The profit motive is the superhero of the world’s motivations. The kid became a steely eyed, mathematically adept, logistics genius. At every gas stop he asked about prices in the upcoming state (at truck stops they know this sort of thing). At every exit he checked the price. He got in the habit of running my truck’s vast tank near to it’s limits. He started to grok the whole “nobody wants to buy stuff in expensive places” logic that eludes politicians.
Then things got interesting. Some fool put the Rocky Mountains in our way.
“The GPS routes us where?!?” He moaned.
“Yeah, the highways sorta’ go ‘around’.”
“But that’s many more miles.” He was distraught.
“Life is like that.” I was delighted.
“Can we go through? I mean, you drive places.” He’s aware that ‘places’ in my book can mean anything from a simple back road to a frozen lake.
“Yeah, check it out. The truck’s in good repair, I’m not scared of mountain passes. You’re buying the fuel, you pick the route.”
Note: I knew this was playing with fire. I wanted him to know that all choices come with drawbacks. There simply is no ‘perfect’ cheap, easy, flat, low fuel, way to cross the Rockies.
Ten minutes later he’d planned a different route. I gave it a reality check. Most of the roads I’d done before anyway. It looked do-able.
“A warning about Jackson Hole.” I offered. “Rich people live there and I expect yuppie diesel will bleed you.”
“OK.” He agreed. He made allowances to tank up in advance and then skip to a freehold (Idaho).
The truck started climbing. And climbing. And climbing.
I was enjoying the view. The kid was in back fiddling with his laptop. I realized he was watching Gandalf and pals climb a mountain… on a little LCD screen… while we were literally climbing a mountain in the real friggin’ world. He was ignoring the real Rocky Mountains to watch people in Dwarf outfits climbing New Zealand’s mountains? It wasn’t the first time I’ve wanted to chuck a media device out a moving window.
Even so it was gorgeous. Photos were taken. Etcetera. At one pass we stopped and played in the snow. I’m a great dad!
Between passes the fuel cost more than he wanted. No worries, the tank is huge. We cruised on with half a tank. I pointed out the MPG. It was as low as you’d expect for dragging a dually up a mountain pass and we hadn’t started climbing the last round on a full tank. We would be sucking fumes by Jackson Hole. He started to fret.
“If we run out, we’ll have to hike to where there’s cell service and call a tow truck. That will take half the day and cost maybe $200.”
The kid had a heart attack.
“…or maybe hitch hike to get fuel. I have a 5 gallon can in the back.”
The kid looked at the desolate terrain. He knew I wasn’t bluffing. I’m exactly the kind of lunatic that’ll drive a truck over a glacier and run the tank dry as a “learning moment”. Also I’ll hike ten miles with a gas can; I’ve done it before. We were definitely further than ten miles from anything.
At a ski resort he saw a diesel pump. “Get fuel dad!” He was relieved.
“Fine.” I walked to the pump. “I’ll pump, you go in and pay.”
Thirty seconds later he came flying out of the ski lodge. “Stop now!”
New lesson; fuel on the top of a mountain costs massively more than at the Flying J on the highway. We got 3 gallons; which was enough to satisfy me that we’d get to town and enough that he’ll learn about heading into the mountains on half a tank of fuel. His “education” was going as planned. I’m a genius!
Jackson hole was more or less reasonable. He elected to top off rather than risk ski resort prices.
We rolled out of town. This was a pass I hadn’t taken before. It was a short one. What it lacked in distance it made up for in slope.
“Aaauuuuugghhhh!” I said.
“Blewauuugghhhh!” He agreed.
It was a sphincter lever 6 event as I used Spiderman gear to climb up Teton Pass and exhaust brakes to get back down. (Exhaust brakes are the greatest thing since sliced bread.) It was paved and certainly safe for a mellow summer afternoon but I wouldn’t want to be up there in the dark or a blizzard.
The next day we were behind schedule. We drove hard to make our plans. Another lesson, the fastest route between two places is a straight line… but not if you’re in Wyoming.