Help, I’ve driven to Utah and can’t get out

(Whiny) post by Keith 

My plan all along was to take it slow on the way back from California, to make some detours to national parks in Utah and heading to Salt Lake City to visit a friend before swinging through Denver. But the pace has been a little slower than I’d planned: Since Monday afternoon, I’ve driven less than 70 miles.

For the last two nights, I’ve been stranded in Panguitch, Utah (pop. 1623), waiting for car repairs. The Color Country Motel has been home:

See the painting on the wall? It’s a jigsaw puzzle. Seriously.


Saturday night was my last at Martha’s; I packed the car Sunday morning and drove through California and Nevada and into southwest Utah. The air conditioner in my car was barely cooling in the 110-degree desert, so I mostly just used the vent.

I stopped for the night in Zion National Park, paid for my camp site and grabbed my tent from the car. And that’s when I realized the poles and stakes were still strapped to the side of Ed’s backpack — in Lexington. I took my tent out of his pack when we returned from Yosemite, but never thought to get the poles from the outside. It had just finished raining and was threatening to start again, so frustrated, I turned around and drove the short distance back to town to find a motel.

It’s not a good picture, but it shows you that a Utah sunset beats a California sunset, no contest.

The next morning, I picked up a cheap tent at Target so I could spend Monday night in Bryce Canyon National Park. I went through Zion, stopping once to shoot a few touristy pictures in bad light, and headed toward Bryce, but never made it.

The check engine light came on a couple minutes before I stopped at a scenic pullout to shoot more touristy pictures, this time of Red Canyon (which I can attest is quite red). When I started the car again, I was without power steering, along with a few other niceties like an alternator. And my cell phone had no signal.

My car sits half dead at a scenic pullout. I obviously wasn’t thinking straight, as I didn’t shoot any pictures when I bright yellow and blue tow truck pulled up in Red Canyon to haul the car away.


Two cars that were caravaning pulled off as I started looking for someone with cell phone reception. I’m pretty sure they only stopped so the driver of the first car could talk to the driver of the second for a few moments, but I managed to interrupt them and find out that one of them had a phone with one bar of reception.

So for 30 minutes, the occupants of the car stood around and alternated between chatting among themselves and staring at me while I tried to get AAA to send a tow truck. The people in the first car made the short hike up to the top of Red Canyon and returned. “It’s nice, you should go see it,” they told the people in the second car, including the lady who’s phone I was using. So they hiked up the hill and back down, while I stood in the driver’s door of their truck, scared to move because I might lose the signal. The phone was running out of battery, but if I leaned into the truck to use the charger, the reception would drop. I got lucky; the last words I heard from the phone before it died were, “Alright Mr. Smiley, I’ll go ahead and send that tow…”

The clouds really were amazing Tuesday night, though they started to rain on me right after I took this picture. I suppose I should have seen that coming.

It turns out my air conditioner wasn’t working right, and when it finally died, it dragged the rest of the car down with it. The clutch on it seized up and snapped the serpentine belt, so the car was drivable but not very far.

Panguitch, about 10 miles from where I broke down, was the nearest repair shop, and by nearest I mean my other option was to tow it two hours to Cedar City. The shop was closing down as I got to it on Monday, Tuesday was spent waiting for parts, and on Wednesday they spent five hours putting the compressor, which is conveniently buried under the rest of the engine. And in the end, the air conditioner still doesn’t work; no one in Panguitch has the equipment to charge an AC.

So now I’m spending the night less than 70 miles away in Richfield, hoping to get to an AC shop as soon as it opens in the morning so I can get on the road toward home.


It’s unfortunate that I had to see Panguitch under these circumstances, because it really is a nice small town. Tourism seems to be all it has going for it anymore — it has something like 14 motels that do decent business, considering the town’s proximity to so many national and state parks — but it has a great view in every direction, and the people at the auto shop and the motel were extremely helpful.

But the delays and expense of the car repairs have left me frustrated with the whole trip back and have made it difficult to enjoy the scenery. I’m not going to bother with any of my stops now; I would rather just go home. Seeing Bryce canyon and Arches National Park will just have to wait; those rock formations have been hanging around for a few thousand years, so surely they can wait one more.


3 Responses to “Help, I’ve driven to Utah and can’t get out”

  1. lenscapremoved Says:

    Don’t get too frustrated. While your porblems made for a heck of a blog post, I feel like this is an experience you’ll be able to tell about more than you would have if you had seen Bryce Canyon.

    It’s not what you see, it’s how and why you see it.


  2. Christen Says:

    I think, maybe, you’ll make it home at some point. And surely in time for us to see the Simpsons Movie, whether or not it’s crappy.

    Unless, of course, people are just so pissed off at Matt Groening for his decline in creativity the past seven years, and there’s a lynch mob. And they hang him with the original film strip. And burn the other film strips in a huge protest fire. Then we may not get to see it.

  3. Crappy trip, good story……………… hope the rest is uneventful.

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