Precious hours had been wasted waiting for a thaw at our campsite in Williams which clearly wasn’t going to happen that day. We should have packed a sledge hammer and chisel as we were frozen into place.
Completely unused to and unprepared for it, our mental functions weren’t cooperating at 15°F, probably lower taking into account wind chill, but we didn’t need a weatherman to tell us it wasn’t the weather for standing around, scratching our heads and thinking hmmm, now what do we do? More by desperation than determination, we prized the trailer off the frozen ground with a screwdriver, a hammer and swear words and pressed on.
Next was the actual hitching up of the car to the trailer. At some point in the previous months we had taken up divorce free docking, a technique which involved switching roles to keep our marriage intact. Now I reverse the car while Jimmy gives the docking hand signals. This allowed me to appreciate what himself had told me all along, how sensitive the accelerator is when the car is in reverse. Jimmy has learned for himself how difficult it is to position the hitch over the ball on the trailer without standing directly over the hitch and using stupid little finger gestures which need to be visible at all times in one or the other of the rearview mirrors. To eyeball the mission’s progress one must be on a collision course with a car driven by a spouse who has already been snapped at that morning.
Part of the tow kit is two “lead” bars, of a heft and length that might be useful to a gangster, attached to the hitch on the car which Jimmy had put in place the night before for a quick a.m. getaway.
I had been tentatively backing the car on icy ground onto the trailer guided by his confident hand signals when I heard a yelp and he vanished, like a magician’s assistant. Certain I’d run over him, I leapt from the driver’s seat. Expecting to see him trapped under the wheels of the car it crossed my mind, well he told me not to stand there.
I found him doubled over, hands on knees, wheezing and speechless with pain. After some gasping and pointing from him I understood that the “lead bar” had attacked him. We examined the damage to his ankle to find he’d lost a large flap of skin. There was nothing I could do for him, except to think to suggest that we pack the wound with snow to stop the swelling. I kept that little nugget of medical wisdom to myself for about two hours when the pain had subsided and he’d warmed up in the car. He was then able to smile weakly at the thought of the relief it could have brought and the modicum of humor in the situation.
We’d also had some sewer pipe issues earlier which I won’t explain in graphic detail but rigid plastic and seriously cold weather don’t go well together. A stop at the first rest area on the interstate ensured everything was still well contained and traveling along with us to a warmer place where we could get rid of it. The next snowfall at the last campsite would blanket the mishap we had.
Once off the interstate, we crossed the Little Colorado River and mini canyon and bowled through the Painted Desert. Extravagantly colored hillsides flashed by the car window so quickly I hardly took them in. “Look! Oh! That must be . . . awww. It’s gone.”
Disappointment was replaced with awe as we entered Monument Valley. We warmed up and cheered up as the sights took our breath away (the second time that day for Jimmy).
We camped right in Monument Valley on Navajo Nation land. The terracotta earth was dry, the glowing canyon walls rose above us, our view to the east was of a landscape that has graced dozens of western films and the temperature only dropped to 20°F that night – positively balmy.
The contrast between Williams and Monument Valley couldn’t have been more striking. In a country of three and a half million square miles, our journey from one to the other had been miniscule – 207 miles – and yet we’d left a bleak grey/white unutterably cold landscape and arrived in the welcoming scene that is Monument Valley. The valley floor and walls were warm to the touch. Our demeanors soared. The wind had dropped, the air was dry. The setting ebbed the tension out of our bodies.
I would have been able to sit comfortably outside and vegetate if I hadn’t felt the need to start taking the first of the 500 photographs I would accumulate in the next three days. Not a single one of them needed to be deleted.
Please indulge me by glancing at a few photos. It’s so hard to pick just a few!!!