For the Hell of it - Page 4
Photo by Kyle Ormsby
The Racetrack, an ironic name for the place, is world renown for its “sailing stones” and the laborious paths they leave behind. The stones apparently make their way across the pancake flat surface through a combination of fierce wind- storms and occasional submersion during winter storms. As the stones move, the evidence of their journeys remain, like magical lonesome tire tracks. David’s route angles away from the Racetrack, up a rocky slope to the east. But he and Ana insist we detour to the Racetrack.
“Only a couple of miles,” David says. “Not that far. It's worth seeing.”
It’s his face, snoozes through the chaos. At the top of the pass, a vehicle appears in the distance, a plume of dust billowing in its wake. One of ours? No. It has been a good long while since Mike and Helen sped away at the Racetrack. And who knows where David and Ana are. The vehicle stops as we near it. A solo driver in a white SUV with raised suspension. The man has short black hair and an earring sparkles from his left earlobe. Gas cans and a shovel are strapped to his roof. He talks fast. All of the information I need tumbles out in one long breath.
Actually, the Racetrack is more like six miles from the junction. Twelve god-forsaken slow miles, round-trip. Zach, Ed and I resolve to see it.
The road to the Racetrack is the worst so far. It makes for slow travel, two miles per hour on the nice parts. I curse every rock that thunks the bottom of David’s already badly battered car.
We pull into the dirt Racetrack parking lot and see no rocks or their trails. As we search, a white vehicle crests a hill in the distance. The closer it gets, the more it looks like the van. Who is looking out for David? Mike and Helen dwell at the Racetrack barely long enough to stretch their legs. Their minds, too, are on David. We take off. Mike quickly loses me. The Van has far superior clearance, and he wrangles the machine with little regard for preservation. Back at the junction at last, I take a hard right onto the running route, which I hope will accommodate brisker travel. Not so. This damned road is no road at all. It is little more than a river-size area of baseball- size rocks, punctuated in places by hulking boulders. The pitch is steep and maintaining speed is a must. I curse, spit.
“Did we take a wrong turn?” “How could I have taken a wrong turn?” “There was no other way to go, right?” The questions rattle out. I am nervous. Ed, who is lying down in the back seat, a bandana covering is face, snoozes through the chaos.
At the top of the pass, a vehicle appears in the distance, a plume of dust billowing in its wake. One of ours? No. It has been a good long while since Mike and Helen sped away at the Racetrack. And who knows where David and Ana are. The vehicle stops as we near it. A solo driver in a white SUV with raised suspension. The man has short black hair and an earring sparkles from his left earlobe. Gas cans and a shovel are strapped to his roof. He talks fast. All of the information I need tumbles out in one long breath.
“Everybody’s fine. Saw the white van people, they’re fine. Your runners are fine. Gave them some water. Saw the other group. Coming the way I’m going. They’re fine. Everybody’s fine. You’re lagging a little, though. Well, you’ll be fine. Sandy up ahead. Thick-ass sand. Speed’s the key. Keep up the speed. You’ll be fine.” “So, you from around here?” I ask. “No,” the man says. “Live up in Sacramento. Just came
down for a drive.”
Fifteen minutes later, we spot our caravan. The sun is high, the sky a cloudless bright-blue temptation, stretching out and over the land as if hungry for it. Everyone is here. I bring the Subaru to a squeaking halt. Sarah and June run to greet me.
We find out later that, after passing Teakettle Junction, David and Ana bounded up the treacherous road without water, both support vehicles gone AWOL. They ran a good long way—about 10 to 13 miles—before crossing paths with the week- end driver from Sacramento. Ana, worried David could become dehydrated, hit the man up for water. The man obliged and delivered news that he’d recently passed the support vehicles. And Sarah tells me that as the California crew mulled which direction to take at a critical junction, the Sacramento man cruised up, pointed them in the right direction, and went on his way.