My heart is a little heavy leaving Flagstaff; a quaint city, nestled in the pines and cool breezes of Northern Arizona. I loved my little 2.8-star room at the foot of the mountains. (Allegedly the motel is under new management, but, the room was lovely for a mere $39.00. Starbucks was located across the street, the highway was easy to access, and the amenities were simple, yet clean and comfortable. I have no complaints.) The owners loaned me a broom to sweep Bubba; and a measuring tape.
As we cruise through the mountain pass, signs that say “Hitchikers might be escaping inmates”, greet me. Perhaps I read too many true crime novels, but, I would NEVER pick up a hitchhiker; I am oddly attached to my life and limbs; but, thank you Arizona for having my back. (Also, if an inmate didn’t kill me, my dad would!)
The day starts out beautiful and breezy; cool and calm; but, that would soon change dramatically, as I entered the desert. I’m not gonna lie: I was not prepared for this level of intense heat and the innocuous-sounding ‘red wind warnings.‘
Bubba the Bus has no air conditioning coupled with 115-degree heat and ‘red wind warnings’, which I didn’t know what they were = the toughest day of driving I had. According to the National Weather System, there are various colors of ‘wind warnings‘; yellow, orange and red. Red means…(and I quote): “STATUS RED – Severe Weather Warning – Take Action. The issue of RED level severe weather warnings should be a comparatively rare event and implies that recipients take action to protect themselves and/or their properties; this could be by moving their families out of the danger zone temporarily; by staying indoors; or by other specific actions aimed at mitigating the effects of the weather conditions.” I did none of these things, as I had never heard of a ‘red wind warning‘; but, for me what it meant was a constant 35 mph furnace-like wind belted my face mercilessly. My lips split and then bled; my clothes were plastered to my body and I cried. Another interesting thing about the desert is that there are few if any services; gas, restrooms, food or air-conditioned abodes for miles and hours. I kept having flashbacks of Breaking Bad—and understood it in an entirely new way. Again, I mention, if you have NOT seen this show; stop reading now and go binge.
I had a gallon of water, which was nearly boiling in its jug–but, I kept drinking and drinking it, in hopes of some sort of moisture staying in my body. My frustration mounted as I saw no signs for any services—namely a bathroom. Finally, I relented at the top of a mountain; opened the door and squatted on the side of the road. The problem with this was the ‘red winds‘, which ferociously blew my watered urine everywhere. Fortunately, as mentioned earlier, I had been on Greyhound, so was prepared with ample cleaning supplies.
Bubba the Bus handled it like a best and, after a mere 180 miles—(or in Bubba time, SIX hours of driving), I arrived in Laughlin; definitely worse for wear. My eyes felt like sandpaper, my body was ‘tanned‘ and I was spent. Although the desert was brutal; it was beautiful. Each time I thought; ‘I can’t make this’, I would come around a corner and be greeted by the most dramatic scenery and rock formations; that I couldn’t even imagine; in a word awe-inspiring and I was humbled. The brutal weather seemed the perfect backdrop for the brutally beautiful scenes that marked my way.
And that a happened here; was fitting–and that miracle was Tish Malone. Tish had been vigilantly following my journey on Facebook. She is a self-described ‘desert rat’; which apparently means the heat doesn’t bother her. A few days previous, she had asked me if I would be in Laughlin on Monday. I looked at my locale and was still 1200 miles out; so, I said ‘no; I would think Tuesday at the earliest.‘ The next message I received from her on Facebook was, that she had rented a room in Laughlin on Tuesday, so I could shower, cool down, eat and be merry. This random act of kindness, from someone I had gone to school with over 30 years ago, was astounding. I thanked her, and she replied; “Thank my Dad,” which I planned to do. When I arrived in Laughlin, she had said the room was at the Colorado Belle; which sounded lovely. Unfortunately, my GPS heard Taco Bell–which was an extra 10 miles and not so lovely. Once again, I cried.
When I made it back to the Colorado Bell, she had an ice-cold beer and great conversation waiting for me. As we were speaking, she mentioned her dad had passed away some years ago. I commented that I must have misunderstood her FB message about thanking her dad. She explained that her dad had taught her, that if she could help a friend—even one from ‘once long ago‘—that she must do that. She sat on the bed across from me, and said, “you don’t remember, but we were friends, once long ago.” For me: Goosebumps. And the reason is; I was raised on Indian land—Tish was assigned to teach on Navajo Rez for four years: Friends, of ‘once long ago‘, is an understanding, not only of how we move energetically on the planet; but of the circular nature of time, honor and an Indian way; because ‘there is no such place as far away.’ We ate. I slept early and heavy and Bubba basked in the glow of the Tropicana Casino.
And although I have little to no memory of high school, the truth is: Your friends will know you better in the first moment you meet, than your acquaintances will know you in a thousand lifetimes. (Richard Bach)–even those from ‘once, long ago’.
Tomorrow—Bakersfield! Until then…thank you for being on the journey!