On the road again

In the absence of an internet connection late last night, I am filing my report today.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Today was a very long day, and here it is, tomorrow already, and I am still up! If that seems a little cryptic, know that I am writing this at 12:34 a.m.

The kids were good today, it was their last “half day” before fall break. I had a pizza party for them because they’ve been so good this first quarter. They were polite and didn’t “pig out” on too much pizza, and a couple of kids brought cupcakes. Saturday is one boy’s birthday and we sang the birthday song. We had a fun time, and then they left me for a week and a half. I kind of miss them already.

But then, after I finished up grades, I went home, packed, and at 4 o’clock, my riding partner picked up me, and my dirt bike, to go up to the Alpine, AZ area for another 48 hours of dirt riding, and shooting photos. It is too far away to make it a day trip.

As we got going in the car, it already seemed like it took us forever to get out of town, and forever to get to Payson, and by the time we were headed east on 260, I thought it would be questionable because of the fading light whether I would get any golden Aspen shots at the Young Rd. turnoff. I managed to get some shots, but I don’t know, they seemed less than spectacular, even though the low light did not stop that wonderful Canon camera from making the most of what was there.

We stopped at Red Onion in Heber around 7, and I realized that it was going to be late when we finally got to where we were going. It was between Heber and Show Low that I remembered what it felt like to be driving in the dark, to be absorbed into the bottomless night that is out there. I felt more than saw the tall trees standing beyond the hemisphere of light thrown by the headlights of the car, shoulder to shoulder, in the wild loneliness. The temperature dropped into the 30s, and I had a sense of the cold isolation that I hadn’t felt for a long time, since I left Wisconsin, where I grew up. I could vividly imagine being stranded in the cold and dark.

I forgot how many stars there are, and how much light they project when there is no moon, and when we are away from the city lights. There were millions of them in the canopy of black sky, glittering like ice, including that one elusive constellation that has a vague kite shape. I could see it in my peripheral vision, but when I looked directly at it, it disappeared.

Soon we came to the deep forest where the blackness was complete. We drove slowly through the tunnel of trees, some burned, some alive, as we scanned for elk and deer. I saw two, first, a deer, I think, and then farther up the road, a great big bull elk with a giant rack. I caught him in the far reaches of my peripheral vision, and turned just in time to see him in the last glimmer of the car’s headlights. He was in a clearing to the right of the road, in an area lower than the built-up roadbed. The bull elk showed white in the light, a split second of negative film. Hal slowed the car down even more after that, but we didn’t see any more animals.

We arrived at the lodge very late, and when I took my main clothes bag from the car, I saw the beginnings of frost already sparkling on the grass in the one feeble yard light. We crept into the main room of the lodge, and there was a fire burning in the grate. In the cozy, deserted room, it was warm and welcoming. Fortunately I had packed so I could get my warm clothes out quickly, and I was not cold. To go from 90° F. temperatures to the low 30s is a drastic temperature change, particularly when I am not used to it.

The lodge is full, but it was silent when we arrived. The keys were on the counter, and we’d have to wait until morning to officially check in, but it felt like we were home. I left this place with deep sadness in late July after five days of feeling like I was in heaven, and in my heart, I never left it.

At last, I’m really here.


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