So . . . uh . . . Tyrel didn't leave at four a.m. like he was supposed to (The bastard). He had planned on leaving way ahead of me and meeting his friend in Chandler, something of a suburb south of eastern Phoenix if I'm not mistaken. Like the Brooklyn of Phoenix. Sure. That's it. His friend's is the place where I would meet up with him before we set off for our adventure.
I have no idea what he was doing that delayed him so. I managed to sleep pretty well on the common room couch, watching the Comedy Roast of Pamela Anderson, which was basically focusing on Tommy Lee's package more than Pam, who I noticed, because this time it was on a HUGE TV, that one could see her nipples, aeroli and all, through her clothing. TV sure is changing.
I didn't leave Suesan's until around ten a.m., since Ty called to tell me he'd run late and he needed to hang out some, as to not appear to just be using his friend for a jump-off point. It was a two hour trek to Chandler. I managed to eat my first Jack-in-the-Box while filling up at this gas station along the highway that I had come to notice was cheaper than everywhere else.
At Tyrel's friends,' we moved gear around and got my car loaded with all the necessities, storing my extra crap, like my box of comic books, in his car. His friend commented on how his house was just some sort of way station for Tyrel to depart from yet again.
We finally got on the road around one and headed up to Flagstaff, about two hours away. About ten minutes out of the northern Phoenix suburbs, amongst the cacti on I-17, Erica called and was pissed that I'd taken off without consulting with her. Apparently she hadn't gotten my call and message the night before. Yeah, she was pissed--but we were gone.
We arrived in Flagstaff hungry and needing to stock up on snacks and other food we might need. I also needed some camping gear. Target didn't have much of a selection on camping goods, so we went to the evil Wal-Mart where we got me a camel bag, a sleeping bag and some power bars and cookies; the stuff we'd need to fuel our bodies hiking down into the canyon.
Thinking about how marathon runners eat pasta before running, we hit the Olive Garden. There was an interesting chicken item on the menu, and the cute, blond waitress, when asked about how it was prepared, responded that the chicken was cooked on screwers (not skewers, mind you). Tyrel and I traded glances, both wondering if she was coming on to me or just kind of dumb. Had it been a Freudian slip or simple blondness? In a rare attempt at flirting, I mentioned how we were going to hike the canyon. She said how cool that would be, so I asked her if she wanted to come. Screw all her other commitments. She politely declined. It was worth a shot. Tyrel and I spent the rest of the meal joking about "chicken screwers."
Due to potential thunderstorms to sweep the canyon, what with it being the tail end of the monsoon season (you learn something new every day), we decided to hit Moab first. On the way, we'd stop at the Meteor Crater, about 40 miles outside of Flagstaff, right off I-40. This would be the famous crater from “Starman,” the Jeff Bridges sci-fi film of the 80s, directed by John Carpenter, who still had it back then. After that, we'd head to the Four Corners where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona meet and then back to the Canyon for the big adventure.
Out of Flagstaff and the encompassing Coconino National Forest, the land was flat. Dust devils whirled in the distance here and there amongst the dry earth and desert scrub. The skies grew cloudy, with lightning in the distance. Fingers or rain fell far to the south of the interstate.
Passing the town or city of Two Guns, we soon came upon signs for the crater. Once we got to the crater exit, we headed up the lonely road to the crater as the sky opened, a deluge pounded the car. I searched the road ahead for wildlife of some kind that would awaken in the pounding rain, coming out to drink, cool off or mate.
We paid for our admissions, which included a movie. We ascended the stairs into the museum, which we quickly passed through in order to get outside and see the crater. It was pouring so hard, that we decided to dawdle in the museum a bit and learn some things. There were chunks of meteors made of iron and other elements. There were diagrams showing how the crater was excavated and what the geology lay underneath the crater. All fascinating stuff. And leave it to Tyrel to find the computer simulation where one can choose a meteor or comet, its composition, mass and trajectory to see what it would take to cause a massive extinction of the Earth’s life or just crack the planet in two. The atmosphere wasn’t going to burn up Tyrel’s meteor. The Earth was doomed!
The lightning and rain finally lessened. We walked out into the catwalk on the rim to take pictures, but not wanting to stand too far out, due to the lightning and the catwalk being metal covered in water.
Looking through a fixed telescope, one could see the space suit and drill rig set up at the center of the crater. They were barely visible with the naked eye.
We went back in and watched the short film about the crater and meandered about the gift shop. Falling out of Tyrel’s hand, a hematite ring shattered all over the floor. Since it was only about eighty cents, the old lady cashier let it slide. I bought some post cards, two hematite rings and a heart shaped box carved from some sort of mineral for someone I'd left behind.
I wanted to await the ship the would take me abroad (in the grandest sense), but one has to get to the bottom before they can get picked up. I had left my towel and that book that says "Don't Panic" in the car anyway. That lucky Jeff Bridges!
To the south, the sky was clearing. It was beautiful.
Darkness fell on the highway somewhere in northeastern Arizona.
We drove into that darkness for miles, Tyrel reading late eighties annuals from Marvel Comics until it was too dark to read. Finally I asked him to check the map to see how much further to the turn-off. He pulled a cap off a pen and told me the distance was something like five pen caps, which we calculated, based on the legend, to be so many miles. After going for that many miles, I wondered if Tyrel’s pen cap to miles formula had failed. Eventually we came upon US-191 and made the turn-off.
If I-40 is desolate at night, than US-191 is truly a no man’s land. We’d traverse long periods of pitch before coming upon a house light or another traveler in the night, warily passing or being passed, wondering if it was a remnant member of the Manson clan or some other deranged highwayman.
Looking up through the moon roof, we noticed that the stars shone brighter than anywhere else either of us had known. We pulled over and gazed at the sky for a time, noticing the Milky Way cutting clear across the sky as it does everywhere, but unseeable in the suburbs of New York City and other metropolitan areas, where light pollution destroys this awesome visage of the heavens.
Back on the road, we saw signs for a town named Klagetoh, which we immediately renamed Killgorath, which must be said with a rumbling, demonic timbre. Many jokes followed at the town’s expense.
The lightlessness of the desert night crawled along for hours. Occasionally another highway would merge with US-191 and after some miles, they would break apart and meander off in different directions. I found it odd to be going north for so long and then have to make a left or right in order to follow the married highways and byways only to find that 191 continued north after deviating east and west for only short periods. We’d get gas when possible, not knowing when we’d come across the next filling station.
Back on the road, with tall scrub filling the periphery of the headlights, we traveled in the night with hours left to go. Out of nowhere, we closely passed a large white horse standing perpendicular to the road. We couldn’t tell if the horse was in the shoulder and if there was a fence of some kind keeping the animal off the road, but we both noticed it and it became the Ghost Horse from then on.
Mice and jackrabbits would scurry across the road frequently. I would try to avoid them against Tyrel's cruel wishes, but to no avail, tiny rodent bones crunched under my tires.
We took joy in crossing the state line at the Arizona/Utah border. Once in a while, US-191 would become the main drag in a small town, where the speed limit dropped down to 30 miles per hour. Tyrel and I spied a car being pulled over by the local constabulary. We saw the two officers emerge from their patrol car, drawing their firearms and taking aim on the pulled over vehicle and decided that the Utah police were not to be fucked with and kept our pace as close to the ridiculously low speed limits these little towns commanded, not wanting to spend a night in the clink, because of some overzealous Utah cop. I’d probably have damn near pissed myself had a gun been drawn on me at such a late hour.
Around one in the morning, we came to the Moab area. We stopped by a few hotels and motels, looking for a cheap room for the night. Despite my AAA card and Tyrel’s government employee ID, there were no discounts on the rates that we would agree to pay.
Finally we found a place that looks like a bunch of ramshackle aluminum shacks, something found at Home Depot for a few hundred dollars, but was actually really nice on the inside and it was cheap too. We planned to wake up at ten and get to the park as soon as we could. We stayed up till almost three AM because “Cabin Fever” was on HBO and there were a few nude scenes with this really hot actress that I mentioned to Ty, but unfortunately we seemed to have come into the movie too late and missed them and stayed up for an extra hour for nothing. By time the shower scene came on Tyrel was asleep and I passed out soon after, having been the only one to see boobs that night.