I went into the visitor center, got myself a map and brochure of other details and headed straight to the scenic drive through the park. Paid $10 for the entrance and headed in. It was all very nice. There were some scenic points where I stopped occasionally and took pictures. I could see the flat out desert, and the petrified rocks on the hills. The rocks have been petrified for the past million years and its an art in a way. It was aesthetically pleasing to the eye. There were scattered clouds in the sky. The sun was playing hide and seek and the clouds were proudly leaving their shadows on the rocks. The rocks were bright red or orange. Very beautiful. It was a particularly windy today. It was slightly difficult to stand still and once in a while there will be heavy gusts which would just swing you sideways if you are not holding firm on your ground.
Things were looking perfectly setup for a pleasing day but it wasn't meant to be. I've hardly covered a third of the whole scenic drive when I heard a heavy rough sliding noise from the back of the car. I thought it must be because of the road being rough. After having driven 5 days on the highways I've noticed that such noise do occur because not the whole stretch of the highway is brand new and smooth. There are rough gravel rough roads, stretches with cracks and holes, big or small but it must be because the road is rough. So I kept on driving. After 5 mins, I smelled something burning. It was as if a rubber is burning. I immediately stopped on the road side, put my parking lights on and came out. There was a car behind me with an old couple, who also stopped. I saw the damage. The passenger side rear wheel, it was gone. The rubber had worn off completely with may be a thin strip left sticking with the drum. The old man came out of his car and stood beside me.
"Yeah, we saw smoke coming out of the rear for quite some time but we just couldn't catch up with you", said he with very slow pace, all the time his body was little bit shaking.
"Oh. Ok. I thought its the road so I kept driving. This is shit."
"Yeah..ha ha.. it is. Do you have a spare tire?"
"Yeah, I do. I've got my luggage in the trunk which I've to take out first then get on with the spare donut."
"We would have loved to help you out but unfortunately we have an appointment at an art center further east."
"No. no. Please do not worry. I can take care of this. Please go ahead. I'll call the visitor center and sort this thing out. Please carry on, and thank you for stopping."
They left while I made a call to the visitor center and explained them the situation. She got the park sheriff on his way to help me out who soon arrived at the scene. Before the sheriff arrived, I had taken out my luggage out of the trunk and chugged them, some on the back seat, some under the passenger seat. I thought I might need to take out the spare wheel so better to keep the trunk clean. The sheriff arrived and assessed the damage. He inquired about the car, owner, insurance and licence and I duly obliged. He took my DL and went back to his car. I do not understand what would he do with the licence. Its not like I was breaking traffic laws or similar. I guess my DL record states I had a burnt tire on so an so date. Utterly useless.
"Do you have a spare tire?" asked the sheriff.
"Yes I do but I'm not sure I want to go ahead with it. I'm carrying some heavy luggage in the car and I don't know the spare would be able to hold it. It might again blow up few miles further. Its a risk."
"Ok. So do you want to tow it then?"
"Yes. I'd like that."
"Do you have AAA or similar?"
"I've roadside assistance from my insurance, Geico. I think I can use that. Do you know any towing service?"
"Sure. I can call them up and whoever next is available will be on its way. Do you want me to do that?"
"Yes please. That would be great. Thankyou."
He went to his car and made some calls. He told me the nearest town is Holbrook, AZ and a towing car is on its way from there. It will be here in 45 minutes.
I thanked him for his service. I later realized that I should have called up Geico and asked them to send me a tow car but at that time, I thought, lets just do this any which way I can and later on I'll reimburse the expenses from Geico. Anyways, atleast I didn't have to explain my location to the tow company, the sheriff did it all. All I had to do was to wait. I saw people passing by me, some were very kind to stop by and ask if everything was okay with my car and if I need any help. I was happy to see such kindness. All kinds of people, whether old or young, stopped to inquire what happened and if I'm waiting for some help. This is one great thing about this country. People are kind and helpful.
After an hour, the tow truck came. He pulled my car up, tied with chains, secured the locks and off we went to Holbrook. This is a very awkward moment for me. Driving with a stranger for a while and you know you have to keep the conversation going. There is a lot of pressure on both parties I guess, more so on me because English isn't my first language, not even second. Add to that, I am not that funny like some people are. I breathe a sigh of relief if the other person is a talker. Some girls I have been with are like this. For people who talk a lot, I just need to feed them questions regularly and just sit back and let them tell their stories, advises, thoughts whatever. Just inject small questions about their work, make them go into the details, ask them about their family and household problems etc. I pretend to listen intently and with my detail oriented questions, the other person feels the same too, but in most cases, I couldn't care less.
The tow guy wasn't much of a talker, neither shy so it wasn't too bad. Plus I had topics to talk about. I started off with questions related to towing charges and how my insurance can come in, then ask him about his business and economy, then his family and weather and Holbrook weather. Then I shared my reasons for being in this place and by the time I was out of topics to talk about, we were in the service center. The mechanic took a look and told me to replace other tires as well because they were showing signs of wearing off. I knew it is a common ploy to extract money off me but I had two things to help make up my mind. First was that I'm in this huge road trip and still close to 1000 miles away from my destination. Add to that I'm carrying extra load. It may be safe to put all new tires and buy some peace of mind. It would be a shitty feeling to drive in the fear of some other tire popping out or worse, its coming true. Secondly, my new company, VMware, is paying a decent amount of money towards my relocation and I'd still be left with a big chunk of money if I spend 350 quids on new tires. I agreed and within minutes I was on my way again.
This was an unplanned delay in my trip. Going back to Petrified forest was foolish as then I'd miss the meteor tour because it closes at 5pm. It is 2pm now. So with a little bit of grudge and a tiny bit unsatisfactory feeling, I moved on to Meteor crater.
The crater is around 7miles off the highway, to the south of it. And its a private property. I don't know how it came to be private. I believe initially all the desert land was federal property but then some private firm bought the land. I bought the ticket and went in. I had thought that the crater formed sometime recently, like past 50 years but I was surprised to know its 50,000 years old. And it was a huge crater. A whole city, like Chicago or San Francisco could fit inside the crater and it was so very deep that there were telescopes installed at the top to see some models that had been placed at the bottom of it. I liked it very much. In fact, if I can be so bold, I'd say this was the best attraction of my whole 66 trip. I was glad I decided to include this one. Inside the building was a rock put in a glass box and it said the crater was created by a similar size rock. It would have been nice to see the actual guilty rock but since its 50,000yrs old, people shouldn't even be looking for it. The rock wasn't big, definitely not the size that you'd think would create such a huge crater but the power of gravity is massive, isn't it. You get a sense of it when you see the size of rock and the crater behind it. You'd think no way this rock can make a hole like this but its true. Bigger size space ships burn out before they even cross the atmosphere because of the gravity pull and the friction. If indeed a rock which has managed to cross the atmosphere, it should be given respect.
I wonder what other damage the impact would have made. Did it cause a minor earth quake, did it disrupt a lake/sea which was at this place, did it destroy a forest and living life forms? I cannot imagine what would happen if it were to impact now. I wish it to fall in the ocean but then the kind of tsunami it would cause can only kill loads of people. Anyways, I think its better that it has not happened now or will not happen anytime soon.
I left the crater, thoroughly pleased. The only attraction left was Elmer's bottle tree ranch before my 66 trip comes to end at Santa Monica but that was too far away and it will get dark in couple of hours. I decided to stay the night in Kingman, AZ. There is a bit of excitement that I am feeling at this time, because I know tomorrow is my last day on the road, atleast for sometime. I checked into a motel, I don't remember the name. But it wasn't good. It was owned by an Indian couple, who were in their 50s. While the wife was watching Television, the husband got me the room key. I went into the room and smelled a strong alcoholic odor, whisky I'd say. It was so strong, the smell, that I got a headache. The carpet felt soggy a bit and I thought may be the previous occupant spilled all the booze in the carpet. I was not sure if I should try to change the room. I didn't want to be rude and besides the room was dirt cheap and I said to myself this is what you get for the money you pay. I didn't know the wi-fi password, nor was there any pamphlet for it. I went back to the front desk and asked for password and took the opportunity to ask if I can get a different room. I explained to the guy about the reason and invited him to check the condition himself. I came back to the room and repacked my stuff hoping that the owner will swing by soon and if possible, give me another room.
He did arrive 10minutes later and came into the room. As a typical owner, he tried to defend the room but I kept insisting that how can he not smell the strong stench of alcohol in here. Half halfheartedly he gave me the keys to another room and it was definitely better. Atleast it smelled like a normal room. Nothing shitty. I took a shower and went to bed straightaway.