I remarked as we sat in our white rental Chevy Malibu on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere Alaska. We did everything that we could but we had finally run out of options.
It wasn't the Malibu's fault by any means. She had gotten us through over a thousand miles of rough Alaskan twist and turns and the best week of my life. A week filled with firsts and packed with emotion and adventure.
But I can't say we didn't deserve to be defeated in the end. We did not treat the Malibu with the respect that she deserved. The motto that we repeated over and over as we put her through her paces is "Hertz would not approve," but she took whatever we threw at her like a champ. Until we ran out of gas.
It was our last day in the Last Frontier and we had planned a few hikes to cap it off before we flew out of Anchorage in the evening. We left our lodging early in the morning and drove towards Kenai Fjords National Park to get up close and personal with Exit Glacier. We had plenty of range and with all of our driving being highway driving, we thought we would surely run into a gas station at some point in the journey.
But our fuel range was the least of worries when there was the excitement of catching a few more Alaskan experiences before we went home. It wasn't until we got back in the car from exploring Kenai Fjords that I mentioned that we probably should get gas before we go to the next hike. At this point we still had around 60 miles of range left.
We did not have cell phone service to look up the nearest gas station so we decided to just drive towards our next destination until we spotted one. The miles passed and our range grew slimmer. As the distance to empty crept down, I inversely worried more.
Our car was equipped with a concierge type calling system which I have used in my experience to navigate to places. I decided that it would probably be best to place a call to them and ensure that we would be in the clear.
After placing that call, I breathed a sigh of relief that they would route us to a gas station that would leave our car with only 15 miles of range left.
We continued towards the destination and the vehicle eventually displayed a "fuel range low" message instead of our approximate distance to empty. I was confident we would make it as the GPS said that we were very close.
"Turn right in a half a mile," our robotic navigational lifesaver spoke over the car speakers as we neared the gas station. This was it. We had made it to the gas station.
We turned the corner and confusion set in. "You have arrived," our navigation said. But where exactly did we arrive? We look around to see if we had missed anything. There was no sign, no structures, and certainly no gas pumps. I turned off the Malibu. We got out on foot and looked around. We found evidence that gas pumps had to have once been there but clearly they were there no longer.
We got back in the car. "I think we just have to give up..." We could risk going further down the highway with our mystery mileage until the car officially failed, but at least we were stopped in a safe place. There we were, three college students stranded in Alaska with no cell phone service.
We placed another call with our vehicle and let them know our predicament. They patched us through to the Alaska State Troopers who connected us with a towing company. We gave the towing company an explanation of our situation and our approximate mileage marker. We asked for the damage of a tow from our location and we were ensured that we would be "taken care of when the driver arrived."
Some time passed by. We waited and reminisced on the week at laughed at the situation that we somehow had gotten ourselves in. Our savior in a yellow truck eventually arrived and hopped out of the cab with a red gas can.
We briefly exchange words as he goes and pours the gas into the Malibu. I once again ask what this trip would cost us, and was told that he would have to do the calculations back in the truck. What options did we have at this point? I let him continue to pour the 2 gallons of gas into the vehicle.
The little blonde hair boy that couldn't have been any older than 16 or 17 climbed up in his tow track, punched some numbers, and with the a straight face says "That'll be $300 please." I laughed. Looked around and his face was still straight. "No. Really. How much is it going to really cost?" I said. The boy looked back down at his paper and then back at me. "$300," again he says. I was floored. How did 2 gallons of gas just cost us $300? This has to be some sick joke. Unfortunately , he was as serious as he could be.
I walked back to the car to consult the other two on this issue. What do we do? We'll act like dumb and broke college students. The plan is flawless, right?
Eventually through some dealing and playing dumb we came to an agreement with the little boy's father to only pay $80 for the gas, a price that we thought was reasonable for the short mileage and little bit of gas.
Off we were on the rest our day. The day hadn't gone quite as planned, but we were still able to squeeze in a few short little hikes along the way. Our day was capped off with a hike over looking Anchorage and amazing local beer and pizza from Moose's Tooth (highly recommended).
While some would say this day could be classified as a failure or a major disappointment, we were able to turn our misfortune into a moment of laughter and reflection. In other words, another Prime Adventure.