It doesn’t take much to get me off the Interstate. I’ll take U.S. or State Highways any day. County roads are even better. Yesterday, however, was filled with dirt paths and gravel roads, wandering with absolutely no idea where I was going, other than I was going somewhere.
I rented a car for this Kooky's Road Trip. The reasons are so boring they aren’t worth mentioning. I only bring it up because I wanted a standard SUV and the nice lady at Enterprise upgraded me to this monster of an Infinity that I believe could drive itself if I let it. Pretty boring ride compared to a ‘64 Rambler.
Yesterday was probably the first day in this car’s life that it had been off the pavement...and she has now been well initiated.
I was going south out of Silver City, NM when I saw a dirt road heading into the trees, named something like “Gold Gulch” or some other name you would see at a cheap amusement park.
I looked in the rear view, hit the brakes, and navigated off the blacktop to the dirt. I could tell right away that it was deep and soft enough that I was glad to have 4WD.
Have you ever gone down a road to nowhere long enough that going back, unless forced, seemed pointless? I was 30 minutes into wandering between trees, across dry river beds, and curving through the mountains when “keep going” seemed logical.
“Hey SIRI...where am I?”
I expected something like “fuck if I know” but she actually, with what little signal I had left, told me and showed me on a map. Zooming in, it appeared the road would end up ahead. I like ends of roads. Usually there’s a reason they end, often a reason worth seeing.
But the road didn’t end. It went way up mountains, then back down and around. I looked at my gas gauge. I wondered about these city street tires. I wondered if AAA could find me. I passed an old abandoned mine across the gorge.
I saw nobody. That’s not an exaggeration. I literally saw no human activity for more than an hour. If it weren’t for the grated dirt path, I would think I was in the wild.
There were smaller trails leading off the main trail through dense trees. It was tempting, but I didn’t want to end up on the news as “HIKER MISSING FOR 17 WEEKS STILL NOT FOUND” so I stayed with the main road...it was adventurous enough for today.
I stopped a few times. Got out and walked around. Enjoyed the noise of nature without man. I enjoyed not having a signal. I could live here.
After about 90 minutes on the dirt and gravel, I popped up on some blacktop. And there were ranches and homes and humans. I seriously almost turned around to go back. I pressed on.
After a bit, a car was heading up the mountain toward me. I motioned for her to stop.
“Hi there...I’m mildly lost, which is how I like it,” I said. “If I keep going this way, do I end up on 180?”
“Yep. Just go down here to the stop sign and turn left. You’ll find it,” she replied.
She was an older woman who looked like she had smoked too many cigarettes in her life, one hanging from her fingers as we spoke. I liked her. She was quick with a laugh as we chatted.
“Can I take your picture?” I asked.
“Oh hell no,” she immediately replied.
I explained the road trips and the cameras and the stories and Facebook and all.
“Well I don’t have internet or anything up here,” she kindly explained. “I don’t much care for all that.”
We said our pleasant goodbyes, with her wishing me a good journey...and toward the stop sign I headed.
Well, it wasn’t as close I believe she made it sound. But that’s okay. I wanted some more quiet, a cigar, and a beer. Just over the next hill, I zipped past a small gravel trail heading off this paved road. Since there were no cars for miles, I just turned around in the middle of the road, having to shimmy a bit, and back toward the trail I headed. It was a short one, but it got me away again.
I decided to walk around a bit, being careful of my path as I saw a dead rattler in the road a ways back. Also on this drive I saw wild boar, deer, lizards, and cows. Not far from where I parked were some bones...vertebrae, leg bones, and over there is a skull. Walking further I saw several skeletons, from animals of different sizes. I smoked my cigar as I walked on the rocky ground.
I also saw some Coors Light cans and other trash. I never understood littering. It’s a very selfish act, really. I didn’t pick them up, or throw my trash out. I just left things as they were when I arrived.
This story has already been longer than planned, so I’ll wrap up by saying that I pulled off the road a few more times that afternoon. Sometimes the roads went nowhere. One gravel road, on the Apache Reservation, I believe could have taken me for hours. I only took it a few miles and walked shirtless in the sun for awhile.
Author’s note: Sorry about the visual of me walking around without a shirt.
I recommend this. Just get off the ride. Even if only for a bit, to “touch the hem of the garment” perhaps. It doesn’t take long to feel refreshed and get a little detox from the world.
I didn’t read the news all day, and things went on without me.