I finished my five pounds of crap coffee this morning – a gift of something that might have been abandoned in the trash if not for my poverty – a gift given in a large plastic zip lock without label, identification or aspiration. Not wanting to go crazy by getting too ahead of my station in life and say, rocket up to something more substantial like Peet’s, I bought a pound of Mr. Coffee ‘Bold Brew’ with a plan to live with it until the next upgrade cycle – maybe then to switch to Dunkin Donuts, or something similar. It’s just a drug, and the dosage stays the same no matter what the taste – and I’ve forced down worse for less in my lifetime.
I ended up with the bag of crap coffee because Mary needed the can for medical reasons – to wrap a thromboemboletic stocking around the lip of it in order to allow her mother an easier way to put the damn stocking thing on her feet. (Get can, wrap stocking, insert foot, and pull stocking,) She dumped the coffee and kept the can – after drinking it for a month I can see why.
Just as traveling from one part of the world to another induces jet lag, abrupt transitions from anything to anything else induces a giggling paralyze in a person that confuses and angers the soul. This might explain class and caste, but I’m thinking smaller – that individual wanting or lacking that drives us to race franticly down roads, and off roads, into bushes and canyons of stupor and need, all in a search to get back to what we know, and away from all the weirdness of what we see as the new. Change is best when gradual – if it happens too fast it’s a mutation or a cancer.
You can’t throw a rich bitch into a ghetto without transitioning in a split-level ranch a few weeks without expecting hijinks to ensue and dogs of a special kind to be unleashed.
We started high and worked our way down. Vegas had dual showerheads, TV’s built into the bathroom mirror and buttons next to the bed to close the drapes at night. The air-conditioner was central and noiseless; the shampoos had French names and strangely shaped bottles. We were on the 18th floor and all was down. From this we went down.
We were on the top floor in Mesquite but it only had four floors. The shower had a fancy head, but only one of them. The soap was from San Francisco and smelled nice with a rich coloring, but the bottle was pedestrian. To close the drapes after all tucked in and comfy involved getting up naked and running across a freezing room to pull them shut. Nice, but not too nice.
The next night we were in Escalante – cinderblock walls, a Desert Sun brand of shampoo and a noisy AC unit that buzzed even when it was off. Thanks to a night acclimatizing in Mesquite, we were ready for it and slept like babies attached to the tops of lawnmowers.
We planned breakfast in Boulder, but I got coffee in Escalante before we started the drive at an outdoorsy shop that advertised espresso on a hand painted sign in the window. Served by an older thin and physical woman from a small home type machine in her kitchen I looked around the shop at all the wonders being offered up to enjoy the outdoors with. My last technical cutting edge moment was in the 70’s -- with Jansport packs and closed cell foam mattresses, so I was impressed with all the new stuff, though confused as to the point of some of it. I liked the coffee, and the concept of good coffee in the middle of nowhere.
As we drove off down highway 12 to Boulder, Mary read from a local rag that, “Bolder was the last city in the country to get its daily mail delivery by mule.” It’s also my favorite section of Highway 12.
It’s deceptive – you ease and slide your way through increasing slick rock, and random dips in valleys until, without notice, you find that you are driving along the crest of a mountain, with steep drops on either side of you. The thought, every time, is the same – I wouldn’t be doing this if I knew I was going to be doing this. It’s mentally a ridgeline asphalt hiking trail that we are riding on a jet packed set of roller skates. Mary’s hands are clammy, but I’m just amazed.
It’s less than an hour to get to Boulder and the turn off to Burr trail, where we eat, and I talk about what’s coming up. I feel like I’m progressively sucking her in to my plan to take her to the ends of the earth, and that it’s too late and we are too nowhere for her to back out. This is how people get into trouble I think – bad plans and an inability to bail -- or maybe it’s just the directions for the best way to cook a frog, but I’m thinking as I talk, have I learned nothing from eight years of Bush?
The Burr trail is 60 miles of back roads through the Capital Reef Park. The last time I came I drove it with Ricky in a four-wheeled jeep, but I remember it as easy enough and worth the effort. I wouldn’t drive it in the rain, but it’s sunny and, really, what’s the worst that could happen?
We finish eating at a great breakfast place without a name I remember (You can’t see it from the highway, but it’s obvious when you turn down the Burr trail, and less than300 yards from the turn off.) The servers are two Asian girls, and as I leave I wonder what they do for fun when they are not working. They don’t speak English well and seem very out of place – I guess very much like us in a big sense.
The first twenty miles are paved and beautiful. We first pass a RV park and then dive down a steeply curved road into a canyon. The roads not too scary, but I think to myself as I drive it that I don’t want to come back up it if I don’t have to.
The canyon is tall and red on either side of us, with small visible slot canyons cracked into it as we travel. The road is black and unmarked, and wide enough for other cars to pass, but narrow enough to pay attention. It’s quiet and ours, and this makes it the most beautiful part of the trip for both of us. It’s like Disney made a park for us alone.
After twenty miles the road changes to rough gravel, and after a few miles of rough gravel, the bottom drops out.
We have hit the switchback part of the road – the place where Ricky and I thought about bailing and going backwards to the paved road -- then back to the no-name restaurant for a late lunch. The road is gravel, big time steep and loaded with Bolivian type switchbacks. For some reason, it doesn’t look to bad this time, so without thinking about it too much, I head down. Mary kept her sweaty hands in her lap as I drove downhill in low gear, and neither of us looked out at the view or were tempted to stop for pictures.
At some point I turned to Mary and said, “I promised to take you the middle of nowhere and here it is.” Her kids thought I was bringing her out here to bury her, but that’s not my style and I didn’t have a shovel.
From the bottom, the next forty miles were empty and not much to look at. I couldn’t really look because the road was a washboard of dirt and I had to switch from one side to the other to keep any speed without the car shuddering to pieces. We headed north, or right, to connect to Highway 12 further down, though, if I had to do it again, I’d head south to Ticaboo, just to say I’d been there.
It was a long drive to the Highway and sort of pointless at one point. I worried about the shaking my car was getting, but occasionally a Hyundai or Kia would pass me going the other way and my cars Japanese pride would force it to behave more correctly and with less noise and so we continued for hours at low speed until we hit the paved road again.
On Highway 12 we went the wrong way on purpose in order to backtrack the ten mile to Fruita, an old Mormon town that specialized in growing fruit. We stopped at the visitor’s center and bought so taffy and apple butter from the Mormon’s and then headed down the road to Hanksville.