Tag Archives: driving

Looking for the Thunderbird

snow 12.19.12We’re having the first snowstorm of the season today in Denver and that’s a good thing.  We’ve had so much drought and so many fires that we need all the precipitation we can get. Right now, though, I’m mostly worrying about getting in the car and driving out to pick up my husband at the airport.  They put the new airport a million miles (24 from our place) out on the eastern plains and, after living in the Washington, DC area for 25 years, I am snow driving averse. So I am sitting here obsessively checking flight updates, waiting for the sheets to dry, listening to Judy Collins radio on Pandora, writing, and indulging in a bit of nostalgia.  Right now, I have been listening to “Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall.” Before that I heard John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” and K.D. Lang’s version of “Hallelujah.”  I’m waiting for a sign to see whether I should drive or tell Tom to get a taxi. I’m not a good snow driver now, but it wasn’t always that way.

In 1972-1973 I taught eighth grade literature in the (then) little boom town of Page, Arizona. Each week I struggled to make it through to Friday afternoon.  I was prepared, though.  Thursday night I would gas up my Volkswagen Squareback at the Circle K, put my bag in the car and be ready to head out of town right after school the next day.  About every other weekend, I would drive up 386 miles to Salt Lake City to visit Tom.  Other weekends, I would just head out anywhere away from town.  Lucky for me, anywhere and everywhere outside of Page was beautiful beyond any words I might try to use here.

West Temple, Zion National Park

West Temple, Zion National Park

Decision: Okay, I will finish this story later.  I am going to try to drive out to the airport. If I find the roads too bad, I will turn back, but, at least then I won’t feel like a superannuated chicken. If I used to be able to drive 386 miles in the snow to see Tom, I should hope I could still manage 24.

Result: The roads weren’t that bad, the wait for Tom to clear customs wasn’t too long, and the view of the Front Range on the drive back to Denver was worth the earlier ice and slush.

Back to the story: One snowy Friday afternoon in December (I’m back in 1972 now), I headed north on U.S. Route 89 going somewhere.  It was snowing so hard, it was so dark, and I was so lonely that I pulled into to the Thunderbird Lodge in Mt. Carmel Junction, Utah.  Even though the motel was only 91 miles from Page, I had dinner, booked a room, and settled in for the night. As the snow came down, snuggled in my bed, I watched a special repeat on T.V. of The Walton’s The Homecoming: A Christmas Story. I think I might hear people gagging or laughing out there in the cyber world, but I did love watching the show about snow coming down, Christmas coming, and people wanting to be with those they loved. I’ve never been a very successful cynic and maybe the times were different back then.  A year or two before I had seen The Homecoming with some of my friends back home in Milford. I wasn’t home, I was not anywhere near a stable with oxen, and yet I felt happy and content.

Even though it is somewhat gussied up (for Mt. Carmel Junction) now, I still love the Thunderbird.  Just this past summer, I had left my friends Sally and Laura after our rendezvous in Zion National Park, I couldn’t get to my campsite in the Dixie National Forest because of landslides, I got freaked out again on high desert roads, and I needed a place to feel safe and to not be alone. I drove to the Thunderbird, which was in the opposite direction I should be heading, had dinner, booked a room, and snuggled into bed reading Mysteries and Legends of Utah.

Back to the present: It’s been a difficult week for all of us who struggle to believe in a civilized world where we take care of little children and everyone else. I wish us all to feel safe and to not be alone.

Mt. Carmel Junction 6.26.12