Do you know the way to San Jose?

I’ve spent two days trying to remember a line from a movie. Or a TV show. I can’t remember which. I don’t actually remember the line, either, except for two things: It mentioned Klamath Falls, Oregon and that whoever had written the Swedish subtitles had misspelled Klamath to read Clamouth. 

It was – most likely – a throwaway line in a – evidently – forgettable movie or TV show and it wouldn’t matter if not for the fact that I have never heard anyone mention Klamath Falls before. And I’ve been there!

Klamath Falls was one of the towns Wife and I visited on our first road trip across America back in 2000. That winter, Wife (then Girlfriend) read in the free newspaper they handed to people at the subway about a driveaway trip in which you could travel in the US by transporting other people’s cars to different destinations. It sounded exciting so we shook on it right there on the train. 

And once we shake on something, it gets done. 

That summer, we flew to New York and after a couple of days of walking around, we found ourselves in a small, eighth floor office somewhere in Midtown, inquiring about cars that needed driving somewhere else. 

They had two. One to Milwaukee, another to Atlanta. Milwaukee Volvo was in the Upper West Side, the Atlanta car in New Jersey. 

When the Milwaukee Volvo refused to start, we walked back to the eighth floor office in Midtown, and this time the nice lady in the office pulled up a map and showed us where Atlanta was. 

“I’ll give you three days to get there, and I’ll give you 950 miles,” she said. She may have winked since the actual distance is only 840 miles. “Maybe you want to see America,” she said. 

We shook on it, took the train across the river and walked to the car dealership where the brand new Dodge Intrepid was waiting for us. Armed with a loaner mobile phone that worked in the American CDMA network, we drove down to Atlanta, and yes, saw America. (In case you’re interested, the car had belonged to the Atlanta company’s sales rep in Jersey, and he had left the company). 

Fortunately for us, there was another driveaway office in Atlanta, and as luck would have it, a Ford Mustang needed to be driven to – you got it – Klamath Falls, Oregon. Wife and I couldn’t believe our luck. No, Los Angeles, our dream destination, wasn’t in Oregon, but and Klamath Falls isn’t on the coast, Oregon was in the West and we had just got our car to drive across the continent. 

Being fast learners, we also asked for a few extra miles, and got them, and once we got to the car, took another look at the road atlas Girlfriend was using for navigation. (“In three hundred meters, turn right,” in the loveliest voice I’ve ever heard). 

The light bulb went off at the same time. Instead of the suggested route via Missouri, we could drive straight West, and then up, thanks to the extra mile we had negotiated to ourselves. That way, we’d see the Graceland, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Texas, and who knew what else. And after Vegas, we’d just drive through the desert, hit Reno, and then head to Klamath Falls. 

Which is exactly what we did. 

It was an exciting trip. And then we came to Klamath Falls. 

There was no driveaway office in Klamath Falls and even though we had all those extra miles – which we had used up – we had to deliver the car before taking the Amtrak down to San Jose, the closest driveaway office.

The population of Klamath Falls was 19,000 back then. 7,916 households. Not a big town. A small town, if you will. 

How small? They had two taxis, and a dispatcher who was trying to juggle their jobs. I know that because after we had watched two movies at the local multiplex so that we wouldn’t have to stay in the cheap motel we had, we walked to a restaurant to wait for the train that was going to leave that evening. 

That’s the first time I heard the expression “these glasses are bottomless”. We took advantage of it, and sat at our table for a few hours, sipping Coke from our bottomless glasses, and then asked if we could call a cab. That’s when we heard Car #1 was away. We stuffed out bags into Car #2 and headed toward the train station. 

We weren’t alone on the station.

“Where you from?” a lady asked us. 

“Sweden,” said Girlfriend. I just stood there, not saying a word, partly because I didn’t know whether to add “Finland” or whether that would confuse her, and whether it even mattered since we had traveled from Sweden – and partly because I couldn’t stop staring a the big wads of cotton she had in her ears. 

“Where’s that?” she asked, and for a minute, Girlfriend explained to her that Sweden was whole other country. 

“I’ve been to Alabama,” the lady said then. “Have you been to Alabama?”

“No, we haven’t,” I said. 

“It’s nice,” she said. 

Then we boarded the train and left Klamath Falls, Oregon. 

And I haven’t thought about it much since then. Until a few days ago when we watched … Sliding Doors? Maybe?

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