Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


by Robison Wells

Several months ago I recounted a story of several bad things piling up: a leaky roof, a neice who didn't sleep, a son who peed on me during stake conference. And I said, "After a while, when problems pile up (or puddle up) it stops being aggravating and starts being funny."

Well, I was mistaken.

Several weeks ago we had a bit of a milestone on the old Frog Blog, wherin I used a bad word. Despite what you would expect--that a bad word would be used in a hurried, wild rant--I actually deliberated long and hard before using it. But I decided that it worked, and that it fit the post.

But the problem is that that kind of language would be extremely appropriate today, but now I can't use it lest I be deemed a potty mouth. Dang it.

Here's the story:

I left scenic Minneapolis on Friday afternoon, and I drove to Fargo, ND. The next day I drove from Fargo to Miles City, MT (home of Violet Beauregard). Along the way I stopped in at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and was surprised to discover it holds the record as the World's Most Boring National Park.

Sunday I drove down to Little Bighorn National Monument, which I found fascinatingly ambiguous. I took a great many pictures, and I was already fashioning a blog post in my head as I left the parking lot.

Then, on to Billings Montana for lunch and fuel, and then over the scenic Beartooth Pass into Yellowstone National Park. I've been to Yellowstone a million times--it's one of my favorite places on earth--but I'd never come in the northeast entrance. And the Beartooth Pass was once dubbed The Most Beautiful Road in North America. So, I was excited.

Here's a picture of the pass. The road doesn't go up the canyon floor, as you might expect. It actually goes up the side of the mountain in a series of wicked switchbacks.

Here is Google Earth's map of the switchbacks. In these steep roads, you climb just under 4000 feet. It's beautiful and crazy--one of those roads that makes you think civil engineers secretly want to be in the X-Games.

So I got to the top of the switchbacks, and there's a great little vista where you can pull over and look back at the road and be amazed that you actually survived.

As I pulled into that parkign lot, my car died.

It didn't start again. I know absolutely nothing about cars, so I enlisted the help of a fellow traveler, who happened to be an auto mechanic. He tried to jump start it, but to no avail. I finally called a tow truck. (And I did so on one of those roadside emergency boxes, because no one had cellphone coverage up on Beartooth Pass.)

The tow truck took me and the car back down the insane switchbacks, and on into Billings (all for the low low price of $430!)

It being a Sunday afternoon, I found a hotel across the street from the Kia dealership (did I mention that my car is a Kia? And were you aware that Kia sucks?). The next morning (yesterday) they gave me the diagnosis: timing belt.

For those, like me, who are unaware of the inner workings of vehicles, a timing belt is some thing somewhere inside the engine that makes the car work. When the timing belt breaks, then the engine stops working. (Sorry if that description is too technical for you.) But the fun thing about the timing belt is that it's like a villian in a bad mobster movie: the kind who says "If I'm going down, I'm taking you all with me!" So, the timing belt breaks, and it whips around smashing stuff and bending things and causing mischief.

So. Around 10:00am they told me that it looked like I lucked out and the belt didn't cause much damage. The repair bill would be painful, but not devastating. And then, I didn't see them for seven hours. When the mechanic (named Marv) finally came out of the operating room, he didn't look happy. Three times, he said, they tried to make the timing belt work and three times it didn't solve the problem. So, there must be something else wrong, deeper inside the belly of the beast.

I got a hotel for another night. And here I sit today, continuing to wait, in fricking Billings Montana.

Here's what stinks: this car is not a nice car. It has 110,000 miles on it, and has a lot of wear. Marv said that there's a very real possibility that the repair bill will be more than the car is worth.

Of course, if you were in my shoes, you'd say: "That's okay. I'll just trade it in and buy something else." But that won't work, because I'm a grad student, with no income. And my credit is about what you'd expect for someone with no income, massive student loans, and credit cards bills reflecting the fact that I have NO MONEY.

So, we just might be turning this stupid car in for scrap and then walking for a while.

I tell you: poverty sucks. Almost as much as Kias.


At 8/19/2008 12:33 PM, Anonymous William Morris said...

Not to be selfish, Rob. But where were you two years ago when I bought a Kia?


I miss my 1994 VW Jetta (that got smashed when a woman in a Volvo ran a red light).

And here's hoping this is the end of the bad luck streak.

At 8/19/2008 2:13 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

Here's where you can just stress the capital of Montana over and over again. (Oh, HEL-ena! See? Doesn't that make you feel a *little* better?)

At 8/19/2008 2:53 PM, Blogger Matthew Buckley said...

I need a road trip, Rob. Just say the word and I'll come get you.

At 8/19/2008 4:19 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

Was "fricking" the bad word here?

Well, at least you still had some money saved up from your internship, right? ;) Did you try bartering all that popcorn in the trunk?

At 8/19/2008 5:06 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

Oh, man, Rob, I'm sorry to hear this. Let Matthew come pick you up and I'll provide cookies for the trip.

At 8/19/2008 6:34 PM, Blogger Janice said...

I hear bicycles are cheap and the fuel is free (unless you value your legs.)

Just think - now you can be like the pioneer children!

Actually, you can solve your problem by writing another fantastic book. Do it now while you have time in your hotel room across the street from the fricking Kia dealership.

At 8/19/2008 7:32 PM, Blogger Kimberly said...


Maybe we could have a Bring Rob Home Blog-a-thon or something.

At 8/19/2008 7:33 PM, Blogger pwells said...

Rob, you forgot the part where you can't even junk the car and take the bus home, because all of your worldly goods that you took to Minneapolis are packed in the Kia. But I send you all the motherly love that I can.

At 8/19/2008 7:54 PM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

Poverty does suck, and so does your current situation (I've been stranded myself in the mountains before). But apparently this is supposed to give you character or something.

At 8/20/2008 12:50 AM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

After oral surgery from Helena, pain meds that have made me stumble around like a title character from a Boris Karloff movie, and battling two centipedes in the last three hours (those things are way hardier than Kias)I turn on the computer, knowing your blog will cheer me up. All I can say (Now see what you've done, Annette? Or maybe it's the pain meds talking.) Anyway, it must not be true that misery loves company because I feel just awful.

Being a writer in the LDS market, I'm as poverty-stricken as everybody else who didn't win a Whitney this year, but I do have a Mason jar full of pennies and a nearly-complete state quarter collection I'd be willing to donate to the blog-a-thon.

My father was born in Billings, BTW. I'll throw in an extra buck for a picture of...well...anything besides the Kia dealership.

At 8/20/2008 1:48 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Well, as long as you're having fun . . .

Take heart. Soon you'll be a rich business tycoon and NYT bestselling author.

At 8/20/2008 2:28 AM, Blogger Amy said...

people here in 'fricking Billings, MT' used to purchase your books at the local LDS bookstore...I don't know if they will continue to do so! If you are still here in Billings on Wednesday, call Words of Wisdom Bookstore (406-651-4964) and ask for the manager's (my) cell #. We'll see if we can't help you out in some way...


At 8/20/2008 11:10 AM, Blogger Danyelle Ferguson said...

Ooh, Rob. You're in for it now. You have a book store manager after you! And hey, isn't there a temple in Billings? Maybe you should go find some peace while you're waiting around. Maybe you'll figure out how to get your car working (or one that actually works). Good luck!

At 8/20/2008 11:36 AM, Blogger Just_Me said...

I've been there... although not up the pass yopu pictured. That's why I moved closer to the beach. Less snow, fewer passes, and evena broken car can coast for a few miles :o)

The good news is that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. This will eventually pay off. And one day you'll be able to laugh about this.

..... oh, and since we're on the topic of fun names in the Atlas.... There's a Hell, Montana too. Paradise is down in the Bahamas.

At 8/20/2008 12:12 PM, Blogger Pat said...

I'm so sorry - I've been in that position more times than I care to remember. (But luckily, never so far from home.)
...Pardon me if I'm still cracking up - I promise it's from all the comments, and not from your misery! :-)

At 8/20/2008 12:54 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

I got Kerry kinda swearing.

Not sure if I should consider that an accomplishment or something to apologize for . . . :D


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