Stranded, Summer 1996

A True Story by Luke Galyan

The following is  a recount of every detail I could remember from that day. I typed it a few days after it happened while all of the details from the day were fresh in my head.  Hope you enjoy the story.  Even tough that day kind of sucked, I look back on it and just laugh about it.  We still tease Kevin to this day about his actions.  It is all in fun but it fun to see him squirm with a guilty continence over it.

I got up at 6 o'clock that morning and left about 6:30 to pick up Tucker at 7 am.  We were going to meet Kevin and Ed at their house at 8 o'clock and leave from there to go four wheeling in the desert with them and Jose.  I needed to go to the bank and pick up some money so I could get gas and also spending money for a party I was supposed to be at later that night.  The bank didn't open till 9 o'clock, so I called Kevin and let him know we were headed for the bank and were going to wait there until it opened, get the money and head over there.

We headed for the bank, got off the freeway and right around the corner from the bank my Scout died.  So I opened the hood and checked the carburetor, thinking the float had stuck again.  It wasn't that.  We were holding up traffic so we decided to push it out of the way.  I wasn't sure we'd be able to since it had to go up hill a little and was a very heavy vehicle.  I tried to start the engine one more time and surprise, it started.  We drove to the bank parking lot.  There I played with it a little and it died again.  Since I was in a nice empty parking lot I went ahead and started poking around and found that the fuel pump had gone out.  Since it was only 2 and 1/2 months old I thought it might still be on warranty.  So I called Kevin again and let him know what happened.  Tucker and I went across the parking lot to Blueberry Hill pancake house to get some breakfast while we waited on Kevin and Ed to come pick me up and go exchange my fuel pump.

When they got there Kevin and Tucker stayed with my scout, while Ed and I went in his van to do the exchange.  I was glad to see they exchanged it no questions asked.  We went back and put it in.  It worked great so Kevin and Ed left and I went into the bank.  From there we went to gas up, buy some water and snacks then call Kevin to see where we were going to meet.  They decided to meet where I-95 made a right to go toward Search Light just before Boulder City.

After meeting them we went about 10 miles toward Search Light and turned off to the left to go toward Eldorado Canyon and Nelson.  We drove for about 3 or 4 miles and turned off to the right onto a dirt road that followed some power lines.  We drove on this dirt road for about 3 hours (they liked to drive slow).  Along the way we would find hills and rocks to drive over just for the fun of it.  During this time I also decided to stop and take the driver side door off my Scout.  We made a left onto a fairly smooth dirt road that followed another set of power lines toward Knob Hill.  We drove another 15 - 20 minutes down this road, fast this time just for the fun it and made it to Knob Hill.  This place had some big sandstone rocks / hills all around the area.  It looked like several giant rabbits stopped there and took a dump.  After looking Knob Hill over a bit we started down into a big canyon headed toward the Mojave River and Aztec Wash.  I did not know at the time these places were called Knob Hill and Aztec Wash.

Shortly after getting on the power line road near Nelson.
Shortly after getting on the power line road near Nelson.

Luke playing in his Scout over a rock.
Luke playing in his Scout over a rock.
Luke coming down a hill in his 67' Scout.
Luke coming down a hill in his 67' Scout.

Just a little ways down into the canyon we stopped at an overlook with a good look over Lake Mojave and our surrounding area.  The river in the distance was a nice shade of blue and behind that the mountains looked purple and red.  Between us and the river you could see all the little canyons leading up to where we were.  I took a few photos side by side so I could later paste them together for a panoramic view.  We got every one there, standing in it.  I never put the pictures together to make the panoramic, but here they are so you can see everyone on the trip.

Ed.
Ed.

Kevin and Luke (me).
Kevin and Luke (me).

Jose and Tucker.
Jose and Tucker.

After enjoying the overlook, we continued down into the canyon.  We finally reached the lake at about 4 o'clock or a little after.  The spot we had come to had a small island about 50 feet out.  The water was only a little over knee deep all the way to it, so I drove my Scout through the water onto the island.  Jose and Kevin drove their Jeeps onto the island and parked on both sides of my Scout.  We took pictures, did some swimming, and just sat around enjoying the moment.  When I pulled my Scout back off of the island, I got a little too far too the left where the water got deeper flooding the floorboards of my truck.  My shoes and socks were in the floorboards so they got drenched.

Ed let his pet iguana take a swim on the leash.
Ed let his pet iguana take a swim on the leash.

Kevin's jeep parked by the water.
Kevin's jeep parked by the water.

The 3 of our vehicles parked on the island.
The 3 of our vehicles parked on the island.

Tucker had ditched school without his mom’s permission to go do this with us.  We knew we would be a little later then planned so Tucker hiked around with Kevin's cell phone till he got reception and called his mom.  He told her he went to a friend's house and she told him he had to be back by 6:30.  Jose told us there was a faster way out and that we were all going to take that out.  Tucker and I decided to leave at 5:00pm.  The others were going to be there for a while longer and we needed to get Tucker home so we had to get moving without them, since we already had too little time.  Jose gave me directions out.

We drove up the road a little way and turned off at an arrow painted on a rock this turned out to be a dead end a couple miles up the road.  We went back out and found another arrow and turned on that road.  That turned out to be a dead end in about 3 miles.  When we got back out of that one we decided that instead of exploring each one till we found the right one, it would be a better idea if we just went back the way we came.  When we got to the power line road that would take us to Nelson, we would just go straight and continue straight out to I-95 then home.

After a couple miles we discovered we still had Kevin's cell phone.  Since we were running late I decided I'd give it to him later rather then go back.  At about 5:45 or 6:00 the truck died and this is where the fun starts!  I checked to see that there was gas and then discovered that my brand new fuel pump had just died!  After a few minutes it worked again so off we went up the canyon again.  It ran for about 3 or 4 minutes and died again.  So I gave it another break and it worked again for another few minutes.  This went on for a while.  So I got the impression that the pump was getting over worked and if I let it cool down we would get further.  We let it sit longer and longer between uses.  Each use also continued to get shorter and shorter. 

Since my floor boards were still holding water I used my shirt to soak up the water and use it to try to cool the pump each time we stopped.  I had even tried gravity feeding the fuel pump from a water bottle we had.  This didn't work.  I tried to get a hole cut in a water bottle to insert a hose so I could fill the bottle with gas and let it feed the carburetor.  But all I had to cut the hole with was a steak knife and I couldn't get a hole cut that a hose would go into and not leak gas around it, so this idea wasn't going to work.  At one time when we were stopped I even tried turning the pump on and sucked gas through it to see if maybe it needed to be primed.  All that did was get my mouth full of gas and burn my lips!  So I grabbed the water jug and rinsed my mouth out.  From then on the water had a faint gas taste.  At one of the stops we put my door back on because it was starting to get cold outside.

On each of the stops we made, Tucker would say "Luke we gotta get outta here!!”  I would tell him "I know."  He would then say it again at the next stop.  Each time he said it, he got a little more of a distressed tone in his voice.  After a while he would tell me "we gotta get outta here" and I'd tell him "I know", he would immediately say in a scared and frustrated voice, "No I mean we really gotta get outta here!!!"  After a while that kind of got to me so I had to kind of yell at him to get his emotions back in check.  I raised my voice and told him, "Tucker!  I don't have any options!  If I had any options I would give them to you, but I don't, so I can't!!!!"  Then I walked off for a few minutes and left him there trying to cool down the fuel pump.  After this he seemed to mellow out a bit.  I knew he was very worried about getting home so his mom would not find out he lied and ditched school to hang out with us.

Around 8:00pm we decided to hike up the side of a hill to get to a peak, and try to get reception on one of the cell phones (mine or Kevin's).  We got part way up the hill and I stopped and pointed to one of the cactus and told Tucker to be careful.  Since there was a lunar eclipse that night it was very dark and we could barley see.  After I told him be careful it wasn't two steps later I ran my leg into one!  I let out a yell.  These cactus leave a ball stuck to you the size of a racquet ball and had needles all the way around it, so you can’t pull it out with your hand.  If you use your hand to pull it out, you'll just get it stuck in your hand too.  So I picked up a couple of rocks and used those to pull it out.  Then I pulled the needles out of my leg.  It felt like they were hooked because when you pulled them out your skin pulled away from your body before the needle came out.  When I got each needle out, it burned bad for about a minute.  After I got over the burn we moved on and a few steps later Tucker got one in his leg, and he let out I yell too.  So he pulled that one out the same way I did mine.  When he was over his burn we moved on up the hill.  Since it was so dark we couldn't see them very well.  All the way up the side of this hill we would get stuck at various points on our legs and shoes.  Each time we would let out a yell and stop to deal with it.  We made it to the top of that hill and found the road again!  We still couldn't get any reception on the cell phones, so we went back down the hill to the truck.  On the way back down the hill we didn't get stuck as many times, but we did get stuck.  From an outsiders point of view this had to be a funny site.  Two people going up a hill then back down again, stopping at various points to yell and pull cactus needles out of their legs then starting out again just to do it all again. 

When we got back to the truck, I realized the phone I had in my pocket was gone!  Knowing I had to have dropped it along the way up the hill, I grabbed the flashlight (yup you guessed it, we were not smart enough to take it the first time.) and went back up the hill looking for the phone.  When I got up to where the road was again I found the phone sitting there.  This time I followed the road back to the truck.  I found we could have avoided a lot of pain if we just walked up the road a ways.  I only had to walk about 1/8 of a mile and I was back at the truck.   With it being dark it looked like we were going up  a steep hill side to a high point the road did not take us to.  After seeing what we had really done, we felt stupid.  We went through a lot of pain and only went about 1/8 of a mile up the road and still got no reception.

We decided to see if the truck would get us any further.  We only got about another minute out of it.  So we decided it was time to make a call to his mom even if we had to hike a long, long ways to get to a place where the phone would get out.  We decided to stay on the road this time, since the cactus thing had us in pain already.  We hiked for about half an hour and got to a place that was open and fairly high compared to where we'd been before.  The first call was to Tuckers mom.  Since the battery on both phones were low, I told him to keep it as short and simple as possible so we could use it to call for help.  Tucker knew that by this time, his mom would be very worried about him.  With this in mind it’s kind of funny to look back on what he said when she answered the phone.  He said in a distressed voice, "Mom, I don't have a lot of time so just listen, OK????!!!!!"  I heard her say something and he raised his voice and interrupted by saying "just listen OK!!!!!"  Then he told her, “mom I lied to you, ditched school and went four wheeling in the desert with Luke.  His truck broke down and we are stuck.  Don't worry I'm OK but we are stuck and it’s going to be a while before I get home.  I'm on a cell phone and the battery is low so I'll call you when I can but don't worry about me.”  All the while I could hear her saying OK in a very short angry tone. 

When he was done with his call, I tried to call some friends to let them know what happened to get some help.  Then for some reason we lost reception.  Then both of us turned on our phones and started walking around watching the signal strength meter until we got reception.  It was another moment that would have been funny to watch as an outsider.  We were both running around with a phone and would yell out, "I got it!!  Nope never mind, it went away" and start walking again.  When we finally got reception, I called Kevin and left a message on his machine.  Later I found out all he got of my message was "Kevin..........” 

After thinking we got a help call out to Kevin we went back to the truck and tried it again.  When it died we took a nap.  Tucker slept in the front seat and I laid down in the back with a blanket.  It was getting very cold out there and my wet shoes and socks were making my feet feel like ice.

At 2:20 Tucker woke me up and I couldn't believe I'd slept that long.  It wasn't a heavy sleep but it did take the edge off.  He said he didn't sleep much at all because he was too cold.  So we tried it again and it only ran for a few seconds.  Then we knew that if a few hours of letting it rest didn't help, it was time to start hiking out.  All we had was about a glass and a half of water and a couple hand fulls of Doritos’s.  So we let the truck coast back down the hill, got it off the road, put rocks behind the tires and left the doors unlocked (incase anyone wanted to break in at least they wouldn’t break the windows).

The first two or three miles of the hike were up a steep hill winding out of the canyon.  After those few miles we were back at Knob Hill and could stare across the dessert and barley make out the headlights and tail lights of cars on I-95 in the distance.  We kept walking.  At 4:00am we were able to get good reception on the cell phone, so we called Kevin.  WE knew we had to keep the conversation as short as possible since the batteries were very low on both phones.  When I got Kevin on the phone, he thought I was messing with him when I told him we were still out there.  I told him I was serious and wouldn't call him at 4:00 in the morning just to mess with him.  He apologized later but he said something that pissed me off at the time.  The phones battery was going dead and I didn't want to take the time to try to argue with him.  He told me to call him back in three hours so he could sleep some more.  I told him I'd call back at 6:30am.  This is the moment we have never let him fully live down.

We kept walking for the highway.  Since we only had a little bit of water we would only take one mouth full of water each time we drank.  The water tasted nasty because after rinsing my mouth out earlier, I got gas on the opening of the jug and each drink tasted like gas.

On minds wondered a lot during the hike.  We sang songs to each other to pass the time.  We also noticed how our steps were in time with each other.  If we were to focus on it our steps would get out of time.  But the minute we quit trying our steps automatically fell back in time with each other.

We reached the road at about 6:15am and I called Kevin at 6:20am.  He told me to call back in fifteen minutes after he called Jose to figure out what they wanted to do.  Then Tucker called his mom and she sounded more relaxed.  Then she told him he should have just told her and she would have let him go.  It was weird to think that if he had done that, we wouldn't have been in such a hurry to get out of there and we would have stuck with the rest of the group.  When we broke down it wouldn't have been such a big deal. 

Then Kevin paged me (yes I had a pager too), and when I tried to call him back his phone battery died.  Since my phone wouldn't get any reception I put my battery on his phone and called him.  He said Jose had an extra fuel pump he would loan me and they were on their way out to help us.

About a half hour later a couple trucks came by and took off down the road we were just on.  They were D.O.T. trucks and were going to work on the power lines.  A couple more came by and I stopped them to let them know my Scout was down in the canyon and not to worry about it.  I let them know it was pulled off to the side so they could pass throuh and  I was coming to get it after our friends got here with a fuel pump.  The driver noticed we didn't have any water in our jug and offered to let us fill it up with water from the truck behind him.  As we were filling our water jug the passenger got out and came back and told us he had some candy in the front if we wanted some.  We said yes we would.  We went up and he gave us a pack of Hostess doughnuts and a hand full of butterscotch, jolly ranchers and some chocolate covered cookies.  I tried to pay him but he wouldn't take it.  I put the money on the floor boards of his truck then when he got my hands full of stuff he put the money on the ground got in the truck and they drove off.  We sat back down and started on the doughnuts.  Doughnuts have NEVER TASTED SO GOOD IN MY WHOLE LIFE!!!!!!!!!  As we ate them, we both were laughing and almost yelling out of sheer enjoyment of FOOD!!  Then we started on the chocolate covered cookies and as we started to eat them we both looked at each other and made a face as if to say  ewwwwe,  yuck.  Then both of us shrugged our shoulders, said oh well and started eating them as fast as we could.  It was definitely one of those primal moments in life.

As we were waiting for Kevin and Jose a police officer drove by then stopped, turned around and came back.  I was thinking cool a policeman that is going to check on us rather then just drive by like the others did.  As he was getting out I went over and told him thanks for stopping and everything was OK.  We had friends coming to get us and go fix my truck which had broke down in the canyon.  He then looked at me and said step over there, pointing to the front of his car with a mean tone in his voice and a pissed off look.  We did, then he took our licenses and ran a check on them.  Then he asked if we had help on the way.  We said yes and he got in his car and drove off.  He had a definite attitude problem.  This is the kind of experience that makes you hate cops.  I understood he was doing his job and needed to maintain a safe distance from us just incase.  The attitude that was rolling off of him was not something he should have displayed to someone stuck in the middle of nowhere.

Shortly after Kevin and Jose showed up.  We piled in Kevin's jeep and drove back to my truck.  We all agreed it was about ten miles from the highway.  When we got to it, I put in the fuel pump and drove it out.  I took Tucker home, then went home myself.  I got home at 11:00am, got another hour of sleep and went to work at 3pm (I worked swing shift).  That was a very long night.

Kevin and Jose watching me put the fuel pump in my Scout.
Kevin and Jose watching me put the fuel pump in my Scout.

Luke (me) thanking Jose for the loaner fuel pump and driving out to help.
Luke (me) thanking Jose for the loaner fuel pump and driving out to help.