oasis I suppose. The dog park extends for 20 lots at the very back of the park. It’s the largest and greenest we’ve visited since crossing the Mississippi. I’d taken my dogs through the entire length of it and back down the far side of the resort before we’d crossed over and found the fence around the pool. It’s at the very center of the resort, just behind the grand main building. I’d walked around the perimeter of the fence until I found the entrance, and then ran back to tell the kids that the pool was open. It was about 9am (sleeping in for us) and everyone was slowly getting up. I’d suggested the kids go for a swim while I figured out what to do about the tire. Michael and Max set out to make a grand breakfast for everyone and salvage at least the morning of the flat tire fiasco day ahead.
I remind my kids to respect the young mom, each other, and the rules, and head up another set of stairs to the back entrance of the main building. I put on my mask and enter. First I ask the front desk for recommendations of a shop who will fix our tire on short notice. They point out an entire brochure of RV services included in the informational booklet they’d given me at check-in, and simply explain that those are the businesses the resort recommends. I’d been hoping to get out of making a hundred phone calls.. .but (yet again) I have to do the grunt work myself. On my way out, a lady calls me over and starts a veiled (at first) sales pitch to try and get me to stay at the resort for a week. As much as we despise the Vegas strip, the offer, especially with our at the moment non-drivable RV, is tempting.
Back outside, I settle down on the first deck because there are tables and umbrellas. From here I can still enjoy the scenery of palm trees and see my children playing in the water. I’m exhausted. I want to spend the day here… But home is beckoning.
I begin with the first ad in the brochure and start calling any that mention RV service. The first three tell me immediately upon hearing a sentence of our troubles that they don’t do tires. Then I focus on ads where the word tire is specifically mentioned, and still get the same response. Before the last man hangs up, I implore if he knows anyone who can help us… and he turns out to be the first. He gives me a list of a few shops he’s seen changing tires on the lot here. He goes on to tell me his best recommendation and even the spelling and phone number, while I’m search madly through my brochure to match the name he’s given with the corresponding ad. As I hang up with this savoir of a business owner, I find the ad I’m looking for. Ted Wiens Tire & Auto. They’re a large auto service company with lots of locations in Vegas, and one is only three miles away. I’m sure we can make it at least that far on the remaining tires. They answer the phone, transfer me to service and tell me I can come anytime, morning or afternoon, and just pull into line at the back of the building.
We much prefer getting a flat tire in Las Vegas…
Breakfast is a sort of skillet casserole of scrambled eggs and bacon topped with a giant 3 inch thick pancake. Michael has cooked it, which means… It’s very tasty. We all eat like we’re drowning a hangover from the night before. We briefly discuss the possibility of extending our stay here another day while we wait to get the tire fixed… But now it looks promising that we’ll be back on the road before evening. So instead, we sadly say goodbye to our desert Oasis. We’ve enjoyed a long relaxing morning, but now we have to hurry and clean up before the noon checkout so we can get on with our adventure.
We take it slow to the first intersection where we have to make a complete, and rather stressful, U-turn before heading back the opposite direction down Blue Diamond Ave. We drive carefully for three miles and make it to the fix-it shop. When we get there, we get in line behind four RVs. There is only one bay open for service. So we shut down the vehicle, start up the generator for AC, and settle in together to watch National Lampoon’s Family Vacation, right up until they get to Wally World. But just as John Candy’s panicked question, “That’s not a real gun is it, Clark?” is answered by, “What, are you kiddin’? This is a Magnum P.I.!” it’s our turn to pull into the garage and exit the vehicle.
With masks on, we wait inside the waiting room. Even though the sign on the door says no waiting inside, I think our New York license plates bring us their sympathies. I only make it through a few paragraphs of writing and they’ve finished up with our vehicle. I pay and thank the staff profusely. Just as I’m signing the credit card receipt, one of the technicians walks in from the garage and tells us that they’ve just discovered the inner tire is also damaged beyond repair. That means I sit back down with my family and wait while our bill doubles. Max goes outside to sit in the corner of the garage and take a mask break. Once they’ve finished replacing both tires we all get sick of sitting indoors and head back outside to wait. The head tech is showing Michael and I the repairs, when one of the other techs, who’d been putting air in all the tires before letting us go… calls us all over. The driver side front tire has a strip of rubber missing on the inside. It’s visibly worn down to the threads. We look at both front tires, and can see the uneven wear on the insides of the tires. The technician describes this as the vehicle being “duck-footed” and suggests we get the vehicle aligned. He knows of only two places in town that can do alignment on rigs this size, and they are booking out at least three weeks… We opt to change the driver side tire, and leave the problem of the alignment and the passenger front tire, which will at least get us home, to the vehicle owners (who have stopped responding to my text updates with helpful ideas. Actually when I send them the pictures of the unevenly worn front tires, they stop responding completely).
Just before 3 o’clock, we pull out of the garage and back onto I-15 headed north towards Utah. Our plan is to drive as far as we can, and when we’re falling asleep at the wheel, find the closest motel that takes dogs and collapse. We cross back into Arizona for a short time, which is the only time the whole trip I capture one of these:
I don’t even notice the “Welcome to Utah” sign a half hour later, one of the disadvantages of relying on google maps and gps for directions rather than the old fashioned way. But one of the advantages of using the internet is that I can read about the road ahead and plan our route accordingly. I figoogle that the lack of hotels in the 5 to 7 hours away range, between Salina and Green River Utah, is because that stretch is one of the most wild and captivating sections of highway in the entire country. I read the quote, “anywhere else in the country this would be a national park…” So far today we’ve blown past signs for Death Valley, the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park. I decide there is no way we are going to experience Utah, (a place one of my closest friends describes to me as her “soul’s home”) in the dark.
“Change of plans,” I announce loud enough for everyone. But only Michael is really listening. “Let’s make today a short drive. We’ll stop at a KOA,” (a secret bucket list item for me) “just before we hit the mountains, and leave the drive through…” Michael cuts me off before I get into my explanation. A firm decision is all he needs. Save the explanation he begs. But I have to tell him, so I whisper,
“Tomorrow’s drive is going to be incredible.”
It’s still light out when we pull into the Beaver KOA Journey and fill out the after hours paperwork. We find a spot with no neighbors and decide to make dinner in the next fire pit over, so that we don’t have to look at (or possibly smell) the sewer lines from the RV on our right, where our designated fire pit is located. By day 11 we’re getting both bold and picky with our campsites. I start the fire and get the last of the burger meat from the fridge. This includes a few patties made by Max three days ago, which is the last time we had enough patience and leisure to grill. While the fire is getting hot, I climb up to the roof of the RV and beckon the others to come up and catch the sunset over the mountains. As I climb down to tend to dinner, one of Miriam’s flip flop falls off over the edge of the roof. Before I can grab it from the gravel below, Max appears around the corner and snatches it. A full blown game of keep away, boys against sister, keeps them busy until the night sky is completely dark and the burgers are ready.
We sit around the fire eating burgers and then s’mores, glad for the firewood I’d forced the kids to carry to the car at a gas stop just a few hours before. The Utah air is cool and the park is quiet and mostly empty. This is our first day of the return journey. We have no firm plans, no reservations, nothing to accomplish, except getting home.
We’ve got 3 days left to make it home on time, and twenty-two thousand miles still to drive. We only made it one tenth of the way today. But we’re relaxed and confident and together, which are without rival, all that we need for success.
emails from the writer…
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