If you ever get the chance – and yes, I am aware, chances of this nature are thin on the ground – then take the drive through Utah into Colorado.

There is a lovely Denny’s in Utah.

But also, that scenery is just… magnificent.

Vegas was barely in our rearview mirror as we headed into and through Arizona, doing our best not to look illegal. This was my first taste of driving, American style, and while I salute the economic gas mileage in American rental Camrys, the lack of consideration for Australian-oriented blind spots is a hideous thing. All I ask is for a dozen or so extra mirrors placed at strategic points around the car interior, so I don’t have to keep checking over my right-hand shoulder and then suddenly realising that won’t help me at all if I’m merging.

That being said, my fool-proof plan is to throw myself on the mercy of anyone I might collide with by shouting ‘Throw another shrimp on the barrrrrrrbie!’ and thus capitalising on the weakness every single American person seems to have for the sound of a trans-Pacific accent.

Touch wood.

The drive is long, and flat, crossing through Nevada into Arizona. Hardscrabble reaches out for the road and the sun is merciless, so pity the poor driver who has no AC. Once you start to hit Utah, however…

Well, for a start, there is a lot of Utah. I mean, just a bunch of land.

But here’s the thing.

The landscape here is solitary, and looming, and alive. You drive through the desert, overshadowed by mesas and buttes, through winding canyon passes and over the rise of giant bluffs, and you can feel the presence of the land there with you. If the spirits of the earth live anywhere, they live in places like this, where separation from the cities and the towns feels natural, and right.

A truckstop in Utah was a stopping point for a cup of coffee. We walked into the air-conditioned comfort and the squarely-placed vinyl couches and laminex tabletops, passing a woman with two small children who was filling out a job application form. The guy who took our order was heavyset and friendly. We told him our plans for driving through into Colorado.

‘Man,’ he said. ‘You got a hundred miles of nothing to go.’

‘Yeah,’ I replied. ‘There’s just nothing out here.’

‘Guess that’s why I like it,’ he said.

It’s night in Utah now, and I hope that as I write this from Louisiana, he’s just as grateful for the solitude his place in the world affords him.

As we slipped over the border into Colorado, the sun began to set. We drove along the rushing Colorado river and into the shadow of the mountains; trucks began to turn their headlights on. Zara took her turn at the wheel and we realised that we were running short on time. But we pushed on.

We had no idea what was on the right-hand side of the highway. It could have been a cliff, for all we knew. Trucks tried to overtake us, but Zara was having none of it. We lost our last pursuer as we drove through an orange-lit tunnel cut through the heart of a mountain, and soon thereafter the GPS told us there was less than twenty minutes to reach our destination.

Finally, finally, after twelve hours on the road, we pulled into a stop on a darkened Colorado street, across from a house with its lights still on. At one in the morning, Andrew Nonadetti was still awake and still ready to meet us and take us into his home. He crossed the street quickly and greeted us with an embrace.

After the bright lights of Vegas and the lonely night roads, crossing the doorstep felt like coming home.

 

 

 

 

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SIMON SMITHSON is an Australian writer and editor. He is currently based in Melbourne, Australia, but frequently finds himself in Los Angeles and San Francisco. His work has appeared on both sides of the globe in print and online in publications such as BLIP, Every Day Fiction, Beat, The Loop, My Sinking Boat, and more. He has a tumblr at www.simonsmithson.com and he runs a lifestyle experiment at www.selfhelpless.net.

21 responses to “TPAC 2010: Day 7 – Me-Tah and You-Tah”

  1. Jude says:

    Thank god for Anon!

  2. Uche Ogbuji says:

    “capitalising on the weakness every single American person seems to have for the sound of a trans-Pacific accent”

    Except for frigging Carol, of course 🙂

    I love the Colorado Western slopes (i.e. around Grand Junction) in a different way from the Front Range (e.g. Boulder). Mountains both ways, but the San Juans in the former case, and the Continental Divide Rockies int he latter. The Western slope feels desolate, but as you say, infused by ghostly ancients. And the Colorado River does make a wonderful companion as one drives along I-70.

    • kristen says:

      Oh, Carol!

      You know the old crank has since dreamt of your voice, S.

      Tehe.

      • Simon Smithson says:

        Freakin’ Carol. I got no play from her.

        I loved the Utah/Coloradan scenery. It was just… well, I’ve said it already. And you know, probably far better than I, Uche.

        They felt far more alive than many towns we drove through.

  3. Zara Potts says:

    I wish it hadn’t been so dark and we could have taken the beautiful Rocky Mountain scenery in properly. Those drives were pretty spectacular though!

  4. Debbie Nonadetti says:

    It was wonderful to meet you and Zara and you were home. I won’t speak for Andrew but I enjoyed your time with us and would love to have you both return home anytime. Our home is always open to you.
    Debbie

  5. New Orleans Lady says:

    What a great experience! I’m excited to hear more!

  6. Joe Daly says:

    I wonder if living in isolation creates the craving for more isolation, or if it’s the other way around. Either way, you definitely run into some interesting types when you put some distance between yourself and civilization.

    Via con Dios, amigos!

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I don’t know, amigo. I just don’t know. I could see the two being very related. Maybe it’s an acclimatisation kinda thing.

      Muchos gracias!

  7. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    “The landscape here is solitary, and looming, and alive. You drive through the desert, overshadowed by mesas and buttes, through winding canyon passes and over the rise of giant bluffs, and you can feel the presence of the land there with you. If the spirits of the earth live anywhere, they live in places like this, where separation from the cities and the towns feels natural, and right.”

    This is beautifully put and so true, Simon. I love how your writing never loses velocity, even when it shifts in tone. Like a Denny’s in the desert night, man. Your honesty shines.

  8. Simon Smithson says:

    Thank you to everyone. I promise faithfully that I will work my way through everything I want to say (and read!) as soon as the time presents itself. I miss you all very much.

  9. kristen says:

    “Finally, finally, after twelve hours on the road, we pulled into a stop on a darkened Colorado street, across from a house with its lights still on. At one in the morning, Andrew Nonadetti was still awake and still ready to meet us and take us into his home. He crossed the street quickly and greeted us with an embrace.”

    Crap. How lovely.

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