At dawn this morning itís 30 degrees outside. There is no need to rush out, and I donít need to freeze my ass off, so I wait a few hours. I realize that the visitor center for The Hagerman Fossil Bed National Monument is closed today. Damn. I though it was going be Sunday today, but itís Monday. How the hell did that happen? Theyíre only open Thursday through Sunday and I wonít be able to get the stamp.
I call the number listed in the Fodorís book and Tina, one of the park rangers, answers the line. I tell her Iím from New York, trying to get the stamp, wondering if anyone will be around the VC, you know the deal. She says theyíre moving a bunch of fossils around and theyíll be gone for the day. But if I stop by late in the afternoon there might be someone there. And I could always send them a postcard they would be happy to stamp and send back to me. Thanks Tina, but thatís not what I had in mind. I canít wait around all day because Iíve got to start getting north, so I head down the road 30 miles over to Hagerman. Worst case scenario, Iíll take a picture of the motorcycle in front of the park sign, as the Iron Butt will accept this.
When I get there, sure enough, theyíre closed like a bank on Sunday. Big CLOSED sign in the window. I look in but thereís no one around. I notice a bunch of trucks parked out back, so I walk around the building and notice the rear door seems slightly ajar. Itís open, in fact.
"Hello. Is anyone here?"
No answer. I take a step in.
"HELLO. ANYONE HOME?"
I pass an open office, and suddenly Iím in the main room of the center. And thereís the stamp. Well, I guess they wouldnít mind, right? I sign the guest book, thanking Tina, and go out the way I came in.
Was this breaking and entering? No, not really. I didnít break anything.
Is this considered trespassing? Well, maybe? But I pay my taxes.
Did I get the stamp? YOU BET YOUR ASS I DID!
I stop for lunch at the Manhattan Cafe in Shoshone. Stamp hunting like this can work up an appetite. As soon as I get off the bike, two old timers are checking out the motorcycle and chatting it up with me. Waldo Faught, a WWII Veteran, witnessed the Bikini Atoll Atomic Bomb tests. Heís still here to tell you about it, even though the hull of his ship was so hot the Geiger counter went right off the scale. He blesses God and Idaho for his good health. Bob, the other fellow, owned a BMW motorcycle dealership in Twin Falls years ago. He also sold Triumphs and has about 50 of them in storage. He rides a big touring Venture, with a radio and even cruise control. Says thereís nothing like a motorcycle to bring people together. Right on there BOB!
Next stop is Craters of the Moon National Monument. The place lives up to its name, a huge lava field 83 square miles across. Thereís no volcano, as the Earth just opened up and the lava spewed out. Fissure vents, volcanic cones, and lava flows began erupting here about 15,000 years ago and they ceased only 2,000 years ago. Scientists say the hot magma will flow here again within the next thousand years. In the meantime you can drive the park loop road and hike about the strange lava formations. If you come here, hopefully it wonít be snowing when you arrive, as it was for me. Itís probably about forty degrees, but that doesnít mean you canít have snow.
The flurries let up as I head towards Ketcham and Sun Valley, the final resting place for the old man, Ernest Hemingway. 65 dollars get me a great spread with a killer view of the mountain and a fireplace. I bet this room goes for 300 bucks during Christmas week. A filling dinner at Desperadoís Mexican Restaurant, and Iím ready for a quiet evening by my fake fire. Hey, it may just be propane and some ceramic logs, but it still has that certain charm.
Happy birthday to Jena Allee who is carrying a little extra weight these days. She and John are expecting their first child in about three weeks, and they still havenít decided on a name. Iím still leaning on the name of that little town I went though in Utah. What was it called again? Weíll keep you posted.
When I got to Twin Falls last night I turned on my phone, as I do at the end of every day. The phone displayed a full strength signal. Great, I though, as I pressed the speed dial for my motherís home phone. (I call her every night to let her know Iím still alive.) The phone beeped the familiar tone, and then my problems begin.
"Welcome to the American Roaming Network. The phone you are using is not registered in the area you are calling from. You may place a call using a credit card or calling collect by pressing the one key now."
Iíve heard this story before. The same thing happened to me in Alden, Michigan, Bismark, North Dakota, and Steamboat Springs, Colorado. And each time Iíve had lengthy phone conversations with the Nazi Customer Support Team. Theyíve wasted hours of my time. Each time, the service reps (from here on referred to as the SS) tell me a different story and refuse to transfer me to their supervisors. The last SS member I spoke to from Steamboat, Kevin Carpenter at the Paramus call center, promised me that a supervisor would call me back within 24 hours. I never heard a word from anyone. Iíve been lied to, Iíve been cheated, and Iíve been abused.
Iím definitely not getting what I paid for. The Nazis, with their One Rate Plan, promise to provide phone service to their customers (i.e. me) wherever there is a cellular signal. Where they donít have their own cells, they advertise that they have carriage agreements in almost every location where there is a cell tower. This may be true, but it doesnít do me any good when my phone is not registering properly on the network and then the SS lies to me about it.
So here in Twin Falls, I decide to give it one more try. Hey, it makes good copy, and I figure Iím building one hell of a class action lawsuit. I pick up the motel land line and dial the 800 number for the SS office on the East Coast. Iíve learned that it you just dial the main service number they have to transfer you to your home area anyway and waste five more minutes of your time.
After five minutes on hold, Margaret Kinney picks up my call. I ask her to look up my call history so I donít have to explain everything again, although I do anyway. She puts me on hold for five minutes. When she comes back she tells me that the problem was resolved that last time. I tell her that is a lie and that the problem was not taken care of. NO ONE EVER CALLED ME BACK. She gives me a bullshit, unintelligible explanation as to why my calls are not going through. I tell Margaret to stop lying to me. There is no way she could even know why my phone isnít working because she hasnít even checked it out yet. She hasnít even asked me for the local area code! I tell her that my calls are being picked up by Comnet Cellular (you can find this out by dialing 611 + send on your phone) and I want to know if AT&T has a carriage agreement with them. She puts me on hold for another five minutes. When she comes back she tells me that they don't have a deal with Comnet Cellular and that I should be picked up by Cellular One. She says that Comnet is the "enemy". She puts me on hold again to check if I am registered on the Cellular One network. When she comes back five minutes later, she says I should be able to make a call, but Iíll have to move locations because the other signal is too strong. I demand to talk to a supervisor. I'm put on hold again.
About 15 minutes go by and I decide to call Comnet Cellular on my cell phone and see what they can do for me. A lovely woman named Laurel from Comnet tries to help me out. She confirms that they do indeed have a carriage agreement with AT&T in the Twin Falls area. She asks if she can call me back on the landline as she would like to try calling the cell phone. The Nazis still have me on hold, and I doubt theyíll ever pick up, so I hang up and Laurel calls me back right away.
She tries the cell but nothing happens. She figures out that my phone isnít properly registered on their network and sheíll need to call the Nazis to get some help. She puts me on hold, but comes back a minute later to tell me that the Nazis arenít answering their calls. Sheís sorry but she wonít be able to do anything else until tomorrow morning when sheíll call them back.
I canít believe this. This Angel is going out of her way to help me and Iím not even her customer. When I wake up in the morning, MY PHONE IS WORKING. THANK YOU LAUREL!
Meanwhile, the Nazis havenít done anything for me. They could care less if I was lying in a ditch on the side of the road. And if I tried to make a call to get some help, my phone wouldnít work anyway. And that 7 cents a minute line theyíre giving you on their television commercials is a complete load of crap. Itís only for new customers! Next thing you know, theyíll be telling you to go take a shower Ė right before they turn on the gas.
DO YOURSELF A FAVOR. STAY AWAY FROM AT&T.
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