Strangers make for a memorable trip
November 4, 2011
Editor’s Note: Ron Walker, wife Orllyene and friends Ray and Brooke went down to Mexico for medical appointments.
After spending the night in Las Vegas, we’re on our way to Yuma, Ariz. It’s a beautiful morning. The air is clear, and the Vegas skyline impressive. I back the car out of our parking space. “Ka-powy!” A grenade explodes under the car. Actually, the air conditioner has just imploded. Chemical smoke swishes out from underneath. “Bam.” More smoke. We now have no air conditioning and the temperature in Yuma is 100 degrees.
As I ponder our dilemma, a pint-size young woman walks up. “What happened?” she asks. “The air conditioner is kaput,” I moan. She whips out her cell phone and starts pecking away. “We’ll have to find you a mechanic…let’s see…it’s Sunday, but that’s OK, we’ll find you something.” Her sense of urgency is compelling. I relinquish all male prerogatives. She scans classified ads, leaves messages and ascertains distances. We spend the next 20 minutes in her care. If it weren’t for the tattoo on her arm, I would classify her as an angel.
Once free of civilization, cactus, mesquite and an occasional burst of Joshua trees dot the parched landscape. With sun visors down and windows open, we pass the cut off to Laughlin. We’re on a mission.
Two hours later, the heat is stifling, and we pull into a gas station. We’re in Needles, Calif. The sun is blazing. After a potty break and a Dairy Queen goodie, we return to our car. A smiling attendant saunters up.
“I notice one of your tires is low,” he says and slips his gauge over the valve stem of my left front tire.”
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“18 pounds” he says knowingly. At this point, I succumb to his wily ways, and purchase a tire I don’t really need, but I don’t know it at the time.
Back on our way, the road dips and rises like a snake having a fit. I’ve driven better roads than this in Mexico. It’s during one of these dippy-do stretches of road that it hits me.
“Sweetheart, that guy said our left front tire was going flat when he first walked up. He mounted the new tire on the front right. It was a scam. My spirits sink. I hate being disappointed by my fellow man.
We arrive in Parker, Calif. We’ve been baking long enough. Orllyene is being brave, but her complexion is decidedly pink. We need to get inside where it’s cool. We stop at “The Crossroads,” a cafe boasting of “home cooking.” It’s “Sunday dinner” time, and folks are out enjoying a meal. The swamp cooler coolness is delicious, and we collapse into a red, vinyl covered booth. “Just coffee for me and ice tea for the lady,” I say.
Moments later, I ask if the pumpkin pie is homemade and am reassured it is. When the waitress returns, I can’t help but tell her the story about the tire scam and our defunct air conditioner.
When I ask for the check, the young waitress says “I’m the manager here, and this one is on us. I just hope your trip gets better.” I ask her name. “Maria,” she says, and I tell her how much her kindness means to us. Physically and spiritually refreshed, we hit the road for Quartzite and onto Yuma.
Once checked into our motel in Yuma, I call the “fraud protection” people at Wells Fargo and alert them to a possible scam showing up on my credit card.
The next day, we cross into Algodones, Mexico.
We have two appointments, a medical visit for me and a dental one for Orllyene. My appointment is on a dusty side street of Algodones in a newly built clinic. The gate is locked. It’s deserted.
A voice rings out from across the street. “Buenas dias. I have two chairs if you want to wait over here,” the stranger says.
He introduces himself as Juan and he is a young dentist. For an hour we tell Juan about our many trips to Mexico and he tells us about his life in Algodones.
Eventually I realize my doctor isn’t coming and we start to walk back to town for Orllyene’s appointment. Juan won’t have it. “Please, I will drive you … I know where Dr. Jerry’s office is. Juan brings his vintage car around and off we go.
Being “seasoned” means living at a different pace, but it isn’t an edict to stop living. The air conditioner will be fixed and the scam artist’s charge never showed up on my account. It will be Juan, Maria, Ray, Brooke and the cell phone “angel” who I’ll remember from this trip.
Ron Walker lives in Smith Valley,