pages fly away 76

Even after driving relentlessly for over five weeks now, really sixteen-hour days behind the wheel, it was still hard to sleep in my hotel bed in Escalante.  I was dizzy and my head was spinning, but I was still ready to jump up and hop in the car again as soon as the smallest light of day appeared at the window.  In the meantime, I lay in bed and watched old TV shows, Mayberry RFD, Gomer Pyle, Green Acres.  Finally, I slept for a few hours with the sound turned all the way down.

It was an hour to Bryce Canyon and the morning was cold, like winter cold.  I needed to warm up the engine before I drove the car, and then use the heater for the first twenty minutes.  I was on the 12, heading west.  When I was close to the park, I headed south on the 63.  There was no one ahead of me at the entrance, and again my National Park Pass proved gold. 

There was just one place I wanted to get to and that was Sunset Point.  The sign in the parking lot was frosted over, and I was almost right on time to see the sun rise in the east and begin to light up the pinnacles.  Since I was there, I also drove down to Inspiration Point and began to walk up to the viewpoint.  It was so cold that my fingers and toes burned.  I hurried back to the Mountain Bluebird, and wheeled out of the parking lot.

The next destination was Zion National Park, which was an hour and a half from Bryce.  I got back on the 12 west and then took the 89 south.  On the way I passed through a natural rock tunnel, and when I reached the Mt Caramel Junction, I stopped at the White Mountain Trading Post.  It is a colorful place. 

There was a wooden Indian at the door and a mural on the side depicting a buffalo hunt.  On another wall were big-horn sheep, high on a canyon wall.  Next to it was a grouping of forest animals, deer, wild turkey, a racoon, a skunk, a coyote.  A little way off was a mountain lion in a tree.  The back wall featured a cowboy and Indian, sitting next to each other on a bunch, mad-dogging each other beneath a sign advertising Bud Light.

When I got to Zion, there were buffalo at the entrance, as well as two tipis, and a herd of white-tail deer that went bounding across the road in front of me.  Once inside, I drove straight through as if it were just one long roller-coaster ride.  I’d been there before, and on this day didn’t want to stand around waiting for a shuttle bus, which you need to do if you want to see certain sections of the park. 

There were some long tunnels, a few sections of road where you felt like you were in a raft going down rapids.  Before I knew it, the ride was over.  The cars waiting to get into the park from the other side stretched a mile along.  Again, I seemed to be skimming over, under, and around most every difficulty, and really couldn’t take any of the credit.  Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t.  I’d needed this trip to work out and was beyond grateful for all the blessings that had come my way.

Outside of Zion, I stopped at the Virgin Trading Post to take a look around.  There was a small-scale Old West town out front.  By now I’d been through a dozen trading posts.  I still got a kick out of them.  They all smelled the same, like moccasin leather and hard candy.  What did we have here?  A coiled rattlesnake in a glass snake.  An Indian mannequin with a braid and a badge on his vest.  By the door of the cafeteria were a wooden cowboy and wooden Indian standing sentry.  Say hello to Pappy the Fortune Teller, with a deck of cards and bag of gold in front of him.  There on a rack were postcards of all the Old West legends we’d come to know and love so well. 

In a backroom there was a life-sized cutout of John Wayne, one of the greatest cowboy heroes of all, and right next to him, the Lone Ranger and Tonto.  Now that was a strange couple, a masked vigilante who roamed the countryside with his trusty Indian companion, solving crimes and righting wrongs.  Clayton Moore had played the Lone Ranger in the old TV series and Jay Silverheels was Tonto. 

One story that I’ve been led to believe is true is that long after his prime, Clayton Moore continued making public appearances as the Lone Ranger.  When the studio that owned the rights to the character sued to stop him, he switched over from the black mask to a pair of dark sunglasses and kept showing up everywhere.  That I would’ve paid to see.  You can’t keep a good man down.

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