Car Wash

Standard

Our property is reached by traveling on two dirt roads. The main road is maintained by the county on some schedule I can’t figure out. The heavy equipment comes when it comes. The secondary dirt road is maintained by no one but us, and we have no equipment for maintenance. When we first arrived, we rented a skid steer (aka a Bobcat), and The Man improved the secondary road so we could get our trailer to our land. The improvement didn’t last very long.

The weather forecast for the second week of May called for about five days of precipitation. On at least one of those days, there was a chance that the precipitation would be snow.

Snow? I asked incredulously. Temperatures weren’t supposed to dip below freezing at night, much less during the day. I didn’t think it would possibly be cold enough for snow. I should have remembered what I told visitors during my time as a camp host in California: It’s the mountains. Anything can happen.

We woke up around six in the morning, as we usually did. Before we got out of bed, The Man asked, What’s that sound?

I told him it was probably the rain that had been in the forecast.

Snow covers sage and rocks
The mountains are hidden and snow covers the ground.

He said it didn’t sound like rain to him, but I said it sounded like rain to me. He got out of bed, walking into the living room, and looked out of the big window facing east. He reported the presence of snow.

No way! I answered. This was not the first time in our lives together that The Man reported snow and I’ve doubted him. Sometimes jokesters are not to be believed, but sometimes they tell truths that seem impossible.

On this occasion there certainly was snow, five or six inches on the ground and covering all the sage. The mountains were shrouded in clouds or mist or fog, some weather phenomenon I’m not sure how to name. Our mountains were entirely hidden from view. The sky was gray all around, and fat, wet snowflakes continued to fall.

Snow and rain fell most of the morning and into the afternoon, turning our cleared land into a mud bowl.

The Man had done a soil analysis soon after we moved the trailer onto the land. He took a sample of our dirt and put it in a jar of water. The way the soil separated was supposed to tell us about the makeup of our dirt. He got practically no separation; all but the tiniest amount of soil settled to the bottom of the jar. He told me that meant our soil was mostly pure clay.

Once the clay surrounding our trailer got good and wet, it turned into a sticky mess. When we walked out into the mud, it sucked and pulled at our shoes. The mud clung to our shoes in clumps that were difficult to knock off before we went into the trailer. We stayed inside as much as possible, but Jerico the dog had to go outside several times that day. When we let him back in mud and pebbles stuck between his toes, and we had to wipe his feet before he jumped onto the couch or bed.

By late afternoon, there was a break in the precipitation, and we had to hurry to town to get water (we were practically out) and pick up some food staples we were low on.  We wondered if we’d be able to navigate the muddy road.

The Man drove. He has more years of driving under his seatbelt and more experience driving on ice, to which he compared driving through the sticky mud. He barely got the truck moving through the mud in order to shift into four wheel drive, but he managed to do it. The truck left huge ruts in its wake.

Large ruts in muddy road surrounded by sage brush.
The road in front of our property became a rutted mess after the neighbors drove on it. We did our share to add to the mess.

The road in front of our property was a giant, muddy slip-n-slide. Even under The Man’s experienced steering, the truck slid all over the road.  At times we moved down the road at an angle instead of straight ahead. Mud flew through the air and splattered the windshield and sides of the truck.

The farther we got from our property, the better the road was, but by “better,” I really mean “less terrible.” The road was bad. Amy city person would have told you so.

Tire and fender covered in mud. Large rut filled with water in the background.
Out lovely, muddy truck parked on our lovely, muddy land.

We made it off the dirt road (more aptly described as a mud road at that time) and into town. When we stopped at the gas station, I was astonished to see the truck was covered in mud. The tires, the windshield, the sides, the undercarriage, the windows were all thickly splashed with already drying, cracking clay. It looked like we’d been out muddin‘.

We cleaned the windshield as best as we could, but agreed there was no sense going to the car wash, as we’d only go back through mud on the way home. The truck was sure to get covered with mud again as soon as we left the pavement.

After a few days the sky ceased dumping rain and snow on us, and the mud dried into hard, cracked clay. We decided we’d wash the truck first thing when we went to town.

Our first stop was a self-service car wash, the kind where you wash your car with water that shoots out of a long wand. We took our water jugs out of the truck’s bed, and The Man fed three dollar bills into the machine. The water shot out of the wand and knocked off the large chunks of dried mud but left a red dirt film on the surface of the truck. The Man thought we’d already spent enough money at that place and decided we needed to go elsewhere to use an automatic car wash.

We found one across town, and using it was a fiasco from the beginning. We weren’t sure how to make the card reader at the entrance work. I put my debit card in the reader, and some words appeared on the machine’s screen, but I was never given an access code. I walked over the adjacent gas station/convenience store, and after standing in line, told the worker what had happened. She assured me that if the machine hadn’t given me an access code, no money had been taken from my account. She then told me I could pay for a wash right there at her register. She rattled off four car wash choices priced at $6, $8, $10, and $12.

I can’t say I have much car wash experience. In the almost five years I had my van, I washed it exactly once, at one of those self-serve places after my boss gave me a $10 token to use there. I remember going through automatic car washes a time or two years ago, but I’d never paid for one before. I didn’t know what to pick, but since I’m cheap and $6 seemed like an extravagance for some soap and water, I went with the basic wash.

When I returned to the car wash, the doors were already open. I punched in the code I’d just bought, and The Man drove the truck in while I stayed with the water jugs. The wash didn’t last very long. When I walked over to where he’d parked, I found The Man fuming. The red dirt film still clung to the exterior of the truck, and clumps of mud still stuck to the undercarriage.

That didn’t do anything! The Man sputtered. I’m getting our money back!

He drove the truck over to the gas station/convenience store and parked in front. I followed him into the store. When it was his turn at the counter, The Man expressed his dissatisfaction to the clerk. She called the manager from the back room.

What both women told us boiled down to this: The $6 wash was only a basic wash and didn’t do much to remove dirt. Everyone in town already knew this.  If we wanted the truck to come clean, we were going to have to spend more money.

Both ladies were very polite and friendly. The manager said if we weren’t satisfied, she would gladly refund our money, which she did. However, she made it clear we couldn’t expect much from the $6 option.

We gave up on washing the truck that day. A couple days later we were back in town, and we went to a different  automatic car wash.

Don’t get the cheapest one, The Man warned me before I want inside to pay. I bought the $10 wash this time.

Floral print books in mud below bright orange skirt.
My boots in the mud as it was beginning to dry.

Again, I waited outside while The Man drove the truck into the washing area. It was in there a lot longer this time, and it looked a lot better when it came out. There was still a slight film of red clay clinging to the sides. We used toilet paper and rags to wipe off the film. I suppose that clay isn’t coming off without a little elbow grease. 

I took the photos in this post.

About Blaize Sun

My name is Blaize Sun. Maybe that's the name my family gave me; maybe it's not. In any case, that's the name I'm using here and now. I've been a rubber tramp for nearly a decade.I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. For most of my years on the road, my primary residence was my van. For almost half of the time I was a van dweller, I was going it alone. Now my (male) partner and I (a woman) have a travel trailer we can pull with our truck. We have a little piece of property, and when we're not traveling, we park our little camper there. I was a work camper in a remote National Forest recreation area on a mountain for four seasons. I was a camp host and parking lot attendant for two seasons and wrote a book about my experiences called Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. During the last two seasons as a work camper on that mountain, I was a clerk in a campground store. I'm also a house and pet sitter, and I pick up odd jobs when I can. I'm primarily a writer, but I also create beautiful little collages; hand make hemp jewelry and warm, colorful winter hats; and use my creative and artistic skills to decorate my life and brighten the lives of others. My goal (for my writing and my life) is to be real. I don't like fake, and I don't want to share fake. I want to share my authentic thoughts and feelings. I want to give others space and permission to share their authentic selves. Sometimes I think the best way to support others is to leave them alone and allow them to be. I am more than just a rubber tramp artist. I'm fat. I'm funny. I'm flawed. I try to be kind. I'm often grouchy. I am awed by the stars in the dark desert night. I hope my writing moves people. If my writing makes someone laugh or cry or feel angry or happy or troubled or comforted, I have done my job. If my writing makes someone think and question and try a little harder, I've done my job. If my writing opens a door for someone, changes a life, I have done my job well. I hope you enjoy my blog posts, my word and pictures, the work I've done to express myself in a way others will understand. I hope you appreciate the time and energy I put into each post. I hope you will click the like button each time you like what you have read. I hope you will share posts with the people in your life. I hope you'll leave a comment and share your authentic self with me and this blog's other readers. Thank you for reading.  A writer without readers is very sad indeed.

4 Responses »

    • We sure did have an experience. Apparently the mud is worse in the winter when there is a LOT of snow and the snow melts and really soaks into the ground and makes the mud really muddy. People say you can only get out if you leave in the morning when the road is frozen and come back after dark when it has refrozen.

    • The high clay content dirt could certainly be used in cob building. You’d probably have to add some sand to it. Adobe too, also with the addition of sand. It could also be used in building a house from bags filled with dirt. Many possibilities…

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