Dry Country

When the bread on your sandwich becomes toast while you are consuming the sandwich, you know you’re in the desert.

Salt cakes the roadside gullies.

A windmill with one bent blade sends out bursts of reflected sun.

Ridges far away are like layers of torn construction paper in blues and grays.

The crayons in the metal crayon box melted together. That was several potty stops ago.

We’re visiting my mom and dad in Colorado Springs, as we do about once a year. This time we came out from Sacramento via Truckee and Reno, then dropped down to US-50 toward Ely, NV and Great Basin National Park. Shot straight across Utah, staying on the Lonely Road, then at Grand Junction we wound our way up into the Colorado National Monument. East of there we finally found the aspen groves and high mountain passes, and finished the journey on US-24 through Buena Vista to CO Springs.

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I grew up in the green rolling hills of western Virginia, and though I appreciate the beauty of the desert, there’s something that makes me feel unsafe, unsettled here. I’m on the lookout for trees, any kind of shelter, even when the car is humming right along with a full tank of gas.

The alkali flat near the town of Rawhide, NV marks the B-17 Naval Target Range. We listen to Béla Fleck’s Bluegrass Sessions to conjure at least a mental association of temperate land somewhere and shady groves where one can play a banjo.

Ivan dreams aloud about creating a car humidifier system, but I can’t concentrate on what he’s saying because I suddenly realize how well the lip balm he used goes with his coloring (he didn’t know it was tinted pink–stops to buy a more manly kind at the next gas station 60 miles down the road).

Driving under the Sturgeon Moon on August 2 I am vigilant for elk and deer and rabbits, and grateful for rumble strips.

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