I follow the nav system's guidance to Riverside. It's dark and kinda spooky as I approach the city refueling center. A lot of edgy squad cars are patrolling the area. Maybe it's because of this station, but maybe not. I pull into the desolate facility and find the lone H2 pump amid a loopy, Alice-in-Wonderland forest of alternative-fuel dispensers. Following the instructions, I type in the code-er, hey, the keypad doesn't seem to work right. Some numbers you have to bang with your thumb, others fill the screen with the slightest graze. Out of the dark, a night guard hesitantly approaches in a golf cart. "Can I help you?"
"This touchpad doesn't seem to work right, but I think I can get it." I say to myself as much as him, though I suspect "getting it" is 50/50 at best. "You know, you're the first regular public-type person I've ever seen here," he says, watching my fingers tire. Not reassuring, this guy. Eventually, I get the code in, but when I attach the electronic communication cable to the Equinox's stern, a communication error appears on the dispenser screen. I try it again. Error. And again. Error. It's midnight. I wonder if there's a decent motel around here.
What the hell, I plug the H2 hose in anyway and, hssssss, hydrogen starts entering the Equinox's spent lungs. Whew, and I'm not asking any questions why. Coolly I turn to the guard silently appraising me: "Got it now. Thanks." He whines off into the dark.
The place is a ghost town for a few minutes, and then an old, gold-colored Civic with a bunch of knick-knacks on the dash pulls up to the compressed-natural-gas pump about 30 feet away. Techno music is thumping inside. A gigantic body-builder type gets out and begins refueling. Gold paint hides dirt pretty well, but even at 30 feet this car needed a wash about six months ago, and then I notice he's staring back at me. I quickly look back at my pump, hssssss, its display is still showing about 1.5 kilograms. Why isn't this thing faster? Didn't Hitchcock film a scene something like this? Cary Grant and James Mason exchanging uneasy glances in a vacant landscape. Hssssss, 1.6 kilograms.
The bodybuilder finishes first and slowly drives over. "Is that really a hydrogen car?" "Yep," I say. "Who makes it?" "GM. It's a modified Equinox." "Let me write this down," he says picking a loose piece of paper from an assortment on the floor. "E. Q. U." He tells me how much he loves his car and will never ever sell it...except for maybe this hydrogen car here. Turns out, he's a nice guy, but he talks really fast and I feel better when he finally drives away with a furious wave. Another 50 miles later, I finally pull into my driveway. It's 1:30 a.m. now. I lean my head against the steering wheel. Welcome to the world of hydrogen transportation, circa 2008.