One time I got irritated at my nieces, which I don’t often do, when they started to complain about how bored they were at a Fourth of July parade that we’d waited a long time to see. They wanted to go back to the house and use their tablets and phones. I’d ended up sounding like an old man when I informed them that back in my day all we had was the parade. We waited all year for it. We liked it no matter what.
Now the Helldorado Days Parade was making its way down the street, and I was excited as a boy would be back when I grew up. What were the chances of randomly rolling into town on the only day of the year they’d be out celebrating? I knew it was destined to be, but didn’t know why. Here came the Board of Directors, holding a sign, kick-stepping to the music. Next was a repertory company, Code of the West. I knew that mountain man from somewhere.
Behind him came Wyatt Earp, next to a woman in bloomers swinging a baseball bat. Who was that behind them? Another mountain man, this one with a rifle, five cowboys, a US Marshall.
Next came a coven of witches, one really hot one, twirling brooms. Then a gang of motorcycle banditos. Right behind them, John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn, bellowing out a greeting to the crowd. The Calvary riders came right behind him, then the Shriners in their tiny cars, whizzing around in circles. Another group of riders brought up the rear. Wow. What excitement.
There would be activities all day long, but I’d been there for the best of it. I went to look for the car and then saw it was over four hundred miles to Joshua Tree. I wouldn’t be making it that far. On the outskirts of town was the Boothill Graveyard. When I saw they were charging an entrance fee I almost blew it off and even got in the car, but then turned back.
All of these people parading down the street. Me, in the Mountain Bluebird, racing against the wind. What is our final destination? Where are we all going? I got out and began walking past the rock piles, cactus, and wooden headstones. There were the three cowboys who’d been killed in the Shootout at the OK Corral. Were they even bones anymore or just dust? Unlike most of the others buried there, at least they had a story that had outlived them, if that’s any consolation.
Florentino. Chas Helm. Frank Bowles. George Johnson, who’d been hung by mistake. Who were they? Where were they now?
I got back in the car and started to drive. Most of the fun was over, but what a way to ring things out. The car was due back in two days. There was some cleaning up and possibly a little explaining to do. I took the 80 to the 10 and then passed Tucson on my way to Phoenix. Some major work on the freeway was underway. It was entirely shut down.
If I didn’t have Karen from Google Maps to guide me through the obstructions, I would’ve been lost. It had taken the three of us to make the trip happen, the car, the phone, and me. When it comes to technology, you have to take the good with the bad. We live in different times, there is not as much opportunity for physical exploration on the planet, and yet there is still space, other planets, new heroes, new legends, new dreams.
By the time I got to Blythe, it was impossible to drive any further. The Colorado River seemed like a good place to spend my final night. Camping? No way. Not tonight. This was a celebration. I got a room for forty dollars at the Relax Inn, then walked over to Steaks and Cakes to see what else they had on the menu. Why bother, actually. Steak and cake were perfect. The Steelers were playing the Seahawks. What a way to bring things home.