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30 March 2009 @ 10:57 pm
Avoid Texas... even when you're in Minnesota  
On the way out to South Dakota for Ides of March this weekend, I stopped to get gas. (OK, so I had failed to stop to get gas in a timely manner and my car had been crying for some miles, past several exits without gas stations.) Finally, an exit for Houston claimed to have a gas station. While that sign was *technically* correct, it failed to mention that the gas station was some miles off the main drag, which I figured out too late, and at that point I needed to stick it out since I was running on fumes. So, several miles down the road, I finally find the "gas station," - a single rather rickety looking pump in front of a dilapidated building. The front window is so dirty I cannot see whether there are lights on inside or not and the door is near-covered in poorly-spelled handwritten signs, roughly 70's vintage by the look of them. There does not appear to be anyone around at the gas station or anywhere on the street.

(Cue zombie movie music.)

There being no credit card slot on the ancient gas-only-comes-in-one-grade pump, I went in the store to see if I needed to prepay. Not better. The inside is filled with broken... stuff. Some of it is clearly car related, some I'm not so sure, but there are piles of rusty, dusty things everywhere... or at least everywhere that there is not oily cans and rags. I locate a fellow in the back room, behind the 100% manual ancient-typewriter-type-key cash register, and explain I'd like to buy some gas he tells me (displaying all three of his teeth) that the pump is not locked. On one wall there is a handwritten sign (clearly dated from the early 80's) saying that no personal checks are allowed. I have the presence of mind to ask whether I may pay by credit card and of course the answer is cash only. (Now, I rarely carry cash, but thank the gods for the $20 petty cash I stash in my car for emergencies - granted, it is much more often used-book related emergencies than cash-only gas station emergencies, but there you have it.) So, I go back out and carefully pump no more than $20 of gas. I go back in and tell the fellow my total and hand him the $20. He looks at me, looks somewhat suspiciously at the  twenty, squints at the register and slowly, deliberately, and apparently with some mental effort, pokes in the transaction and counts out my $1.23 in change. "Change," he dully said as he handed it to me. I muttered some pleasantries about thanks and nice day and fled, really pretty sure that the zombies were going to come crawling out of the piles of stuff in the corners at any second. It was good to get back in the car and out of there! :P 

******

Sadly, I did not learn my lesson adequately. On the way home, I was fighting a serious crosswind and so had significantly less-good mileage than I usually get out of the Fabulous Fit and was running alarmingly low as I approached Austin. I pulled off at the first exit (Austin City Limits?) and drove onto the driveway the name-brand gas station. Except that said driveway was loose gravel. Loose gravel with a pit big enough to eat the Fabulous Fit in a single gulp. I saw said Pit of Undercarriage Despair just in time and swerved around it. I can't believe they did not have it marked in some manner because really, if it had been other than broad daylight, the hole was right in front of the entrance, just past a little camouflaging rise, and I never would have seen it in time. Big mighty trucks may have cleared it, high-clearance vans may have been OK, but little compact cars? No way. Barely a snack for the Pit. I quickly filled the tank and carefully circumnavigated the Pit. Perhaps less dramatic than the adventure on the way out, but enough to make me think about the pattern...

******

This weekend's adventures confirms the Hixton (pronounced Hick's-ton) Rule - if a town's name advertises trouble and/or defects- Avoid! Avoid! Avoid!  (If you have never stopped in Hixton, WI, I would really recommend you not... ask for the story some time.) Apparently, Texas should be avoided too...

Well, I suppose we can make an exception for the main Austin exit, though, but ONLY for the purpose of suspicious tinned meat products - the Spam Museum being one of the great joyous wonders of Minnesota, after all. ;)

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teffanteffan on March 31st, 2009 04:50 am (UTC)
Gauge and I found even more of those types of gas stations on the way out to California... one where the guy wasn't even at the station and we had to walk a couple buildings over to the cafe to fetch him. And just in time because he was about to close up for the day - how you'd tell I have no idea....

Also, never stop in Sacred Heart, MN for gas either.
DameJdamej on March 31st, 2009 12:59 pm (UTC)
I encountered a pit of undercarriage doom at a Checker station in Mossville, IL, on the way to my first Jubilee Olde English Faire. Unfortunately, I didn't avoid it, as it was disguised by a puddle caused by a leaky hose. My mother's car was severely damaged (the frame was bent), and my father was not amused.

I also made the mistake of trying to stop in Houston, MN on the way home from Crown Tourney a few years ago. We saw that gas station but thought it was permanently closed (maybe it's closed on Sundays).
ego_id_non_feciego_id_non_feci on April 1st, 2009 12:10 am (UTC)
I used to live in Houston, MN.

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!
eithni: backliteithni on April 1st, 2009 02:49 am (UTC)
Glad you got out before the zombies got you!
missdoommissdoom on March 31st, 2009 01:12 pm (UTC)
That part of Minnesota is full of creepy gas stations. S and I did find one way off road that was nice and attached to a grocery store that had yummy wraps. Wish I could remember the name of the town.
alinorealinore on March 31st, 2009 01:37 pm (UTC)
So the gas station is an epic fail evidently, but the town of Houston is actually a cute little community.
eithni: inferno eyeeithni on April 1st, 2009 02:49 am (UTC)
...other than the zombies...
Ursulaursulagoddess on March 31st, 2009 06:36 pm (UTC)
Pit of Undercarriage Despair

Zoikes, we have these all over the place lately!!!
ego_id_non_feciego_id_non_feci on April 1st, 2009 12:09 am (UTC)
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

*gasp*

Ha ha ha ha ha ha haha!

*gasp*

Squeee!

*hug*

Great post!
grnjenny / Jennifer Carlsongrnjenny on April 1st, 2009 04:11 pm (UTC)
OK, see... ya broke Traveling Rule #1: If you don't see "it" (gas, food, whatever) from the top of the exit - you get back onna da highway and try the next one.

During our reign, we learned this the hard way, several times (curses on Culvers! 75% of the time they're several miles from the exit - although it's getting better).

So unless you know for certain that the next exit is too far (esp. for gas), you keep going... otherwise, you risk spending valuable time dinking around - and there might be zombies!
eithni: ?!?!?!?eithni on April 2nd, 2009 05:20 am (UTC)
Yeah, generally i follow that rule, but i had already passed a lot of exits with no gas stations and I was on emptyemptyempty. :P