Like New, Lo Miles
part II
© by Russ Walling

     "That ought to do it," I said and admired my penmanship.  I found a bent nail
on the ground and rammed it through the soggy cardboard I used as a tablet.  I
eyeballed the Yosemite Camp 4 message board and looked for a prominent
place to hang my getaway note.  Hmmm--no open space as usual.  Doing as I had
seen--yet never done--I removed any competing messages, balled them up, and
jammed them behind the plywood storm flap bolted to the kiosk window.  Now
there was plenty of room.  Ceremoniously I secured my note smack in the middle
of the newly created vacancy.  It read:  Looking for a road partner.  Hueco
Tanks, Joshua Tree, Jail, Hell.  Have car will travel.  Leave message here, or
see Philo in the Rescue Site.  P.s. no freeloaders or Deadheads.
	Feeling satisfied that the note would get results, I pushed off to the
mountain room bar to get a drink and perhaps watch the free movie shown nightly
at the lodge.  With a bit of good timing at the bar, I got a cold beer just
before the movie crowd, now on intermission, engulfed the area.  I struggled
past the incoming bar patrons and out into the night.  I went and sat on my
usual bench outside the bar as the opening credits scrolled the screen and
confirmed my recurring nightmare.  Yes, they were going to show the same old
climbing movie.  I could swear I saw this in the 60's with Harding--and it was
old then.
	Hitting my beer, I wondered how  to entertain myself for yet another evening
here in the Valley. My best guess?--probably the same way I did the night
before--talk shop, talk rescue, talk trash.  Same guys, same gals, same talk,
same hours on the bench.  Not exactly edge of your seat material.  An excited
"hey, hey, are you Philo?" sounded like it might bring change.
	"Yeah, yeah. I'm Philo.  What's the problem?"
	"No problem man, I just need a lift, man--that's it, just a lift." He said
this while running in place, trying to keep warm.  His accent gave him away
immediately as a Brit, or deviation of something close.
	"A lift?  What are you talking about?"  I figured this guy as some kind of
kook, looking for illicit drugs--or worse.  He was clad in less than
appropriate garb for the season:  a cardigan over a tank top, complimented by
jap-flaps--no socks.  His floral patterned shorts looked as though they had
done some time cleaning a b.b.q. grill.  His shoulder length hair was well on
its way to dreads, or knots, depending on which side of the fence you're on.  A
scraggly beard was doing its best to conceal at least 5% of his boyish face and
his 18 hair mustache probably wouldn't be in for a decade. 
	"Well, how's about it man?  You gonna' give me lift?" he quizzed while
thrusting my note from the camp four board out in his hand.  "I got to get out
of here Guv...I need to get out to Hueco."  This last part he said with
	"You got any gas money?" I asked matter of factly.  
	"Sure, sure, I've got plenty left over from me dole."  He pulled a fair wad of
bills from his pocket as further proof.  "See...lets go."
	"When can you be ready?" I asked and quaffed the last of my beer.
"Immediately" was his quick reply.  
	"Ok, lets roll, er...uh...Guv."  I took a quick look over my shoulder at
Chouinard mantling a bolt on the big screen.  I decided that should hold me
until next year, and headed out to the parking lot.  
	"So what's your name anyway," I asked.
	"It's Angus.  Angus Alexander MacInnes," he said in a squeaky tone.  "Yours
is Philo, right?"
	"Yup, just like on the note.  Say, why do you have to get out of her in such a
hurry anyway?  You in trouble with the fellas in green?"
	"Not exactly...but maybe a wee bit," he offered without really letting any
clues leak out.  We took a few more silent paces, then he started again, "I
came here from know, England.  Came to climb, but the
bastards only let me stay 14 days in the park.  That's not very long,
especially since I had thousands of miles to travel to get here. It just is'nee
right ya know." 
	I listened to his hard luck story as we approached my car and grunted
affirmatively every so often just to let him think I was still with him.
"Well, here it is buddy boy.  Your ride to freedom," I said and pointed to the
'62 Oldsmobile Cutlass I'd duped some Germans out of the previous week.  The
"bucket" as I affectionately called it, showed its languid, sexy, lines well in
the moonlight.  brimming with pride, I asked angus what he thought of our
	"This pile 'o rubbish is what we're taking to Hueco!  Man, if you get it out
of the lot you'll be way ahead of the game on my card," Angus blurted with a
laugh.  "I hope you're a member of a "motor club" or something.  We'll probably
roll into Hueco behind a tow truck...if at all."
	"Look pal...this rig is bomber.  If you want out, tell me now 'cause I don't
want to hear it out there on the highway...well? or out?"  I looked at
Angus with my "I'm taking no shit from you" face.
	"Oh, I'm hundred percent.  I'm just saying that...well...your car
looks a wee bit suspect for a drive of such...uh...magnitude.  I'm not saying
it won't make, ferget it man.  I'm in.  I'll go get me stuff."
Angus disappeared into Camp 4 and returned shortly with his pack...a Karrimor.
I should have guessed it.
	I pulled the bungy from its mooring under the rear bumper and forced the trunk
lid up.  A ski pole kept the lid up as Angus hefted his pack onto the piles of
laundry and pitons I had "packed" earlier that day.  While Angus was loading
his stuff I wiggled my only key into the lock on the passengers door, and with
the precision of a safecracker, tried to open it.  
	"Say, does the boot have a lock?" Angus asked while fumbling with the area the
trunk key used to reside in.  "I don"t want to lose me valuables ya know."
	I converted "boot" to "trunk" quickly in my head, then answered:  "Nope...but
I do have a new bungy cord hanging in that hole up by your head."  I hoped this
would tranquilize his security didn't.  I continued working the key
back and forth in the slot trying to make any of the well worn teeth grab a
tumbler...or whatever lurks in a door lock.  finally it grabbed...I
turned...and it snapped off, flush in the hole.  "Oops, the flippin' key's
broken off in the lock."  I looked at the key stub parked in my palm, then
added:  "Looks like your door isn't going to open...oh well, at least it's
locked.  For the sake of your valuables."
	"Christ man!  Now what? Where's your spare key?"
	"No spares babe.  Having that kind of safety net makes me get sloppy with the
first set.  Besides, I've got a key to my door and the ignition."  I held up a
slightly modified screwdriver.  " problem."  Angus shook his head in
disbelief and lowered the "boot" lid and secured the bungy.  I opened my door
with the screwdriver and hopped in.  Angus waited patiently at the passengers
door as I pulled and jerked on the handle inside, hoping it just might spring luck.  I rolled down the window and said casually :  "Hop in mate."

	Angus let out a sigh and crawled through the window feet first.  He looked
around the cockpit of the "bucket" and asked quite seriously if the car had
been in fire, or stripped by rogues at one time.  I assured him that this was
an example of American minimalist decor, and the engineers had saved all the
"magic stuff" for the power plant under the hood.  A couple turns of my "key"
confirmed this fact.  The bucket found a nice idle and I piloted the beast out
onto the loop road.  
	An hour and a half later and we were rapidly approaching the jewel of the
Central Valley...Fresno.  Ten more minutes found us in a Shell station on the
edge of town. 
	"Gas time buddy boy.  Cough up some of that dole shrubbery your holding," I
said loud enough to wake up any guy faking that he was asleep.  "Tenner ought
to get us down the road a piece," I added and put out my hand.  Angus thumbed
through his bills and landed the money on ones.  Maybe his wad wasn't
the horsechoker I thought it was.  I put up some matching funds, gassed up the
bucket, then blasted back onto the highway.
	Several more stops during the night for gas and to fix minor problems let the
predawn light creep up on us.  Another tank of gas in Victorville took an
additional ten dollar bite of Angus's available funds.  I told him not to
worry, Hueco was only about eight more "bites" away.  Angus found little humor
in this last remark, then fessed up that he had only about two "bites" left in
him.  Maybe only one, if he decided to eat this week.  
	"Say what?"  I queried.  "How do you expect to get to Hueco with that kind of
chump change?"
	"Well...I can sell some gear or something, or find some work."
	Pulling back out onto the highway, I had to laugh.  "Maybe get some work!
Hell, we'll only be in Josh for a day or two, then, once my tips get thin,
we're outta there."  I stressed the "we" part.  
	Angus nodded in mock approval, then slumped down in the plush reclines of the
passengers seat.  "There must be something I can do for money around here.  I
mean...this is of opportunity.  I'll have you know I can be
quite handy."
	" what?" I asked in a sceptical tone.
	"I was a furriers apprentice back in Manchester.  I can do's my
trade and a man with a trade is always welcome...anywhere."
	"Look pal, that trade you have is worth nothing at the gas pump.  Plus, I
think that land of opportunity stuff stretches itself pretty thin out here in
the high desert.  Hell, most folks out here can't turn a buck with a spatula,
never mind a furriers apprentice from Manchester trying to have a run at
it.  My recommendation is you pursue that gear selling angle...whaddya got to
sell anyway?"
	"I suppose I could sell some of my Friends, though I hate to do it.
How's the exchange rate going to treat me?  What would a new Friend cost ya
here in America, like in a mountain shop?"
	"A new one?  In a store?  I bet you're looking at close to fifty bucks."
	"Fifty dollars," he yelped.  "I got most of mine in the vicinity of twelve
Pounds Sterling...that's a little less than twenty-three dollars.  How can they
afford it?"
	"They can't afford it, that's the point.  That's why if you offer the poor
saps out here at Josh a good price they'll take it.  How many Friends did you
bring anyway?"
	"I'm not entirely sure, but it must be close to forty.  I didn't want to run
short on any of those Yosemite cracks i'd heard so much about."
	"Forty!  Jimmeny!  Your money problems are over.  If you cut them babies loose
at twenty, twenty-five bucks a pop, you'll have...uh," I attempted calculating
the math in my head... "exactly...uh...bunch of dough!"
	"Fine.  Let's get out to the crags then.  I'm ready to start me new trade as a
salesman."  Pride renewed, Angus quietly dozed off wearing the smile of a man
with no more worries.
	Within two hours we were on Monument Drive and the crags were as close as your
next shredded tip.  The morning had barely begun as i hung a hard right and
headed down the road to the Real Hidden Valley.  With only a couple of days to
boulder here on our way to Hueco, I didn't want to get cheated out of any
quality pulls.  The Real Hidden Valley was no cheat.
	As the bucket lurched to a halt, Angus awoke and scanned the terrain.  Before
I could comment on the area, he had vaulted out of his window and was rummaging
around in the trunk for his boots and chalk bag.  Gear in hand, he bolted out
of sight.  The lad was definitely keen to start bouldering.  
	I pulled my boots from the back seat, slipped them on, loaded my chalk bag,
and headed to the boulders.  I introduced myself to a few old problems from the
past and quickly polished them off.  A dozen more token pulls had me warmed up
and ready for anything.  Then I saw Angus.
	"Jesus man!" I yelled.  "That thing is pretty careful!"  Angus was
pawing like a fool, his angular frame taught with fear.  A heel hook, a bit of
barn door, a mild turbo, and a good case of the shakes saw him to the summit.
	"Whoo-eeeee!" was his cry from the top of the thirty foot boulder.  "That
thing was the wee babies!"  he took a quick peek over the edge to
confirm the steepness, then headed down the back side.
	I stood at the base flabbergasted.  Angus popped around the corner breathing
hard.  "Man, that one is a gem!  Are you going to do it too?"  He motioned
toward the problem with a newly torn tip.
	"  Not without a cord."  My eyes were walking the entire length of
the overhanging crack and face Angus had just climbed.  Even with a cord I new
this problem was a piece of work.
	Angus asked casually while checking his torn tip, "does this scramble have a
	"Yeah...they call it the "So High".  Kinda' like 5.12, I hear."
	"Good warm-up!" Angus added, and headed off to another problem.  
	I stood back and watched as Angus did problem after problem, most on his first
effort.  I took a stab a few familiar pulls and kept one eye on Angus.  This
guy was putting some of the hardest problems in Josh in his hip pocket...with
	"Me tips are getting kind of thin," Angus moaned.  With thirty unforgiving
monzonite problems having passed under them in the last hour, it was no
	"Save some for tomorrow," I said.  "Lets get you over to the campground to
start your new career.  All those money laden weekend warriors from L.A. are
waiting for you."  We slackened the laces on our boots and headed back to the
car.  Angus managed to slip in a few pulls on the way.  Like I said, he was
	The campground sported a capacity crowd as usual.  We stopped the bucket at
the message board and Angus hung a "for sale" sign:  Friends for sale,
cheap.  see Angus in the parking lot.  The tack hadn't settled in the
wooden board before he had rung up his first sale.  I left Angus, a small
crowd,  and his sack full of friends at the board and piloted the bucket to a
quiet spot.  Right now seemed like a good time  to catch up on some winks I
lost on the all night drive.
	Angus came by and woke me up just before dark.  He told me that his gear sale
went well, and it was time we went to town for dinner...he was buying.  
	"Sounds like a deal to me," I said yawning.  "Where do you want to go?"
	"I've nay idea.  I've never been here before," Angus said while sliding in his
window.  "What are me options?"
	"Jeez, just about anything you want.  There's Mex, Italian, burgers, salad
bars, Thai...a liquor store... anything sound good?" 
	Angus licked his lips.  "How's about some Mex. That should dae it.  You know,
we canna get much Mex back in "auld Manchester", and the stuff we do get... I
haf'ta doubt its authenticity.  If me geography is right, England is a long way
from Mexico, and i think it makes the food suffer a wee bit."
	"Ok, Mex it is."  I pulled out of the parking lot and let the bucket start
sucking up highway toward town.
	Curiosity got the best of me, so I decided to check the sales figures for the
day.  "So Angus, how many friends did ya sell anyway?"
	Angus thought for a moment, tugging lightly on a dreadlock,  "I musta sold
almost all them."  He patted his wallet with pride, "I got close tae seven
hundred dollars here in me billfold."
	"Seven hundred!  Holy mackerel!" I spluttered with amazement.  It appeared
that Angus's money problems were least for now.
	In town, the meal went over without a hitch.  Sngus was quite pleased with the
establishments authenticity and the quality of the food.  He was a little
confused when he ordered "chips" and they were not the variety he found usually
with a piece of fish laying near them.  Regardless, the Mexican "chips" were
tasty enough for him to polish off several baskets without further complaints.

	After dinner we discussed the remainder of our trip.  It was decided that
tomorrow after bouldering a wee bit, a few more sales for Angus, perhaps a
roped route or two, then whoosh... we're outta here for Hueco.  After a coffee
and the complimentary mint, we headed back to the monument.
	I was driving past the kiosk at the Monument entrance when Angus asked, "can I
drive a wee bit?"
	"You want to drive?  Why?" I inquired.
	"Well the road looks rather inviting with all the curves and bends, and I
don't get to drive much back home...if at all."  Angus looked on anxiously.
	"Sure, you can drive.  I'm warning you though, this is an American automobile
with a hungry V-8 under the hood.  Try to keep it under control...and on the
right side of the road.  No funny business."  
	I pulled over in a turn out and switched places with Angus.  He slid behind
the wheel and scanned the dash.  His hands milked the steering wheel like a
circular udder.  I could swear I saw sweat pouring off them already.  Sngus
turned the screwdriver key and the starter revolted against the already
spinning flywheel, "yow!" he yelled.  "What was that?"
	"That was the starter ya fool!  The car is already running!  You sure you know
what you're doing?"
	"Sure, sure...i've got it wired man.  Dit tight and we'll be under way in a
second."  Angus fumbled with the shifter in the console and after a whir and a
clunk we were under way... in reverse!  "Crimeny!  What's going on here?" Angus
asked and stomped on the brake pedal hard enough to buckle the floorboard.
	"What's going on is you're in reverse!  Here..."  I put the car in a forward
gear, "now try it champ."  Angus looked cautiously over his left shoulder, put
on the blinker, and looked again over his shoulder.  We crept forward at a
snails pace until the seam of the pavement came to meet the balding front
tires.  In a mighty burst of noise and confusion I was thrown back in my seat
from the acceleration.  In the side view mirror I could see the remnants of a
rooster tail still hanging in the air.  
	"Jesus man, take it easy!" I bellowed.  My shout fell on deaf ears as Angus
continued to give the beast gas.  
	Angus flashed a maniacal grin and yelled over the roar of the power plant,
"whooee!!!  This is great man!  Just great!"  His rabid eyes watched the yellow
line slash like a bullwhip in front of his face,  every inch increasing the
speed. Each turn became an exercise in over-steer as the car fishtailed wildly
with every exaggerated pull of the steering wheel.  Angus threw his head back
and began laughing like a madman, then shrieked, "sit back laddie! we're ready
to fly!"
	"Ok!  that's it!" I yelled.  "Enough driving for one night.  Let me back in
there."  I no sooner got the words out when I felt the sickening weightlessness
of a car breaking loose from gravity.  The squeal of rubber pushed over the
limit drowned out our own screams as we spun counterclockwise toward the brink.
I saw the yellow line whip past for the second time and then the car was
launched upward by an unholy force... ka-boom!  I could feel rocks hitting and
scraping the undercarriage near my feet, then dirt began pouring in my open
window with the power of a sandblaster.  Kah-bonk!  The car came to a stop with
a heavy blow to the rear quarter panel.  I frantically quizzed this would-be
Mario Andretti:  "Jesus!  Whaddya think you're doing!  Are you nuts or what?
     "Sorry Guv.  It kinda got away from me.  By the way, you all right?"
	"Yeah, yeah, I'm ok but what were you doing?  you wrecked the damn car ya
	The headlights showed plenty of dirt and dust that was still settling to earth
around our wreck.  Sngus got out of his door and I clawed my way out of the
window.  S quick survey of the accident site showed that Sngus had managed to
vault most of a rock embedded flood control ditch and then sideswipe a Joshua
Tree.  The big thud after our wild ride came from the boulder we were now flush
	"Hell, we might be Ok," I said with some optimism, still eyeballing the area.
"I think that I should probably do the driving from here out... that ok with
you Mario?"  Angus sheepishly agreed and followed behind me as I gave the car a
second once over.
	"Lets get out of here before you have some explaining to do to the cops," I
said.  We filed back into the bucket... with me at the wheel.  I fired her up,
second try, and with a whir and a clunk engaged a forward gear.  The bucket
lurched forth with the ghastly sound of metal being brutalized against rock.
Following a few feet of labored movement, we broke free from the boulder that
pinned the rear panel, and the bucket paddled easily across the sandy desert
floor.  After about a hundred yards of churning up the creosote, we found a
break in the drainage large enough to sneak through, back onto the road.  Once
there, I brought the bucket up to speed as a check of its condition.  All
systems were go.
	"The cars fine... isn't it?" Angus asked hopefully.  
	I listened to the motor and various other familiar clunks, then said, "I think
you got off lucky buddy boy.  No wonder they don't yet you drive much back
home.  You're a total psycho behind the wheel."
	"Well... here's a wee secret.  Promise you won't tell?" He asked in the voice
of a five year old.
	"Tell who ya nut!" I answered impatiently.
	"I've never actually driven a car on the road before."
	"Say what?  I knew it!  You had no idea what...."
	Angus interrupted, "I had some idea.  I mean, I'd driven a little in the
driveway with me father.  I also..."
	I cut in: "what... when you about five, on his knee?" I stammered.
	"Well actually I was about eight at the time, but me memory is quite good.
And as I was saying, I did drive me Uncles tractor once or twice on the farm."
     "That's a wealth of experience," I said sarcastically.  "I'm sure it prepared
you for burying the speedometer on a windy road, then flying into ditches and
trees and rocks.  Man oh man!  I should get my head examined for letting you
	Angus put his nose in the air.  "Yes, it was quite foolish of you to let me
operate this vehicle.  Especially with my lack of training in such matters," he
said smugly.
	I looked at Angus with one of those "just can-it" faces.  I turned my
attention back to the road, shaking my head I mumbled, "lack of training my
ass... you're just an escaped lunatic."  Another glance over at Angus revealed
his wide grin.  Once he caught my eye, he gave me a wink that only goes over
well when it's from a Brit.  Within seconds we were both laughing the
hysterical, nervous laugh of someone who had just cheated the reaper... and
knew it.
	Shortly, we pulled into the Hidden Valley campground and spun the loop.
Hmmm... no open spaces.  I briefed Angus on the proven method of camping when
there was no camping here at Joshua Tree.  We parked the car and got our
sleeping gear together and put it on our laps.  I turned off the car lights and
slowly motored around the loop until a suitable victim was in sight.  "Thar she
blows," I said in my Captain Ahab voice, staring down a thirty-six foot
Winnebago drydocking in site number 13.  I cut the engine on the bucket and
coasted in without a sound.  With a whisper we were both out of the car and
scurrying into the boulders with our sleeping gear.  Like clockwork the
Winnebago door opened and a head poked out and looked around for the owners of
the car now parked on their doorstep.  See ya in the morning I thought as the
door to the 'Bago closed tight for the night.
	Sfter the standard cruel night in the boulders I awoke feeling rather stiff.
I guess that if I had a sleeping bag instead of a blanket, and perhaps an
Ensolite pad, the night would be less grueling.  I looked around for Angus but
he was nowhere to be seen.  I packed up my bedroll and went back to the bucket,
thinking up a good story on the way for the 'Bago owners.  
	"Gee--you're not Mom?  Where's dad?"  I asked of the elderly woman eating
breakfast at a table that grew from the side of the 'Bago.
	"What?"  she replied somewhat startled.
	I looked around with exaggerated head movements and let my jaw hang kind of
slack.  The elderly womans eyes followed my every move.  "Well excuse me
Ma'am," I begged.  "This isn't my parents winnebago!  I must have made a
mistake last night and pulled into the wrong site.  I'm supposed to meet them
around here somewhere... for my Pappy's retirement party."  I continued to scan
the area as I loaded my sleeping apparatus into the bucket.  "Well, sorry for
the trouble Ma'am, I've got to get going  for my Pappy would be upset somethin'
terrible if I missed his party."  I fired up the bucket, gave a final wave,
then drove to the parking lot.
	Angus met me at the message board and quizzed me about some "scrambles" he
polished off earlier that morning... solo.  As he pointed to the various routes
he had done, I named them; "Left Ski Track, Right Ski Track, that one's
Bearded Cabbage, that's North Overhang.  That boulder problem's
called the Cave Man, the one to the left?  It's called the Cash
Box.  Wait a minute... you did the Cash Box?"  I asked with
disbelief.  The cash box was one of those show stopper run/jump/dyno jobs that
was done once by a famous dyno master, then never repeated.  As added incentive
for the second ascent tries, coins were lobbed into the summit bucket.  Thus
the name, Cash Box.  
	He said nonchalantly, "sure, second try or so.  Why? Is it supposed to be hard
or something?"
	"Yeah I suppose," I said laying a trap.  "How about that summit jug.  Pretty
good, huh?"  I raised an eyebrow and watched him close.
	"Not bad, but some fool had thrown some coins into it.  I almost slipped off
for one ended up under me finger after I shot a bit of a dynamo."  That bit of
a dynamo he referred to was about a seven footer.  Angus then reached into his
pocket and produced several well weathered coins.  I snatched them from his
hand and checked the dates... none from this decade.  That was proof enough for
	I returned his coins and probed him a bit more.  "Did you manage anything else
while I was asleep?" I waited for his reply, ready for anything.
	"Nah, I canna climb that well in the morning.  Me Mum says I'm a slow starter.
I did manage to sell the rest of me Friends though."  Angus flashed some
	Having heard just about enough, I suggested we get an early start for Hueco.
My tips were pretty thin and the tape on Angus's made me think they were
singing a similar tune.  Angus agreed.  We organized our stuff in the bucket,
skipped breakfast for we had none, and took off for Hueco in a cloud of dust.
Quick! Take me to Part III