From Charles Kuralt's 1995 A Life on the Road:
We left Moab, Utah, on a wintry Friday afternoon, bound for the airport at Grand Junction, Colorado, so that I could catch the last plane to Denver and go on to New York for the Sunday Morning program. The distance from Moab to Grand Junction is not great, but the road is an exceedingly lonely one, through the region of stone windows and arches and canyon lands along the Colorado River. The wind rose, the snow began falling and the bus began slowing down.
"What's the matter?" I asked Izzy, who was driving.
"Won't go," he said. He pressed the accelerator to the floor. The bus gave one last lurch forward into the blinding snow and stopped, right there in the middle of the road in the middle of nowhere in the middle of a blizzard.
"What's the next town?" Izzy asked.
"Cisco, Utah," I said, looking at the map.
"Too far to walk," I said.
We put on our parkas, went out into the storm and pried open the hatch to the engine compartment. Everything in there was coated thick with ice.
"Must be water in the gas line," Izzy said. "The carburetor's frozen up. Where's the ether spray?"
"We used up the ether spray back there in Green River," Larry said.
"Let's pour in some of that Drygas," I said.
"We used that up, too," Larry said.
"We need some alcohol," Izzy said.
"Well, we don't have any," Larry said. "Except the vodka."
We looked at one another. I went into the bus and came back with a quart bottle of vodka, unopened. Larry opened it and solemnly poured the whole quart into the gas tank. Izzy climbed in and cranked the accelerator a few times. The engine started with a roar. We closed the door and were off.
A mile or two later, on a slight hill, the bus slowed to a stop again.
"There's always the scotch," Larry said.
The scotch got us to the top of the hill, but not much farther. We stopped again in the snow.
"Not the brandy!" I exclaimed. It was a fifth of VSOP, the good Hennessey.
"It's no use," Izzy said. "We have to dry out the carburetor somehow."
I remembered that Larry carries a small hair dryer in his sound case. He uses it to remove humidity from the tape recorder and the delicate circuit boards of the camera. I suggested using it on the carburetor.
Usually, at this point in our breakdowns, an old rancher comes along in a pickup truck, stops and offers help. All the old ranchers must have been home by the fire. Not a single soul passed that way in either direction that afternoon. If one had, he would have been treated to the sight of a motor home stranded in the storm with only its auxiliary generator running, and three snow-covered figures struggling to tape a hair dryer inside the engine compartment.
It took our entire supply of electrical tape, but we finally got the nozzle of the dryer aimed delicately at the carburetor. We closed the door to the engine compartment. We could hear the generator roaring and the hair dryer humming away in there. We felt foolish. Izzy waited a few minutes, then twisted the ignition key. The engine started right up.
We made it through the snow to Cisco, Utah, and up to Interstate 70. We made it across the state line into Colorado, running on Texaco regular, Smirnoff 90-proof, Dewar's White Label, and Clairol hair dryer power. We made it to Grand Junction airport, just in time to see, above the low terminal roof, the tail of my airplane as it turned and taxied out to the runway.
We stopped at the curb outside the United counter, so that I could go in and ask about the first flight to Denver the next morning. I tried to think of something to be glad about.
I was glad we hadn't poured the Hennessey into the gas tank.
Tags: Charles Kuralt, A Life on the Road