the great adventure: day 3
as the new day slowly crept to life i was suffering the consequences of forgetting dish soap but as i downed my chicken noodle oatmeal and coffee, the morning greeted us with crisp, cool air and a hungry young visitor who nosed around the perimeter of our site for a few moments before moving on in search of a more promising spot.
as we broke camp again i rediscovered the beauty of a certain flow in the day.
its a simple rhythm but even after only two days i felt connected to god again as i hadnt in a very long time. i spent a few moments praying and hoping i could find a similar cadence in my days once i was back in my everyday world.
having skipped the $2 showers, i sat on a rock outside the restroom scrubbing my feet with a wet wipe as a nearby parent patiently explained to his curious child why clean feet were so important. from the sink beside me a typical looking hiker girl with just enough grey in her dark hair to reveal her years asked where we had hiked and we exchanged stories. she encouraged us to hike indian garden, a halfway point on the trail that leads to phantom ranch. i told her about the trouble and worth of the tower arch trail. before we parted ways we introduced ourselves properly and wished each other a good journey.
her name was michelle.
in april i lost my cousin by the same name. an internal infection went unchecked and took her life suddenly, leaving behind 3 children and a family in shock; just the latest in a long line of tragedies to hit my fathers side of the family. as i sat and talked with this congenial woman i couldnt help thinking of my cousin and our family plans to meet up this summer at a beach house over labor day as we had done the previous year.
it was a sobering reminder of the brevity of life and the importance of family.
having found out the hard way that the phantom ranch campground at the base of the canyon books up a year and a half in advance our initial plan to take 2 days hiking in and out became unnecessary and we decided to depart early and rearrange the next couple of days.
brian was eager to show me las vegas so we packed up and headed south to route 66 before turning west again on our way to kingman and a northward trek into the city. on the way we engaged in a long discussion about homosexuality and the bible. im not sure if we solved the worlds problems but it was a good conversation with brian playing devils advocate to my thinking as only he can. its one of the things i dig about our friendship. neither of us needs the other to be convinced of our position and both are willing to subject our thoughts to scrutiny by the other without all the usual commotion that accompanies such exchanges.
as we reached the state line we stopped to take pictures of hoover dam from the new memorial bridge.
it was breath-taking, but even moreso because of the height. i constantly imagined being blown over the edge by a strong gust of wind. and as we marveled at the ingenuity that provides power for such a large number of people, i considered how much of an achievement this was for humanity to harness the power that carved out the grand canyon.
and it struck me that this is often how we approach god. seeing the immensity of his power we try to reign him in for our own benefit. how many times have i ignored him while making a string of bad choices that only resulted in my calling out to him for reprieve and rescue? how many times have i pressed forward into some venture without considering his will and then asked for his blessing on it as an afterthought? or how often have i attempted to fit him into my understanding as if being understood by me were somehow possible?
it seems like im guilty of trying to harness god on a regular basis and in different ways.
and im not entirely sure how to live any other way.
as we drove brian told me about a drink he saw at a convenience store we stopped at. apparently it has a twist top that drops powder into water giving it your chosen flavor. he couldnt figure the need for such an unnecessary gimmick.
on our way to las vegas.
that struck me as ironic but as we cruised the strip, brian talked at length about the different casinos and his experiences there and i was more impressed with the extent of his knowledge than the city itself. his draw has to do with a penchant for poker and vegas ostensibly has higher stakes than the action in colorado and no betting limits. i suppose like brian there are a great many people attracted to this city for whatever promise it may hold in their minds, but all i could see was a city built to prey on broken people and it made my stomach turn.
we made arrangements to stay in beatty, nv that evening and after trying out the famed in-and-out burger we headed north on us highway 95 just west of area 51 and groom lake where ive been told aliens hang out with our military. as vegas faded in a hazy blur behind us we passed a ski resort sign and wondered how they ever get enough powder before both agreeing it had to be faux snow. being such a short distance from the glitz of the strip it only seemed fitting.
driving on into the creeping night we watched stars begin to appear just north of creech afb while a sliver of sunlight remained visible above charleston peak and it felt like we were chasing light; trying to keep it from vanishing because we wanted these days and rhythms to last longer than they would.
our conversation turned to how hectic life is and how little peace we have in our lives on any consistent basis. mostly our time is consumed by family, work, and church. these are all things we are thankful for and yet we somehow find ourselves completely overwhelmed by them.
the long dark blanket of night pulled close around us as we pondered this while driving by a roadside attraction with flashing lights advertising nude girls in bikinis on an airport far enough from anything to be wildly obscure and possibly full of stripper vampires.
despite the weirdness and incongruity we decided not to investigate and pushed on to beatty, where we found el portal motel and its manager rick who had dark thinning hair combed over a balding spot along with a firm handshake and pleasant demeanor. he had urgent business in pahrump the following morning but was kind enough to point us toward the sourdough saloon where i topped off with a guinness while bird tugged on a fat tire.
charlie rich was still looking for the most beautiful girl in the world as we scanned the walls and ceiling covered with signed dollar bills stapled there by other travelers and my fathers twangy version of the jukebox hit filled my mind with memories of hearing him croon while riding in his car that always smelled of folgers coffee. before my mind followed the memory to its tragic end the bartender came to ask if we wanted another round. her name is linda and she is only moonlighting here as her other job is at the elementary. shes a good barkeep though and answered my inane questions with good humor.
as we began our 2nd i asked about the t-shirt hanging over the bar and she explained about the annual pig roast that draws bikers and travelers from all over. i queried concerning the mercedes and bmw car parts decorating the saloon and she told us that they come from all over to test drive their cars on a stretch of road in death valley that we will be driving the next afternoon. i asked about the dollars and she fondly remembered an exceptionally drunken new years eve party that led to the present wallpaper.
finally i inquired about the ‘3 nopes for a buck’ sign hanging nearby on a post and she relished in divulging the game to us wherein a player rolls dice from a cup to get a full house for a free beer, four of a kind for a 6 pack, or yahtzee for the pot which wound up being $251 thanks to my generous donation and poor luck. we sat quietly taking in the scene after that, bathing in the atmosphere of a place with real character and good-natured people.
reflecting back on the entire day and the various people i met i was thinking maybe god allows us the opportunity to meet interesting new people to remind us of the interesting people we already know and to not take them for granted while they are here. that night i missed my wife something fierce and wondered if it was such a good idea to undertake this endeavor without her. at the very least i appreciated her and the littles that much more as we settled our tabs and headed out.
walking back to the motel we spotted a couple of jackasses wandering freely in the streets but our approach spooked them and they hustled off together into the night. a strange end to an unplanned day in the wild west and perhaps something of a humorous metaphor sent by god but after two nights on the ground and a long day on the road i was too exhausted to think anymore and when we turned in for the night i enjoyed the bed very much and added one more rhythm to the list…
~ by graceshaker on July 30, 2012.
Posted in adventure, being, death, family, god, life, photography, the great adventure
Tags: $2 showers, 3 nopes for a buck, aliens, area 51, bartender, beach house, beatty nv, bmw, brevity of life, casinos, charleston peak, charlie rich, chasing light, connected to god, creech air-force base, death valley, devils advocate, el portal motel, fat tire, faux snow, folgers coffee, four of a kind, free wandering jackasses, from dusk till dawn, full house, groom lake, guilty of trying to harness god, guinness extra stout, hectic life, higher stakes, hiker girl, homosexuality and the bible, hoover dam, importance of family, in-and-out burger, indian garden, internal infection, kingman nv, labor day, las vegas nv, mercedes, new years eve party, no betting limits, o'callaghan–tillman memorial bridge, pahrump nv, phantom ranch, pig roast, poker, route 66, simple rhythm, the grand canyon, the great adventure, the most beautiful girl in the world, the sourdough saloon, the strip, tower arch trail, unnecessary gimmick, us highway 95, why clean feet are so important, yahtzee