1. “Man, You’re Fast”
Back in 2003 while stationed in Portsmouth, VA I was going through a divorce and as such, had moved back into the barracks. Reeling from the stress of the divorce, I had trouble sleeping and would go for a run at all hours. One such morning around 4:00AM I took off for quick 5 miler. Portsmouth has some pretty dodgy areas and my run took me straight through one of them. As I got to the top of a bridge I saw someone standing on the side of the road. It was odd but not completely unheard of that I would see a non-runner standing somewhere other than a bus stop. Anyhow, he watched me the entire time I ran closer to him and as I got closer he turned his back to me but continued to watch me over his shoulder. Since I tend to become more friendly in awkward situations I said hi as I ran past him but I picked up my pace.
After a couple minutes I had pretty much forgotten about the encounter. As I continued my run there was a bridge that went over an interstate. After I crossed the bridge, I about shit myself as I saw the same guy standing on the side of the road again. No cars passed me and there was no way he could have gotten from where we first met to here in that amount of time without driving past me. Again, being nervous all I could say, was “Man, you’re fast.” I’m pretty sure I broke personal speed records after that.
2. Ruby Tuesday’s
In the winter of 2009 my brother and I took a road trip from Portland, Oregon to Port St Lucie, Florida and back again. We made the trip to visit my sister who lives in Port St Lucie. She and her husband just had their first child and my brother and I were excited to see the newborn.
On the trip to Port St Lucie we took a combination of freeways from the northwest all the way down to the southeast corner (basically a diagonal route), but several times throughout our voyage we were tremendously delayed by snow. The trip which should have taken no more than three days ended up taking five. Because of this delay, we had to cut short our visit with our sister’s family.
On the trip back to Portland we decided to take I-10 the entire way. This stretch of freeway runs all the way from Florida to Los Angeles and would completely keep us away from the snow. The I-10 route added several hundred miles, but we both needed to be home for work the following Monday, and this was a sure fire way not to be delayed.
The first day of the return trip was uneventful, but we did manage to drive 1,300 miles from Port St Lucie to San Antonio before stopping for the night. The plan was to make it all the way to Las Vegas the next night, which would leave us with about a fourteen hour final day drive. The trip was going well. It wasn’t until we left San Antonio that the glitches started happening.
The car we took on this trip was a 2008 Honda Civic Hybrid. The entire trip we had been getting right around 35mpg (this is digitally displayed on the dash), so we had become very aware of how many miles we could squeeze out of a tank. We knew to refuel around 350 miles, but we also knew we could stretch that number into the low 400’s if need be.
About 100 miles outside San Antonio, I notice the fuel gauge was dropping noticeably faster than usual, so I clicked the button to change the dashboard display only to see the car was getting barley 26mpg. At first I was shocked, but I reasoned it to possibly driving uphill the entire way (I still don’t know)? I thought throughout the course of an entire tank of fuel that it would eventually balance itself out and we would finish the tank within that 35mpg range. I was wrong.
I kept a very detailed log of this entire trip, and this one stop in Fort Stockton, Texas is the only anomaly in the entire book. The car which had consistently held around 35mpg suddenly finished an entire tank off at 25.8mpg. That is over 100 mile difference in the vehicles normal range. I still to this day cannot figure out why there was such a drastic shift in fuel consumption in that 300 mile stretch from San Antonio. I’ve reflected on that tank of gas several times since this happened, and I have almost come to the conclusion that it was an intentional glitch in order to make us pullover where we did.
Our original plan was to refuel about 50 miles later in a town that I cannot remember, but we obviously ran short on fuel. Anyway, with our GPS programmed to Las Vegas, Nevada, we headed back onto the road in which the GPS directed. Pretty soon after we got back on the road we realized we were no longer on I-10 heading west, instead we were north on highway 285 (here’s a TIL for some people. Evenly numbered highways and freeways are heading East/West while odds are north/south). We didn’t think much about being off the interstate because many times throughout the drive we had been directed onto bypass highways. We assumed this was just another such instance.
After about an hour and a half of driving on highway 285 we crossed into New Mexico, which was about two hours earlier than we should have crossed the border. By this time we realized the GPS thought this was a more efficient way to go to Vegas even though by all accounts it is about an hour faster if we had stayed on the 10. We were annoyed, but decided to just stick it out with the GPS and keep heading north through New Mexico.
Nearly five hours after refueling in Fort Stockton, my brother and I were hungry and decided it was time to find somewhere to eat. Driving through this part New Mexico is kind of lonely. There are very few towns, and where there are towns, they are small and on the verge of becoming ghosts. I think their economies are built around helping travelers fill up their gas tanks. Other than that, I cannot see a reason for them to exist.
My brother and I have talked about what happened next so many times, but we still cannot figure it all out. We passed through a small town with a couple gas stations and we know the town was named Vaughn, NM, and then about 20 miles later we drove through a town call Encino, NM which did not have a gas station (that we can recall). In fact, the second town didn’t really seem to have much there if anything. I wasn’t sure if anyone was living there. I seem to remember questioning why it existed in the first place, but then quickly dismissing it and driving right through.
Not even ten miles after passing through Encino, NM, we surprisingly came upon a city/town that wasn’t loaded in the GPS. This wasn’t a big deal, because I was using a cheap handheld that lost its signal all the time, but usually the only things it didn’t display were newly built roads and recent construction areas. This city was definitely not brand new, so I figured the GPS was being buggy. The oddest part of finding this city, neither of us remembers seeing any warning we were coming up on a town of this size. It had several fast food joints, restaurants, hotels, motels, grocery store (Albertsons maybe) and even some bars. If I were to guess, I would say this city was roughly 10-20k people.
We decided to pull off and grab a bite to eat. Normally we probably would have grabbed some fast food, but my brother saw a Ruby Tuesday’s and really wanted to try it out. There were a couple Ruby Tuesday’s around the Portland area at the time, but neither of us had been there. We had just heard they had a pretty good salad bar, and I guess my brother was in the mood for something other than fast food. I went along with the suggestion because I was sick of eating junk.
((((((for the rest of this story, I will be N and my brother will be G)))))
We pulled into the Ruby Tuesday’s parking lot, got out of the car and walked in the restaurant. Immediately upon entering a waitress who was milling around the hostess station says, ‘Oh my word, is that N and G?’ Both my brother and I answered that it was indeed us, and the waitress went on to ask how life was in Portland. Suddenly it clicked, this girl knows who we are, but we are over 1,000 miles from home. Did we know her from back home?
My brother and I both gave very basic vague answers to her question, and I could tell she was kind of unsettled that my brother and I were being evasive. When we were seated, my brother immediately asked me where we knew her from, which was the same question I was going to ask him. I told him that I had no idea who she was, and that she obviously had mistaken us with some other people. Not more than a minute later this guy bartender comes up and says, “No fucking way, G and N. You back for jobs?”
What? My brother went on to tell the guy they had us mistaken with some other people. He laughed and dismissed my brother’s response as a joke. The bartender continued on seamlessly and started asking us how we fared in the three month anatomy and physiology course we had taken at Oregon State.
I remember thinking all of the sudden; this is not a coincidence anymore. My brother and I had taken a three month 15 credit A&P class at Portland State University when we were in our early 20’s (We were late 20’s when this interaction happened). Finally, I asked the guy exactly where they knew us from, and he just kind of paused and started looking me over. Then he said, “Oh damn, you guys just look really similar to some people that used to work here.”
He apologized and claimed he had to get back to work. After a bit, our food came and my brother and I noticed they had switched out our waitresses from the girl who recognized us when we walked in. That wasn’t a big deal, although a bit strange. Next a guy who I can only guess was the manager starts walking over to our table with a big smile on his face. As he gets within about ten feet of us he kind of starts looking over my head and stops. I think someone behind me was directing him not to talk to us. After he received the message he sharply turned 90 degrees and walked away without saying a word.
This had quickly become the most awkward meal of our lives. It went from people acting like it was a celebration for us to have shown up to everyone avoiding eye contact with us at all cost. After we finished up with our meals the waitress came told us the cash registers were frozen and that our meal was on the house.
I really wanted to ask the waitress what the name of the city was that we were in, but I also really wanted to get out of there. After leaving the restaurant we were running pretty low on gas, so I decided to refuel before we got back on the highway. I assumed the name of the city would be printed on the receipt. We were not that lucky.
This city strip was a one way road on the eastern side of the highway. When we left Ruby Tuesday’s the only way to turn was right, and it headed straight back to northbound 285. In order to refuel I would have to head north on the one way street and turn right on a side street to head back to the southern part of town to the gas station. The only available right hand turn off that one way street was closed so I was forced back onto the highway without fueling up. About 20 minutes later we found a truck stop at the intersection of 285 and I-40 where we finally filled up.
The rest of the trip was very ordinary. We talked at length about how weird that Ruby Tuesday’s was in the middle of New Mexico. We came up with solutions about how we had doppelgangers with the same names. We joked about how people that look similar follow the exact same paths in life regardless of their upbringing. We talked ourselves into it being a major coincidence. When we finally got back to Portland we decided to do a little research and find out the name of this town.
Here is the google maps picture of that stretch of highway.
We know we refueled at a truck stop at the intersection of 285 and I-40, which means that we had to have passed through Vaughn and Encino, so there should be a city between the truck stop and Encino. I don’t see anywhere on the regular map or the satellite map where this little city could possibly be. We have never really been able to answer what happened that day. I can still vividly remember the waitress’s face of unease by the way my brother and I were behaving, the bartenders’ voice change when he figured out we were not the people he thought we were, and thinking the manager looked identical to the actor Ken Moreno. My brother and I know this stuff happened, but we have never been able to find the solution.