Road trip, day one

If she were a better photographer, or in fact, any kind of photographer at all, which she obviously isn’t, to judge from the photo to the right there, she would know how to crop the thing. Then the “Ahrndt U Hungry” words and the accompanying chicken would appear much bigger. They would be the center of the photo, sailing up there in the blue-blue sky, just the way she imagines them looking.

Surely her computer comes with some kind of software that can do that, but in her ineffectual and haphazard way, clicking around from photoviewer to photoviewer –why are there so many photoviewing programs on this thing, none of which she installed, when all she wants is one, just one adequate, easy-to-figure-out one?– she couldn’t find it.

Alas, she forgot her actual camera at home, not that that would have made any difference in the quality of the above Ahrndt U Hungry photo because a) she doesn’t really know how to use her actual camera, which she won in a silent auction benefit fundraiser, and b) she lost –or one of her youthful companions lost– the cable that connects it to the computer, so that all the photos contained within are currently imprisoned without possibility of parole until such date as she manages to type the camera make and model into google, figure out what kind of cable she needs, order one, and then hook the thing up again to the computer.

Whereupon several thousand, or maybe four or five, photo-viewing programs will open simultaneously, none of which, again, she really knows how to use, and she will stare dully at the newly-released photos, still not knowing how to edit them, and continue to post photos here on this blog, all with an unwritten “crappy photo” caption.

But that is not the point of this post. The point of this post is that two travelers, a woman and the most youthful of her youthful companions, set forth from their home in a large city yesterday morning. They pointed their car west and crept through incoming rush hour traffic –but they were headed out! salmon swimming against the tide!– bound for open land.

The youthful companion plugged in her iPod and chose a selection of tunes for the the first couple hours of the drive, and each song seemed like the perfect song.

Wow, thought the woman, maybe she could be a dj.

She imagined introducing people in later years to her youthful companion, the dj. How fun that would be. Also, she could probably get all the music she wanted for free, because her youthful companion would be overrun with it.

Within an hour the land had opened up.

Within three hours they had driven out of the world of endless trees and lakes into a world of giant, undulating plains.

Within five hours the trees had disappeared, giving way to unbroken stretches of fenced grassland. Dark cattle grazing solo or in small herds. Buttes rising in the distance. Piles of large rocks gathered in the middle of hayed or grassy fields.

The road straightened into a gray ribbon stretching to the far horizon. 75 mph speed limits, and out there, where no cars go, the woman set the cruise to 80. A red, freestanding barn door –no barn behind it– rose from the middle of a cowless pasture.

A steer leaned against a boulder and pushed his head and neck and shoulders against it, scratching an itch. A UPS truck, so covered in dust it was tan instead instead of brown, turned down a ranch driveway.

Mailboxes were set by the road at the end of dirt driveways so long it was impossible to see a house. A sign appeared: School Bus Stop. The woman and her youthful companion agreed that no matter where you got on the school bus out here, you were in for a long ride.

The tunes kept coming. Now the woman and the girl traded off picks from the many cd’s they had brought with them. They made a rule: Listen to the first twenty minutes of the other’s choice, and then, if such choice proved unbearable, accede gracefully to a cease-and-desist request.

No such requests were made. The youthful companion even allowed the woman to sing along with the songs with no comment.

Water began brimming from the surface of the green earth. It spilled up out of the ditches, held back from the sides of the narrow two-lane roads by rocks and yellow oil-spill booms and earth berms. Flood-lakes drowned fields and engulfed small trees.

Tan shirtless boys in yellow vests stood leaning on “Slow” and “Stop” signs, drowsy in the heat, lazily advising drivers that it would be eight to ten minutes before the pilot car returned, leading a caravan of trucks and dusty cars down the narrowed-to-one-lane-by-flooding road.

The youthful companion played a few rounds of solitaire on her itouch. The woman tried but failed to best her own personal skeeball record on her phone.

Back on the road.

Because they were starving and because of the name, they stopped to eat at the Ahrndt U Hungry. The girl ate a plate of cheese nachos so covered with cheese that finding a chip within was an excavatory process. The woman decided to add “excavatory” to her personal lexicon of words which don’t exist but should.

She ate a bowl of soup with Krispy Original crackers. Then they got back in the car and kept heading west.

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