Monday, September 2, 2013

Folded Road

I cross the ridge and I’m in the desert again. The high desert is a sparse forest of twisted trunks of juniper. The road curves through a mountain pass and then straightens for 50 miles to cross a valley to the next mountain pass.

Around a bend a town of six houses called Fields lies down the road. I coast through and almost miss the gas pump, the last for 100 miles, across a dirt lot. I pull up to the pump and am scolded by the attendant as I once again forget it’s illegal to pump my own gas in Oregon. She forgives me and invites me inside for a milkshake at their bar. I start to decline and she counters with the suggestion of a raspberry-chocolate shake and when she sees the look on my face she tells me to pull around the side of the diner while she gets it started. As I come in she’s pouring the shake from a steel tumbler into a cup to go. It overflows and she hands me a spoon and the tumbler and tells me I’m not leaving until I first finish what’s left in the tumbler.

Back on the road with my melting milkshake I descend a hill into a valley on a 20 mile stretch of straight road. The road in the distance at the bottom of the hill is reflected by the shimmering road in front of my car and it looks as if the highway folds back on itself and drives into the earth. The road finally bends and I’m over a hill into Nevada and I see the air conditioned, windowless big box houses clustered on the hills above sand dunes. The billboards on the roads advertise the beginning of adventure over the towns that hold Inez’s Dancing and Diddling Bar and all breed of ranch.

At Wendover the flashing lights make one last attempt to hold you back from the dark void of the salt flats below in Utah. Steak dinners and guaranteed winners shine on the floodlit billboards and the main street stretches out in line with the highway so you can see every car parked in front of every casino. 
On the salt flats the lights of the potash plant shimmer through the heat as it rises from the salt after the sun sets. The highway that skirts the flats is a train of headlights and taillights that give the only hint of where the ground and sky meet. One pair of lights is bigger than the others, it breaks off from the train and I hear a sound like someone pulling a continuous piece of wet fabric off of a rock. It looks like the car is driving on top of water until it gets close and I see the salt and moisture that its tires are kicking up. It drives right at me and hops back up on the paved road and drives back toward the highway.
I stand out on the cracked flat white earth and the sunset light fades into the lights of the casino town in the distance and a storm builds across the flats. The heat of the ground warms my legs while I shiver in the breeze on top. Under the clouds a policeman chases speeders all night long on the highway while above the clouds the milky way runs up and over my head into the mountains that contain the basin.

No comments:

Post a Comment