I'm never happier than when I'm going over the road. November has been a cornucopia of blessed opportunities to do just that! Early in the month Booklogged and I took an 1800 mile journey through Southern Utah ending up with a visit with our daughter Aly in Las Vegas. The very next week SpiderTracks and I made a 1000 mile journey into Southern Utah and Arizona. This past Saturday was spent driving 500 miles to Richfield to the funeral of my wonderful cousin Lester. That journey was accompanied partially by my sisters Hazel and Wendy. Yesterday, I discovered that Wendy had left her purse in my car, so my other Sister Lee Ann and I made a 300 mile hop out to Provo to return it. Somebody complained that it was too far just to return a purse. After driving to Newfoundland, nothing is far.
For me travel has little to do with the destination. Even alone. I simply love driving down the road watching the world go by. Accompanied by good conversation, driving is even better and more fun!
Let me describe Saturday's trip just to give you an idea of what makes me tick.
I am up and away by 6:00. I pull out of Vernal in the dark. As I drive past Sundance RV's nice, but abandoned dealership I rejoice that I am no longer a salesman. I shake my head to think that the huge building will soon become a mortuary of all things. I say a little prayer, thanking God that Wayne and Pam are, so quickly, out from under the huge and now unproductive mortgage it represents.
The sky is clear and the stars so bright. Orion, my favorite constellation has already set in the West. I don't often stargaze in the morning so the sky seems quite unfamiliar to me. I make plans to get up early one day to take a better look at the morning version of the winter night sky.
As I pass through Ft. Duchesne my thoughts turn to Bobby, Dixon, Aloin, Gloria, Willard, Henry, Ernesto, Francis, Nick, such good Ute friends who call this place home. I also think of John, when I pass his old house and hope he is well and still in recovery. I love that they widened the road up to Hilltop. I hope that will reduce the number of fatalities at the treacherous intersection with White Rocks road.
I stop in Roosevelt to fill up and wash the car at the Chevron station. Their car wash has better pressure that the one in Vernal. A zip through McDonald's drive through and I'm on the road again. Dawn is beginning to appear in the East. As I pass by Gale's Office Supply I can't help wondering about Brad. What on earth took place in his life that would lead to such monstrous choices. I wonder how he's doing in prison. I hope someone is teaching him the gospel. I hope he is responding.
Two lovely swans are gliding across a sewage lagoon outside Duchesne. They've frequented the place for about a year. It must be okay for them, health-wise, but it still makes me uncomfortable to think about. It seems so contradictory to see such beauty in a place of corruption.
Driving up Indian canyon, I notice the spot where we nearly wrecked on our way to Disneyland. How would the world be different now if we had died that day instead of living on for twenty years. I guess we wouldn't care. Would anyone else? I guess Karen wouldn't miss having Megan in her Kindergarten class, if Megan had never been born. But then I guess we all miss stuff all the time that we don't know about. The potential of our life's experience is so infinitely vast and yet we are really exposed to so very little of it.
I always look for deer and elk as I travel the canyon. I seldom see any. It gets prettier and prettier as the elevation changes. All building to the crescendo of the vista out over the Avitaquin. This time I pull over to take a lingering look. Such a wild, remote, beautiful, untouchable place. I've gazed into the vast mystery of the Avintaquin many many times, but think I shall never set foot inside. Somehow, it seems like my presence would defile it.
I pass the road to Argyle Canyon and smile about the excursion Steve and I took to Nine Mile that culminated there, after dark beneath the brightest view of the Milky Way I had ever seen. If you've ever driven over Douglas, you can't help compare it with Indian Canyon. There are a few differences and many similarities. On this day I am thankful for the differences. Indian isn't nearly so scary as Douglas.
Just North of the Power Plant above Helper is a place I always get the willies. Don't know why. Steve and I passed there three weeks ago in the dark. Today I am glad the sun is up. Willies aren't usually so bad in the daylight. Less scope for imagination I guess. Darkness is a blank slate upon which the mind can paint some pretty scary pictures.
This is my third trip through this part of the country inside this month. I think it odd that circumstances bring such things about in clusters. So many choices which suddenly resolve into one distinct reality. Across the mancos clay beds south of Price I see pump jacks for oil wells and remember Lanny's shenanigans as he sank half of Deb Cassida's equipment in the mud trying to get his own rig unstuck. It all transpired right here where a little water and a lot of clay can make such a huge mess. Castle country has it's own beauty as if the Lord wondered how many variations He could create with off-white.
My first trip down Hwy. 191 to I-70 was with Merrill and Jo. I was 16 and they were taking me off to see the world. They lived in San Diego. A pretty good place to start. We stopped to attend church in Emery. Steve and I thought we had never seen such pretty girls as attended meetings that day. I wonder if Shawn Bradley had been born there yet. (I just looked it up, he was born in 1972, six years later.) Maybe he's the son of one of those pretty, distracting blonds in our Sunday School class.
And so my journey goes, memory after mile, past Ferron and a bygone family reunion and Salina Canyon and a well location we once surveyed there. "We will have these moments to remember," another Lanny sang as we had to climb a huge mountain to find a section corner for an otherwise easy job. I can't see that they ever drilled that well. I've got a fossil back home to commemorate the day. I wonder if I'll ever clean out the carport and find that leaf imprinted stone again. Maybe not if I don't stay home once in a while.
I've never really poked around Richfield. Three weeks ago we drove down main street. Knowing Les' funeral will be here is all the information I have. The place can't be that big. I find four LDS chapels, none are right. I finally stop at Albertson's and the produce man looks up the obituary for me. Nice guy. In this small town, how does he not know Les? I can't imagine he is a stranger to anyone. It's only a few blocks to the church and the parking lot is jammed. Matt greets me at the door. Genuine Matt. The first of uncountable hugs and tears. Les doesn't look good. They never do. Life looks good on most everyone, death doesn't. It is hardly Les lying there. He'd rode that old body pretty hard. He'd never treat a horse like that.
Ty's family prayer, is so sweet, familiar, tender, down home.
The funeral is and isn't what I expect. Cowboys in blue jeans and bishops in suits and everyone in between. There was un-judged room for everyone in Lester's life and this cosmopolitan crowd proves it. There are two things we all have in common though, Les and tears. Even the toughest hombre weeps for the loss of this great, kind man. A son, a son-in-law and a brother speak. Granddaughters sing/sob so sweetly. And finally a recorded song is rendered by Les himself. It is so good to hear his voice.
Kathleen, so courageous, so bereft gives me a copy of Les' CD. I want to pay for it. "He loved you," she tells me through tears, "he wanted you to have it." Just like she tells everyone else. The grieving momentarily done, we assemble at the church as we always do; eat ham and funeral potatoes, reconnect with friends and family and days gone by. Cousins we haven't seen for years, a sister from across the continent, shirt tail relations we only see at weddings and funerals all connect through one unique and special friend on a special day, to celebrate his life. I imagine Grandpa Eph elboing his way to the front of the crowd so he can be the first to welcome Les to another family reunion. What fun it would be to see both sides of the veil. We look at one another and wonder who's next.
Brad brought the girls down from Provo, I get to take them back. We're the last to leave. There remains a bit of Dad in us, obviously. Wendy and Hazel and I load up and head North. We stop in Salina at Mom's Cafe for pie. We don't need it. I'd just feel like I'd cheated myself if I were this close didn't stop. Her pie is that good. We bump into Santa Claus on the way into the cafe. He gives us each a candy cane and poses for a picture with Hazel. It is so good to see him well and happy. Hope I never have to go to his funeral.
Belly up to the Mom's bar we sample each other's coconut creme, German chocolate and blueberry sour cream pies. They're delicious! Such a small sacrifice for such a fine treat! Wendy slaps my hand away from the check and pays the bill.
Great conversation makes the trip to Mapleton vanish into thin air. We have so much catching up to do. We seem to talk faster and faster as we begin to fear we'll run out of time. Wendy changes clothes in Mapleton while I promise Connie I won't stay away so long next time. (When I see her again on tomorrow's trip, I remind her that I've kept that promise.) We drop off Hazel in Provo and have a quick bright visit with Gary and Brooke. Brooke is not a little girl any more. I don't get here often enough. Wendy and I drive to Orem to see Uncle Merrill and Aunt Jo. They aren't home. (They are home on tomorrow's trip and so it goes.) So I drop of Wendy at Todd's and head for home. It's dark and the streets are amazingly empty. It is then that I remember the BYU/Utah game is underway. No wonder I have the city all to myself. As I tune in to the game I decide to drive past LaVell Edwards Stadium to take a look. Cars are parked along the Parkway all the way to Orem, a silent representation of frenzy. The stadium is packed. Somewhere in there are John and Courtney. The radio tells me the game has ended in a tie, 20-20 (not representing visual or visionary acuity, in my book). I can get out of town during the overtime and still beat the rush of traffic! Cars are parked along the Canyon road nearly to the canyon. Who are these people and what has become of their sanity?
I gas up and get back to the car in time to hear the victory screams. Blue has beaten Red 26-23 and already there is controversy, vitriol, agony and ecstasy and smiling, I think, "a billion Chinese and I don't even care."
I wish there were still fruit stands along the road. I wish this every time I pass this way. I wish there were still orchards in Orem and Edgemont. I wish Utah Valley hadn't changed; maybe I'd come back more often. I even miss the steel mill. Maybe if all that were still here, I would be too. And so would Les, and Mom and Dad and Grace and Bart and Grandy wouldn't be in prison and I could pick apricots with Grandpa Eph. So many choices, so many changes. So many possibilities become fixed and hardened reality. By the time I've slipped this deep into the melancholy of wishing though, I'm on the new canyon road and I can't imagine anything nicer! The hard reality of all this concrete, streamlined beauty brings me back to the present which is so, so fine. There is no better time to be alive than right here right now. I stop in Heber for a soda and then drive off into the darkness of an option filled, possibility laden, journey of joyful surprise. All of which isn't in some distant place or time, but right here, right now, in this car, on this road, in this most blessed reality.
I pop Les' CD into the stereo and listen to his sweet wispy old voice sing cowboy songs all the way home. I can hardly believe how he yodels! Before long, it is good to be home in Sweetie's arms and then crawling into a nice cozy bed. The concrete of today is curing nicely in the forms of my choices, and looking forward to a fresh pour tomorrow, I drift off to sleep wondering what it will shape up to be.