When we left Santa Barbara, it was after 9:00. Michele drove, but I was ready to slide into the driver's seat at a moment's notice. I'd already changed a tire earlier in the weekend, so my testosterone levels were sky-high. I was ready to fill in behind the wheel, change the oil, catch a fish, get in a fight, pee standing up, and grow extra chest hair. Little did I know how much I would later need that courage.
Michele's highly efficient hybrid vehicle is able to go long distances without re-fueling, but we came to the end of our gas reserves as we neared King City, around 11:00. Foolishly, we followed the first exit sign that promised a gas station, even though it led us to the town of San Ardo.
Oh, San Ardo! Quiet, poorly-lit, and terrifying. We had a terrifying drive to the ramshackle gas station, fearing what kind of backwoods Monterey Countyites might emerge from their stills and mudholes to terrorize us. The gas station was closed, but honestly, I'm not sure we'd have been confident turning the engine off in such an abandoned, godforsaken place. Of course, I dealt with this be talking in a creepy voice and pretending to be a San Ardo resident, and continued to do so the most of the way home, stopping when Michele sounded serious in her threats to abandon me by the side of the road.
Eventually we found a bathroom, at a deserted 24-Hour gas station. The pumps worked 24 hours, at least, though the bathroom lights did not. My theory is that employees go home because it's just not safe to be within fifteen miles of San Ardo after dark. We were mostly terrified by the mere act of pumping gas out there, and that was all the way in Outer King City. All because of the trauma, the extent of the horror that is San Ardo, that just a few exits are not nearly far enough away.
Recently, we reminisced about our trip to King City, when Kristen showed us the receipt from that terrible, terrible trip. She warned that King City had probably been taken over by zombies by now, while I hubristically claimed that zombies were better than residents of King City. I was wrong to say that. I only said such a mean thing because I couldn't remember the exact name of San Ardo, so I took an unfair cheap shot at the City of Kings. My apologies. It turns out San Ardo is named after a ninth-century Benedictine monk, but only because someone at the post office rejected the name "San Bernardo" first. The residents probably didn't even notice the change.
Back to the zombies. Now, I would venture that, while my funny voice and insults certainly portrayed the San Ardonauts as quite simple, possibly retarded, certainly inbred, probably homicidal and cannibalistic, I was not actually saying that they were zombies. I would posit that a resident of San Ardo is worse than a zombie; a zombie only wants to eat your brain, not your whole body, and a zombie will neither attempt to have sex with you nor one of its own siblings.
I would feel bad if this page became an extremely high search result for "San Ardo" on the web. If a resident of San Ardo decided to look up their town, and the resulting link pretty much called them names, it would be a little mean.
On the other hand, there's little evidence that anyone from San Ardo can read, let alone operate a computer. Michele theorizes that any Comcast installers brave or foolish enough to visit San Ardo were undoubtedly molested and/or killed already, so it's unlikely they have any internet access whatsoever.
It would be like Reese Witherspoon and angry teenage girls on Matt's page. Except that Reese Witherspoon was up for an Oscar, and San Ardo will never win an award for anything, ever. Maybe "Best Place To Confront Your Own Mortality Along Highway 101". Or, "Best Place To Train Your Army Of Undead Zombies To Attack King City".
If our trip to Santa Barbara became a movie, with actors personifying each of the key cities, Santa Barbara would be played by an alcoholic version of Keira Knightley. King City would be Jon Favreau in a heavy phase. San Ardo wouldn't be an actor at all, just some weird toothless old man that hung around the set with no discernible job, smelling like black licorice and unfiltered cigarettes, masturbating behind the craft services table. But not on March 7th, because that is the Saint Ardo's feast day.