Sept. 14, 2004 – Elko, NV
After the requisite stock-up sesh at our favorite fireworks store on the planet, the Cyclecide bus pulled out of Battle Mountain in the afternoon to make our way to Wendover, or Wells, or somewhere on the far side of Nevada, by nightfall.
Our goal was to wake up and then drive through Utah’s famous Bonneville Salt Flats (site of countless land-speed races and the Russ Meyer classic Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!) during the day so we could see ‘em.
Alas, not half an hour outside the Armpit of America, we heard a SNAP! and blue smoke started pouring out of the underside of the bus.
Jarico pulled the “Shoo Shoo” over to the shoulder of the road and all the mechanic/welder-type boys filed out and around back to the engine. Linda and Rose and I, longtime bike rodeo klowns familiar with the routine of our converted ‘66 Gillig schoolbus malfunctioning at least a few times during each tour, knew that the best way to help would be to continue lounging out of the way in the back of the bus with our fashion magazines and sewing projects. We would find out soon enough what was wrong, and decide whether or not the problem would take long enough to start making food.
Turns out the fan belt had snapped. It was nearing the close of the business day, and in order for us to get a replacement belt and get back on the highway, someone was going to have to hitch a ride to Elko, a major town about 30 miles down the road, to get the part at an auto shop before it closed.
Shotwell volunteered, since he was both a mechanic and was familiar with the area, and he caught a ride with two not-so-menacing truckers who pulled over to help. Meanwhile, the other mechanics were to do what they could to get us to Elko.
Of course, this being Cyclecide, the boys immediately sacrificed Linda’s pantyhose (along with some duct tape) to fashion a temporary fan belt replacement. As Shotwell had predicted, the nylons snapped after only a few feet of driving, because Linda’s tights already had a bunch of holes in them. Punk rock klown tights do not a fan belt make.
Next, the boys found some braided nylon rope and put it where the belt should be, tying knots into it every inch or so (so the rope would catch) and Super-glueing the knots afterwards (so it wouldn’t stretch).
This MacGyver maneuver got us maybe two miles down the hightway before the rope broke and got all caught up in the other belts and made a horrible racket and an even worse mess. A good amount of time was then spent picking the rope out of the bowels of the engine.
A nice feller in a big rumbly truck pulled up and asked us if we needed some assistance. We were stopped at the lamest rest area in the world, but it was dusk and the pink and purple dying sun shone on the hazy Nevada desert mountains like airbrushed, chem-trailed cotton candy, and then the stars came out in full force and we saw secret jet fighters from nearby military bases sneak-flying all around up there in the night sky.
Ron, the rumbly truck feller, drove Jarico about 30 miles to his house (well, trailer) to get a spare fan belt he had on a truck in his yard — along the way cutting off his lights and veering dangerously off the road and into the bushes when he saw some cop lights flashing down the highway.
Turns out the cops were after someone else, but Ron stayed jumpy. Jarico didn’t ask why. Ron told Jarico that’s how they always evade the cops in this area — the locals have got the roads memorized to where they don’t even need lights at night.
Ron’s domicile flanked a creepily abandoned ghost-town called Bowie, which in its Wild West heyday housed thousands of miners and a houseful of whores, but now was down to a population of about 30. Probably half of those people must have lived in Ron’s clump of trailers, which according to Jarico resembled Brad Pitt’s gypsy family caravan in the movie Snatch.
There were kids everywhere, cars on blocks, tons of four-wheelers, 10 dogs, 20 cats, missing teeth, and general backwoods chaos. Jarico didn’t know whether to be scared or charmed. He keeps saying what nice people they were.
Well, Ron and Jarico measured the belt wrong, and when they got back and tried to put the replacement belt on, it was an inch or two short. So Ron bid us adieu and took off, and the boys, ever the innovators, removed the fan’s housing and shifted the fan itself over on the engine to where the belt would fit around it. It worked!
We rode on our gimpy belt to go get Mr. Shotwell, who was inexplicably dropped at a truck stop in a small town called Carlton or Carlin or something. He was stranded there alone for five hours while the fan belt drama ensued, and we couldn’t reach him and he couldn’t reach us because there was no cell phone service in the area.
He won $50 on the slot machines but he was panicked, thinking we’d left him and gone on to Elko. He also spent $100 on a “truck service” there that took 2 hours ($50/hr) to look around for our size of fan belt and tell him they didn’t have it after all. We finally pulled in the gas station around midnight and Shotwell practically launched himself onto the bus like a rocket, plopping down in the seat and pulling his hat over his eyes.
“Just get me out of here,” he said. Something about being flirted with by ugly, horny, indiscriminate and pushy truckers for five hours straight. We didn’t pry.
If it were really cold weather, the gimp-belt and fan could’ve stayed like that indefinitely, but since the housing directs the air a certain way that prevents the engine from overheating, and since we’re going through another desert and up a really steep grade to Salt Lake City today, we had to fix it the right way.
So here we are in Elko, checking email, spending more nickels on slots at the casino, making PB&Js, and getting coffee while Jarico moves the fan back over, puts the housing back on, and hooks the engine up with a proper belt from the auto parts store.
It’s sorta fun when the bus breaks down — not for the boys fixing it, but for everyone else. Yep probably for the boys fixing it too actually. Last night we watched Bubba Ho-Tep and Roger Corman’s A Bucket of Blood on a laptop while a couple of the clowngineers wrenched away. We only had 6 beers left, so we saved them for the clowngineers. We drank straight vodka instead, and everyone had a good night’s sleep.
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