Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spring-Break Northern World Tour ..... Day 2


The first time I was out in the desert near Barstow, nothing took hold and there were absolutely no drugs involved.

Although, for all I know, there may have been some ether hidden deep within in the bowels of the Motel Slant-Six when my (former) editor executed a long, swooping fishtail before coming to a stop in the mesquite at the side of the road.

He then jumped out the car, ran to the back, and proceeded to yank the bats from the trunk.


Well, how often do you get to hit fungoes in the desert?

But that's an old story from my (almost) sportswriter past.

And it is most definitely not the one I want to tell today.


There was, however, another time I was booming through the desert on a mission that's worth digressing about.

And on this other trip I was most definitely not on my way to Vegas to stay in a crappy motel on the way far gone wrong side of the strip that had old, peeling Debbie Reynolds posters on the lobby walls, just so I could gobble down free hot dogs in the press box of Cashman field while I pretended to cover Vancouver's (then still real) Baseball Canadians.


Instead, this time, we were on our way to the Grand Canyon, via Flagstaff, which meant that when we got to Barstow, we swung south, along Interstate 40, to skirt the lower edge of the Mojave Desert heading east out of California into Arizona.

That day, it was an early spring morning, and I was driving.

And as I crested a rise, the rising sun bounced off of more grains of sand than anybody, deity or otherwise, could possibly imagine and headed straight for the back of my retina.

A moment or two later, after the visual pigments finally stopped jumping, the next thing I noticed was all the space.

And it was all laid out in front of us.

In fact, the lives of everybody in the car were all laid out in front of us that morning.

Because on my second trip through the desert, Tiny E. (the now 16 yr. old Bigger E) was still a baby in the backseat and C., my wife, was back there with her, sleeping.

As for me, at the specific moment of time, I was finally finishing about a billion years of science geek training and had my first real job in hand, which meant that we were getting ready to move back to Canada.

And at that instant the Indigo Girls were sliding out of the speakers singing 'Closer to Fine'.

And everything was.

Fine, I mean.

Which, of course, is a feeling that's hard to forget.

Even when you think that maybe you have....


So anyway, yesterday, 15 years later, on Day 2 of the Northern World Tour, I found myself driving a long stretch again, this time with littler e. (who just turned 10) and the whack-a-doodle, Rosey in the back seat too.

This time it was not morning.

Instead, it was late in the day, and everybody was kind of dozing off, most plugged in to something or other with headphones of their own over their ears.

And somewhere just west of Vanderhoof, heading towards Burns Lake, we crested a rise and I found myself staring into the high, white light of the early spring sun bouncing off rolling hills of snow that stretched out forever.

And this time I was listening to Glen Hansard bash the crap out of that guitar with the hole in the middle of the pick guard as he belted out Van Morrison's Astral Weeks as only he can.

And while I have no idea what plane I was on right about then, I do know that the feeling that everything was, indeed, fine, washed over me again.

All over again.

And again.


A little while later, in Burns Lake, we stopped to get groceries and while we were standing in the super-market check-out line, C. suddenly started giggling....I looked down saw a picture of a science-geek on a promotional flyer staring back up at me..."What's so funny?" I asked. "I mean why shouldn't scientists get as much recognition like, say, Junior B hockey players?".... C. just kept laughing and pointed at the name.....Turns out they'd gotten it wrong and added an extra consonant to my first name that changed it completely....Bigger E. immediately quipped that she liked it better that way....The check-out guy, Wilf at the Overwaitea (who was great about getting us the 'tourist' card) just smiled, and asked for my autograph....I started patting myself down looking for a pen....He, of course, was only being a good sport....Sheesh.....Would everybody be making fun of me like this if I'd become a sportswriter instead?
Hey! If you want to skip the Fass-Foo Emporia while travelling Hwy 16, make sure you stop at the New Leaf in Burns is really fantastic (and only a tiny bit more than the A&W for the four of us) and they are trying to do everything locally...We were really, really impressed.


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