I agree with Jerry, the desert has a lonely charm of beauty with creosote bush, prickly pear, cholla and saguaros framed by slate-blue mountains~and not a human in sight.
To pass the time we reminisce of past trips. “Remember the Bed and Breakfast that served us a muffin the size of a marshmallow?” Jerry asks.
“Yes,” I say. “We were served one each, not even offered a second. I could have eaten ten.”
Wheels hum along, air whooshes through the vents, and a train with a hundred cars races us on the nearby track. The train’s horn blasts a haunting wail.
Jerry tells me of his dream. “I had this dream last night that we were leaving a restaurant and I saw a rattlesnake and it was about to strike and bite you. So I killed it.”
“That’s so nice of you, Jerry, to protect me even in your dreams. You’re my hero.”
“Thank you,” he says, looking straight ahead at the unending road that goes to the horizon and beyond.
More time passes. We watch for road signs. “Yuma, 96 miles. We’ll be there by 12:30 p.m., “I say.
Time passes. I nod off.
“We’re coming in to Yuma. I guess we have to turn on the GPS,” Jerry says, waking me from my nap. He adds, “You punch in the restaurant address. I don’t want to even look at the GPS, it’s so annoying to me.”
Jerry’s irritation grows when the GPS says in her haughty feminine voice, “Turn right on Madison, then turn left.”
“What!” Jerry says, his voice rising. “Am I supposed to turn right or left? I wish she would make up her mind.”
Jerry speaks of the GPS as if it is a real person.
“I think she means turn right on Madison, and then get in the left lane,” I say, also speaking of the GPS as if it were a real person.
“Well, why doesn’t she say that? That’s so confusing the way she says it.” Jerry grips the wheel and grits his teeth. He’s now very exasperated.
I agree with Jerry. We would benefit if our GPS would explain her directions more clearly.
“There’s the restaurant, Jerry, right there on the left,” I say.
Jerry sighs. “Now the 4-wheel-drive light is flashing. Something is wrong. It has never flashed before. Well…(groan) that’s all I need!”
“Let’s park and have lunch,” I suggest, “And deal with the flashing light when we get back.”
Jerry looks at me like he’s looking at someone from another planet where the aliens think only of eating in times of emergencies. He says, “I can’t enjoy eating while I’m worrying about the car.”
I’m thinking…We’ve been on the road three hours. I need a break. I need to eat.
I say, “Give it a try, Jerry.”
Jerry frowns at me as we mosey toward the restaurant, which looks like an establishment in a run-down shack. “Are you sure this is the restaurant you want to eat at?” he asks.
“I read the reviews online and this place gets high ratings for good food,” I tell him. I don’t mention to him the reviews also said the food is farm-to-table and so it’s probably salads and soups rather than greasy cheese burgers and fries.
After we cross the street, we discover the shack is not a restaurant but a historic museum. A wooden sign points us toward the café, leading us to a brick walkway somewhere behind the museum. We wander down a long, dark alley full of closed gift shops and bird cages housing parrots.
“Are you sure about this, Bronwyn?” Jerry asks, not only frowning but shooting a grimacing, suspicious glance, his eyes squinting with despair.
I admit. An alleyway with bird cages full of parrots seems strange, even kind of spooky. But I’m too curious. I have to check it out. I certainly hope Jerry’s dream of a rattlesnake at a restaurant isn’t prophetic.
At the end of the alley, we pass through a wrought iron gate and stumble into … tropical paradise. A garden courtyard opens into enchanting brick-floored terraces with lots of people dining at patio tables beneath kumquat trees and canopies of bougainvillea exploding in lipstick-red blooms. Red paper hearts adorn the entrance with the word “happy.”
“This looks intriguing,” Jerry says. Two silver-haired ladies waiting to be seated ahead of us turn around simultaneously and say in unison, “It is.”
“This is very nice,” Jerry says as we eat. “The weather is perfect and the food is awesome.”
“You thought I was taking you to some kind of health food restaurant in a dumpy shack,” I say.
“Yes, I did,” he says. “But I can’t fully enjoy myself right now because I’m thinking about the 4-wheel-drive light flashing and I’ve got to figure out what’s wrong. We’ve got a long way to go before we get to Disneyland.”
“Isn’t this the fun of a road trip, Jerry? Finding a beautiful garden behind an alleyway? This is delightful.”
“I’m thinking about the car.”
“We’ll get the car taken care of. Try to not think about it.”
The fun of road trips are the delightful surprises. It adds vitality to our lives and provides a pathway to engage in life with wonder. At home, I’m not feeling the vitality so much while tossing underwear and t-shirts in the washing machine. I don’t feel a whole lot of wonder while changing the cat litter. Still, I understand Jerry’s concern. But I wish he could enjoy himself more.
After our delightful brunch, we’re back in the car heading for Interstate 8. Jerry notices the 4-wheel-drive light is no longer flashing. “I guess it re-set itself,” Jerry says with a relieved smile.
A few miles out of Yuma, cars ahead of us slow down for the border patrol check. A German shepherd sniffs our car and pronounces us drug-free. A Border Patrol agent asks us how our day is going while surreptitiously peering into the backseat to see if we’re hiding any illegal substances. “Just great!” Jerry says.
With the border patrol behind us and San Diego many miles ahead, Jerry says to me, “I love road trips, being on the open road. I could drive forever.”
♦♦♦to be continued, next blog.
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