Wanderlust: Weary traveler sleeps on abandoned couch

by Dan Groth

My travel story is a bit shabby. It has the makings of a fine country song, or an enduring folk tune that I’d call, “Don’t Try to Sleep on an Abandoned Couch When You’re Outside of Brigham City, Utah.”

This occurred in 2007, just months before I got a cellphone, driving back to Portland, Oregon, after a visit to Durango in my 1980 Volvo. I got a late start and then had to turn back at Dolores because I’d forgot my mountain bike in town. It was nearing midnight, and I was pretty tired when I came to Brigham City. I saw a sign for a state park, so I decided to explore for sleeping options.

After a short drive on a dirt road, I hit a trailhead parking lot. Lo and behold, there was a couch sitting there. It was a warm night. Should I sleep on that providential couch instead of laying down my sleeping pad on the road? I checked out the couch, seeing little sign of wear, and smelling pretty normal … perhaps this was the gift given to me as a weary traveler?

I went for it. It was a comfortable thing, but I hadn’t laid down for more than five minutes when a humongous truck pulled up and sat with its lights directly on me. My instincts told me to get in my car and stay there until the truck went away. The truck did not go away. It turned on police lights. A policeman came over, and I explained my situation after he checked my I.D. He said there had been a lot of drug activity in that area. He suggested a nearby Walmart parking lot and then drove away.

I sat in my car for a bit, digesting what happened, when I decided to take a walk. After shutting the car door, I realized I’d locked in my keys. I tried to keep a positive outlook. I had nothing to jimmy the lock, but the window was cracked about four inches – narrow enough to prevent easy entry past my elbow. I never descended into panic, but I also knew I was in a pinch. That cop wasn’t coming back anytime soon and I didn’t relish spending the night there, walking to the highway, or breaking the window.

If I shoved my arm in sideways and pushed down hard on the window, I had some leeway to grab the old-school knob lock. But it was painful, very painful. Tough times demand action, and I repeatedly shoved down that window, pushed my elbow through, and reached for that lock until, finally, I unlocked the door.

I unceremoniously got the hell out of there and found a rest area in Idaho to get some sleep. The remainder of the trip went uneventfully, but I had an amazingly epic black-and-blue mark taking up most of my forearm.

Dan Groth

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