Six in the morning, give or take, Pilot gas station at the junction of I-15 and U.S.395. I'm on the road for about two hours already.
The dreaded 3rd gear, 4000 rpm, climb from Rancho Cucamonga to Victorville is behind (later, I'll learn that I-15 will be closed in both directions later in the day due to a massive brush fire, with some cars burned down); now it's time for a dreaded run from Victorville to Adelanto to Kramer Junction to Inyokern.
I am still unsure if I am facing the blown bearing in the A/C compressor clutch, or leaking compressor - so most of this 100+ mile drive I am contemplating my options in case either of these components take a dump. The consequences are pretty dire - immediate loss of the charging system (that my truck could survive for a couple of hours) and cooling (that would take all of one minute to kill the motor). The serpentine belt running off the pulleys can easily ruin the fan and the radiator as well. Not pretty.
My previous internet fingerwork showed that I may squeak by with a half-a-meter shorter serpentine belt to bypass the A/C compressor pulley. I didn't have time to get one at home, so it'll have to come from someplace.
Someplace materializes from mid-morning haze in the form of the turn sign to Ridgecrest, CA. I have spent enough time in this lovely place to get acquainted with the auto parts stores; Autozone on China Lake Blvd. supplies me with a stock-length (not quite stock because of a GM power steering pump) and a 500-mm shorter one belts, and a quart bottle of motor oil. Stater Bros provides me with a box of lime-flavored Perrier cans and a cup of hot chocolate, and I am on my way back to 395.
140 miles to Bishop pass without anything worth mentioning. I try my best to enjoy the views of High Sierra near Mt.Whitney; top off the gas tank in Bishop.
By now, there's plenty of Friday traffic on 395, and I am miserable in the right lane, trying to decide whether to continue in the 3rd gear or drop into the second. Only 370 miles from home, and my brain feels like mud already, dammit! I have to pay one of the Whitmore Hot Tubs a visit - for already-needed R&R.
That doesn't work well. Friday people in fast cars beat me to the most of them, leaving one free - but void of water. It would take the rest of the day to fill it up and wait for it to cool off enough to dip a finger.
On my way back to 395, a sign appears beckoning a weary traveller to Mammoth Lakes' public swimming pool, and I happily "hang a louie."
Guess what, it's swim team time, and I have to wait for half an hour. No matter that there's practically no swim team in the pool; I decide to forgo my [inexistent] travel schedule, sit down on a concrete block in a hundred-degree heat, and treat myself to bread, cheese, and a can of Ballast Point's seven-percent-alcohol Sculpin (cold from the fridge!).
By the time I am discovered by the flies, the gates to heavens open up for me.
An olympic-sized swimming pool, in the middle of beautiful Owens River Valley, surrounded by the mountains on all sides, filled by the fresh water from a hot spring - all to myself! I promptly over-indulge, racking up 16 laps in breaststroke.
The simple task of getting out of the water reminds me that (a) the last time I swam 400 yards was about 40 years ago, and (b) it was nowhere close to 7500 feet above sea level. My head was totally free of after-effects of Sculpin, but... they all went to my legs.
The next rest stop comes at Lee Vining - looking over Mono Lake - forced upon me by the Caltrans crew (one of many one-way jobs in the next two weeks).
Then, things come somewhat blurred - Bridgeport, Walker, Coleville, crossing into Nevada near Topaz Lake, Carson City, butt-ugly traffic in Reno, a fuel stop in Snead, crossing back into California, another Caltrans-organized traffic jam, and an intermediate stop in Alturas. My communications with Chris are sporadic; it is late evening already, but I still don't know where am I headed. Which state, even - being within 20 miles from Oregon/Nevada/California corner.
Finally, Chris suggests Valley Falls, Oregon, as a meeting place.
It is about another hour away - but, strangely, I don't feel tired - despite having driven, with some breaks, for the last 13 hours. Valley Falls, people, has one intersection adorned by a blinking yellow light, a gas station and convenience store (closed). I set about reading an e-book in the truck - but in a few dozens of pages, the lights show up approaching from the North on 395.
Chris rolls in around 10, and we mull our camping options in the area neither of us is familiar with.
Guess what... The people who own that gas station and store (likely, the most of Valley Falls' population) also own a tiny campground right next to it. A late call to the owner opens the gate, and we're on to our first campsite dinner - started with beer, finished with bourbon.
As a sidebar to the entire trip, the "ground truth" is continuously being established on the general choice between all things "classic, well-made, American, genuine" and "cheap fake crap made overseas." Case in point from the first dinner out - a Classic White Gas Coleman Stove (bought on eBay for the tune of $25) vs. Cheap Chinese Propane Coleman Stove (bought at the hardware store in Blanding, UT, for about $25). The battle and accompanied debate are fierce and uncompromising, and I promise to eventually update you with the verdict.
Tally for the day - 830 miles driven, all on pavement, and 1/4 mile threaded water. Time behind the wheel - 14 hours. One bloody long day.