Somewhere in Nevada

Decision-making seems hard but it’s really not.

Once you decide that it is not.

The NOT making a decision is what makes things hard.

Like last week. I had to decide whether to sleep out under the stars or find a motel. And if the latter, a cheap motel it would be, for I was in that vast interior landscape Utah tries to hide‑-where franchises with standards cannot reap enough profit to risk it.

I was en route from California to Colorado, on a mission to visit my kid and relieve him of the basement and closet and kitchen cupboards-ful of mom junk I had ditched him with sometime last spring.

I was feeling emancipated. Free. I flapped my wings and flew across Nevada, listening to a random thumbdrive of music – that thumbdrive the Craigslist dude had thrown in with the title to the car.

I had flung myself to the winds of Nevada, through which I marveled at the spontaneous beauty of clouds condensing and falling to earth.

So.

My favorite campsite or sketchy roadside motel?
This trip I was not trying to lose something, I was trying to find it.

I thought through the ex-boyfriends, the friends-who-are-women, my husband, my kids … would they ALL have chosen the motel? Well, maybe not my oldest son, no, not him.

And would I?

Roadscape: Utah

To me it was about the stars, about waking to hear an owl, to freeze my nose in the fresh chill of morning’s pure, cold air. Air that had been stirred only by the silent wings of that owl. And oh, did I mention the pure pure blue silent sky with stars?

I was traveling in an empty, nay, spacious Subaru, which, made of love or made of uninsulated metal car body it mattered not. My dog –and potential source of either warmth (camping option) or trouble (sneaking my dog into the only motel in town can be tricky) was safe in California in the care of loving cousins.

I was alone. It felt delicious.

And I had a moon roof through which to see the sky.

I turned off the big interstate onto the two-lane, (definitely qualifies as Blue Highway in William Leastheat Moon’s vocabulary,) road that would link me in about 30 miles to the dreaded I-70, my express route directly avoiding as much of gorgeous Utah as possible to Colorado. The upcoming turnoff would be my last chance.

My favorite campsite was approaching almost as quickly as darkness. What should I do?

I glanced at the thin gauge showing an outside temperature of 19 degrees. I had only my summer sleeping bag.

The road climbed gently. As it did so, even as the sun had long gone, my world got brighter.

Snow.

Lots of snow actually.

I had no tent. I would sleep in the back of the Subaru. I would open the moonroof cover and look at the stars.

I squirmed in delight.

I glanced again at the thermometer: 17 degrees.

Hmm.

Even if it were the most run-down of hotels it would have a hot shower, I thought. And probably a coffee maker.

Soon the rectangular brown sign came into view, indicating the turnoff to my campground.

Somehow, my turn signal started blinking and the Subaru slowed. I turned onto the dirt road, snow on either side but very little on the road itself.

Hadn’t a friend who borrowed my car said that it drives itself?

Then the concerns arose as they always did here: Would the campground be full? Would I have to take one of the overflow sites among the neighbors’ cows? Who would be there? Children playing in the creek like last summer? Or more likely now, skiers? Hunters and guns? Corn-fed Midwesterners with children playing on i-pads in their camp chairs while dull music thumped from an RV?

Where the road turned south I also realized I had no stove so I would be eating what I had on the seat next to me—cheese, crackers, oranges. I looked at the pink horizon. That would be just fine.

Maybe the campground would be empty … maybe I could get my site –number 11–without worries and the morning light would bounce off the red walls onto the glimmering trees, warming me without need for coffee. Maybe the owl was still in residence.

I made the last turn, toward the west again. The road was really snowy now, with few tracks.

Then the impossible occurred. Bright reflective paint barred my way.

“Campground Closed.”

Shock then pure dismay filtered through the headlights. I must have sighed. I stared at the barrier, considered checking for a lock.

I glanced to my left and spotted a pristine, dark blue city car. Maybe a Honda Civic.

Someone else had met this horrible end also.

Clearly, someone must be in it. Trying to sleep … or something. It was early yet, 8 pm. Probably awake. If I were in that car, I would not be wanting company, I conjectured. In fact, what WAS that car doing there? I thought about where I’d go if I were traveling across the country in a stolen car—not a hotel.

I backed into the parking lot so as not to shine lights directly into the car.

I thought about who might realistically be in that car.

A woman, slightly worried about being alone? A bird nerd sleeping early to wake for the owl? A hunter who would rise early and drag in dead animals? Probably just college kids travelling cheap.

I slowly headed east. Sad, but still free.

I had made the decision to sleep out.

And in a way, the decision had made me.