Monday, August 18, 2014
The brim of the storm stretched from horizon to horizon. Its shadow changed the bright, August afternoon into an eerie dusk.
A gray curtain of rain swept dust in front of it as the storm advanced across the open valley.
This was going to big one I thought to myself as I pressed on the accelerator in the hope of delaying our meeting, of running just a little ahead of the growing monster.
The gray mass grew larger and larger in the mirror as the shadow of the storm overtook me.
I was headed south from Show Low toward the Salt River Canyon in the central Arizona highlands. The steep grades covered with runoff would make descending hazardous. The low visibility would make the going slow.
I did not know how bad it was going to get.
When the storm hit, the world changed. Streaks of lightning lit the clouds, stabbed at the ridges. There was no radio in the area, but even if there were, I could not hear it for the roar of rain on the roof, the wind. Hail began drumming on the roof and windshield. Some of the stones were about an inch in diameter and I thought the windshield was going to break, that the steel roof and hood would be pocked with dents.
Nothing to do about it. No place to hide.
The road cuts ran with chocolate water falls. Boulders fell into the road and I had to swerve to avoid them. Rivulets ran brown and thick with mud across the road. Wiper blades slapped furiously but were unable to keep up with the buckets of water pouring on the windshield. The little car hydroplaned a few times. I had to slow and to put the flashers on.
I was one of the few who kept driving. A copper ingot-hauling semi kept a good pace on the downhills and I used his lights as a guide. Cars that had passed me near Show Low when the weather was clear were now huddling in pull-outs with hazard lights blinking.
Fair weather speeders in their monster trucks knew better than to keep going.
The din and darkness lasted from the Mogollon Rim down to south of Oracle, easily the longest storm I have ever driven through in Arizona.
Squalls of hail and wind taunted me on the steep, narrow, winding highway past Globe. Just when it seemed to let up, it started again, with greater fury.
I just kept going.
Then, I came out the other side. Pusch Ridge north of Tucson was lit with the setting sun.
It was hot, muggy, quiet, and lovely.
Behind me, the storm was petering out, but still dark gray, almost purple in its waning threat.
Cocky sportsmen in their lifted pick-ups headed up the hill toward the Gila River. I hoped they would get a taste of the natural intensity I had been through. They would not tail gate so much if they did.
I stopped for gas next to a guy with a mini van. He seemed so distracted, so complacent. He had no idea what was on the other side of the ridge, that there were landslides, flash floods, deafening wind.
He didn't know and he didn't care.
He could not see into my mind, just as I could not see into his.
So much of this worldly experience lies hidden from view, from those who pass so close we can feel their breath.
No words could convey the ringing still in my ears, the adrenaline still pumping through my veins.