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.”
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