Above: One last (hurried) photo of the dunes before we left
March 11, 2014
Our last day (continued)
I was looking at my watch, and we had about 15 minutes to take some photos and get out of there. I didn’t get much, given the short amount of time and the glaring light, but at least I got a few photos. Then, it was a mad dash toward Beatty and the car.
Hal loaded the bikes quickly as I organized the car. It was a big mess, with clothes and bags everywhere, but I cleaned it up so we could find things. It was after 2 o’clock by then, and I thought that maybe we should get a sandwich from the Subway across the parking lot. No sooner did I think that and Hal asked, “Should we just get a sandwich at Subway and take it with us?” OMG, how do we do that? I thought. We are always on the same page. We even end up wearing the same clothes on the same days, and it’s not like we call each other and ask what we’re wearing! We are scary sometimes.
Hal wanted to eat in the restaurant, though, after further discussion, which was fine with me. He was going to be doing all the driving, and I’d rather he was comfortable. I wasn’t hungry yet, but I knew I soon would be. I think we were both dragging our feet a bit because we didn’t really want to leave. It was getting to be 3 o’clock, and we needed to hit the road, so we fueled up the car and bid goodbye to Beatty, NV.
I relaxed into the seat, glad to sit for a while after a frenetic start to the day. We stopped briefly at the alien store for me to shoot a photo from across the road, and then later as we passed Creech AF base, I saw a drone come in and land. Next thing I knew we were in Las Vegas. I really don’t like LV, and it was rush hour besides. The funniest thing I saw was when we passed a pickup truck – it looked like it was being driven by a Chihuahua! The little dog was standing in the driver’s lap with his front paws on the steering wheel. Neither he nor the driver was looking at the road!
I was keeping an eye out, helping Hal get through the heavy traffic. I was finally getting hungry, but wanted to wait until we crossed Hoover Dam. Near the last casinos before we crossed into Arizona, we passed a slow-moving car, and I looked over. I always look at the drivers that are causing problems, just to see what they look like or what they are doing instead of driving, and this one was an old woman. She had a cigarette between her fingers, the ash long and drooping. She had a silly smile on her face like she had forgotten where she was, and that she had a cigarette burning between her fingers. She was probably trying to figure out which casino she was going to park herself in for the next few hours, or maybe she was looking for the store with the cheapest cigarettes. I shuddered.
We sailed over the Hoover Dam on the new bridge, and then I took out my half of the Subway sandwich. It was kind of fun and cozy, eating in the car as we drove, chit-chatting about our trip. We ate our cookies, then settled in for the 40+ miles to Kingman. It seemed more populated than it had been two years ago, more houses and businesses along the road. We made it to Kingman at dusk, and stopped for gas and to take a break.
Inside the gas station convenience store, hypnotized by the slowly rolling grilled hotdogs, I waited for Hal while he used the bathroom. Then we both started laughing at how absurd the hotdogs looked, and wondered how long they’d been on there. I conned Hal into getting a candy bar to split later, and then we were back on the road. That familiar on the road feeling was with me again, that transient, outsider feeling of not belonging anywhere. It’s a feeling I’ve known since I was a teenager and on the road of the horse show circuit. I felt once again how easy it would be to step out of my normal life and shrug myself into that worn, comfortable cloak of “just passing through” anonymity.
Lonely road scene:
Darkness closed down around us as we hit the 93 south toward Wickenburg. I was thinking of my mom then, and how two years ago when I rode home in the storm it felt much more like she was with me all the time. Now it doesn’t seem that way. I wondered, where was she now? Had she been near for a short time after her death, but was now wherever people go when their life here is over? I hoped where she was, she was happy. And then her voice seemed to pop into my head, and it was a cheerful voice. I’m okay, it’s very pleasant here. I wanted to know where, but the voice didn’t say. Everywhere, I suppose.
I think I was supposed to be satisfied with knowing she was happy. Skeptically, I thought, if that was real, I want to see something so I know. How about those clouds over there, form them into a heart above the horizon? I don’t know why I thought that, it was not something I would think of normally. Besides, the clouds were streaky and spiky, not rounded. Nor did they look like they would form into a heart anytime soon.
I kept sneaking looks over at the horizon as the sky grew darker every minute. And then I saw how the dark feathery clouds were becoming more rounded, and I could see a heart-shaped thing that looked more and more like two hands shaping into the sides of a heart. It was probably because I wanted to see it, but it kind of looked like it anyway.
You be the judge:
In Wickenburg, we stopped at the Circle K for the long-awaited cup of coffee. It was the same station where we’d waited out a hailstorm last time we came home from Death Valley. We got one big cup of coffee to split. I’d saved my half of the candy bar to blend flavors with the coffee, and I was so content in the warm darkness as we sped along in the car. The only problem was that I still didn’t want the trip to end.
By the time Hal dropped me off, it was around 10 p.m.; he had an extra 40 minutes to drive before he was home. But he made it safely, and then our trip was officially over. Next time, we want to have at least a week to experience the back roads of Death Valley.
I am already planning it.
(To read all the stories from this trip, scroll down to get to Day 1)