About 25 days into a cross-country, Atlantic - Pacific - Atlantic RV journey, I stayed up all night and drove across North Dakota, leaving Theodore Roosevelt National Park's Painted Canyon at sunset. Re-entering I-94 at Bismarck after refueling just past midnight, I was weaving between the lanes a little, with the wind pushing on the long sides of the camper as I tried to open the package of a snack, and I was pulled over by a cop who detained me - in his car with a barking, growling German Shepherd - for over an hour while he ran my background information, found nothing of concern, and sent me on my way without issuing any citation. I'd quit caffeine a week before this night, but with my heart racing from the fear of what the officer or his K-9 partner could have done with me, to me, I had no problem staying alert.
Then somewhere near Crane Lake National Wildlife Refuge, in an area of North Dakota where the roads run south to north and west to east, intersecting interminably in what must look like endless graph paper from space, I turned north too soon onto an unexpected, unpaved stretch. But figuring I would straight away reach the next road which I'd meant to intersect to continue heading east, and given that backing up seem as ill-advised as going forward, I carefully drove ahead. This road, however, did not follow the rules of the graph paper design I was anticipating. It turned and curved around the shores of lakes on either side for miles, the road becoming more narrow, the grass taller, and the mud deeper until I was stuck - quite predictably in retrospect, (Retrospective predictability is not a thing, by the way. I'm saying this in my professional capacity, both as a psychologist, and as a photographer. If it were a real thing, humans would rarely make stupid decisions!).
I got out to assess the condition, for me and the RV, with no cell service, no more than a few feet between either side of my mobile home office and the blue-black surface of wide lakes, and besides the almost trail which could certainly no longer legitimately be called a road, no signs of civilization for miles and miles. And I did what one should probably not do when stuck in a foot or so of mud in a vehicle that weighs a ton and is surrounded by water of uncertain depth and temperature: I gunned the engine. Repeatedly in drive, and then in reverse, and in drive again. and then I thought to steer just a tiny bit into the taller than I am grass to try to gain some traction, and somehow it worked.
If only finally moving forward meant I would soon hit that west to east highway I'd been aiming for, but no. Me and the RV followed that bare outline of what maybe a year before, or maybe ten, had been at least a tractor trail with street signs on either end, winding, and bumping, and spinning mud for what seemed about as long as I'd driven all night. When those wheels finally met hard pavement, I did the first wise thing I'd done for the last twelve hours and decided I'd best go ahead and pull aside, a little early, for my planned photo shoot of Comet Neowise, set to appear just before dawn.
Neowise was the first comet I'd ever seen, much less photographed, and it was a phenomenal sight. As often happens for me when I train my camera on something I'm most excited to see, like a rare, life bird, or a bull moose that's suddenly appeared mere feet from me, I flubbed the first few photos. and as Neowise exited the sky of my visual field, shivering, I got back into the camper which was tilted precariously on a narrow strip of highway shoulder, and I climbed up in the bunk over the cab, curled up, rolled down to the lowest corner of the mattress, and fell asleep.
Passing semi-trucks woke me periodically with their roar, the traumatized, rented RV trembling in response, and then my phone rang, as predicted, at 8:30 am Central Time, 9:30 am Eastern - my first client of the day, pandemic phone session, she from her parents' home in Connecticut, her senior year of college truncated, graduation canceled, the promised job offer rescinded, younger siblings annoyed she'd returned, as if she'd done so to spite them...and so the day began, again.
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