January 10, 2010

The Lingering Memory of Small Towns

Although six months have passed, I still occasionally find myself thinking about the long road trip we took to the California coast and back last Summer. Not so much the big touristy attractions that we saw, but the smaller things that obviously left their mark in my mind, but that I haven't thought about until recently.

This past week, I started remembering the places we had stopped for gasoline on the road, usually in the late morning or early afternoon. Towns like Vega, Texas, Wasco, California and Cedar City, Utah.

One town in particular stood out, because of the circumstances that led us to stop there on a blistering hot afternoon. Because Jan had been stricken with a totally bizarre case of agoraphobia at the Grand Canyon, we had left just after noon and were traveling west on I-40 toward Kingman, our planned stop for the night.

The stretch of I-40 between Flagstaff and Kingman is fairly lonely, with few towns. The country side alternates between craggy mountains and desert. Because we had become so used to driving long distances every day, I had began to ignore signs from my body that it might be a good idea to stop for a while and rest. Sure enough, right in the middle of Yavapai County, I started to lose feeling in my right foot and my lower calf started to cramp up. After a few minutes, I realized that I couldn't feel the accelerator or the brake pedals, so as subtlely as I could (didn't want to alarm Jan), I pulled my right leg under the seat with a free hand, and began working the pedals with my left foot. We crested a hill and an exit sign for Ash Fork, Arizona flashed by, so I just coasted down the off ramp and into the gas station/mini-mart on the ourskirts of town.

While Jan went inside to use the restroom, I hobbled around the car, trying to get feeling back in my right leg. When the pins & needles stabby feeling started to subside, I leaned up against the car and took a look around. The themometer hung over the entrance to the store read about 120 degrees. I glanced across the street at another filling station/repair shop, and saw three men milling around in the two bays, all dressed in sweat soaked blue overalls, looking like they rather be in an air conditioned tavern downing cold beer.

On the walk in front of the store was a hard looking woman in her 30's or 40's clad in a white sleeveless knit top, a mini-skirt and red high heels. She was picking at a burrito wrapped in tin foil that she had bought inside ... and she kept looking at me. I sure as shit didn't want to strike up a conversation with her, so I opened the trunk of the car, and appeared to busy myself until Jan came back outside. We made our way back onto I-40 and headed for Kingman.

And that's it. No funny story, no odd happenings. But for some reason, the whole event has stayed in my memory, and I'm certain that I'll be unlikely to forget the images.

Last night, I looked up Ash Fork on the internet, and came across this charming little blog. I'm going to bookmark it just on general principles, so I can see what's going on in Ash Fork from time to time.

The blog also contains this 4 minute tour of Ash Fork on the Fourth of July, 2009. The last 30 seconds show the Mustang mini-mart, where we stopped ... and also the one way road leading to it. I forgot to mention earlier, that when we pulled out of the mini-mart, I headed the wrong way up this road.

Just think, if this guy had taken this video tour only two weeks later, he could have had a visual record of me heading right for him and our head-on crash.


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