Saturday, March 29, 2008

O'Keeffe: Santa Fe Mountains

Below: "'The day God spilled the paint'. The east side of the Carrizo plain, in the Temblor Range, about 50 miles due west of Bakersfield, California . Photo taken by Barbara Matthews on May 14, 2005."

I've actually driven through those mountains, twenty years ago, with my cousin Jeff. Here's a silly story wherein Jeff and I faced no actual danger, yet nevertheless had adrenaline coursing through us at a high rate.

I was helping Jeff move to one of those upscale commuter towns east of Oakland, along the BART, and we were driving from Fort Worth to Cali. in a brand new Chev. Jimmy he had purchased. We drove through Bakersfield at 6 or 7 pm on a Sunday night, headed for Hwy 5 and a scenic drive up the Pacific Coast. We talked about getting gas, but went on. We had a 1/4 of a tank, and there were several towns on our route.

We headed up into the mountains west of Bakersfield. All 5 or 6 towns on our route turned out to have populations of about 50 or less, and were shut up tight on a Sunday night. Our gas got lower and lower. I was looking in the Owners Manual, trying to find what I could about the Jimmy's gas tank and gas light.

About the time we were on fumes, we topped the range and started going downhill. With no cars on the road, we coasted downhill, in neutral, for about 40 - 50 minutes or more, the auto gas light blinking at us, bears and mountain lions all around in the darkness, no people anywhere. We coasted and coasted and coasted, curving our way down the mountain range, with our adrenaline high, not knowing when any moment might be our last moment of movement, until we FINALLY made a major town on the way to the coast. WHEW.

I don't know WHY our adrenaline was so high on that trip down out of the mountains. I can only guess it's b/c we were going down in complete darkness for so long, on windy two lane country highway, no lights anywhere, no sign of civilization (we were travelling through a national forest) and not even much moon. When you are outside of civilization - really seriously out away from everything - you come to understand the essence of "dark and foreboding." If we had had to sleep in the Jimmy till morning, we would've been truly grateful to see daylight coming over the mountains behind us. At the store where we bought gas, I bought a six pack of beer. I don't drink all that often, but me and Jeff each slammed down two beers in about 10 minutes flat. Well, I did, anyway. It just seemed the thing to do. Didn't even feel the alcohol.

No comments: