My painted toes hit snow today as I crawled, bent half double from four hours of driving, out from my rental car. My toes pink and hot from crazy-itching chilblains. I wriggled them in the snow and giggled. Yesterday I had been in the warm desert, dodging the sun, too hounded by the lack of shade to climb the hallowed Camelback Mountain, instead opting for the Tempe River walk instead.
I was staying in Scottsdale, Arizona. A stopping off point for my trip to the Red Rocks of Sedona. I had found a great hotel, super cheap via http://www.priceline.com/, close to a restaurant I had seen with mighty reviews on the Internet. I only need a hat trick of 5 stars reviews to veer my course and go see what all the fuss is about. I’ve blogged it here www.aveganobsession.blogspot.com Tempe is dusty, with blonde stubble grass and big hills dotted randomly within gridded streets that run for miles. The roads are wide, the houses all single level and it’s dotted with pockets of uninviting shopping plazas. Yek, I wasn’t digging it at all.
Tempe town’s ‘Famous’ bohemian Mill Avenue turned out to be just a strip of boring shops, bawdy ‘chain’ pubs and 99c taco halls. Sorry Tempe but you wouldn’t know Bohemian if it came and kicked you up your dusty arse. I was excited to leave this morning. Though, I will be coming back through in a week, to pick up my tea kettle (I’d mistakenly abandoned it at the 3 Palms hotel) and give Green, veggie eatery, one more try.
The drive up through the Tonto National Forest was an adventure I will not forget in a hurry. I headed out early afternoon, not one for getting up before the lark and travelling like a bat out of hell. I mosey. Moseying is good and to be encouraged. A fine misty rain was falling from a steel washed sky. The vegetation began with rolling hills of scrub and erect Saguaro cactus. I kept shouting out ‘road trip’ and breaking into song as I motored along. Life was tickling me pink.
After a couple of hours I pulled into a stop in Payson, a small mountain town in the Ponderosa forest, to gather some snacks. Big fat splots of freezing rain appeared on my windscreen, my khaki shorts seemed inappropriate. The locals in the cafe tried to dissuade me from continuing, ‘ooh, roads can get bad up there….. ‘specially at Strawberry..yeh, they close the road’. I considered it carefully for a nano second. I’ve had hairy (why do we call it hairy?) times before, dodging rockfall in a storm along Highway One Calfornia. The road had been closed at 9pm because of a storm. I had continued to drive, ignoring the flashing ROAD CLOSED warning signs and concluding they probably didn’t mean it. I came up against a road block, traversing the highway. 80 miles into a road with no turn offs, the only way was back when I came. Too scared to turn back and too lazy, I moved the roadblocks and drove in the black night, praying all the way. Big rock’s had broken free from the cliffs and lay in the road. The road was completely mine. Boy, did I whoop when I swerved my car around the big orange road block at the other end…. So snow?!….I decided to go on.
The snow thickened as the roads grew steeper and tall pines, clothed in powder, replaced the cacti. The sole car in front gave me courage to proceed but a few miles up it turned off the highway as my world turned white. I kept my foot steady on the gas, by torso had to lean to the right to see out the window, the only clear view the windscreen wipers offered as ice clumped around the blades and lifted them from the screen. I was alone on an alien road, no track marks to guide me and I felt so calm it was ridiculous. A snow plough passed me going in the opposite direction. The road finally began to descend and the landscape began to open up. I felt the car start to lose its contact, the wheels began to whine, no road to stop the revolutions. I broadsided across the road and ended up off the track. Fuck! I put the car in reverse, the tyres responded. I reclaimed my place back on the road and continued. I saw a valley between the mountains opening up in front, the steel crash barriers beefed up. The car slid again. The memory of my ‘red letter day’ gift from a friend dropped into my head – I’d spent the day careering over oil spills and performing majestic slides across the slicked tarmac – I turned the wheel into the slide as I watched the mountain edge and the barrier looming closer. I was so chilled about it I even had time to wonder at my composure and my trust in the situation. I came to a halt, the ice and snow crackling beneath my tyres, yards before the edge. I racked the car into reverse to pull out of the shoulder and continued on. If I had been in the passenger seat, a spectator, watching a guy perform the stunts I had, with such poise……Wow!….. No guy, it was just me. I unleashed my grip on the steering wheel long enough to give myself a hasty round of applause and sang all the way down the mountain and into the slushy rain-soaked valley of Sedona. My home for a few days.
When I turned off the ignition outside my rental place, I concluded that I am awesome……or ‘us sum’ as the Californians pronounce it.
I just hope I can cope with the cold, or that it warms tout suite. I wonder if a sun dance would do the trick?