Today, I hand you a helmet. You can imagine it any color, put an imaginary lightning bolt graphic down the sides, whatever you need to make you look "cool," but fasten it tight under your chin and hop on back of "Odie," my bright yellow 4-wheeler. I'm taking you for a ride.
I have already tucked my hair inside one of my many colorful bandannas (I'll choose my lime green one for tonight's story) and a bright pink one across my nose. I'm a "paisley bandit." I slide my sunglasses on and press my Skull Candy earphones into my ear canals (I'm testing the promise of deafness, but figure with all the teenagers rocking out to bass sounds blasting in their delicate auditory orifices, "sign language" will be the universal language in the very near future, regardless of where your feet are planted on the globe). Once I've picked my playlist and adjusted the volume, I tuck my electronic oxygen tank inside my bra. No chance of it falling out, trust me.
At this point, I'm reading lips. If you had something important to say, you should have spoke up earlier. I pull my goggles over my sun glasses, tugging on my fabric mask until the world clears from the steamy fog. By now people in nearby camps are wondering if I'm going on a ride or planning a terrorist attack. If I ease my hoodie over my fabric menagerie, I could pass for a very flamboyant uni-bomber.
We start down the trail. Winter has not been kind to the dirt paths, now covered with large boulders that rolled off the hillside. I swerve a couple of times to miss the large holes (I do believe I saw a Volkswagen deep inside one) nearly decapitating you with the downed pine tree jutting over the road. Overhead, aspen trees weighed down with heavy snows, form a shimmery canopy. Again, duck!
The odometer says we've traversed approximately 10 miles of dirt, taking us deep into the quiet forest. The pines are thick, hiding any predators or curious onlookers with four legs and paws. Freeze. I probably should have mentioned I am a magnet for mountain lions. Seldom do I ride a trail, dirt or snow, without finding those large cat paw prints crossing my path on the way back and lining the sides of the road. When I say I feel like I'm being "watched," I usually am.
Potty break you say? You sure do walk funny over to those bushes. Guess I should have kept my "kitty tales" until after we were safely back in camp...not in the middle of nowhere. Relax. I sing along to my iPod. Trust me, the off key notes resounding from my larynx will frighten away any beast. Ask my kids. How degrading is it to have your six year old ask you not to sing to the radio, or refuse to listen to you warble a lullaby? Seriously.
As we ride along, taking in the smell of balsam pines and cedar trees, watching the puffy clouds dot the cornflower blue sky (in the mountains we watch clouds very carefully - fluffy turns frightening within minutes. Guess you don't want to hear my lightning stories at this point, either), we are in awe of nature and the beauty our eyes are feasting on.
Rounding a bend in the trail we come upon a most peculiar sight. Something completely out of place, like purple carpeting in an orange room. It's not meant to be here in the woods. In fact, I despise the fact it has invaded the pristine surroundings. Isn't it enough that I have to look at several every day? Apparently not, because there it sits. It's smaller, perhaps an "offspring" from the larger variety, but every bit as demanding in its triangular border. It even sits close to the ground in a condescending manner. But the words are the same.
That's right. Even in the middle of nowhere, on a trail barely 4 feet wide, there is "road work ahead." Sure enough a few feet down the road, a little mini-grader is digging and moving dark loam into a mound at the base of a hill that heads straight to Heaven. There is no doubt this is my "tax dollars at work," or that the 5 men clad in bright orange vests and reflector stripes worked for the government. One man ran the mini-ex, one man leaned on a hand shovel near the mound, and the other three animated gentlemen gestured with their arms and hands as if playing charades. Maybe they were. "Two words. Single syllables. Rhymes with 'rake mime'." Got it? Break time. Yeah, they looked like they'd worked up a sweat. When I realized they were making a large berm to prevent off road vehicles from climbing the hill, flashbacks of the huge holes, enormous boulders, and downed trees waiting to spear you, entered my mind.
I wanted to go over and shout: "Hey, there's a family of ten inside an RV that dropped out of sight in one of the holes back there. Maybe you could use some of that dirt to fill in the hole and bury their screams, instead of creating what will surely become a launching point for some thrill seeker on a dirt bike, landing him higher on the hill."
Instead, I pass by, deep scowl covered in bandanna print, with my middle finger twitching inside my riding glove. Honestly, a "Road Work Ahead" sign in the middle of the woods?
The fact is that wherever I drive, I'm plagued by orange triangles, orange barrels, orange cones, flashing orange arrows, and orange vests (although I must confess to seeing some serious "guy candy" holding stop signs). By the end of summer, I've had a gut full of road construction.
There are a couple of stretches of I-15 heading northward that are test strips for 80 MPH speed limits. This is America's comparison to Europe's autobahn. This is also where I can make up for lost time, allowing for that 4.9 over cushion. However, when I crest the ridge, my Mazda 3 engine squealing with excitement, my heart stops. Down the steep grade is a perfect line of orange barrels, narrowing the two-lane highway to one lane barely wide enough to hold a Mini Cooper, let alone a semi hauling three trailers....which is in front of me.
I eye the line of cars I'm going to need to pass in order to get in front of the FEDEX train. Two Ryder moving vans (there should be a law that you can't move and tow a car except during the middle of the night or wee hours of the morning), a long, over-priced RV towing a monstrous boat (I shall pause to covet as I pass by), two ya-da ya-da ordinary cars, and one "floating island." A "Q-Tip" (earlier Wacky Wednesday blog defines q-tips) has ventured onto the interstate. This will be a true test of my driving ability.
I gun it, my eyes scanning the road ahead and grassy dividers for anything parked on the side or under a tree...with a light bar attached to the roof. I pass the ya-da ya-da cars with ease, closing in on the second Ryder moving van. Ahead I see the tiny orange banner across a white sign - one I will not be able to read until I'm within inches because I'm too vain to acknowledge I need glasses 24-7, but I recognize it as the written warning that fines will be ten times worse, and possibly a life prison sentence if I speed in a construction zone. That makes my quest more urgent.
I'm now midway in the length of the RV. I make a low judgement call to justify my seething jealousy. They've got to do something illegal for a living. As I pull ahead of the custom paint job, I see the arrows flashing ahead, mentally pushing me into the right lane. But I haven't passed FEDEX! The line of orange I swear stretched to the Canadian border. If I didn't pass the "overnight guarantee," I would be stuck behind him for miles.
I apologize to Mags (my car) but explain it may be necessary to check out the red danger zone on the tachometer in order to accomplish my goal. She agrees and gladly opens up. We're almost there. I think I saw the 55 MPH sign flash by, but I only have seconds before I'll slam a orange barrel. Then I see it. The sneaky bastard. Tucked in the deep grass. A beautiful blue color and decorated quite nicely with a secret row of lights in the back window. I slip behind the FEDEX truck, narrowly missing the Q-Tip holding up the rest of the traffic on my behalf, and yell at Mags to slow down. She does, immediately.
I coast close to the bumper of the FEDEX truck, counting the rivets in it's chrome bumper while feeling the paint on my hood bubble slightly, under the sudden change in atmospheric pressure. I slowly glide by the "county mounty" not making eye contact and of course, singing away to the radio. He must have heard me, because all he did was wag a warning with his finger from his steering wheel (and yes, it was probably "the" finger). Besides, he'd have to maneuver the orange barriers, then break the speed limit, resulting in a heavy fine...which of course, I would point out. "Cleavage" can no longer get me out of a ticket, so I have to be clever, or have a good joke I can wager in exchange for a warning citation.
I spend the next 45 minutes racing between 20 and 25 MPH. Even "Gramps" is tailgating me as if I could actually push the FEDEX truck faster.
Now you understand why I shuddered when I saw the "Road Work Ahead" sign encroach on my slice of heaven on earth. Next there will be little "heavy fine" warnings, tiny flashing arrow signs, and somewhere on the trail, hidden behind a tree, robo-cop will be waiting for me. The reality I'm trying to escape will follow like an annoying dark shadow, forcing me to "follow and obey".... or else.