edited: Sunday, May 26, 2002
By Timothy V. Delaney
Posted: Wednesday, May 01, 2002
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One thing you notice when you are traveling West, besides the very fact that you are indeed heeding Horace Mann’s “Go West Young Man” mantra, is just how annoying the sun can be. I watched the cars and trucks going east and felt some sort of jealousy – spite even – that they were not subjected to the same cruel torture as me.
Steve was finally sweating out the last of his hangover and we’d just passed through this small town in north-central Nevada that I’d been through the year before. I reached down to change the CD and I squinted at the terrible horizon and the sun that was hanging there, unmoving and hateful.
My intent was to drive to Lake Tahoe to camp before making the final push to San Francisco the following day. I was in the Zone. Man and machine as one. That white broken line was like a guardian angel. I’d already driven eight or nine hours around the Great Salt Lake, through the blinding whiteness of the Salt Flats, and into Nevada while Steve was sleeping off his hangover. I was geared up to drive the entire way from Logan to Tahoe – an act of bravado, really.
Nevada. Utah. Nebraska. Wyoming. New Mexico. South Dakota.
The license plates sped by in the oncoming lanes and passed my paltry four-cylinder 75-mph, towards the sun and squinting as well. With each pass to my left came a peculiar rhythm when at the same moment the individuals in the passing cars would turn their heads to the right as I pivoted mine to the left, then would quickly look away. It seemed as though it were a somewhat shameful recognition that even while insulated in these canisters hurtling at engine wrenching speeds, we were still human and felt some sort of canine-like kinship that dogs seem to feel on beaches and in parks, in their moments of intimacy…..
Oregon. Ory-Gone. Ory-Gone.
They were in a Datsun hatchback - at least five of them crammed into the small car and they were drunk and they were high and they all waved as they passed. Reno. 90 miles. They waved at us again and I honked my horn. They honked back and we waved. They pulled ahead about 1/10th of a mile and the road was flat and straight and we were surrounded by hills that were naked and wrinkled, like some benevolent reptile and contained us in its world.
We caught up to the gunmetal blue car from Oregon and they waved again and I honked and we waved and they shouted something that was immediately lost on the wind. “DO YOU WANT A BEER?” someone shouted again. Laughing, I yelled “sure!” wondering just how they proposed such an exchange while hurtling down the Interstate at 75 mph.
As I pondered the question of transference, an arm reached out of the passenger side window with the telltale red and white aluminum Budweiser can. I looked over at Steve and I saw that his eyes were still puffy with sleep, yet growing in disbelief. I pressed on the accelerator to catch up to my newly found Northwestern friends. The car responded with a lurching groan as we shimmied from side to side, partially from my car’s twisted frame and partially from being battered by relentless crosswinds that blew mournfully across the high desert.
As I neared the disembodied can of beer, I thought of the complex set of variables involved in this activity. Speed. Trajectory. Control. Not nearly as complex as hitting a 95 mph pitch, and not as complicated as an F-15 refueling in midair. Not as complicated, surely, but difficult nonetheless.
The first pass yielded nothing. I approached too fast and wide. I would have to get within 2-1/2 feet of the car while maintaining an appropriate speed and keeping my car under control. No room for error.
It finally occurred to Steve what I was doing. It wasn’t a dream, after all, as he hoped. He cleared his throat and croaked, “Uh… Timmy?!” and I set my jaw as I set my eyes on the red and white prize 15 meters ahead. “mmmmfff?” I said. “Uh.. Timmy, what the fuck are you doing?”
“Getting a beer from those kind folks.”
“Do you… I mean… do you think that this is….” And his voice trailed off as a crosswind knocked us to the other side of our lane. I straightened the Sentra, gripped the steering wheel firmly in my right hand….
…extended my left arm out the window as I eased on the accelerator to approach Oregon at a more manageable speed.
Faces were pressed against the rear window. Smiling faces, with Crest gleaming teeth, surrounded by passels of dreadlocks. A puff of smoke escaped from the window as I cheated the Nissan over to where I could nearly touch their car.
I reached as far as I could and felt the condensation-laden can meet my hand. The passenger and I looked at each other and we smiled and I took the can and yelled “Thanks!” and got back into my lane. We waved again and I honked the horn. Steve was pale.
“Do you have a bowl?!” came the cry and I shook my head and they waved and I waved and they sped off towards Reno and points north. I thought about opening the beer and drinking it during the final miles to Reno. But I didn’t.
I didn’t want to be irresponsible.
NEXT: “An Unforeseen Delay (Snow, Cannibalism and Desperation in California)”
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|Reviewed by Susan A.
|Excellent...kept me reading and reading. I didn't fall asleep like your hungover friend!What a trip!|
|Reviewed by Mom
|I sat riveted reading your story with my mouth somewhere mid-chest.
If this is a recounting of a true tale, Tim, i'm gonna woop you!
|Reviewed by John F.
|Hey I like it. It had me on the edge of my seat wondering if you were going to come out of it alive. Then I remembered you ARE alive. So I could relax. But please Tim, you do not need to risk your life to find future writing topics. I mean a broken arm or something maybe...|
|Reviewed by mz kimi