Monday, May 10, 2010

The story behind "The mountains and the road"

The title story in the March 5, 2010 post "Wordzzle 102 - The mountains and the road" was based on something that actually happened. However, it happened long ago, back in the 1960-65 area, and my father was driving, not me. I was just a child, and the whole family was traveling across the desert somewhere in the American Southwest. I don't remember now why we were making the trip, or what state we were in at the time. We made a lot of trips in those years.

My father had been driving for a long time, since before dawn I think. Perhaps we had even been driving all night, with my mother doing part of the driving. This may also have been the time when he was driving into the morning sun, and had the sun shades down on the windshield and partly unfolded maps and whatever else he could find stuffed in along the upper part of the windshield, trying to block the sun's rays. I'm not sure, though.

In any case, we drove along a road through the desert. The road was very straight and mostly flat, with minor dips. In the far distance in front of us were mountains, low and indistinct and gray, and probably partly beyond the horizon. We drove toward them for a long time. Hours passed, slowly.

Sometimes we could see mirages on the road ahead of us, in the distance, looking like dark wet places, but they always melted away as we got closer. We talked about the mirages. My parents pointed them out to us, at least at first, and explained that they weren't real. Traffic was light, but I think it picked up some as it got later in the morning. I think the road was just two lanes, and people occasionally passed other people, including us.

The mountains slowly got larger and closer, very, very slowly. It seemed to be taking a very long time. I gradually began to be able to see some features on them, though they remained purplish and hazy looking. As time wore on they got larger and larger, and I could see a lot of things on them, a lot of details, though the mountains still retained the purplish hazy look. I started to wonder what would happen when we reached them. The road didn't seem to reach the mountains, it seemed to just abruptly end before it reached them. I think I could faintly see in some places on some of the mountains the faint trails of roads, but none of them led to this road. And still we kept getting closer, and still the road just seemed to end at some place before the mountains were reached.

Then finally, we got close enough that I was able to see that the road abruptly turned to the right. I could see cars traveling along that section, some heading toward us and some going the way we were, though they were at right angles to us since they were on the part of the road that had turned. I even saw them reach the turning point, and turn and start to come our way, though that part was initially hidden, either because it was a little lower or because a slight rise was in the ground between us and it.

We finally reached the turn, sometime in the early or mid afternoon I think, and drove along beside the mountains. I watched them go past us and gradually recede. Eventually we reached a point where they started to taper off, and I saw a place that had a big separation between the mountains, with a road that wound through the flat section there, coming from the mostly flat desert beyond, scattered with what I guess were numerous but widely separated little bushes. I watched cars traveling on that road, small and far away, as we came to that area and gradually went past it. The mountains continued on for a little bit past that area, but with smaller isolated mountains rising up out of the desert.

We continued on, to wherever it was we were going, as the afternoon got later. We probably had another day or more of traveling to do. It was a very long trip.

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