19 years ago last month, I took a trip with the woman who would eventually become my wife. We didn't know where we were going, really. We had a Ranger pickup, and some camping gear, and a very little bit of money, and a desire to go see some countryside.
We headed south, because we wanted to see the Hill Country. And we headed west, because we wanted to camp in the desert. We didn't know where we were going to camp until we pitched our tent, the first night, in the Monahans Sandhills
We went on to explore the petroglyphs among the great climbing rocks at Hueco Tanks
, because my father had told me of some interesting ones that he had found there. I went right to the ones that he was talking about. I had listened.
We went north from there, and, running on fumes, stopped at the entry to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park
for directions for gas. The desk ranger laughed with a friendly smile, and advised me not to give up driving north; I had stopped 400 yards shy of a gas station just around the bend from the entrance. She invited us to come back to the park. 11 years later I did, and wished that I had come back earlier. But I had listened.
We got to Carlsbad, and saw the Caverns, and continued north to Carizozo, where we met the friendliest people I've ever met, who helped us with our ailing tire, and provided us shelter from a passing thunderstorm before giving us instructions to a (then) new campsite called Red Clouds
, up in the mountains north. In these days of GPS, it is surprising to think that I found the remote campsite, up a gravel track miles off the secondary roads. But we did, and we marveled at the beauty of the oasis in the mountains, green and cool above the desert below. We had listened, and were glad.
We went on to Taos, and up into the Kit Carson National Forest
, where another tire let go on us. We couldn't change it because the previous owner had put lock lugs on the tires, and they had been wallowed out by over-enthusiastic air hammering. We used a repaired foot pump every mile or so until we made it to a mountain general store, and learned that the last plug patch had been sold. A passing fly fisherman heard my plight, and pulled out from his truck an enormous tool kit, from which he removed a hammer and chisel, some giant Vise Grips and a breaker bar. He saved our trip, because he had listened. (The vacationing mechanic from Clovis would take no money.)
We went on to part of the Cibola National Forest
, where if we had listened better, we would have donned some clothing before the National Guard helicopter flew over us at treetop level. We still laugh about that.
Then we drove home, across the droning emptiness that is far eastern New Mexico and West Texas. This is the Llano Estacodo
that has worn out many a traveller with its sameness. It is miles and miles of miles and miles. For the first time in our trip, my someday-future-bride-to-be and I got snippy with each other. It was just the irritation that the nine-day trip was over, and our money was gone, along with our vacation time at our respective crappy jobs. But looking back, I fell in love with my wife on that trip. We listened to audiobooks on tape during that trip together (I recall Scott Turow's excellent Presumed Innocent
was one.), which helped, but we also listened to each other. We told each other stories and anecdotes which are now old to each other.
Hear me: the roadtrip is an experience-building opportunity for you and your companion. In this case, my companion eventually became my lifelong companion. But I think back to trips that I've made with my father, and my best friend, and my roommates, which are benchmarks in our relationships. They're a great time to talk, and to listen to others.
Labels: advice, reminiscing, The people you meet sometimes, travel, Truth