LIKE PRISON WITH SUNSETS
Day 20 Eagle Eye Road to Tonopah
Today: 24 miles cumulative: 396
The day starts out like I am going to work. This at times is like any other kind of routine. A long hot day in the sun, just work. Someone once told me this walk would be like a prison sentence, and I said, yes it would be, but I like prison with sunsets. There are mountains to make it a little less painful too. Bighorn Peak, the same name as a mountain near my home in Wyoming. No lunch break at this job, Im down to trail mix and water until Tonopah. Sometime after sunset.
Indian School road is all dirt and there are no cars, so although the day is long, it is quiet too. Saddle Mountain is to my right, dramatic spires like Gaudi's Cathedral in red sandstone. Volcanoes. I never noticed that half the hills in the West are old volcanoes. On the other side of one of these pumice hills Cain and Darlene are collecting rocks and watching the sun set from the back of a white pickup truck. Cain is cleaning his chain saw, its his business he says and produces a 5 photos of palm trees. Tallest trees I ever worked on, a tiny dot and chain saw hanging by a rope. He is proud of his job. Darlene picks up any rock with color, she says shes going to use them in her garden. Her shirt says "Only The Strong Survive." They tell me they got married at a drive through chapel in Las Vegas. "I swear it was a McDonalds. They asked if I wanted a hamburger, I said Yes, and next thing I knew i was married." They are both laughing. They are headed back to Salome, and they say I can come visit anytime. "Adios amigo." Back down Indian School Road, the home stretch, prison is not so hard with sunsets like these. A boy with a metal halo screwed into his head is playing with a BB gun when I walk by his house. His dog barks and he begins to shoot it. He is still shooting it after I walk by and he doesnt stop. His mother stands on the doorstep watching me with her hands on her hips, palms out. In their yard, a huge Saguaro cactus, tilts into the blues that come after sunset. My blisters are back when I get into Tonopah, but I haven't felt them, this is the best Ive felt at the end of a day since I started.
Tonopah Joe's Truck stop is the perfect place to loiter. I can stay as long as I need to, they are open all night, and there are plenty of characters to watch in here. A juke box is silent so I feed it and find George Straight. If I hurry I can still make Cheyenne, a song about the one who leaves his girl to keep riding and dies. "There's somebody new and he sure ain't no rodeo man. I said Im sorry its come down to this, theres so much about you that Im gonna miss, but its all right baby if I hurry I can still make Cheyenne." Will I lose the girl because of my Rodeo? More country music, nostalgia for a past I never had. I wear a cowboy hat everyday, I never even thought about having one growing up, it was only after I went away that I began to Romanticize Wyoming and the cowboy. America's one hero, the last great myth, big billboards of Marlboro men, just a little dirty around a campfire in the Utah desert. In the real world they are underpaid and over worked, no red rock back drop and less and less horses. The pickup truck today's horse. But I still like the picture, I still want to be the man in the hat.
The man who serves the coffee has a cajun accent I can barely understand, velvet paintings of matadors on the walls, 4 hours of coffee and writing and rodeo songs and watching tired waitresses. A very large man outside offers Cosmo some gravy for her dog food, which she has not touched. His hat says " I love cooked animals." The gravy suddenly makes Cosmo hungry, the bowl is licked clean. "You can sleep out behind them old ruins over across the street, I been here long enough I done it myself a time or 2." First a trip to the hot springs, they are closing but let me in for an hour alone under the stars. Back to the womb. Total vertigo. "What if I defy everything, including gravity and fear." Alissa's words. I have run those words through my head everyday since I heard them, that night in Santa Fe. They are the words I try to use to break out of prison. No gravity, no fear. These are my goals, then there will be no prison. Only sunsets.