The misty mountains of Montana play hide and seek as we wind through the curvaceous roads towards Spokane.
Spires of fir trees peek from above the mist, hints of yellow and orange interspersed throughout the duotone landscape of grey and green.
We pass into the tip top of Idaho briefly, and then into Washington. We hope to make Eugene by nightfall.
The scenery ebbs and flows. Evergreens and mist, craggy outcroppings, meandering rivers, evergreens once more that open up to rolling golden hills in the warm afternoon sun.
Beth and I spend the drive on our phones with a bouquet of friends in an attempt to catch up and see what has happened out in our world.
We pass Portland and the Columbia River Gorge in the damp darkness. Ruby lights blink in sync, growing nearer we pass through the midst of a wind farm, towering turbines slowly turning around us.
Hours outsides of Eugene, Darlene begins to buck and shake. Our RPMs twitch and surge, disengaging the torque converter on the transmission, and render cruise control useless. I breathe slowly and remind myself that this problem can also be fixed. But for now let’s act like nothing is happening.
Just outside of Eugene we stop for fuel. I jump from the truck, swipe our card and begin to pump when a ragged looking man runs up to us and asks if we need anything. I assume he is homeless and asking for money and continue on with cleaning the windshield and checking our fluids. I close the hood and notice the man is holding the pump. Incredulously I stare at him. The pump shuts off, he replaces it in the holder, bids us good night and turns to enter the gas station.
What the hell?
Beth and I crave coffee and so I walk inside to find this same homeless man now behind the counter.
You aren’t from around here are ya? He chuckles.
Nah. We’re traveling the USA, we’re from North Carolina. So..what’s up with you pumping my gas?
Ha! In Oregon it’s the law – full service stations.
Shit, did I just get in trouble? Or get you in trouble?
You’re fine man, happens all the time.
Do I need to tip you or something?
Haha! Nah dude, that’s all part of the service. It’ll be $2.09 for the coffee.
We slip back into the night, Southbound on slippery roads with a possessed transmission, hoping this will be our last troubles for a while. Hoping I can fix whatever ails our rig.