I took a few days off and went down to a Boats Afloat Show in Seattle, to ogle at all of the new powerboats and to see if my new 16-foot fiberglass rowboat was finished yet. It was finished, but it was down in Gig Harbor, which is about 125 miles south of our home in the San Juan Islands.
Rather than row it all the way home, I borrowed a pickup truck from my friend Elmo who owns a local hardware/lumber yard here on the island. Fortunately, for me, he was away on his annual vacation with his camera taking pictures with his son in Mexico.
His wife Lynn said, “It’s OK to use the delivery truck, but be very careful.”
The odometer only had 83,763 miles on it, but before I had reached the ferry dock I realized that this was the third 100,000-mile round trip on Elmo’s odometer. The steering wheel was a little loose, so it took half a revolution before anything happened to the front wheels.
Soon after I got off the ferry at Anacortes, the engine died, but I coasted into a gas station and filled up both of Elmo’s tanks for only $178.93.
After I paid the bill, I noticed that Elmo had left a note on the seat of the truck saying, “Don’t fill up the front tank, it leaks.” By the time I was back on the road to pick up my rowboat, a few gallons of the gasoline had already poured into the cab and out a rusty hole in the floor.
Next, I stopped for a Big Mac and 11 orders of fries that I could squash all over the floor of the truck and soak up some of the gasoline smell.
The ferry charges you an extra $38 if your vehicle is too tall, so when I finally got to the Gig Harbor Boat Works, I slid my new rowboat into the bed of the truck like a pile of lumber instead of putting it on top of the lumber rack. I paid the bill for the boat, latched it down and started back home.
In route, the weather changed from sun to rain, to sun, to sleet, to rain and just when it began raining hard, I had to stop at the Boats Afloat Show to pick up the oarlocks for my new boat.
Since the rowboat stuck six feet out of the back of Elmo’s pickup truck, I was charged a $42 motor-home-rate to park the truck at the far end of the parking lot.
Naturally, the key to Elmo’s ignition key didn’t work in the door so I had to take my rucksack with me, containing my address book, camera, two lenses, nine rolls of film, parka, dark glasses, cellular phone and two new fishing reels that I had also bought in Gig Harbor.
The rowboat maker’s wife had given me a free pass to pick up the oarlocks, but it didn’t work where I had to park. Now, I had to walk about half a mile in the pouring rain to the other end of the marina so I could get in free.
Two hours later I was heading for the freeway when the truck coughed, but there was just enough gas in the leaking tank. I switched to it and was able to get to a gas station.
There, I also fixed a short in the truck so the headlights wouldn’t go off and on in rhythm to the windshield wipers. While doing that I calculated that Elmo’s truck was getting approximately 5.3 miles per gallon.
An hour later I finally merged into the commuter traffic headed north on I-5 while swerving back and forth between the two inside lanes because of the loose steering mechanism on the truck. I was stopped twice by the Highway Patrol for driving too slow and erratically while under the influence.
I drove off the ferry at 10:30 p.m., almost 16 hours after I had gotten on it the same morning.
As I came around Six-Dead-Cat-Corner (named by the lady resident who has a thing for raising many cats, but not good at keeping them off the road) I heard a clunk and watched my brand new row boat slide past me and disappear in the blackberry bushes. My Boy Scout knots didn’t hold as well as I thought they would, but I still had three pieces of rope that were long enough to tie together so I could tie one end to the boat in the blackberry bushes and tow it back to the road where I could wrestle it back into the truck.
Ten minutes later, I was mentally rowing my new boat and didn’t see the deer that ran in front of the truck as it tried to commit suicide on my bent bumper and one working headlight. Luckily, it was just a little faster than the truck.
I walked in the front door, to find my wife asleep on the couch in front of the TV. I was standing right over her, but I didn’t realize I was drenched in rainwater until she woke up instantly when I whispered, “Honey, guess what happened to me?”