Last time I’d arrived here it was in darkness too a girl i‘d initially thought was drunk had appeared out of the darkness in my headlights, she’d flagged me down and was covered in blood, a car crash a few minutes before. I took her to the police station, they went back for the others I never did find out what had happened. I’d also nearly killed myself up on the Mesa later that week on the Moab Fault that towers over the town, fasting for 3 days 2 nights in the terrifying sun. I came down a night early. I got what I went out for. That was the time I really understood JC was always going to be nearby.
It’s a personal thing, he wears a tunic with a cowboy hat on and cowboy boots, looking pretty cool actually, he sits behind me on the left. Quiet but strong always there. A tap on the shoulder now and again, I always take notice of it, you would do wouldn’t you. He came to me there in a rainbow and spots of rain. He calmed me down, I’d been terrorized out there. That presence is always calming.
I’d woken up in Lions Park. Some National park people were emptying bins and blowing leaves off the path, why they were was a mystery as it was windy anyway, job creation I supposed. It was cold too
Changed my trousers and rolled into town to find a coffee bar. The town has a slightly different vibe than I remembered all those years ago, seems much more rugged now. I keep drawing looks from apprentice mountain men. I don’t know why, just getting a lot of stares. Maybe it’s my lack of dreadlocks
There is a fashion here among the community (at least I think they were part of the community) as there are in many American towns, very distinct if you travel through them fast enough to see the subtleties and the changes, rather like the land I supposed. Here it’s a very outdoorsy, casual hippy look, though not a hippy vibe at all. Tidy frontier beards, long hair pulled back into Japanese Samurai style knobs or buns on the back of heads. I’d say it’s about 80% of all the younger men, and quite a few are tied up dreadlocked. Casual but the vibe is an undercurrent of toughness.
I wrote all morning in the red rock bakery on the main street. The owner Howard is a Scott so he recognized the northern accent, which makes a nice change from being called an Ozzie. He knew Blackpool football team, a good guy, good music too, Though the service is so laid back it is horizontal
He works fast enough, but it’s just him and its bagels and by all accounts not like the bagels out east, they are much softer there. Here they have the rough crusty bottom, A bit like the people, So a veggie bagel right? Easy right? No !
Brown or white? OK
Do you want Parmajon, Curry, Halapino, Olive, Sunflower, dried tomato or plain bagel? Ok
What cheese? Cream cheese , ok, Veggie? No, ok is that cheddar, Swiss, Pepper-jack or provone ? Ok
Coffee? Extra shot? Ok
Do you want room for cream? Ok
Skinny.. ? Ok
God forbid you want something else that’s not in a bagel and this is to everyone and there queue is to the door and everybody except me is just, you know standing in line patiently.
Cash or card, if its card, No swipe it please, then waiting for the machine to print receipt, cool, can can you sign here please. Ok oh and here’s your other receipt. Also to add injury the people in front haven’t decided what they want in the 20 minutes they have been queuing, so its
“erm… well, oh right… erm. No, can I just change that .. oh erm…. Oh and I forgot to ask,
Tell you what, by the time I got my coffee it tasted really good.
I caught up with a few festival things, hopefully we are now fully booked for August fingers crossed. I am looking forward to doing that work.
I thought I’d go and see the Moab museum I’d missed it last time, a nice lady on the door seemed to be happy that I’d come. Suggested she take my bag and we’d chatted a little and it turned out she was a pagan and a witch, though originally born in Salt Lake City, she’d rolled her eyes when I’d asked here where she was from. From that roll I understood Mormons.
Children are always rejecting their parents ideals aren’t they, but can never escape the influence, born into a vein, that seam will run through you no matter what as Northern England does with me
She was short i say that because she seemed to look up, she had long dark hair, greying a little with a centre parting so her hair framed her wide handsome face, she looked as if she had practiced quietness or holding back behind a straight face but there was a something behind her eyes a sort of longing, a wound. She had a long dress on if i remember right, and if i remember right i seem to remember purple,
Anyway I’d mentioned I was here for a just a few days, pity she’d said. I’d been planning a gentle walk through the Arches, just a gentle walk. I was looking at the map, she said I always tell people to take a drive up there, pointing to a certain road on the map “You can see right across to the Canyon lands” I distinctly asked her can I get out and walk there, is it possible, oh yeah she said. It’s beautiful. I always send people up there who want an overview, she said go at sunset and flickered some lights on and off on the diorama which gave her words some gravity and the diorama some shadows.
She seemed to know something I said “Ok, I’ll give it a try”
Now before I continue I will add for the record that American directions and English ones are different, down the road in England is just down the road for example, a mile maybe less. But out here, down the road is miles. They are long roads. So if you ever come here and asking directions, be really specific. I had forgotten.
So after a few tentative wrong turnings there I was on the loop road to Castle Valley just down the road right, I was expecting some magical secret road that only the locals knew. Last time around, I was shown so many amazing things by going on tip offs from locals who had seen me reading a map.
It wasn’t long before the road climbed directly up into the snow covered mountains which is not why I had come here, not at all, I’d come here to be down in the canyons.
The road began switching back and twisted forwards and back again. I was down to 15mph. I kept thinking, any minute now, any minute now it’s going to swoop down into a priceless valley.
But no, onwards and upwards it twisted and turned. Then a sign said 56 miles to Moab. I’ll keep it short, but I flipped out and it was volcanic. I had distinctly said ‘I want to be in the canyons and a gentle walk though them. I cannot tell you how cross I was
It was a pot-holed road, in places covered with snow and melting ice. There were snow drifts and land slides up to the road edge, most of the land up there was fenced and all the trees except the juniper were tinder dry, It was a barren desolate place, precious time wasted. I was absolutely furious.
I will spare the details, but livid is an understatement, I’m glad there was nobody around in retrospect as it really wasn’t a pleasant sight, though I had a feeling, even there and then as damn burst, amongst the raging furious torrent, that even the family were taken aback by my ferocity. Why had she sent me up there? Why had I listened? The intensity of my rage absolutely blew me away and perhaps I also was a little surprised.
Why had I not followed my own course? People do not really know you’re taste or temperament and you do not know theirs, well meant advice is only that, Stick to your course or ask more questions and pay more attention to what’s really being said. My well meaning and her well meaning meant around 65 miles and two hours of total frustration
Eventually we coasted down past the chimney and castle rocks known my locals as the Nun & the Priest, but I simply didn’t care by then. 60 miles of unnecessary caution sheer drops tension and desolation. It didn’t stop till I got down to the Colorado River, perhaps it was the sight of that majestic river flowing through the red canyons that finally soothed me.
“She meant well” Cynthia whispered in my ear,
“But I’d asked her could I walk there she’s said yes” I said
We drove a few miles along the river side on the 128 I felt a tap on my left shoulder and Cynthia moving into my field. I pulled over.. I was deeply tired and sad, A great deal of energy had been unleashed I tell you. I pulled up Hummingbird, stopped her, opened the door let cool late afternoon air flow though the car, the atmosphere released to the red walls all around and above us, the waters glittered silver and gold the rocks glowed and shone a deep soothing orange. The family moved in on me. I fell fast asleep right there curled up in the driving seat.
I had planned another type of journey, I seem to be somewhere I said I was prepared for, but in fact I’m taken by surprise. Was this explosion needed? perhaps so.
Mercury said.“She had meant well, you hadn’t listened, too busy allowing you solitary self to be charmed and you enjoying your own charm. That is the truth. Too long alone, uprooted, grateful of the accidental harbor of a kindred spirit, your guard down, needing some love. You foolish boy”
I’m not sure how long I’d been out and away but as I came round I heard a whisper “But, yes it was needed, you will see, you will feel better, lighter”
A little later as we took our time back to Moab stopping here and there along the river I began to feel better back amongst the red rocks, something had lifted but I wouldn’t fully realize it till the next day
When we got back town was just getting ready to shut up shop. I just pottered. Around looked into a few art and jewelry shops which was a soothing experience, such beautiful things. Watched the 4 wheel drives all parading up and down the main street and many parked up after their 50th anniversary trail ride. Apparently big news around here and the town was full of 4×4 jeeps. Perhaps that’s the energy I’d been feeling, very pumped up and masculine.
I went into a sports bar basketball on a TV screen, lots of solitary figures in there. A good conversation would be nice I thought. The bar began closing as fingers got near 10pm and a few nervous glances had come my way. I hadn’t realized but I’m getting to understand Mormon time now.
I got in the car and just wasn’t ready for the bench seat just then so up the road to Denny’s I went and no surprise at all it was packed. All the trail jeepers were in there. The place was buzzing
When I’d first arrived Jean and Eliza had asked what were the things I love about the US and near the top of the list has to be Denny’s. I love the place, it’s like an open tap of quite nice drinkable coffee and if you mind your own business nobody minds you at all.
I’ll be sat there taping away I’d take a sip and someone would appear with a coffee jug “More coffee” I just found it hard to say no I don’t think my cup ever went below half full. The staff all-busying about Lanell was there she said Hi. I was already virtually a local.
A young girl maybe 13 or 14 who was helping out as her mum who was one of the cooks, sat and chatted at the counter bar, she told me interesting stuff that only a kid would know who lived in these hills. Where all the hikes were, the deer in her yard, told me about La Sal where they lived and that Monticello the town down the road was open till 1pm that might be my next stop along the road. She was a sweet girl, reminded me a little of my niece Molly, open and able to hold a confident conversation as if she’s already travelled the world.
One of the cooks a young guy called Jeff heard my voice and turned out he’d lived in Manchester for some time a few years ago. His dad had worked for the US government and had been stationed there. He did a good English accent and apparently missed England badly. He got onto the subject of guns. Said he hated it. At 19 he was able to walk into a pawnshop and within half and hour and $300 buy a lethal AR15 walk out with it over his shoulder, giving he said a wave and a how ya doin to anybody who passed by.
It was shocking to be honest just looking at his young face and realizing what he was saying. There are so many school shooting fatalities even last week. Americans civilians are the most armed people in the whole world he said. He also gave me dire warnings about dealing with the cops. Said, never ever answer the cops back if you get stopped or you could end up dead, he was quite serious and said most people had bad cop stories. It was interesting but really troubling.
It was nice to sit and chat and be amongst them, I was there till 2am. I had to pull myself away and I have to say too that it does feel oddly good to roll along a quiet American town in Hummingbird down to the Colorado Rivers edge and bed down in a secluded quiet park for the night.