Westbound Day 23 – 405 miles – Moab to ElySunday, 10 July 1994
Somewhat heart in mouth I start the recalcitrant beast to go and fuel it up while Maureen and Kieran finish packing. Terrible, it starts reluctantly, pops and bangs, won’t run smoothly. A hundred yards from the motel I begin to think we are going to be stuck and have to wait for Monday after all. The trouble with my car-mechanicing ability is it’s probably just enough to get me in trouble but not enough to sort out anything serious. And the trouble with this car is that it’s totally unclear just what is causing any problem – the gremlins appear and then disappear without any clear reason.
So I stop, raise the hood and dive into the belly of the beast yet again. And miraculously I fix it, it may have been fiddling with the carburettor linkages yet again, it may have been shifting the aircleaner around since it ran OK last night with the intake pointing in the wrong direction but wouldn’t this morning when it was pointing in the right direction. But the most likely reason was that a smiling Rastafarian pedalled by at that moment and said: ‘nice car’. Well it’s as likely a reason as anything else.
Bundling the others on board before it can change its mind we depart Moab, heading directly west towards San Francisco by the most direct route. In the first 50 miles it gives a couple of worrying coughs but then it settles down to sail along, through stunning country for the next 100 or so miles.
It’s hard to watch the road when the roadside scenery is so consistently amazing. At around 200 miles the scenery gets less interesting and the car starts to get reluctant again, but then continues on happily enough until we stop for lunch and fuel. As soon as we restart it starts to misfire regularly, not enough to stop us but enough to limit our speed and slow us down on uphill stretches. And this is on the empty stretch dubbed as the Loneliest Road in America.
We get to the Nevada border OK but then it gets much worse, so much that it grinds to a complete halt about 15 miles beyond the border. A retreat to the gas station and motel on the border is distinctly unappealing but after a five minute pause and the customary jiggle with anything that seems possible the Caddy decides it’s willing to continue. Slowly. We crawl up and over a 7100 ft pass, slowing down to 30 mph. But then things speed up on the next downhill and we clear the 7700 ft pass before Ely at a stately 40 mph.
Should we continue? There are four passes before Eureka, the next town, the Caddy is popping and snuffling worse than ever and Ely is bigger, and more likely to have an auto repair shop, than Eureka. So although it’s only 4 pm we halt in Ely, not at first glance the most attractive town, even for Nevada.
Ely doesn’t improve at the second glance either although it does have an amazingly large collection of motels in a diverse variety of styles from the ‘50s and ‘60s.