The Five used to be magical.  Hundreds of miles of fast, vast and indifferent highway.  It didn't used to have call boxes or Jack In The Boxes.  If you broke down on the Five either a trucker helped you, or a good Samaritan or you were dead.   Maybe not always dead but it was a significant drag.

Now with fast food villages almost once every sixty or seventy miles, there's no risk involved.  Always some town almost close enough to walk to.  And always plenty of gas.

Before the Five turns into another Sepulveda Blvd. I thought it might be a good idea to try and gather a few stories of The Five.  The real Five where help was not always a call box away and where craziness just seemed to happen.

SEND ME YOUR STORY OF THE FIVE -- please include either a "5" or Five in your subject.


My girl friend and I were moving back down to Los Angeles from Berkeley, towing a U-Haul trailer off the back of a 1978 Datsun 200SX.  We stopped for gas in Santa Nella and while I was filling up I noticed another guy towing the very same style 8 foot long, enclosed U-Haul trailer.  He was filling up his '68 Chevy Camero.  We shared special nods because both of us were towing the same trailer.  We were brothers of the road.

I noticed that he was putting some kind of additive into his fuel tank.   "What's that do?" I asked him.  "Boosts the octane.   Really makes this baby hum," he told me proudly.  We talked for a while about how miserable it was to be towing these trailers, and then hit the road again.   I never saw into his Camaro.

About a half hour later, probably well past the John "Chuck" Erreca rest area, I came up behind his trailer.  I said to my girlfriend, "That's an interesting shade of orange he has under his trailer."  She replied, "That's not a shade.  He's on fire!"  She was a little brighter than me.

I pulled up next to him and motioned for him to get off the road.  My girlfriend had to roll down her window and scream, "You're on fire!!"

He pulled off to the right shoulder and I pulled off to the left shoulder, just incase he needed help getting to a phone or anything, after his car was in cinders.

He frantically leapt out of his car and opened the back door.  He began pulling aquariums out of the back seat.  The fire was licking up to his arms.   He screamed at us, "MY SNAKES!  MY SNAKES!  HELP ME GET MY SNAKES OUT OF THE BACK SEAT!"

Telepathically my girlfriend and I seemed to agree that we were not going to approach a vehicle engulfed in flames so that we could handle snakes.  Call me crazy.

He got about three of the snake-tanks out of the back seat before he slammed the car door and walked away from the car.  The smoke and flames were overwhelming.

He walked over to us.  He wasn't mad that we hadn't gone over to save the snakes.  He knew it was a pretty insane request.  "Hey," he said.   "Thanks for telling me about the fire."

"No problem."  I said, watching the flames trying to lick through the windows and get inside the car.  "Did you get all the snakes out?"

"Hell no.  I have a dozen in there."

Right then the heat from the fire blew the windows of the car out in all directions.  The thought of an explosion never occurred to me.  I turned toward my girlfriend to tell her I thought we should run as far away from this car as we possibly could.  He had just filled up!

She was already running before I had even turned toward her.

The boom of the explosion hit me with my first stride.  Over my shoulder  I saw the flames roar across the two lanes of the highway and start reaching for my heels.  I felt the heat burning my neck as I ran.