“The car broke down about half a mile outside of Bloody Basin”
These are the words I spoke to the tow-truck company over the phone in February 1989 from Cordes Junction, AZ, located right off I-17 – a million miles from civilization. I must have blanched white when the guy quoted me the price of retrieving my little Toyota Corolla and towing it to Phoenix. Dan, the mechanic who picked me and my then brand new boyfriend, Scott, up from off the side of the road to bring us to a phone, told me to hang up and we’d find a better option. He called his friend and got a tow bar – then spent the next hour towing my car, using his own van, to Cordes Junction; he didn’t talk of money. He just smiled and said ‘don’t worry, we’ll work something out’.
I couldn’t believe my luck – Scott and I were taking our first road trip together – a four day ‘get away’ to Sedona and Flagstaff during Rodeo Days. We’d only hooked up in January of that year and we’d never spent this much time together. My trusty Toyota broke down in the middle of NO WHERE and all I could hear in my head is the soundtrack of my doom and gloom father warning me that my car would break down, my car would break down, my car would break down. However, when he makes that prediction every time I get in my car, it’s bound to happen. I was worried about how I was going to afford the tow and repair as a 19 year old college student working as a baker for $6/hour.
I was anxious about how Scott was going to deal with this glitch in the plans. The only experience with men and vacations came from my own family. My father doesn’t do ‘goes wrong’ well. One time when our family went to Disneyland he bought a cheapie little $10 fan from Ace that clips on to the rear-view mirror. It broke within an hour of the drive from Arizona to California and it ruined the ENTIRE trip for my father; which in turn ruined it for anyone sitting in the vehicle with him. He went on and on and on and on about that damn fan for the entire week. He couldn’t let it go and he wouldn’t let anyone have any peace. This is how I thought all vacations panned out. Stress, arguments and gripping- waiting for the shoe to drop. I had a lead balloon in my stomach.
Scott just smiled at me and told me not to worry, we’d figure something out. He hugged me and said it was not the end of the world. I felt my heart starting to melt. About 20 minutes after the breakdown, Dan the Mechanic, from Cordes Junction, pulled up in front of us and asked if we needed any help. This Jerry Garcia doppelganger (hat tip to Kylie) took us under his wing and showed us that compassion can be found anywhere – even half a mile outside of Bloody Basin.
Dan brought us to Cordes Junction and thus started the best vacation of my entire life.
At that point, as far as we could tell, Cordes Junction had a hotel, gas station, mechanics garage and a convenience store/diner in the middle of nowhere. Dan said he’d retired there years ago and made his money repairing cars that inevitably break down on their way to northern Arizona.
While Dan and his lobotomized assistant (NOT MAKING THAT UP) assessed the damage to my car, Scott and I decided to check out the convenience store/diner. I had my first vagina shaped ice cream treat – a Choco Taco. Ah Klondike, what will you think of next?
Anyway, we also met one-eyed Ramón, seller of vagina shaped ice cream treats. He was a weird guy – I definitely would not want to be alone with him in a dark <insert NOUN>. Later on Dan told us that Ramón lost his eye in a butchering accident. He was standing in the wrong place when a fellow butcher, on accident, stuck a knife in his eye. OUCH ~
So to recap, we had met very cool Dan, a lobotomized mechanic assistant (at that point all we knew is that his assistant was really odd and had a flat affectation) and one-eyed Ramón. The trip was taking on a “Rocky Horror Picture Show” feeling about it.
Turns out that my clutch and alternator bit it – which didn’t surprise me – I’d had that car since I was 16 and it had over 150,000 miles on it and hardly ever broke down. It would take 3 days for the repairs to be completed. Dan got us set up at the hotel and insisted on paying half the bill. This guy was amazing. Truly.
The first evening in Cordes Junction was interesting. EVERYONE (all 50 residents) knew that we were there. And we looked a little strange, I’m sure. We both sported a ton of earrings, leather jackets, weird hair, etc. That evening several trucks with lots of teenagers showed up at the gas station/hang out to STARE at us. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. It was creepy. We were the Friday Night Freak Attraction.
The next day Dan DROVE TO PHOENIX (1 hour 13 minutes EACH WAY) to get some parts for my car and had spent time calling around to car graveyards to find me parts that were good but affordable. During that time he gave us his van to use and told us to check out Arcosanti– it was this futuristic commune/laboratory on a two mile loop right near Cordes Junction. We declined the van but decided to hoof it there – it was an easy walk. The first mile of the loop brings you there and then you complete the loop to get back to Cordes Junction.
Arcosanti was really cool – and if you are ever near it, you should definitely check it out. So we spent a full day there and decided it was time to take the walk back. We hit a snag. About ¾ of a mile down the road we encountered, what we thought, were cute cows, until we noticed the sharp horns and menacing looks the bulls gave us. Every time we tried to cross the cattle grate, they’d advance upon us. We were stuck there…for a while.
Eventually, Dan drove up in his van and rescued us. He had a ‘feeling’ something went awry when we didn’t come back. Once again – Dan to the rescue.
He drove us back to his garage and let us know that he’d found the parts and hoped that tomorrow would see us on the road. We started to watch Dan’s assistant, Rob. He was working under my car (it was on a hydraulic lift) trying to pull something off that was obviously good and stuck. He had a blank expression, bald head and a huge scar on his skull. All of a sudden we see Rob fly backwards and blood spurting from his hand. He’d sliced his palm open to the bone by his thumb. He didn’t make a peep. Dan sprang into action, applied pressure to the cut and promptly brought him to a hospital someplace to get stitches. We were flabbergasted – and I felt HORRIBLE that my car caused this debacle.
Later on, after Dan came back, we mentioned how amazed we were that Rob didn’t seem affected by the incident at all. He explained that Rob didn’t really feel anything because he’d had a lobotomy-type surgery a while ago– I think he might have been a veteran. I don’t remember all the details all these years later – just that Cordes Junction had some interesting residents.
We spent one more night in Cordes Junction, Dan wanted us to stay at his house but we didn’t want to intrude any more than we already were, so to the hotel it was. The next day, Dan finished the repairs and charged us only $300. I had to have my father wire me the money – which of course prompted the “I told you so” commentary. I think what REALLY pissed my father off was that Scott and I decided to continue to Flagstaff and finish our vacation. I had doubts about doing that but Scott convinced me to just relax, take it as it comes and enjoy our time together- and we did.
We are forever grateful to Dan the Mechanic!
As well, I KNEW that Scott was my soul mate. I fell completely & deeply in love with him during that trip to Cordes Junction, about 3 miles outside of Bloody Basin.