Desert graffiti, one reason I don’t write westerns, and a #giveaway

Last month, my husband and I were almost stranded on a deserted highway in the middle of nowhere, someplace out in the dry and dusty west. We were merrily driving along Interstate 70, low on gas but assuming there were plenty of gas stations along the way – there always are on interstates, right?

20150907_110116Nope. Nothing, nothing, and more nothing. The ‘low on gas’ light came on and still nothing. I was getting worried; I’m the type who fills up when I’m down to a quarter tank. (My dh, not so much.) But we remembered a sign saying there was supposed to be gas at an exit not too much farther down the highway. Finally we reached said exit with a huge sigh of relief.

Um…not so fast. There was nothing there but more desert and a sign that said gas was twelve miles to the right. Yikes!!

20150907_112309That was the longest twelve miles ever. We made it, filling up at the single-pump, unmanned, 24-hour gas station, and realized we’d had 2/10 of a gallon left when we arrived there. Whew. What would have happened if we’d run out of gas?

No, I didn’t picture a gruesome death from thirst at the side of the road. Our cell phones had no reception, but now and then someone drove by, and I assume one amongst those someones would have stopped and helped us. But it was unpleasant all the same, and it gave me new appreciation for the pioneers who braved that dry, desolate land.

But I’m not likely to write about them, because I’d keep thinking about the lack of water instead of romance.

While out west we visited El Morro, a monument in New Mexico which features a canyon, the remains of a pueblo, a life-saving waterhole, and rock carvings from hundreds of years ago – both pictographs and the names and dates of various explorers and adventurers who passed by. The photos are from El Morro. (I was way too preoccupied on that dry, lonely road with almost no gas to take any photos there.) I highly recommend a visit to El Morro if you have the chance. You can find out more about it (and a photo of some inscriptions) here.


Because I just love giveaways, I’ll give an e-copy of To Kiss a Rake (or another of my books, winner’s choice) to one person who comments. Tell me your out-of-gas story, or give me recommendations of cool places to visit next time I go out west. Or east, north, or south.



Melinda Starling doesn’t let ladylike behavior get in the way of true love. She’s secretly helping with an elopement, when she’s tossed into the waiting coach and driven away by a notorious rake.


Miles Warren, Lord Garrison, comes from a family of libertines, and he’s the worst of them all—or so society believes. When Miles helps a friend to run away with an heiress, it’s an entertaining way to revenge himself on one of the gossips who slandered him.

Except that he drives off with the wrong woman…and as if that wasn’t scandalous enough, he can’t resist stealing a kiss.


Follow Barbara Monajem:

Barbara Monajem started writing at eight years old. She has wandered from children’s fantasy through mystery to paranormal and historical romance. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.

27 Responses

  1. Linda

    it didn’t happen to me but my sis when she was on holiday in NZ with her family. They rented a car & were driving themselves around. They’s passed a gas station earlier but thought to continue on to the next one, not realizing that gas stations are few & far between in the NZ countryside! They were expecting to come across another one every few kilometers or along the highway like at home. Made for some panicky moments when they thought they were going to get stranded for running out of gas! Luckily they did come across a gas station …. just before their tank went empty.

  2. Barbara Monajem

    Yikes. Now I know what to expect when I go to NZ. 🙂

  3. dholcomb1

    the first thing which came to my mind, “On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair…” glad you found something in time.

    • Barbara Monajem

      LOL. That sounds like the beginning of a story, Denise. 🙂

    • wordwarrior1953

      My daughter is always testing the the limits of luck, she’s run out of gas just about everywhere. The emergency call that throughout time has yielded results, “MOM!” is as familiar to me as my name and Social Security Number. Finally, after numerous emergency “out of gas, stranded” calls we put a plastic gas container in her car. Completely solved the problem. After one long tedious walk in the heat (miracles) she never ran out of gas again! Cross that one off my bucket list. WHEW!

      Oddly, the company that originally made those plastic gas containers, went out of business or stopped making them. Hopefully, some other company took up the slack, or else I might still be getting those “MOM!” calls.

  4. vicki

    I would have had an anxiety attack while driving and praying. LOL. But no, I’ve never run out of gas. Just too paranoid that could happen.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Vicki. I’ve only run out of gas once. It was just me and my daughter, and we were driving along chatting, and I completely forgot! Fortunately we were not far from help.

  5. Barbara Monajem

    Hi, Janis. Glad you enjoyed it! And thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  6. erinsriley

    Only once did I nearly run out of gas, but my family still talks about it! It was 10 years ago as we were driving through West Virginia on our way to North Carolina. My kids were very young, 6 and 18 mos, and they were not great travelers. Lots of fussing, whining, and car sickness. I say this in self defense as I was the one who was driving, and therefore should have realized we needed gas! But suddenly I looked down and realized the gas light was on. It was the most awful feeling as we were truly in the middle of nowhere. Nothing but woods and mountains on either side, and no road signs pointing the way to gas. And of course, no cell reception. My husband, always the jokster, thought it would be funny to start making banjo-picking sounds as I nearly had a panic attack! But luck was with us as we came around a bend and saw a gas station. I’ve never been more relieved! My kids still point out that gas station every time we pass it on our way to vacation. Then they launch into the story of the time mommy nearly ran out of gas.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Great story, Erin. That’s so funny that your kids still point it out!!

  7. beppie2014

    Oh wow. Brought back memories of crossing Nevada through miles of emptiness. Stark, dry, empty except for the occasional herd of wild mustangs–wonderful place. But not one to run out of gas in. Can feel the panic in the throat just thinking about it.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Wild mustangs, wow! Maybe that’s worth almost running out of gas. Thanks, Beppie. 🙂

  8. lesleydiehl

    My husband and I used to live in New Mexico and we visited El Morro on a vacation trip also. It was worth the climb to be able to see the surrounding landscape. And fascinating to read all the graffiti on the walls. My husband could translate for me because he reads Spanish. I’ve never read graffiti that old.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Lesley. Isn’t it cool that graffiti has been around for ages? I hope to return to El Morro — it was such a great walk with wonderful views.

  9. Ally Broadfield

    I’m almost never let it get to the point where the light goes on. One time during college it took me twelve hours to drive what normally took five-and-a-half due to blizzard conditions on the Pennsylvania turnpike. Now when I’m in an unfamiliar area, I usually fill up before it even gets to a quarter of a tank. Sounds like you had a great trip (aside from the scare!).

    • Barbara Monajem

      Ally, I usually fill it up quite a bit before it runs out, too. I was shocked when I forgot!

  10. Mary Horner

    We were newly married and were invited to a party with my husband’s work friends It was held an hour away from where we lived. On our way at 1am we ran out of gas. This was a long time ago and the gas stations did not stay open late. We found a pay phone but did not have a quarter. After a long time a cab came by with two passengers in it. We were a little nervous when they offered a ride. I was so glad to get home!

    • Barbara Monajem

      Hi, Mary. LOL — I remember the days of no gas stations open and no cell phones. 🙂 Now we’re so used to convenience that it’s really disconcerting to find ourselves without gas and cell phone reception.

  11. Glenda

    There’s a couple out of the way places to visit that we’ve done as as family and really enjoyed:

    Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve – in the middle of nowhere Idaho. We drove up from Salt Lake City and discovered they did nuclear testing in the high desert of the state – there’s a Nuclear Museum too but we didn’t have time to visit. There’s even a guarded facility of some sort near the museum . . . we didn’t really want to explore that area. 😉

    Balmorhea State Park in Toyahvale, TX has very cool spring fed pools and you can head to the mountains a see the Marfa Lights (ghostly lights) from there. If you have the time, driving up to the MacDonald Observatory and get an amazing view of the Milky Way. Maybe even drive down to Big Bend National and/or State park. When we first drove into Terlingua outside of the parks, there had been a major power outage and the only open cafe was only able to serve things they could cook on the gas fired grill. Contrary to popular belief Big Bend isn’t all desert, the Chisos Mountains are in the middle of the park, there’s a couple of springs with lush vegetation (in the desert), Santa Elena Canyon is also worth a view.

    • Barbara Monajem

      Thanks for the suggestions, Glenda. I saw the Milky Way when out west on the Navajo Reservation. Absolutely stunning!

  12. Barbara Monajem

    And the winner is…Mary Horner! Mary, I will email you to let you know how to claim your prize. Thanks for the comments, everyone. 🙂