We left some time around mid-morning on Sunday, November 28th, to drive Angela back to Vegas. Angela’s friend Adrienne had been in Orange County that weekend visiting her girlfriend, so we picked her up to take her back home too. I don’t recall that much of the drive, but once we hit the stretch between Victorville and Barstow, I snapped another alternator belt. The Donald drained its battery again (this was how I normally found out the belt snapped). We got a jump and were able to make it to Barstow. Unfortunately, with all the things Angela and I had been doing over the past few days, I forgot to restock my alternator belt stash. I pulled off the freeway in Barstow and The Donald died again.
Luckily, where we had exited, there was a downhill slope toward the center of town. I was able to coast down the hill and roll into the parking lot of an auto parts store, and to my relief, it was open on Sunday. I could tell that Angela was impressed by The Donald. I bought the last belt that would fit my car and got to work installing it in the parking lot. Meanwhile, Angela and Adrienne walked around downtown Barstow, getting harassed by creepy men in the process.
BROKEN DOWN IN BARSTOW
I was able to get us back on the road fairly quickly, but we weren’t in a rush. We stopped and got lunch in Baker then made it to state line around 5. We took a bathroom break at Buffalo Bills, the same place I’d stopped with my work crew on the way out during that first weekend in November. After filling up, getting snacks and resting for a few minutes, we were ready to get back on the road. The Donald had different plans, though.
Once I got back to the freeway, I tried to get up to speed with traffic to merge in. However, The Donald couldn’t get out of first gear. Something was wrong with the clutch, but I didn’t have the knowledge then to diagnose the exact problem. I couldn’t get The Donald over 20 mph. Definitely not fast enough for the freeway. For those unfamiliar with the California-Nevada State Line, once you get back on the freeway leaving Buffalo Bills, there isn’t another exit for 10+ miles. I made the decision to pull over on the shoulder immediately. Angela, Adrienne, and I discussed the situation, then we thought it best to walk back to Buffalo Bill’s because at least we could be warm there.
BROKEN DOWN AT STATE LINE
By this point I had owned The Donald for about four months, and not once during that time did I sign any documents or send in anything to the DMV indicating I was the owner of the vehicle. I never registered the car in my name, nor had I attempted to insure the car under my name even once. I don’t even think I signed anything when I paid $200 cash to the cousin of a friend of a coworker. I was a pretty irresponsible car owner at the time.
I made the decision to ditch The Donald on the side of that freeway that night. I removed any old mail of mine, left a key in the ignition, wrote a letter explaining the situation, and said if you can get the car home, take it. Once we got to the casino, Angela and I got busy making phone calls. Angela’s cousin Jessica and her boyfriend Donnie happened to go to a concert in California for the weekend and, by luck, were on their way home to Vegas. They were about 45 minutes from us still, but agreed to pick us up and go back to their house. We had nothing to do but sit tight and wait. In the meantime I called my little brother, Ian. I explained our situation and asked if he would be a good brother and drive all the way to Las Vegas on a Sunday night just so he could pick me up and take me home. He didn’t hesitate to say yes.
While waiting in the casino, Angela and I got to talking and scheming again. She was worried that without a working car it might be a while before we saw each other again. She suggested an absolutely brilliant (or insane?) idea that once my brother got there, she would throw her few possessions into the car and just come back home with me. We’d only just met in person at the start of the month, but why not move in together at the end of it? We were both excited and nervous.
TAKE THIS CAR
Jessica and Donnie picked us up after 6. We dropped Adrienne off first, then got back to the house at around 7:30. At this point, Angela broke the news to her cousin that she was moving out of the house and going back to Orange County with me. Jessica was understandably upset – her cousin was moving to California after living in Vegas for less than three months, with a guy she’d recently met on the internet. Jessica’s concerns were very real, but Angela and I had blinders on and we couldn’t be reasoned with. Young love. Jessica told Angela that if she went through with this move, she wouldn’t be welcomed back in the house if the relationship didn’t work. Angela was willing to take the risk, even it meant burning that bridge.
Ian showed up around 10. I told him that Angela was coming back with us, and unfazed by the news, he helped load up the car and we left. As we approached state line, I could see The Donald still sitting there on the shoulder of I-15 north, lonely, dark, and cold. I asked Ian to get off the freeway because I wanted to take a look around The Donald one last time. For the heck of it, I started up the car, and it worked perfect. I guess The Donald had just been time.
Now I felt terrible. Ian drove four hours to pick me up and now the car was working. I told him that I would rather have a car than not, so I decided to drive it back. Because The Donald didn’t have a driver’s side window, and because it was in the mid 30’s driving through the desert that night, I thought it best for Angela to ride in the warm car with Ian. Ian followed me behind me the whole drive, just in case I broke down again. I was fortunate to have two bags of clothes in my trunk that I had intended to donate to Good Will. I went through the trunk, put on a sweater and a jacket, stuffed extra t-shirts under my clothes, in my pants legs, and anywhere else I could to stay warm. It didn’t help much though because that night, it just so happened to be snowing in the desert. I was cold.
I have no idea what Angela was thinking. She was spontaneously moving in with a guy from California, with a barely working car, who had to be rescued by his little brother out in the desert. Whatever good impression I may have given Angela that fateful first weekend of November, I was sure it was all washed away by this point. We drove to Barstow before I started falling asleep at the wheel. Ian took over driving The Donald, while Angela drove Ian’s car and I slept. I awoke at about 2:45 a.m. once we took a break in Hesperia and I resumed driving The Donald. After we transitioned to the toll road, I quickly discovered I had once again snapped my alternator belt, as The Donald died on the side of road. There I was, getting back into my brother’s car at 3:30 am, ditching The Donald on the side of the freeway, again. But this time I had bigger things to think about now that Angela and I were undertaking this new adventure together.
We got home a little after 4 a.m. where we headed straight to my room (it was a loft) and went to bed. It had taken a lot longer than expected, but we made it. We were home, together. Tomorrow we’d have to figure out the car situation.
Read the next chapter in this story: When We Became Us.