Notes on (barely) reaching new heights
Sometimes, no matter how old you are, you learn new and interesting things about yourself. Traveling all over the country has put me in positions and places I would have never experienced otherwise, so even at the ripe old age of 44, I’m still learning new oddities about my own personality.
My husband was determined that I would make it all the way across the United States this trip. When I was five, my family took a trip to Mesa, Ariz., from Atlanta, and that’s as far as I had ever been West. This trip we started in Ohio and made our way to Houston, backtracked to Baton Rouge, La., and crossed again to Phoenix, where we had to stop for a reset. George knows Phoenix well — he was actually living there when we met. We decided to go out and explore and see the sights around the area. I was also treated to my first In and Out burger, which was delicious.
Apparently, when he lived out West, he was crazy as hell — he took me to a mountain and told me we were going to climb it, just like he used to. I’ve mentioned before that I’m from Georgia and the highest mountain I had ever actually walked on or around was Stone Mountain, and this didn’t look anything like Stone Mountain. This was a for-real mountain, with craggy peaks and rocks and holes full of unspeakable varmints. I was all for trying something new — that’s kind of what this whole trucking experience is about — so I followed him out of the truck and toward the stratosphere.
At the base of the mountain began a nice little path, cut clear of brush and well-worn. I started feeling much better about this whole thing when I saw the path. My good feelings faded when I realized my husband was walking away from the path.
“Hey, aren’t we taking the path?”
“That’s a mountain-bike path. We’re liable to get run over if we take that one.”
A mountain-bike path on a mountain should make perfect sense, but I absolutely could not wrap my mind around riding something you have to balance on up a steep incline. I am not a mountain biker, and unless zombies are chasing me at a high rate of speed up the side of a mountain, I doubt I ever will be.
We made our way for a few minutes up pretty easy terrain. I quit looking at the ground about two minutes into the trek, because there were more holes to hide snakes, scorpions and rabid wombats than I could count. I became increasingly nervous as the climb got steeper.
“How far up are we going?”
“To the top.”
He pointed to a plateau about nine thousand feet in the sky. I was trying really hard to be cool, but the uncontrollable shaking had set in at about a hundred feet off the ground and I was decidedly not enjoying this new experience.
“I don’t think I’m going to make it. I have a lot of work to do. Maybe next time.”
“Come on, babe. I won’t let you fall.”
He has said the magic word. Fall. Note to anyone out there who is taking someone mountain climbing for the first time: DO NOT SAY THE WORD FALL.
I tried to trooper through, but when my feet started slipping and the ground we were covering became a ninety degree angle, I sat my butt firmly upon it and refused to move another inch. George had made it to a little flat spot about ten feet above me.
“Come on up here, we can watch the sunset over Phoenix and we’ll go back down.”
“In the dark!?”
“We’ve got time to get down before it gets really dark.”
“When the sun sets it’s dark.”
“Babe, you made it this far. Get up here and let me take some pictures.”
He helped hoist me up and I immediately became certain I was going to plummet to my death. I was even more scared that he would fall and leave me frozen in the sky for rabid wombats to feast on my bones. I have never been so uncontrollably afraid in my life. This made no sense to me — we had a tree service business years ago and I climbed big ol’ trees (with a chainsaw attached to my belt) and had never experienced this type of fear.
I must have been really quiet (definitely a sign that I’m either dead or in deep thought), because he asked me repeatedly if I was OK. I planted my ass firmly on the ground and refused to move any further.
“Just take the damn pictures and let’s get down from this death trap.”
“Nice. You go on and laugh your fool head off. It’ll be sooo hilarious when I break every bone in my body bouncing down the side of this monolith.”
“I’m sorry, but if you could see your face you’d know why I’m laughing.”
“Yes, because seeing your wife in mortal danger is completely funny.”
“You’re not in mortal danger. We’re not even 200 feet up. If your little eyebrows get any higher on your forehead, they’re going to disappear.”
“I’m leaving. Enjoy your traction.”
“Hang on, hang on. Just look out over this way. The lights are coming on. It’s really pretty.”
I managed to look where he was pointing and yes, it was pretty, but not pretty enough to make me forget I was going to piss my pants from fear. He took eleven million pictures (that may be a slight exaggeration, but it seemed like that many) and we started down. I opted to crab-crawl, taking my chances on touching a scorpion or sticking my hand into a wombat hole for the comfort of feeling as much of the surface of the earth against my body as I could. Little children were cartwheeling down the side close to us and some complete idiot was riding a bike down. I didn’t let these unnatural fruitcakes deter my crawl. I was going to make it all the way to the bottom without killing myself, and pride was not a consideration. Nine hours (15 minutes in not-paralyzed-by-fear time) later, we made it back to the truck and he was still laughing at me.
“I learned something new about you today. After 17 years, I learned something I didn’t know.”
“Believe me, it was a revelation to me too. It’s a damn good thing I don’t have to climb up anything to eat. I’d starve to death.”
“You did good, babe. And the pictures are priceless.”
“Whatever. Could you please stop laughing long enough to drive us back to somewhere flat?”