5.9 Ship’s Log May 29, 2011—Cont

On to Heber and Show Low, the town named for a card game (story and pix soon to be posted). For now I am glad to be gliding down from this 7500-foot altitude.

But only a few miles from my campsite, I spotted the turn for the road to Young. I’d heard this was scenic byway, and mostly unmanageable by a 28-foot motorhome, but I thought I’d laze my way along the paved portion of the road.

The asphalt ended in a few miles.  There, at a right-turn on to a dirt road, was a sign: Lookout.  I never met a lookout I didn’t like.

The road angled downward and within a hundred yards narrowed to the width of the Jolly Swag with a foot to spare on each side. Deep tire tracks etched into the dirt appeared: I was on the Devil’s Own Driveway. I slowed to 8 mph, careful of the foot-deep ruts ten feet apart that marked the edges of the road. A hundred feet to my left, the hillside was a hundred feet below. I couldn’t see a hundred feet to my right. A lookout point would have a parking area where I could do a 180 . . . wouldn’t it?  I came to a hairpin turn with an unobstructed view of the forest below, then, immediately, the road again became a tunnel through the trees. And I wondered if that was the lookout. I had not seen a spot I could have turned around anything larger than a wheelbarrow. I began to consider that I might have to back out of this gravel vortex. All the sentences that formed in my head began with, “Only a damn fool . . . .”

Lady Anne Lamott, Patron Saint of Bay Area writers, says there are only two prayers that do any good, the first one is, “Help me, help me, help me.”  This seemed like the right time for that prayer.

And, soon, I came to a clearing a big rig could have turned around in. Four families were tenting there. Their pickup trucks circled like conestogas ready for invading Indians, I pulled into the clearing and stopped to change my underwear.

A young man walked up to my windshield and signaled me. I went to the door and he said he wouldn’t advise my going any further because the road would soon get really bad: hairpins turns, deep ruts and no place to turn around anything larger than an ATV. We chatted and swapped first names. Tom invited me to visit. They had abandoned their campsite the day before after getting blasted out by the wind and the cold. One of the men knew about this spot deep in the draw.

Here, the clouds still raced by like they were running a state trooper and the wind clawed at the treetops. But on the ground, the kids romped, a football was tossed, the lawn chairs were circled and the bar was open. I stayed for three hours, swapped some stories, took some pictures, and, at mid-day, left these good folks.

Yes, that is a sidearm one of the men is wearing.  I asked Tom about it.

“We all carry guns,” he said.

 As I travel I am learning many of my attitudes and beliefs have been shaped by my lifetime as a big city dweller.  I have never lived in an area where firearms are a common, unobtrusive part of the culture.  I was told Arizona was such a place.  Over time and miles I think I will examine the role of personal protection as a societal and cultural issue.  I expect to find it is not as simple as pro or anti-NRA.  I do not carry a gun on board.  Not yet.  But I know many RVers do.

During my visit another small tribe arrived and off-loaded several types of knobby-tired sport vehicles.  They had something for everyone no matter how young.  Note the training wheels on the kid-sized dirt bike.

The Jolly Swag and I crunched our way back up the hill and I remembered to close the loop with the Universe with Ann’s second prayer: “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

# # #

9 Responses to 5.9 Ship’s Log May 29, 2011—Cont

  1. Colleen Rae says:

    That was a scary ride…you are definitely a risk taker, edge of your pants kind of guy. And having lived in AZ for 5 yrs I can attest to the fact that almost everyone carrys a gun, if not on their hip, in their truck. I learned to shoot while living there.
    Nicely described – your little adventure. Nice choice of words…Devil’s own driveway.

  2. Madelen says:

    I continue to enjoy your posts. Your writing drew me in, and my emotions were working:
    fear and worry – how would you make it out (my heart did a few extra beats);
    relief – you did (of course, you are able to tell us about it);
    laughter – it’s always funny, after
    anger – seeing an adult with a loaded gun near children (I’ll probably never go back to Arizona for this reason)
    gratitude – that you made it out, and for Tom and his warning (otherwise, your last post might have been, well, you know, your last!)


  3. Priscilla Ross says:

    Yes, we learned in Arizona a person can carry an unconcealed gun and holster. It was weird for us as we just left California where no such thing exist. I wish you well and be safe.

  4. karen wittgraf says:

    You just described my intuitive fears, with the absense of critters. The gun thing freaks me out (and children there?) These folks have to be NRA people, but nice to know that they were amicable. Watch out, Al….don’t too inquisitive on these back roads..stay on track. Find a nice flat place with many people and a nice view. Jerry said he would love for us to fly out and join you for a few days- possible???? No Devil’s driveways, though- promise?

  5. If so many people carry sidearms in Arizona, imagine Texas! You are forced to trust that the gun carriers are the good guys. Either that, or don’t go there. I carry a #3 pencil, a defensive weapon. Better than nothing.

    • allevenson says:

      The topic of personal protection and weaponry is one that I need to explore as it relates to my current life format. I do not feel any urgency about this rather it is in the category of housekeeping.

      I suspect when I do lay out some thoughts for the readers of Year on the Road, it will prompt many opinions and considered comments.


  6. Michael says:

    Carried a Lugar for awhile when we were living aboard. Parked in the Mission District for the night (oh our foolish youth) and there was a banging on the side of the motor home.

    “Gimmee my stuff damn it!”

    A conversation through the wall ensued. He’d paid for his “stuff” and was to meet a guy in motor home on this block to get it. He wanted it NOW!

    Speaking calmly, with the Lugar in my hand, and out of sight, I suggested he step back from my motor home and look up the block to see another motor home.

    He did, and walked off in that direction.

    My bare ass hit the drivers seat, the key turned in ignition lighting off that Dodge 440, and we were OUT of there!

    • allevenson says:

      Great stor, Michael. And one of the few I’ve read where a gun actually made a difference. The difference it made was in your self-confidence and I wonder if that isnt what I will learn as I collect anecdotes. That it is a confidence-enhancer more than the measure of the firepower you take into the battle. My concern has to do with my absence of tactical skills and psychological readiness for a confrontation that is anything but crystal clear.


  7. Colleen Rae says:

    I’ve carried Mace for years, even in AZ. Only had to use it once. A gun would have been foolish to have/use in that situation.
    Good story, Michael. Funny…but not at the time, I’m sure.
    I think Al, that when one puts out friendly and non-hostile vibes, (I know that sounds so flower-childish), people who might be hostile in other situations intuitively sense that you are not a problem. It’s always worked for me, but what do you expect from an ex-flower child?

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