If you, like us, are regular listeners to NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!” then you’ll be familiar with the format: I’m going to tell you three stories, and you can guess which one is true:
1) Jen and Colin choose the unhurried, nostalgic Route 66 to head homeward. Just west of the Mojave, they pull off the road for the night along a dirt road, only to discover that it’s deep sand, and they’re close to stuck. They have plenty of options before panicking (the Toyota Tacoma with off-road package even has a “mogul” setting, for goodness sake), but while they’re walking potential paths to assess options, Jen nearly steps on a rattlesnake. Fortunately it rattles a warning and slithers the other way. Wow, that was close… Jen and Colin finally get the truck and trailer out, but even moving a few hundred feet away for the night, they’re sill in the rattlesnake’s territory (a couple acres), so they put on stiff boots, give Katie a VERY short leash to potty, and keep outside action to a minimum till morning. In the morning they see the snake again, and comment to one another that it looks wonderfully healthy. Jen takes pictures.
2) Jen and Colin decide to stop for a day of watersports at Lake Havasu City, AZ, crossing the London Bridge to get there and hanging out with Colin’s niece, who has scored a summer job at a beach shack renting out kayaks, boats, and water bicycles. Jen speaks French with her boss, the beach shack owner, a world class surfer from Paris, who wears sunglasses lined with razzle-dazzle diamonte. The niece’s whole family comes down to join them and they all splash the day away before Jen, Colin, and Katie boondock in a gorgeous canyon on BLM land just out of town. In the morning while packing up, Jen steps out of the trailer and spooks a 5-inch scorpion from nearly underfoot. It takes cover under the truck. Jen and Colin spend an extra 30 minutes figuring out where it is (under the truck tire), carefully moving the truck and camper forward and away so as not to squish the scorpion as it runs, and finally escorting it to a shady rock so it won’t get eaten; this part of the process takes 7 minutes, as this particular scorpion keeps passing up perfectly suitable hidey spots, evidently having missed a class in scorpion school about seeking appropriate shade. Jen takes pictures.
3) Colin, Jen, and Katie spend the night in the lava fields north of Flagstaff, hiking through deep paths of asphalt-like regolith. They have one last great campfire in the Solo Stove and even film a minute of it to loop at home on the iPad when they have their good friends (the ones who recommended vodka in the water as hack antifreeze) over for National Parks Monopoly and s’mores. The next day, They explore the area around Sunset Crater and read how this cinder cone volcano is less than 1000 years old, which is – so the NPS sign helpfully points out – “younger than paper money or Romanesque architecture.” Jen takes special note of these standard measures for chronology. They hit the road again to pass respectfully quickly through Navajo and Ute lands. Somewhere along the way that day, Katie picks up a tick. Jen, who is telepathically connected to her little dog, reaches back during the drive and decides, for no clear reason, to do a body check on her. Feels a funky bump she doesn’t recognize. Sees it’s a tick, “Stop the truck!!!” Jen and Colin leap out roadside, whip out their new tick remover (which they acquired after the last tick, in 2017 in Washington) and get to work coaxing the critter out of her. It must not have been there long (see telepathy comment), because it comes out quickly, body still flat and head attached. We tuck our pants into our socks the rest of the trip. Jen is so pleased not to have just about lost her head this time, that she forgets to take pictures.
If you guessed “all three” then you’d be right. Leave me a comment here and I’ll record a message in my voice for your home answering machine.