A Roadtrip to Remember

July 4, 1976–a momentous 200 year celebration for America; an unintended  momentous celebration for the Rizzo family.  Watching the fireworks from the hill overlooking the little desert town of Beatty, we were destined for a cooler location in Yosemite National Park.  Our brave little 1972 Chevy clamshell station wagon had stalwartly hauled our 20ft. Holiday Rambler trailer across the desert of New Mexico and up 95 in Nevada.  With the car guzzling fuel at7 miles to the gallon, we made numerous stops to the delight of our two lovable rug rats, Rhonda and Kelli.

Following the final blaze of glory in the desert sky and the residual plume of smoke wafting across the horizon. we sought a place to camp for the night.  That the town had but one camp ground–filled to the brim with July four revelers changed our plans.  Another possibility could be to pull off beside the road until dawn.   The bullet holes poxing every road sign discouraged us from doing that.  We noted two small mining towns on the map of roads traversing the White Mountains.  Surely they’d have at least one gas station where we could refill before tackling the highest portion of the road to Lone Pine. Richard topped off the tank at the north edge of town after which the girls snuggled down to sleep.

At the turnoff onto the road indicated on the map, Richard pulled into a well-lit parking area, intending to ask for advice.  Quickly determining it was a brothel, legal in Nevada, he thought better of stopping and headed for the first of the two towns indicated on the map.  We didn’t need some entrepreneurial madam copying our license plate and sending a Christian high school teacher a perky little postcard saying, “Thank you for visiting Sophie’s Place.”

As we approached the first town, Richard tapped the gas gauge.  “Hmm, the needle has hardly moved,” he commented.  We gazed out at the silhouettes of wooden shacks and abandoned garages. “Of course, everyone is in town for the July four celebration,”he  commented.  “And they might not return home until Monday.”  With the girls soundly sleeping in the back seat we decided to drive to the second town, a mere 20 or so miles further.  We were doing fine until we reached an intersection where a sign read, “No gas for 150 miles.” Great, we were already beyond the point of easy return.  We didn’t have enough fuel to go back nor to go on.  Our only hope was to stop in the next town and beg enough fuel from some kind soul to make it to Lone Pine.

Our hopes fell as we drove past the other place, a ghost town.  There was little to do but to continue on.  Since leaving the brothel the road had been climbing, but our faithful little station wagon chugged valiantly up the steep winding road toward the summit.  Every few miles Richard tapped the gas gauge.  It hadn’t moved.  Must be broken,” he mumbled and started down the other side toward the valley.  Total darkness filled the abyss between us and the lights of civilization in the distance. The trailer brakes began to sm0ke as the car struggled to keep us from plunging into the chasm on our right.  Before long there were no trailer brakes. That’s when the car brakes began to smoke as well.  We slowly inched down the steep, rocky mountain road, praying aloud in the strangely silent night. We would drive for 5 minutes, then park for 15 to cool the brakes. And every time Richard tapped the gas gauge, the needle remained solidly on 1/2 full.

After several hours we made it to the base of the mountain and across the plain to the first open gas station.  As he parked the station wagon beside the gas pump, the needle dropped to empty. We’d driven more than 150 miles on one tank of gas in a car that was doing exceptionally well to get 12 miles to the gallon heading down hill.  A Highway Patrolman asked Richard where we were coming from.  When he told the officer we’d come over the mountains, he didn’t believe my husband.  “Hauling this trailer?  You don’t know how many camping rigs and automobiles with dead corpses I’ve pulled out of that canyon.  And you didn’t have an extra tank of fuel?  And with no brakes?  Impossible.”

Psalm 91: 11, 12 NIV says, “For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.They will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” July 4 1976–a road trip to remember  forever, at least for the Rizzo clan.

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One Response to A Roadtrip to Remember

  1. betty patten says:

    you are truly blessed. it warms my heart to hear stories like this. it just goes to show that God is in control, and I am so happy He is.

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