The most astonishing thing happened in the Alamosa campsite bathroom: I encountered a completely naked woman standing in front of the mirrors brushing her hair. Okay, not completely naked—she had on shower shoes—but as I entered she turned my way and calmly said, “Good morning.” I responded in kind, as if it were an everyday occurrence for me to see a stark naked stranger on my way to the shower. But the most astonishing thing about this naked stranger was that she must have been seventy, at least—she was no spring chicken, in other words—and yet her body was the body of a twenty-five-year-old swimsuit model. I could have looked at it all day. I could have made a sculpture of it in marble. In fact, her skin was so smooth and milky white it looked like marble. But her face? Her face showed every one of her years—and they weren’t easy years—and her hair was coarse and bleached by sun, but that body!
As she kept brushing her hair, I unpacked my shower bag, determinedly not looking, even though I wanted to look because I couldn’t get over the strange wonderfulness of it all. Then I started to think that if I were 75 and had the body of a 25-year-old, I’d probably stand naked in the most (legally) public places I could find, too. I mean, why not? Use what you’ve got, right? Share your gifts. And the more I thought about this, the more I got inspired. Not inspired to stand naked in a public bathroom—that’s not really my thing—but inspired to be more confident in whatever my thing IS and wear it (or bare it) proudly. She of the fearless, shameless, clothesless body kind of made my day. So, thank you, Anonymous Naked Lady of Alamosa. You rock. And who knows, I just may carve you in marble one day.
We ate a quick breakfast at McDonald’s (pickings were slim, but the coffee wasn’t bad and I’m a sucker for anything on a biscuit). Len had to submit a time sheet, so I was writing in my notebook (about the Naked Lady of Alamosa) when a woman one table over asked me, “Are you a writer?” I considered showing her what I was writing and letting her decide, but the question caught me off guard, mostly because she seemed so sure I was a writer before I confirmed her suspicions. We talked a bit about writing. She said her father had been a writer and had written about his experience in Burma. I told her I had an uncle who had flown the hump and then told her about the non-fiction book I’d written about my co-author surviving banishment to Siberia. It was a quick but interesting encounter.
We got back in the Jeep to head to The Valley of the Gods (a six-hour drive) and crossed the Continental Divide which was pretty cool. On the way down, Len asked me if I’d ever seen a Runaway Truck Ramp before and I said, “Yes, we have them in Virginia on the steeper Interstate roads, but I’ve never seen one used. I’d kind of like to see what that looks like when it happens.” And about five minutes later, we came upon a truck that had just used the runaway truck ramp. He was up to his axles in sand, standing beside the truck, staring and scratching his head. I grabbed my camera as quickly as I could (apologizing to him from afar) and snapped a quick shot.
We passed through Rio Grande National Forest, and made a few stops for gas. We’re starting to realize we need to add time into our daily trips to account for all the people who ask about our teardrop trailer. We get stopped all the time. And it’s interesting how different the reactions are. The older women usually say something along the lines of, “It’s so cute!” The older men typically want to know what all the added gadgets are for. The younger dudes say anything from, “That’s a badass trailer” to “That’s a sweet ride,” but never to us—the dudes always tell it to a friend within our earshot. And one such dude, when we smiled at his comment said, “That’s your ride? Congratulations!” as if we’d won it in some great teardrop lottery.
In the city of Cortez, pulling into a gas station with our windows down, we realized the passenger-side wheel of the trailer was making an unpleasant squealing noise (I wanted to blame the hubcap-missile.) Since we were about to go into a very remote area, we decided to have it checked—sooner rather than later. So we called around and go
t the name of an RV repair place: Western Equipment, LLC. The guy was super nice on the phone, told us to come right in and they’d check it out. They took off both wheels and found a spot on one where it looked like a small stone had gotten into the hub between the brake pad and the drum. This may have been the source of the squealing as some obvious rubbing had occurred. On the other wheel, they found a loose axle nut creating a subtle wheel wobble that might haunt us in the future. They put things back together quickly, re-greased the bearings, and pronounced us good to go. They only charged us $65 bucks! The owner was super impressed with our setup and told us he’d happily take it off our hands if we didn’t want it any more. We left feeling relieved and fortunate.
At 4pm we hit the Utah border and the thermometer read 99 degrees. The Valley of the Gods has almost no trees and lots of wide open rocks, so we wimped out for the first night of our three-night stay and found a room in a sweet little motel in Bluff, Utah. The room had an “evaporative cooling” system (aka swamp air, but it’s wonderful) which pumps in cool, moist air. After the dry desert air, I have to say it was pretty heavenly. We bought Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and microwave dinners (Lean Cuisine–ha!) at a local grocery and settled in to catch up on our Internet stuff. We really do want to rough it, but 99-degree heat three for days in a row sounds more like a stint on Exile Island than a post-retirement vacation. We’ll head to The Valley of the Gods tomorrow and get set up in time for our guests to arrive and join us there for dinner on Saturday.