Into the Middle of Nowhere
(If you did not start this journey with me, you may get along side by clicking here. I'll wait.)
So it was that I was standing on US 40 at the east edge of Heber City in the middle of the night. Here it was that the luck of the hitchhiker struck in a good way. I was still trembling from the emotionally exhausting experience of holding the pickup on the highway by dint of sheer will while Wild Willy whooshed around the curves and through the dips and over the rises. A nice shiny '49 Mercury pulled over and I ran up to board. The driver was a young man about my age. He was a student at BYU on his way home to Vernal for the summer. We struck up a conversation and hit it off. Both college students, both westerners from adjoining states, we found it easy to talk with one another. He testified to his faith, Mormon, and I to mine, Christian by the grace of God and through the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ. We each clearly understood that no one was converting anyone, but that was okay.
The miles passed swiftly as we passed through the desert and through the night. Joseph dropped me in front of an all-night cafe on the east edge of Vernal and we said our fare-thee-wells. I went into the restaurant to get a cuppa and a bite to eat, as I had eaten nothing since noon the previous day. As I finished and paid the tab, a bearded gentleman walking out just ahead of me turned and asked me if I was headed east. I replied in the affirmative. He said that if I wanted to hop into the cab of that green semi yonder, he could take me as far as the state line.
The ride with Bob was barely more than thirty miles but it was more than enough to convince me that truck-driving as a vocation would never be a part of my future. So long, that is, as I could find anything else to do. How, I wondered, did the kidneys survive, given the beating that I was taking, bouncing and jouncing down the highway. It is quite likely that technology and the interstate highway system have combined to improve that circumstance. Still, ten hours or more every day on the road? Leaving that to the road warriors.
Two or three miles after we crossed the Utah-Colorado boundary, we came to a Y in the road.Bob said, "This is where I turn south to Rangely. You probably want to continue on 40." I said yes, thank you, and he dropped me at the side of the road. My feet hit the gravel as the sun crested the mountains to the east. Please understand that except for the highway there was nothingness in virtually every direction.* And as it turned out, I stood there for what seemed an interminable length of time, and nothing passed me going in either direction. As the sun rose higher and higher in the sky, the heat bore down on me, and bounced up from the earth and hit me again. In desperation, I finally started walking slowly eastward, thinking movement had to be improvement. I had walked probably a mile and still nothing. But a few more steps and on the north side of the road there appeared a lane, a long lane leading to a house more than a quarter-mile away.
Going up the lane and back would add at least a half-mile to my apparently aimless journey. Failure to go up the lane could mean dehydration, for thirst was by now the most compelling factor in my miserable life. So I headed up the lane. "Up" is not inaccurate, for I would suppose I gained forty feet or more in elevation between the road and the house. Finally I knocked on the door. It was answered by a little old lady, as I perceived her. I stated my plight and my mission. "If you could but give me a drink of water, I'd be most appreciative." "Cecil," she called over her shoulder, "let's get this boy a drink of water." Cecil came up behind his wife and said, "C'mon in, Boy. Set fer a spell." I did.
We visited a bit, and it seemed that I was being interrogated. But soon enough, refreshed by water and the rest, I found myself in the lane again, nose pointed resolutely toward the highway.
At least this part of the journey was down-hill.
(To be continued.)
Image Dinosaur National Monument: Wikipedia
*In the interest of historic and geographic accuracy, in case any reader is a stickler for accuracy, to the south of US 40 at this junction was a town called Artesia which was little more than a collection of row houses for workers in this god-forsaken area. The name Artesia was dropped in 1966 as a more-or-less real town developed. It is now called "Dinosaur" to take advantage of its proximity to Dinosaur National Monument. The National Parks Service has erected a very nice visitors center for the park. This is located just east of Dinosaur and would be very near to the lane up which I walked those many years ago. Look this area up on Google Earth to get an idea of the topography. Pretty neat.