Creek Running North
October 30, 2003
The long drive back
I awoke in the dark of a motel room in Kingman, bought and paid for on the theory that a mid-range motel would be less likely to leak smoke from outside. This would allow me to shower and change and - for a few precious minutes - not smell like a campfire. It worked, more or less.
Becky called to say hello as I was drinking motel coffee. Her voice sounded horrible, even considering she'd been doing a lot of yelling at her class this week. She was making a cup of honey-lemon tea to put in her travel mug, and drink on the drive in to work.
There was one problem, it turned out: her travel mug was in the truck in Kingman, Arizona. She burst into frustrated tears, said she had to go, and hung up.
The night before, she and I had chatted about my plans for the next few days. I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do. Head south to Parker, and look for the last California saguaros? Stay where I was for another day and breathe in the SoCal soot? Head for Vegas - already reporting worse smoke than Kingman - and hope that the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge or Death Valley or the Owens Valley was relatively blue-skied? And that Ebbetts Pass over the Sierra would still be open by Friday?
But Becky's tears made the decision for me. It's hard enough to hear the woman you love cry over the phone when you're 600 miles away. It's even harder when your own thoughtless act is what made her cry - even if it was only a trivial last straw for an overworked, completely wiped out woman on the edge.
It's amazing how fast one can drive 600 miles if conditions and local police permit driving at 85 miles per hour most of the way. She was smiling when I got home.
"Why didn't you stay out another couple days?"
"I had to bring back your travel mug, didn't I?"
Between that and the five-minute face-washing I got from Zeke at the front door, it was a good homecoming.