Hope and I drove across Texas for what seemed like and eternity. We passed through El Paso and headed north through a border security check point and into New Mexico.
We spent the night at Reed's Lodge in Winslow Arizona. This is the same town with the corner and the girl with a flat bed Ford in the Eagles song. The girl at the counter working the late shift was playing some songs on a small bodied six string classical guitar. Upon request she sang us a song and sent us to bed.
The next morning we headed out to meet Hope's uncle Paul at their family lodge. Her Aunt sat us down served us pancakes and crispy turkey bacon. Her uncle's dogs circled our feet waiting for something to slip off our plates. Hope caught up with her little cousins and Aunt and Uncle. They took Hope for a quick ride on some go carts down the street. I stayed back and played mandolin and talked politics with her Uncle Paul. After a quick visit, we took off to her other uncle's cabin about 2 hours away, in the mountains near Flagstaff. At around 5 or so, I pulled my Chevy down a long dirt road. Dust filled the air behind us as we searched for Uncle Chuck's drive way.
After a little catching up, Chuck offered to take me for a ride on his quad, and asked me if I would be interested in doing some shooting as well. He calls these trips "the old ride and shoot". Basically you go riding on quads down dirt trails and shoot hand guns and rifles. During this particular ride and shoot he brought a 45., a 22., and a duffel bag full of ammo. Hope took pictures as we geared up and got the quads ready. My legs straddled the black plastic seat as I put my hands on the rubber handles. Turned the key and revved the engine to get it started. Black smoke poured from the exhaust and the quad began to vibrate. Soon after we were flying down his street sending up dirt and gravel into the Arizona atmosphere. We stopped at the paved road at the end of his dirt street and I looked at Chuck to find out what to do next. Don't worry, they are street legal he barked over the engine. Chuck took off going about 50mph. I pulled out soon after and did my best to stay with him. Wind pressed the aviators I was wearing against my face as the trees whizzed by. I crossed my fingers hoping Chuck didn't accidentally kick up a rock at my fully exposed head. Finally we pulled off the road safely and hit some unpaved trails at a more reasonable speed.
After about an hour or so of splashing through mud puddles, nearly tipping the quad, and getting dusted in the face, we stopped at a canyon. My hands were a bit chewed up and I could still feel my brain rattling around in my head. Somehow, I still felt great. Chuck stepped to the edge of the canyon and looked down. He then went to work getting the guns ready for the second half of "the old ride and shoot". I shoved some earplugs into my ears and loaded the 45. We fired round after round into this abandoned canyon aiming a various inanimate objects. It was sorta theraputic in a way.
When we were absolutely sure there were no threats to life and limb in the canyon, we rode off. Chuck then took me to a long abandoned Ghost town about 30 miles up the trail. The buildings looked decrepit and broken down. The only buildings that were fully intact were a stable and one old outhouse that I think had been recently used. The buildings looked like they could have been from the depression era. We got back covered in drit (somehow I was way dirtier than Chuck) and had a Sopranos marathon. I was content with my spot on the couch and the beer in my hand. The ride and shoot was exausting. It really does a number on your body.
Chuck had to be back to work the next morning so we all made it a relatively early night. We said our goodbyes in the morning and finally left at about 7am. Our next stop was the Mojave desert in Southern California. We were going to camp in Joshua tree the next night. Thanks again to Paul and family, Chuck, Jackie, girl from Reed's Lodge, and the roadrunner that made me swurve on highway 62.