Good late morning from Twin Falls, Idaho, Dear Readers. I’m about a third of the way to my destination, Georgia O’Keefe’s Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, NM.
Let me just start by saying that if you’re in menopause and experiencing random and frequent hot flashes, camping in the desert southwest might not be the best way to travel the 1700 miles between Bellingham, WA and Abiquiu, NM. Too bad I didn’t consider this issue before I was pitching my tent in 102 degrees last night.
I’ve been planning this trip for several weeks, but somehow camping in the heat didn’t really cross my mind. Perhaps because I’m a PNW “blue-tarp” camper. Whenever I think about camping, all that comes to mind is rain and cold, wet sleeping bags and damp fires that never quite get started.
Nonetheless, I had a somewhat satisfying camp experience last night—I managed to get some sleep, at least until some Muslims pulled in around 1 a.m. and started cooking goat. I kid you not. I listened to these two guys speak in a language I did not recognize before some English speaker started talking to them. As I lay there not sleeping and cursing their bad campground manners, I learned a lot about middle eastern cooking and spices, the Muslim response to 9/11 (at least these Muslim’s responses), and why these two young men were going to college in Idaho.
Ironically, the fact that two middle easterners were camping in the remote hills outside of Boise actually made me feel better about my own choice to camp alone. If they weren’t afraid, I wouldn’t be either (though I did sleep with my hunting knife within reach). I have to say, there was so much unsolicited consternation about my decision to drive to New Mexico that my confidence started wavering soon before I left, and as I looked for a suitable camping spot last night, I had to beat back my fear.
I thought a lot about Cheryl Strayed’s adventures in her memoir Wild—what she had to say about Fear came rushing back to me as I set up my camp and perused my surroundings: “ I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I heard a sound of unknown origin or felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid.”
So, fear conquered, at least last night. I woke up partially refreshed, made myself a thermos of coffee and hit the road. I stopped at a payphone to check in with my sweetie since there was no cell service, and steered the Jeep toward Salt Lake City.
This morning I thought I might get a hotel for the night, but as of this writing, I’m not so sure. If I can camp in 102 degrees in remote Idaho, surely Utah has even better experiences to offer.
Some random observations: it is far too hot to take the top off the Jeep which is rather disappointing. I have to stop every hour or so and scrape the dead bugs from my windshield. Gas is getting cheaper the farther south I go. Drivers here are much more polite and aware than drivers in Washington State (i.e. they move over and don’t hog the left lane on general principles). The landscape is very dry—many side of the road fires, and one very large one near my campsite last night (extinguished the day before I camped).