This is primarily a travel blog in which I write about traveling in our motorhome. Our travels have

Nacogdoches, TX, United States
I began this blog as a vehicle for reporting on a 47-day trip made by my wife and me in our motorhome down to the Yucatan Peninsula and back. I continued writing about our post-Yucatan travels and gradually began including non-travel related topics. I often rant about things that piss me off, such as gun violence, fracking, healthcare, education, and anything else that pushes my button. I have a photography gallery on my Smugmug site (

Monday, February 22, 2016

Distance is Relative

Texas is big. It was the biggest state in the union before Alaska became a state. We left Nacogdoches, TX in our motorhome and drove just shy of 1,600 miles to Orange, CA. We didn't get out of Texas until the third day of our trip, and then we were only half way to Orange. I'm not sure that many Europeans understand the magnitude of travel distances in the U.S. If you look at the map below comparing the size of Texas to that of Europe, you will see that driving from one side of Texas to the other is further than driving from Prague in the Czech Republic to Brussels, Belgium.

Since arriving in California, I have had time to ponder the distance we drove to get here. It is hard to imagine how far we drove. All I know is that it was a long drive.  To understand the distance involved I began looking at maps and measuring distances between European cities so that I could visualize the distance. No wonder I got tired of driving!

Check out these maps of similar scale, which depict three routes of equal mileage. The blue lines represent the route. The first is our Nacogdoches to Orange trip, the second is a route from Moscow to Brussels and the second from Berlin to Athens. Each one is about 1,600 miles. And then at some point you must turn around and drive back to where you started!

(Click on the maps to enlarge them)

Nacogdoches to Orange
Moscow to Brussels
Berlin to Athens
What if you drove all the way across the US? Many people have. No big deal. New York City to San Francisco is a tad more than 3,000 miles -- about 200 miles less than we will have driven when we get back home. Take a look at he last two maps. They aren't the same scale, but represent the same distance. The first shows a New York to San Francisco route and the second, Paris to Baghdad! Even if their were no political problems involved, I would never have imagined driving from Paris to Baghdad, yet I find it easy to think about driving from New York to San Francisco. In fact I would very much like to make that drive!
New York to San Francisco
Paris to Baghdad
So the next time you hesitate because it's "too far," remember, it's all relative. Quit whining and just go!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

"LA Freeway"

We "dragged" our car behind the motorhome for over 1,600 miles. A red light, indicating the car’s brakes were being applied, stayed lit on the dash of the motorhome for the entire trip. I first noticed it after hitching the car to the motorhome at our home in Texas. I checked and double-checked all connections and came to the conclusion that nothing was wrong. The brakes were not actually being applied in the car as the red light indicated, therefore, the red light had to be malfunctioning. The car remained hitched to the motorhome for the entire trip and no problems were detected.

The phone woke me sometime around 6:00 this morning. My son, Rob, was calling to tell us that Kasey’s water had broken and they were headed to the hospital. Carol Ann and I left the RV park in Quartzite by 8:30 AM and drove the last 230 miles to the RV park in Orange, CA, where we will be staying for the next two weeks. LA freeway traffic is no fun when driving a motorhome with a car attached.

After settling in at the RV park and taking a nap, we began getting ready for the drive to the hospital. With all of the stuff we brought with us, the only jeans and shoes I could find were the ones I had worn every day of the trip. It appears that we left a bag of my clothes at home. Thank goodness I brought some khakis! We were finally ready and jumped in the car for the 25-minute drive to Hoag Presbyterian Medical Center in Newport Beach. The car seemed to “feel” a little different from what I remembered, but I decided to ignore it. After driving the motorhome for 1,600 miles I was sure that it was simply the difference between driving a motorhome and driving a small car. I didn’t think anymore about it. We got on I-5 (“the 5” as they call it out here), which was wall to wall cars leaving LA at rush hour for the suburbs. That is when the car began to have a seizure. Luckily we were in the right-most lane and able to pull off onto the shoulder, a very narrow shoulder on an overpass. Cars were zipping by only a foot or two from our car. If I opened my car door it would have been knocked off. To say that I was somewhat stressed at this point would have been a gross understatement.

Not knowing what else to do, we called our son, and while on the phone with him, a tow truck magically appeared in front of the car. I swear. I didn't even see it pull over in front of us. What are the odds of that happening? I just looked up and there it was! It was an Orange County Transportation Authority rescue/tow vehicle that had been patrolling the freeway and just happened to come by at the right time. The driver said we were in a very dangerous place and would tow us off of the freeway. I asked if he took AAA and was surprised to learn that it was a free service.  All four of the car wheels were locked up, so he put dollies under the rear wheels in order to tow it. Carol Ann and I got in the back seat of the tow truck and I began thinking about the new supplemental braking cable system and the red light on the dash of the motorhome. There were too many coincidences not to suspect this might be the source of the problem.

The tow truck driver towed us off of the freeway for about a mile to what he referred to as a “drop zone.” It was across the street from the Angels’ baseball stadium in Anaheim. It was already dark and I began imagining gang-bangers in every passing car. Still suspicious of the brake cable, I asked the tow truck driver if he had any wire cutters.  He managed to come up with a pair of needle nose pliers and I used them to cut the cable to the brake peddle and, just like that, we were back on the road! The next letter I write will be to the Blue Ox people about their Auto-Stop supplemental braking system.

To make a long story short, we made it to the hospital in plenty of time to be there when baby Siena was born a little after 9:00 PM PST. All is well.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

"Don't Take Your Guns to Town"

We pulled into Quartzite, AZ a little before 3:00 PM, a total of 1419-miles so far. Tomorrow at this time we hope to be safe and sound at Orangeland RV Park in Orange, CA, a little over 200-miles from Quartzite.

Today’s drive was very similar to yesterday except we saw a lot more people today because I-10 took us through Tucson and Phoenix. Still, it was mostly desert. There was nothing to look at. Then I noticed an exit sign for “311th Avenue” out in the middle of nowhere. There was nothing to be seen anywhere. Fifteen or twenty miles further down the road I passed another exit sign. This one read, “449th Avenue.” The only things visible from horizon to horizon were cacti and mountains. There was no municipality in any direction for many, many miles. Go figure. Another sign that made me smile was one for “Sore Finger Road.” I would love to know the origin of the name.

I would also like to let the reader know that it is not all downhill from the Continental Divide as one might think it should be. There were still hills and mountains to climb after we crossed it. Our gasoline-powered motorhome actually did an excellent job on the hills. But once it built up speed and momentum you didn’t want anything to get in your way that would make you ease up on the accelerator. I actually passed seven diesel-powered motorhomes today and had only one pass me. It was a Prevost, which probably cost twenty or more times what mine cost, so I didn’t mind.

We passed a billboard advertising “gunfights” in Tombstone, AZ. We visited Tombstone a few years ago and once was enough. “Gunfights” are the big draw in Tombstone and are performed throughout the day. The OK Corral had been walled in to prevent prying eyes from witnessing the re-enactment of the famous gunfight without paying admission.

I’ll let you in on a bit of little known trivia about the famous gunfight between the Earps and the group known as the “Cowboys.” It didn’t occur in the OK Corral. It actually took place in a back alley. An interesting bit of history is also the reason why the gunfight happened in the first place. City Marshal Virgil Earp and his brother Wyatt were simply enforcing the town’s Ordinance No. 9, entitled, “To Provide against Carrying of Deadly Weapons” (effective April 19, 1881). It read in part, “It is hereby declared unlawful to carry in the hand or upon the person or otherwise any deadly weapon within the limits of said city of Tombstone, without first obtaining a permit in writing.” Earlier in the day a judge had fined one of the “Cowboys” $25 for refusing to turnover his firearm. Ordinance No. 9 remained in effect until the 1980’s.

Since I have managed to segue into “Gun Control,” why don’t I continue to enlighten the reader with some interesting facts. The first gun control law on the books in the colonies was in 1686. New Jersey barred the wearing of concealed weapons in public because, according to the law, “it induced great Fear and Quarrels.” In 1837, Georgia made it illegal “to see or to keep or have about their persons” pistols or other listed weapons. Its stated purpose was “to guard and protect the citizens of this State against the unwarrantable and too prevalent use of deadly weapons.” In 1852 a law was passed in Washington, DC to prevent exhibiting weapons listed in the bill “in a rude, angry or threatening manner.”

Gun control in the Wild West was a lot stricter that most people realize. Towns like Tombstone, Deadwood, and Dodge City had the most restrictive gun control laws in the nation in an effort to control the violence. In the 1800’s, most frontier towns barred anyone but law enforcement from carrying guns in public. Most towns required guns to be checked upon entering the town. The town livery stable was a common place for guns to be checked. The livery stable was the equivalent of the modern day parking garage. Most cowboys riding into town would leave their horses at the livery stable and it made sense to have them check their guns there also. Other towns required guns to be checked in at the local Sheriff’s or Marshal’s office.

By the 1880’s most towns in the Old West had decided that gun control was necessary and implemented total bans of the carrying of pistols. Publications from the days of the Wild West show city leaders arguing in favor of gun control. They knew from experience that a town which allowed easy access to guns was inviting trouble. They argued that more guns in more places caused not greater safety, but greater death. The editor of the Black Hills Daily Times of Dakota Territory in 1884, called the idea of carrying firearms into the city a “dangerous practice,” not only to others, but to the carrier himself. The editor underscored his point with the headline, “Perforated by His Own Pistol.” The editor of Montana’s Yellowstone Journal wrote that Americans have “the right to bear arms,” but he also thought that guns had to be regulated.

An article in Laramie’s Northwest Stock Journal in 1884 reported, “We see many cowboys fitting up for the spring and summer work. They all seem to think it absolutely necessary to have a revolver. Of all the foolish notions this is the most absurd.” By 1882, a Texas cattle raising association had banned pistols from the cowboy’s belt, saying, “In almost every section of the West murders are on the increase, and cowmen are too often the principals in the encounters.” In June, 1884, the Texas Life Stock Journal declared,” The six-shooter loaded with deadly cartridges is a dangerous companion for any man, especially if he should unfortunately be primed with whiskey. Cattlemen should unite in aiding the enforcement of the law against carrying of deadly weapons.”

Dodge City was known as the Sodom of the Plains. After residents organized the city government of Dodge City, their first law was a gun control law. It required all guns to be turned in when entering town. The law read, in part: “any person or persons found carrying concealed weapons in the city of Dodge or violating the laws of the State shall be dealt with according to the law.” However, the death toll from gun play was increasing so much that the town fathers enacted Ordinance No. 67 in August of 1882. It specified that no one could “carry concealed or otherwise about his or her person, any pistol, bowie knife, sling shot or other dangerous or deadly weapons except County, City, or United States Officers.” The fine was raised from $25 to $100. The Dodge City Times declared, “There is disposition to do away with the carrying of firearms, and we hope the feeling will be general. The carrying of firearms is a barbarous custom, and its time the practice was broken up.”

Signs posted in Wichita, Kansas in 1873 declared, “Leave Your Revolvers At Police Headquarters and Get a Check.” A photograph taken in Dodge City in 1879 shows a large wooden billboard stating, “The carrying of Firearms Strictly Prohibited.”

Texas banned all handguns in towns in 1871. Wyoming banned all firearms from “any city, town, or village” in 1876. In 1879, Tennessee criminalized any transfer of handguns as well as their importation into the state. In 1881 Arkansas barred all handgun transfers and pistol cartridges.

In 1918 Montana enacted “An Act providing for the registration of all fire arms and weapons and regulating the sale thereof.” The law required every person within the state to file a report with the sheriff of the county in which they lived listing all fire arms and weapons owned or possessed. It also required that any sale or transfer of a weapon be reported to the sheriff.

We should be asking ourselves, “What happened over the past 100 years?”

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Where is Everyone?

It was a mostly boring day and I have nothing exiting to report. After driving the required 350-miles, we stopped at an RV park in Benson, AZ, about 50 miles or so east of Tucson. It was around 4:15 PM and I was more than ready to stop and kick back. We have covered a total of 1,125-miles since leaving Nacogdoches.

All day long we drove through the most desolate country. Very much like desert.  We passed through El Paso and entered New Mexico around noon. We didn’t see much in New Mexico and zipped right through it in 3-hours time. It appears that very few people live in the southern portion of New Mexico. We certainly didn’t see many. I was also a bit surprised that neither New Mexico or Arizona have a welcome center on I-10 and all of the rest areas passed so far in Arizona have been closed.

We exited I-10 for fuel in New Mexico but as we approached the service station I could tell that we would not be able to negotiate the pumps.  I managed to find enough space to turn around and got back on I-10 West. We tried another exit and found a station we could squeeze into and fill the tank.

After checking the map, I realized that we don’t enter the state of Nevada as I had originally thought. We go below it and right into California from Arizona. We are going to shoot for Palm Springs, CA tomorrow, but at 430-miles we may not make it that far. We will still finish the trip on Monday.

I-10 in Arizona

Friday, February 12, 2016

West of the Pecos

We left Abilene this morning, drove about 350 more miles and arrived at the RV park in Van Horn, TX about 4:45 PM today. We have traveled a total of 733 miles, are still in Texas, and still have another 120 miles to go in Texas. Once we cross into New Mexico we will be a little over half-way to our destination in Newport Beach, CA.

After Abilene, the next most populous area are the twin cities of Midland and Odessa. Nobody would live there if it weren’t for the oil and gas industry. You begin seeing oil- and gas-related businesses along both sides of the interstate a few miles before reaching Midland, then for the entire twenty miles between Midland and Odessa, and for a couple of miles after Odessa. Wall to wall energy businesses and lots of heavy oil field equipment. Everywhere you look are oil wells. The well pumps look like large prehistoric birds with their heads bobbing up and down. You will only see an oil derrick while a well is being drilled. Once drilled, the derrick is replaced by the bobbing bird heads.

Van Horn is in far West Texas. West of the Pecos. It’s Cowboy and Indian country. Desolate, flat, arid, dusty, and barren. Lots of cacti, mesquite brush, rabbits, and tumble weeds. Once west of Ft. Stockton you should be very careful when passing up the opportunity for fuel. Services are few and far between. Also, once west of Ft. Stockton the speed limit increases to 80 miles per hour, which make you feel somewhat obligated to hurry across this nothingness. The interstate is almost arrow-straight and as you approach one of the few curves you will see signs warning you to slow down to 70 mph. Traffic today was light and comprised of almost all 18-wheelers, which makes you wonder if you should even be out here.

It is impossible to get over-the-air TV broadcasts. The stations are too far away. If you watch TV, you must have cable or satellite. Same with radio stations. Bring your own music or listen to satellite radio unless you enjoy Mexican radio broadcasts.

Our destination tomorrow is Tucson, AZ. The second half of the trip will be through New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, before reaching California.

Here are a few iPhone photos I took after arrival in Van Horn.

The Davis Mountains

Our motorhome and "toad"

Walking stick cactus

Tumble weeds against fence

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Waltzing Across Texas

We got on the highway yesterday at 3:30 PM. Late, as usual, and not without several problems, as usual. Most were minor but their cumulative effect was extremely frustrating. First, there was the 15-minute job of installing the tire pressure monitoring system. I spent at least two hours on it and to put off finishing the job until tonight.

I also needed LP gas. I drove the motorhome across town for the LP gas and discovered that only cash or check was accepted as payment. However, the attendant said he would fill the tank, give me the ticket, and I could drive to their office and pay with a credit card. Just one of the nice things about small towns. The directions he gave me were to continue south on the divided highway and cut across to the northbound side when I saw the Trade Days on the left. Then I was to drive northbound and turn into the Econo Lodge (on the right) and drive around the motel to the gas company office. Simple enough. After the tank was filled I drove south until I saw the Trade Days and turned at the cross-over and headed back north. I saw the Econo Lodge coming up, turned into the parking lot, and continued towards the back to drive around the motel. Only I couldn’t drive around the motel. The parking lot ended behind the motel. Fortunately, there was room to turn around. I drove back to the front of the motel, stopped, and looked for any hint of a gas company. Seeing nothing, I shut down the motorhome and began walking to the motel office to ask where the gas company was. Before I made it to the front door I met a man walking towards me. He was coming to tell me that my TV antenna was up on the motorhome. That usually results in it getting knocked off, but apparently I had beaten the odds this time. When I asked him about the gas company he said he thought it was next door. The only building next door was, if the sign was to be believed, a realtor’s office. To make a long story short, it was also the office for the gas company and after several attempts at her computer, the secretary was able to charge my credit card for the purchase. I returned to the motorhome and remembered to lower the TV antenna.

Once back home, I realized that the fresh water tank was empty. I connected a hose and began filling it. Do you know how long it takes to fill a one-hundred-gallon tank with a garden hose? Well, water flows out of our tap at about four gallons per minute, if that fast. I stopped it at about 65 gallons. I could finish filling it down the road.

The next task was to hook the car to the tow bar behind the motorhome. This was a new system and I had trouble with what went where and how it went, so it took much longer than expected. Then we packed everything that had not yet put into the motorhome into the car. We would sort it out later.

Finally, at 3:30 we were ready to leave and headed to our first stop, only ninety miles away at the Cracker Barrel Restaurant on I-20 near Tyler, TX. They allowed overnight parking in their back parking lot (Carol Ann had called them to make sure). Half-way there, Carol Ann shouts, “Oh, shit!” and I immediately started looking for what was about to hit us. “I forgot my purse” she said. It shouldn’t have been that big of a problem because we both have the same credit cards and she never drives the motorhome, so her driver’s license wasn’t necessary. The problem was that she had all of our cash in her purse. I had absolutely no money in my wallet. Still, we decided not to turn around. She would have her sister Fed Ex the purse to our son’s apartment in California, our destination. People ship diamonds with FedEx, so why not her purse? We could drive 1,600 miles without any money. Everyone takes credit cards. We hope.

We left the Cracker Barrel this morning at 9:30, pulled into a rest area around 11:30 for lunch, and stopped for fuel around 1:30 this afternoon. Our previous motorhome was a diesel model and our new motorhome is a gasoline model. With the diesel, I usually looked for a truck stop, pulled in with the 18-wheelers, and filled up with diesel. Truck pumps are much faster that the gas pumps around in front. There is also a lot more room to maneuver around the diesel pumps. The diesel motorhome had fuel tank doors on both sides of the coach so it didn't matter what side the pump was on. Now I have to find a gas station that has enough room for my thirty-eight-foot motorhome with car in tow. It’s not always easy. It also has only one fuel door so the pump has to be on the driver's side. Today we pulled into a station that looked like we could use either of the pumps on the outside of the island. I made a big circle around all of the pumps so that I would be facing out towards the highway when I pulled up to the pump. I stopped and Carol Ann got out to see if the hose would reach. It wouldn’t. I made another circle around the pumps, you can’t put a motorhome into reverse when towing a car. This time around I managed to pull up a little closer to the pump. Carol Ann got out and gave me the okay. The gas gauge was down to one-quarter of a tank so I should be able to pump about sixty gallons before it was full. We would still be there if I had waited for the tank to fill. The pump was so pressure-sensitive that it quickly shut off every time Carol Ann or I squeezed the handle (we traded turns). It made no difference how you situated the nozzle or how slowly you squeezed. It was squeeze, off, squeeze, off, squeeze, off. We managed to get 27 gallons before our hands got tired and we quit. We wanted to reach Abilene before dark and we had enough fuel to get us there.

We pulled into an RV park in Abilene a little after 4:00 PM. Good Sam rates this RV park as the best in Abilene. Well, all I can say is, I’m very glad we aren’t staying at one of the others. The sign on the door said the office closed early today and would reopen at 8:30 AM. It listed the site numbers that were available. Just take your pick and pay them in the morning. We chose a site and parked the motorhome. The park is supposed to have good (and free) wi-fi, but it requires a password. I called the phone number listed for the park, hoping to get a password, but all I got was a recorded message. I’m posting this using my cellular data plan. Tomorrow we drive to Van Horn, another 350 miles and still in Texas. I hope I can get there without having to stop for gas more than two or three times.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

And So it Begins

Today we begin a motorhome trip from Nacogdoches, TX to Southern California. This will be our first long trip since we traded for a new motorhome last summer. Our intention is to be in Newport Beach for the birth of our grand daughter. The distance is a few miles shy of 1,600. Today is Wednesday and we plan to complete the trip on Sunday afternoon. Oh, we haven't left yet, either.

We hope to be on the road around 3:00 or 4:00 pm this afternoon and drive 91 miles to the Cracker Barrel restaurant on I-20 near Tyler, TX. They allow overnight parking and have a very large parking lot. We will stop there and overnight so we can get an early start tomorrow after a great breakfast in restaurant. We will then have four full days to travel the remaining 1,500 miles. That's only an average of 375 miles of Interstate Highway a day, or about six or seven hours per day of driving time. It's mostly straight and flat so we should be there in time, unless Siena decides to make an early debut. No need to worry about something we can't control.

We will be gone about four weeks and I plan to post reports of the trip here. I hope that I have nothing exciting to write about, unless it is something we witness rather than being the subject of the excitement. We seem to have a knack for finding trouble when we go on long trips in the motorhome. Wish us better luck, please.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Always Read the Label

My wife, Carol Ann, took off Thursday to meet two girl friends whom she hasn't seen in 30 years or so and I was left to fend for myself. Before leaving, Carol Ann instructed Jamie, our 8-year old grandson who lives next door, that she would buy him a Lego set if he would "baby sit" me while she was gone. He did a good job of keeping an eye on me the entire weekend but he kept wanting to know when he would get the Lego set. I reminded him that his deal was with "Gamma" and he would have to wait until she got home on Monday. Needless to say, that didn't sit very well with him and, knowing that we have had a Lego set or two stashed away before, he was ready to search the house. I promised him there was no Lego set in the house and that I would take him to Walmart Sunday and buy him a Lego set. He reluctantly agreed to wait and stopped insisting on a search of the house.

Saturday night we camped out (in the motorhome in the back yard), ate pizza, and watched two animated movies before turning in. I warned Jamie not to wake me before the sun came up. I don't really know what time the sun comes up as it is always up ahead of me. He waited until 7:30 AM, which is early for someone accustomed to sleeping until 9:00 or 9:30 every morning. As soon as I was awake he wanted to know when we were going to Walmart. After coffee I said. I don't do anything before I have my coffee and I really needed it Sunday morning. I couldn't seem to stop yawning. Finally, around 9:00 AM we got in my truck and drove to Walmart. Jamie couldn't find the set he was looking for but "settled" on another. It was only about forty dollars or so. When we got home, I told him I was going to take a little nap while he put the Legos together. I slept very hard from about 10:00 until noon. Jamie had completed the construction of the Lego set and was watching cartoons on TV. I offered him a PB&J for lunch, after which I went out and puttered around the motor home in preparation for our trip to California this week.

This morning I had an especially hard time getting up. I even double-checked my meds to make sure I hadn't been taking my sleeping pill with my morning medicine! I managed to drag myself out of bed, determined to break through the wall of weariness. I dressed, fed the dog and cats and got out my cereal bowl and coffee cup. I have been very blessed because each morning Carol Ann wakes me up with a big cup of coffee, which I drink in bed. We have a Keurig coffee maker, which I know how to use, and we keep a supply of coffee pods in a kitchen drawer near the Keurig. This morning the drawer was empty. No problem. We keep several boxes in reserve. I went to the pantry and got a coffee pod from the same box I had been making my coffee from over the last 3 days. I accidentally dropped the box, spilling the pods out on the floor. I bent down and began picking them up when all of a sudden I saw something on the label that I had not noticed before. It was just a word. A very simple, but extremely important word, which seemed to jump out at me. It was that dreaded word, "DECAF." Oh, crap! No wonder I have felt like the living dead for the past 3 days! I've been drinking decaf!! I wasted no time in moving that stuff to the back of the shelf. I grabbed some real coffee and quickly brewed a 10 ounce mug of the precious liquid and guzzled it like a junkie needing a fix. As soon as I finished it I made another 10 ounces. I'm feeling much better now!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

"Who's on First?"

Needing to stop for gas on the way down to Houston the other day, I pulled off of US-59 into a Valero convenience store/gas station in Shepherd. I drove up to the first pump in a row of six and got out to pump the gas while Carol Ann went into the store to use the rest room. I got out my credit card and swiped it before looking at the pump’s LCD display. When I looked at the pump’s LCD display I couldn’t read it. It looked like the display had suffered a “brown out” because the entire display was brown and unreadable. I had already swiped my card so I went ahead and keyed in my zip code (the first thing they all ask for after swiping your card) and pressed “Enter.” I saw no change in the display and the pump did not come on so I pressed the “Cancel” button, got back in the car, and moved it from pump number one to pump number four. As I was getting out of the car at pump number four, a large pickup truck pulled up to pump number three. I briefly noticed an old white haired rancher in jeans, denim shirt, and cowboy hat getting out of the truck.

I quickly forgot about the guy because as I approached pump number four I could see that its display was unreadable also. Frustrated, I threw my arms up and said to no one in particular, “Shit!” rather loudly. When I looked back at the pump I saw that it was on. “Thank you God!” Although, it was more than likely the clerk in the store, rather than God, who probably saw me having a tantrum and turned the pump on for me. Apparently they are accustomed to turning on the pumps for people since the pump displays are unreadable. I turned back towards the store, waved at where I thought the clerk (or God?) might be, and mouthed, “Thank you!”

I filled the car’s tank, a little over eleven gallons (it’s a small car), and then headed inside to pay for the gas. Two employees were behind the store’s counter. Both seemed to be of Pakistani or Indian roots. A woman was at the register and a man was standing around doing nothing. I walked up, laid my card on the counter, and said, “Pump number four.”

The woman looked up and asked, “How much do you want?”

“I’ve already pumped the gas, just need to pay for it.” I said.

About this time the old rancher walked in and interrupted by saying rather loudly, “Forty dollars on number three,” before turning around and going back out to the pump.

The woman turned back to me and again asked how much gas I wanted. Once again I told her that I had already pumped the gas. “I got seventeen dollars and twenty-one cents worth of gas on pump number four.” She looked confused so I quickly added, “I never swiped my card. I though you turned on the pump.”

“No,” she said. “I didn’t turn on the pump.”

I thought to myself, “You don’t suppose that……, I don’t think so!” and addressed the woman. “I tried pump number one first but couldn’t read the screen so I moved to pump number four but I couldn’t read the screen on it either. If you didn’t turn it on, it must have been on when I pulled up because I pumped the gas without ever swiping my card.”

She then pressed some keys and a little printer on the counter popped out a receipt, which she pushed over to me along with a pen. The receipt showed the correct amount, $17.21, but it also showed that a $40 credit had been applied and I was due a refund of $22.79. “But you haven’t even swiped my card. And what’s this forty dollars?” I said.

About that time the old rancher came back inside and interrupted us again. “You still haven’t turned on pump number three!” he grumbled.

“You said pump number four,” she said.

“No, I didn’t. I said forty dollars on pump number three,” he said.

“You told me pump number four,” she said.

“No, I was on pump number four after moving from pump number one and he was on pump number three." I said.

“You never turned on pump number three,” he said.

I felt like I was the straight man to Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First?" I said, “It looks like you paid for my gas with the forty dollars you haven’t yet paid and I’m getting the change from what you didn’t pay.”

“No,” he said. “I’m not paying that. I haven’t gotten any gas yet!”

By this time the male employee had come over and was listening in. He looked at the receipt and smiled like he had just come up with a great idea. Looking at me and pointing at the old rancher he said, “You can just pay him for your gas!”

Why was I not surprised that he would set himself up like that? I couldn't resist it and answered, “I don’t believe he accepts credit cards.”

“No, I don’t,” said the old rancher.

The man behind the counter shrugged and went back to doing nothing while the woman was still trying to get me to take the pen and sign the receipt. 

My credit card still had not been scanned so I wasn't sure who she was charging it to. I certainly wasn't going to sign it. I suggested she cancel it and we could start over. The woman looked at the man and he looked at her. Both looked like they weren’t sure what to do so I said, “Tell the owner this kind of thing wouldn’t happen if he would get the pump screens fixed.”

“Yes, there must be a problem with them,” the woman said. “For some reason I always have to turn the pumps on for people.” Then she took the receipt back and asked once again, “How much gas did you say you got and which pump was it on?”

“Seventeen dollars and twenty-one cents on pump number four,” I said. She tapped on her keyboard and then asked me to swipe my card. I did and a new receipt popped out of the printer. She pushed it over to me with a pen and I looked at it very carefully. It appeared to be correct so I signed it.

“You still haven’t turned on pump number three!” the old rancher said as I was walking out. I wonder if he ever got his gas and managed to pay for it.

Carol Ann was waiting for me in the car. We got back on the highway and I tried to explain what had just happened. You can’t make this kind of shit up!