Welcome to my World

Welcome to the domain different--to paraphrase from New Mexico's capital city of Santa Fe which bills itself "The City Different." Perhaps this space is not completely unique but my world shapes what I write as well as many other facets of my life. The four Ds figure prominently but there are many other things as well. Here you will learn what makes me tick, what thrills and inspires me, experiences that impact my life and many other antidotes, vignettes and journal notes that set the paradigm for Dierdre O'Dare and her alter ego Gwynn Morgan and the fiction and poetry they write. I sell nothing here--just share with friends and others who may wander in. There will be pictures, poems, observations, rants on occasion and sometimes even jokes. Welcome to our world!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Memoir Essay-- Mountain Roads

Here is another of my looking back pieces that links to the present in many ways. Are we not all the product of our pasts? There can be no doubt that the world and environment in which we grew up will always be with us. Some even feel that traces of past lives may follow us into this one. I can hardly doubt that due to various experiences I've had but for now none of us can be quite sure. However, this tale is just about my current life. Let's go for a drive on...

Mountain Roads
             Since I began my “aware” life in Jerome, Arizona, I have known mountain roads all of my days. In Jerome, we lived on a hill reached by a narrow, lane and a half wide twisting track that might scare some folks speechless. To leave town, one had to go either up or down narrow two lane paved highways with no shoulders, roads with continuous curves and steep to near vertical slopes that plunged down from the outer edge. Thus such travel never seemed odd or even very fearful to me.

On Allen Spring Road. Dad could
not move boulder but we
squeaked by.
            A bit later, when I was about six, my dad got a “Jeep”, one of those little four wheel drive vehicles the military had developed for use in World War II that became commercially available once the war ended. Today's Jeeps are right in there with the other SUVs, often quite luxurious but this one was the bare bones stripped down model with the emphasis much more on utility than sport, comfort or flash!

The first Jeep with a homemade
'cab' to replace canvas top.
          My place was on a pillow or two, perched in the middle between the two bucket seats as we explored every steep, rough, crooked and barely drive-able road in the forty-eighth state or close to it. That meant the north rim of the Grand Canyon to the Allen Spring Road, a single lane dirt track that twisted around Mingus Mountain to the cave where most of Jerome’s water was acquired. It tapped into a good spring from an aquifer deep under the mountain. We traveled tracks out west of Prescott in the Santa Maria Range, the then-unpaved road that led from Lonesome Valley, now Prescott Valley, down to the desert north of Phoenix and too many more to count. The sing-song purr of the Jeep’s engine geared down to its lowest speed in four wheel drive lulled me to a doze many times and I can still “hear” the sound in memory.
            We even maneuvered down the aforementioned Allen Spring Road with a four wheel farm trailer loaded with jack pine logs a number of times and had to make hairpin turns. A few times when there were washouts, we had to jack the trailer over as far to the inside possible so it would not slide off the edge of a tight loop. I was glad my dad was driving there but rarely was really terrified. We’d just make it work.
            When I finally began to learn to drive, I did it on dirt roads first, out to an area where we kept many of our horses and mules for awhile. Next it was down to Camp Verde to get hay, on a partly paved but narrow road in the valley that crossed many canyons and arroyos, and finally over Mingus Mountain on Highway 89-A. Oddly, it was my mother who mostly taught me. Dad was an excellent driver but by then he was not in good health and lacked the patience to deal with me grinding gears and jerking to a start or stop. Yes, it was a standard four speed stick shift truck, no longer a Jeep but an early 1960s model Ford F-100 pickup. For years I scorned automatics as sissy cars real drivers would not need! I’m a bit spoiled now but can drive a stick shift if need-be.
            A few years later when I got my first real job and then bought my first car, a 1971 Ford Pinto, I had no concern about driving on mountain roads. I zipped around from Sierra Vista to Tombstone and Bisbee, on gravel roads to Parker Lake and Coronado Monument and back up to Flagstaff some weekends Since that had been home for four years while I was in college. The little car hugged the road well and I never even seriously scared myself.
            However, once in Flagstaff I drove up on Mount Eldon and managed to get lightly high centered on a big flat rock when I turned around. That was a new challenge. I did not want to rip the oil pan or tear any lines loose so I jacked each corner up and put rocks under the tires, making a path to ease down off that spot and back onto a better road. I drove back to Cochise County the next day down I-17 and I-10 with my little car none the worse for wear, just a little proud of my inventiveness!
            Once I had moved to Bisbee and commuted to Fort Huachuca daily for work, that road over the Mule Mountains became very familiar. I guess it could be called a mountain road without much exaggeration but it never seemed threatening to me, even a few times when it was a bit icy.
            I did encounter more ice and snow when we moved to Colorado and came to fear that much more on a level straight road than I ever had a dry highway or even gravel road in the desert, high desert or dry Arizona mountains. I did a 180 degree spin once with studded snow tires on a dry road in Colorado Springs—that time I was about as scared as I have ever been! No, the studs may give traction on ice and snow but they slide like a banana peel on dry pavement!
            This past week I made a visit back to Arizona and after a train and bus trip from Williams to the Grand Canyon I took my travel companion and friend down to my old home area. We drove up to Jerome. This time I had my little red pickup and with four brand new tires it too hugged the road very well. Still, at once point I bumped on a bit of broken asphalt at the edge of the shoulder-less road and my companion almost turned green. From then on she shut her eyes until I parked and said it was safe to look!
            She had even been worried driving on I-17. To me those are very gentle curves and although the grade is fairly steep, you can either gear down—even most automatics have a lower range that will help control speed--or use cruise control in a different way to keep your speed down. However the steering on her SUV wasn’t quite right after some recent repairs on the front end so I could understand why she felt challenged. 
            I admit I get frustrated at times following “flatlanders” on some of the old fashioned two lane highways where there are few safe places to pass. They creep along, clearly scared spitless, and I have to poke behind them, grousing that they should stay on the freeways! That was especially bad in Colorado in the summer time when there seemed to be a zillion huge motor homes wanting to go up Pikes Peak or some similar other unlikely place. Of course southern Arizona and even New Mexico have the snow birds in the winter that create similar hazards. I guess we just have to learn to be patient. Not everyone has the chance to grow up on mountain roads.

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