As soon as the little bug finished looking at the inside of the storage unit, Li Du left the entrance.
Sophie asked curiously, "What did you see?"
Li Du shrugged. "Nothing."
Sophie looked disappointed. She pinched Li Du's cheeks and said, "Oh poor baby, hang in there. Do you wanna use a flashlight? It's very difficult to see anything this way."
Li Du burst out laughing. "Who says I can't see anything? I said 'nothing' because I didn't see anything valuable in there."
After looking at the next few units, he still did not see anything much. The most valuable item was a piano. From the exterior it looked pretty good, but the structure within was damaged.
He asked Sophie about the value of a damaged piano. She told him that unless it was a branded product or a piano previously used by someone famous, it could only be used as a decorative item, and so was not worth much.
Halfway through his investigation, the little bug flew into a storage unit with neatly stacked boxes inside.
Li Du perked up. The storage boxes were of various sizes but they were all similarly and neatly arranged. It was evident that the owner had treasured the items in the boxes.
This type of storage unit was more valuable. Although no one could tell what was in there, it was worth a gamble. Most people would usually be willing to offer higher bids.
However, not that many people would dare to bid. This had to do with a historical reason relating to the storage auction trade. There was a point in time in the history of this trade when the storage auction companies would devise methods to deceive potential bidders so they would assume the units were valuable. Many treasure hunters still had that haunting fear.
The little bug flew into one of the boxes. Li Du saw that the box had been divided into four compartments. In each compartment was a wrapped up football.
He immediately thought about the sports equipment storage units that Lu Guan had spoken about. Hence, he controlled the little bug to exit the box to get an overview of the unit.
More sports equipment appeared in his line of sight.
The baseball pitching machine that Lu Guan had spoken of was in there. It was blocked from view by some boxes in front of it, but if one looked carefully, it could still be spotted.
This baseball pitching machine was different from others that Li Du had seen. Americans liked to play baseball. The sport was one of the four major sports in the US, second to only American football.
Most of the baseball pitching machines that Li Du had seen had netted baskets attached for holding the baseballs and a spiral arm to launch the baseballs like a catapult.
There was no basket attached to this pitching machine. Instead, it had two levels of attachments resembling egg-trays. In addition, it looked like a small cannon, with a large barrel jutting out.
The pitching machine looked very well-maintained, but the appearance was somewhat variegated. Its coat of paint was almost gone.
There were also other packages containing golf balls and equipment, as well as football helmets and other protective equipment that had been hung up. As Lu Guan had said, it was mostly sports equipment.
The boxes were filled with sporting gear; in addition to the footballs that he saw, there were also basketballs, soccer balls and baseballs wrapped up in layers of cling film.
He was puzzled. These balls were not that precious, so why had they been so meticulously stored?
The little bug flew closer for him to take a better look. He then saw an autograph on the basketball. It was a messy cursive autograph, so he couldn't make it out.
As he continued looking, he saw autographs on the other basketballs. Some of the autographs were just as hard to make out but others were legible, like "LeBron James" and "Kobe Bryant!"
He was flabbergasted upon seeing these names. Every name was a renowned one in the US and the entire global sports arena. On the basketballs were the names of legendary NBA players!
He went to look at the footballs again and, as expected, there were autographs on them as well: "Eli Manning,""Deion Branch,""Tom Brady"
Americans would find these names even more impressive; they were all NFL's top stars in the country's number one sport.
There were also autographs on the baseballs. Needless to say, they were all of the sport's top players.
Lastly, he saw a golf club; there was a plastic sticker protecting one part of the gleaming silver stick. Under it was a name: "Tiger Woods!"
Li Du smoothed down his hair, retrieved the little bug and walked toward Sophie. He was determined to get hold of this storage unit!
Seeing his expression, Sophie said, "There's something in this one, right?"
Li Du was shocked. "You could tell from my face?"
Sophie pointed at his eyes, smiling. "Your eyes gave you away. Earlier you looked listless, but now you look alert and excited."
Her words served as a warning to Li Du; it was wise of him to have brought Sophie to view the storage units. She had highlighted a problematic issue to him.
There was a saying in the storage auction trade: "Each treasure hunter is not only an expert at controlling his emotions, but also a great actor."
During the auction process, other than viewing the storage units, everyone also needed to keep an eye on one another in case they could spot an opportunity from another's body language.
Li Du had thought he was very skilled at controlling his emotions, but he had overestimated himself.
After making one round at the storage company to view the 18 units, he had made up his mind about them.
With the morning spent at the storage company, they had time to spare in the afternoon and so Li Du drove Sophie to the Petrified Forest National Park.
The Petrified Forest was only 50 miles away from Winslow. Driving the Hellcat, it only took Li Du half an hour to arrive at his destination.
A large number of petrified wood of different densities could be seen around the park. Being the world's most famous petrified forest, its fame had led to the park becoming one of the top ten national parks in the US.
After Li Du had bought the tickets, a tour guide approached them. "Are you tourists?"
Sophie waved him off. "Yes, but we probably don't need a tour guide."
The tour guide nodded. "Babe, you're mistaken. I'm not here to promote myself. I'm just reminding you that the national park is huge and if you were to drive across, it would take 45 minutes."
"Thank you," Li Du answered. "We appreciate the heads up."
The tour guide nodded. "You're welcome. Actually, I wanna say that, to truly appreciate the landscape, don't drive. Ride a horse instead. Horseback's the best way to view the park."
Li Du had read up on travel tips previously, and horseback riding was also recommended. The horses could be rented from the Visitors Center.
Compared to driving, it was more expensive to ride horses: it cost 80 dollars per person for an hour.
Money was not an issue for Li Du. After thanking the tour guide, he rented two Quarter Horses. Both were tame, mild-tempered fillies.
Sophie hesitated. "No, I can't ride a horse. I'm wearing a skirt."
Without another word, Li Du bought Sophie a horse-riding outfit.
Sophie looked puzzled, and so Li Du asked, "What's wrong?"
"We can both ride a strong horse together. I can sit behind you. Oh my god, why didn't you think of this? I was still worried that it would be a bit inappropriate to ride with you. But, obviously, I was overthinking it."
It was not that Li Du hadn't thought of ithe hadn't dared to mention it, not with his lousy horse-riding skills. He had only ever ridden once, when he had helped the Amish buy the horse, and had long forgotten how to