The Return

Ragtop full of holes, floorboard full of holes, clothes full of holes. It was a cold ride over California’s high country in April of 1992. Here I am shivering atop the Sierras during my final hours in the Golden State, as I made the long drive eastward to relocate in the Midwest.

Even though I was pulling a heavy load behind a car that wasn’t designed for towing, I wanted to bask in the wonder of western vistas once again, as I did outbound two years earlier. So I improvised a leisurely and circuitous course to my destination, staying on two-lane highways for the greater part of the journey. From Marin County, I took the scenic route over the mountains to Minden, Nevada, where I began the beautiful drive to Lone Pine, California, down US 395. Then came Death Valley, Las Vegas, Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Winslow, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Boise City (having never been to Oklahoma, I wanted to cross it off the list), Amarillo, Lubbock, Abilene, Austin, Houston, New Orleans (where I purchased a pair of carryout frozen daiquiris), Biloxi (where I got bombed on said daiquiris and watched a seagull steal my gas-station cheeseburger that was thawing on the beach towel), then northward to home.

East of the Sierras, somewhere along Highway 395…

I was under the impression that I had no photos of the Pontiac with the U-Haul trailer attached. But as I was looking through my old negatives recently, I discovered two such frames (and there’s my motivation for posting this story). Here is the first shot—pausing for a look at the road ahead as I prepared to cross the Panamint Valley

The other photo of the trailer, taken in Winslow, Arizona…

In the image above, the LeMans is parked at the corner of 1st and Kinsley. I was setting up for this shot…

Standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona

After Winslow, I didn’t use the camera again on this trip, though there was still plenty to see and plenty to enjoy. One of the most powerful and memorable moments occurred late the following night in the vast emptiness of western Texas. It was a calm, moonless night and the air temperature was perfect for driving. There were no other vehicles within sight, no houses, no towns. The darkness was impressive, but not complete. Brilliant starlight was beaming down through that crystal clear Texas sky—starlight that was bright enough to reveal the landscape around me, bright enough to drive by. I turned off my headlights for several seconds to prove the point. It was a sublime experience, paired with a wonderful sensation of solitude.

Kodak Tri-X film
Kodak T-MAX 100 film

Addendum: Scanned through some old negatives recently and found this scratched up color shot of the Pontiac and the trailer, somewhere in Arizona. Shot on Kodak Ektapress 1600 film…


4 thoughts on “The Return

  1. Absolutely fabulous story. I had never heard all of the details before. Love your sense of adventure which is deep in your family’s DNA. Beautiful prose. You’re an excellent wordsmith.

    Liked by 1 person

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