22 hours to Las Vegas
Time is a mysterious thing. Especially when you lose time and can’t tell where it went. Not just as in time flies when having fun, but GPS saying you have a 22 hour hour drive, then four hours later still stating 21.5 hours left of driving! Even with Groom lake within our scopes or the infamous Area 51, I knew we were still too far out to have these things happening (not that I even believe anymore).
Those four hours were a happy four hours though. We spent it driving through my favorite state of all of them; Arkansas. The scenery was beautiful, mountains luscious, and over all a calm and peaceful drive. Upon our trek I was fascinated by the gigantic lake Dardanelle that spawned out of the left of our windows. The highway dipped low and close to the banks before rising a few thousand feet allowing a view of just how expansive this lake was. Upon the height of the thousand feet incline was a scenic overlook. Viewing just part of the expanse there was a sudden inspiration to sit down get out a pen and paper and begin free association writing. A method where you pick up the pen and begin writing anything. This anything eventually turns into a collection of ideas which can then be converted into a story, or birth an interesting story (much like my second book, The Silhouetted Leaves, which began this way). The only reason this didn’t happen was Mary and myself had to use the restroom. I easily could have gone right there, but uh, yeah, Mary couldn’t have. We did manage to pose for a few pictures on the lake’s banks before finally finding a bathroom.
From there Oklahoma came into view. Interesting at first, but the interest quickly waned by the time we were a quarter of the way through. Nearly an unchanging view and a constant pattern in the peripherals made it quite boring. When Texas arrived, come night fall, we were relieved! The only thing overly beautiful about Oklahoma was a sunset filled with wisps of clouds.
Texas by night was interesting. Because it was pitch black we debated whether or not we were in the desert yet. The hills had died away and all we could see were unchanging lights in the distant. They refused to get any closer so we drove even faster. The small amount of light that ventured off to the side from my headlights illuminated an odd earth. Small, patchy clumps of grass lined what must have been sand. A lack of trees visible on either side, or the fact that you could see the next city thirty some odd miles away allowed us to finally state the obvious: yep we’re in the desert. It’s a shame that we didn’t get to see more of this state during the daylight hours.
Before we hit New Mexico we had sincerely considered stopping down to visit my best friend Carla. It had been about seven years since I had last seen her. She has had three babies and re-married within those years. Feeling the length of the trip quickly catching up it was a possibility to drive another six hours south to see her, then re-boot in the morning. I had by now already been driving a good sixteen hours. While contemplating, we thought about stopping out at Roswell, New Mexico the next morning on our trip north to Vegas and the Grand Canyon. It was quite the temptation. See a friend and Roswell! Couldn’t be better, but me and my damn time.
I had to call and cancel with Carla, and continue on our trek. Well into New Mexico I finally decided it would be safest for us to pull over and rest. I had asked Mary to fall asleep before the sun even went down, so when I got tired she could drive. She’s never one to take direction well. We pulled over and I couldn’t help but to think of Matt’s voice, “the second you get in your car and leave your mom’s house; You’re homeless.” Well thanks Matt, now I felt it.
We converted the car into something we might be able to sleep in, as best we could. We moved our seats almost all the way forward so we could put the seats back. Towels were retrieved from the travel bags to put over the windows to block out the lights of the truck stop and prevent someone from looking in at us; ew. Separating my double pillow was sacrifice enough for Mary to get some good sleep. Within forty five minutes of moving around and adjusting I was finally asleep.
Sleeping in a car is not an easy task. I was awake within two hours with a leg that was completely asleep. Painful prickles throbbed and pulled at my leg. I didn’t want to move it. Looking at Mary sleeping, I knew I couldn’t scream from the pain or the irritation that this now caused me. Curling my toes sent a rush of the prickles through the entire leg and caused an involuntary jerk. I had to get this thing moving so I could stealthily fuel the car and hit the road before Mary even woke up. Flexing my ankle, toes, and knee helped the blood pumped faster which finally began to eliminate the god awful feeling that flooded my leg.
Driving two seconds to the gas pump was simple, but my eyes fought me simply. The air was still and cool. Simply lifting the gas handle seemed to draw the slightest attention. As two people walked by they stared at my license plate. I had forgot about that, how unnatural it must be to see a plate from the east coast all the way out here. That feeling settled even more as the two men looked back out at me from the tops of their eyes. The cold gave me a chill. Then maybe it was the odd look from both strangers behind the clear barrier. Looking away, but keeping them in my peripheral’s, my mind reminded me of a dream I recently had.
Driving along a deserted road, which my mind placed in Texas, I was dancing. Filled with wonderful, fresh, and amazing feelings and emotions of the move I was making. While dancing I happen to come across a site I am unsure of. As I try to observe this thing closer, I hit something. That something was a baby elephant. This “baby” managed to total my car and I hadn’t seen a gas station for miles nor could I sense any other life for a thousand more. There is a storm rapidly threatening over the mountains as a cold rush of wind floods past me. I’m stranded, alone. The baby was too, no mother close by but still quite the damper in my travel. With the storm brewing and knowing how could the nights can get here I consider gutting the baby elephant and tucking myself within it’s flesh to keep warm and sheltered through the storm.
I felt there had been some significance to this dream. Either my mind displaying my fears in a motion picture way, or a caution. Not directly feeling like these men were going to be the physical manifestation of the symbol of the elephant, I still had the desire to stop pumping the gas and just start moving. They were paying for their items. I didn’t wait for the receipt, instead I got into the car and immediately began driving.
Five thirty in the morning is when I hit the road. I believed the first hour might be tough especially with limited sleep, but the sun would soon be out and would help keep me awake. How could I forget about the time change? After driving for a good two and a half hours the sun still wasn’t up. I was, however, two hours behind what my clock told me it was. So NOW it was actually six in the morning. I couldn’t keep my eyes open, so I stopped again. Mary was in and out of sleep. I couldn’t leave the driving to her when she had just about as much sleep as I had. This twenty two hour trip was certainly taking longer than twenty two hours! We still had another six hours of driving just to hit the grand canyon.
The second part of the trip though, now day four officially, was really quite interesting. Here is when we saw the large red plateau’s of the desert. I kept thinking of the book DEATHWATCH by Robb White, where a man is hunted in the desert and has to use his resources to stay alive and ahead of his hunter. Along the road was the largest preserved meteorite crater (which was an astonishing $35 admittance fee…yeah right!) It was really cool to see the outside of it, along with the wild coyote that lay sleeping only fifty feet from a herd of cattle. Off in the distance we could see a snow capped mountain. This was the first one I had ever seen. It jutted out of the desert scene for hundreds of miles, a token of where to go, a beacon for the next part of the adventure: The Grand Canyon.