Book 3: The Centre

by Rick Beck

Chapter 4

Jurassic Park

The next morning I woke to the smell of the remaining sausage Carl had sizzling on the grill. I dragged myself out of the back of the van to stand next to him and watch his cooking technique. He was all smiles as he kept an eye on me. It was still difficult to believe that we were finally back together again.

As we were cleaning up, a trucker pulled up to use the Port-A-Potty. He stretched and took in the scenery.

"Mighty fine day," he said, ambling over toward our picnic table.

"Yes, sir," Carl agreed. "Cup of coffee? We've got plenty and we'll dump what we can't drink."

"Don't mind if I do. Fresh coffee is a treat I can't refuse."

"I got a big fat sausage over here we can't eat. Want me to slap it on a piece of bread for you?"

"That's a plan I can get my hands around," the happy trucker said, anxious to get at the sausage.

Carl kept his cup full of coffee as we watched him savor the last piece of sausage.

"Man, oh man, that hits the spot," he said, saving the last bite in favor of conversation. "You boys heading east, I suspect?"

"Yes, sir," Carl said.

"Let me give you a tip. Pass up Route 70 if you aren't in a hurry. Let me show you," he said, going to his truck and bringing back an atlas. "Here we are heading south on 15. You'll pass Route 70 and go south until you get right here. I think it's the first exit after 70. It's just an old mountain road but it's made for a rig like yours. Take that east and you'll climb up into the foothills, but then it drops back into a canyon.

"It's like going back 50,000 years, except there's a road cut through it. It's an amazing bit of real-estate. There's a small river, huge boulders, and the cliffs are straight up and down. If you follow that road to the first road you get to, turn back north; you go right back to Route 70, pretty as you please. It'll cost you an hour of travel time, but believe me, it'll take you back a ways. That canyon is straight out of Jurassic Park."

The sun was high in the sky by the time we cleaned up and packed the cooking gear. Carl was ready to go and we were on the road again, heading south.

"We going?" I asked. "To his canyon?"

"What do you think?" Carl asked.

"We're going," I smiled. "All right!"

It took a couple of hours for us to bypass Route 70 and following the trucker's instructions from there. It was ordinary enough climbing into the hills at a modest speed so we could enjoy the ride.

There really wasn't that much out of the ordinary, until we dropped sharply, ending up in a valley with sheer canyon walls towering over us. The change was dramatic. The road was put between peaks that blocked the sky. There were trees, rock falls, and then, appearing beside the road, a small river that hugged the south canyon wall.

The further we drove the more isolated it became with only the road to assure us man had been here before. As we came around a tight curve, Carl swung off between some huge rocks that bordered the road and parked under some trees next to the river.

When we got out of the van, the water caught our attention.

"Wow. I wish I had some fishing gear," Carl said. "I know a prime fishing hole when I see one. Why don't you go get us a couple of towels and a bar of soap."

We waded into the cold water. It was only deep enough to get in up to our waist, but you could see your feet. The water felt like velvet washing over our skin. With a slight bit of soap we had mounds of suds and we bathed without thought to time. Only at mid-day was the sun high enough to overcome the canyon walls and shine down on us. We lay on one of the big rocks and let the sun dry our skin.

By early afternoon, once we'd eaten a sandwich and grabbed a soda, we were back on the road and moving through the rest of the valley. It was five miles to the road we'd take north back to Route 70. The final two miles were more scrub grass and sandy soil, slanting down toward the secondary road. Looking back once we turned north, there was no sign of the valley. It was hidden from view and we'd never have known it was there had the trucker not guided us to it.

We passed no cars on the canyon road and no cars passed while we were parked. It was like our own private valley. It was another memory I'd save. I had no idea that rock and sky could have such an overwhelming impact on me.

Once back on Route 70 the scenery was rather ordinary. The scrub grass mixed in with yellowish red rock like we'd seen in southern Idaho and northern Utah. We drove at highway speed and Carl was happy getting some miles behind us. There was no more talk about what I'd do, after he reported to base, and I liked that. It was something we'd figure out as we went along. The longer I was with Carl the more at ease with him I became. It didn't seem like I could easily upset him and that was good.

"You see that?" Carl asked, looking out of the left side of the truck.

As we came upon an exit he took it. We turned on what looked like an unused road and turned left. He drove until he reached what had once been a rest area that had fallen into ill repair. As we drove to the farthest point on the road covered in sand, it led us to the Colorado River. It was rushing past with enthusiasm. Even the sound was impressive. It was huge and every bit as impressive as our valley but far different.

"Can you believe the scenery we've seen today?"

"No, it's remarkable," I agreed.

We ate there, and it was late enough that we spent the night at that old deserted rest area. The sound of that river rushing by didn't hinder my sleep. There was a soothing quality to it. We'd made another wonderful discovery on our trip, but early the next day we were on our way again.

Once we entered Colorado we stopped in Rifle to fill the cooler with food. Not long after leaving there we started to climb the Rocky Mountains. It took most of the day to finally get to the top. Carl had already located the road he wanted to use that would carry us south into New Mexico. As daylight was fading we pulled off to fix dinner before it was dark.

Carl backed up the van and opened the back doors on the Rockies. We were facing peak after peak with many valleys between them. It was the purple mountain's majesty for sure. We ate hamburgers, ate chips, and couldn't help but gasp now and then as the fading light lit one more spectacular view after another.

It was a great place for making love. We were about as high in the sky as you could get and the cool mountain air assured we would not sweat one bit no matter how hard we tried, and try we did. We'd had a most excellent day and fell asleep in one another's arms. It was the cherry on top of our day.

When I awoke at first light, Carl was beside me, hands tucked behind his head as he looked out on the slowly appearing landscape the dark gave up to the light. He put one big arm behind my shoulders and pulled me close.

"Where will you stay?"

It figured that he was still working on an old conversation. Making love was infinitely more enjoyable than explaining myself, which was never easy. I kissed his face and chest.

"I'll find a place," I said with a feigned confidence, kissing him some more for emphasis.

He didn't answer for some time but he was thinking about my answer and not my attempt to distract him.

"Oh, no you won't. You aren't going to do what you did last year. I won't have it, Billie Joe. I've still got a couple of thousand bucks in my bank account. It was for our apartment. You'll get an apartment. You will not find a place. Is that clear, babe?"

His remarks were spoken far too softly for me to ignore.

"That's a needless expense, Carl. I can find a place."

"I know you can. I'm not about to put up with you wiggling your butt to attract offers. Last year I said that I wouldn't stop you, because with me leaving, I had no right to tell you what to do. I haven't bitched-a-fit about it, but not again, Billie Joe. Am I making myself clear?"

"Quite clear, Carl," I said without resisting.

"We're together. You can go there to do what it is you think you need to do, but no fooling around. You're with me from here on out. That's my only condition. Take it or leave it."

"I have no interest in anyone but you. I won't let happen what happened last year. I was way younger and not very bright about the street. I'm well educated on the street scene now. I don't need to do anything with anyone but you. I have no desire for anyone but you. Let me see what I can arrange and if I need money, I'll call you."

"I'll get a joint account at home. You'll have checks if you need money. I'll give you enough cash when you leave to give you time to get situated. You can take the van with you."

"Nowhere to park in the city, Carl. The van would be a handicap. Once I'm there I can get where I need to go on foot or by bus."

"I'll sell the van once we get home. You'll have that money."

"What will you use for wheels?"

"I'll get my old man to drive me to Fort Gordon. Once I'm on base I can bus where I need to go."

"I kind of like this van. We've had some great times in this van. Memories that'll last a lifetime."

"We've only had it a few days, Billie Joe."

"It seems like we've been together forever."

"Not yet," he said, leaning to kiss me with no lingering doubts about us.

"We're heading for Alabama?" I asked.

"Yeah. Home! Where'd you think we were heading?"

"I had no idea. Didn't really matter as long as we were going there together. We could just keep driving for all I care."

"Don't give me any ideas," Carl said.

"Don't sell the van, Carl. We can take trips in it once I'm back home," I said, moving into his arms. "I really like this van."

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