On Day 9 of our epic westward adventure, we left Las Vegas, Nevada en route to Death Valley National Park. This might be weird, but growing up on the east coast in the land of more than enough humidity (Maryland) and living now in the land of hot and definitely more than enough humidity (Georgia), I have always wondered what it really feels like when it's 120 degrees and dry. Strange as it sounds, I was ready to leave Vegas and experience Death Valley. (Also, news flash, I'm boring.)
The Southwest is an interesting place. My world is small and having truly experienced living in only Maryland and Georgia, I don't have much to which I can compare. That said, when I moved from Maryland to Georgia, I was awed by the amount of empty space in between cities and towns down here. Miles and miles of pine trees and farmland fill in the expanse between "metro areas" (if you can call them that).
Then, I went west.
Doesn't even compare.
I have always complained about the boring drive between Macon and my in-law's exit on I-16 here in Georgia. It's 77 interstate miles, along which we can stop about halfway for a bite if need be at Cracker Barrel, Longhorn Steakhouse, McDonald's, Zaxby's, Ruby Tuesday, Arby's, Wendy's, Burger King, Subway, and a number of other fine dining establishments. We pass a rest stop and there is gas at just about every exit if we needed to stop for it. We literally drove a stretch of legitimate interstate in Utah a few days prior, where for 110 miles there were two exits and not one single toilet or gas station. You can forget grabbing a bite to eat. Rocked my world.
So, as we headed out of Vegas, we considered somewhat correctly that the options for dining west of the city might not be plentiful. We landed in the city of Pahrump, NV around lunchtime, and counted our blessings that we could at least grab some Burger King. 20 nuggets, a few burgers and fries, and thirty minutes on the playground later we loaded up the trusty van and noted that our windshield was totally caked with giant, desert bug guts. To my father's chagrin, I'm sure, we had neglected to top off that particular fluid before we left, and so our windshield washer fluid reservoir was empty. No fear! There was a brand new Dollar General on the way out of town.
I ran in and grabbed a gallon of fluid and a few other random roadtrip essentials, the collection of which was totally cart-worthy, but I didn't want to tempt myself into buying more items with cart space so I precariously toted my items in just my arms. I walked up to the register and saw a line about five people deep. The first customer was attempting some sort of extreme couponing feat, it appeared, and I imagined I'd be standing there for a while. In true Jennie style, I started checking out the purchases of the guy in front of me - neon pink posterboard, can of spray paint, random snacks, garden hose nozzle. I daydreamed that he was probably about to have a yard sale. And Lord knows that garden hose nozzle was going to get a workout at his desert home where he was undoubtedly trying to grow flowers in a flower box. I wondered if he noticed my random collection of Sunny D, granola bars, boxer briefs, and washer fluid and if he was imagining a scenario in which I might use all of those things. (Does everyone make up stories about strangers? Or just me?) He was wearing shorts, a floral Hawaiian shirt, and one of those fishermans hats that ties under your chin. His face was scruffy with salt and pepper whiskers and he had lots of wrinkles around his eyes, those lines I affectionately refer to as smile lines.
As I was observing all of this, the song playing overhead ended and "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" came on. It only took about 20 seconds for the guy to start all out getting down. Eighteen inches in front of me, this dude was dancing like no one was watching right there in Dollar General. I was rendered speechless. It was awesome and awkward. I was both inspired and embarrassed. As I sat there not sure if it was rude to keep watching or more rude not to, it occurred to me that some day, some day, I want to be so carefree that if the mood strikes me to dance in the Dollar General checkout line, I want to be brave enough to do it.
That courageous, carefree dude impacted me that day. I mean, really, what's stopping me? What the people in line behind me that I'll likely never see again will think of me? What if they walk away inspired to do the same? What's the worst that could happen? They laugh at me? Big deal, right? That man didn't care what I thought. The only thing worrying about what other people think gets you is a big load of missed opportunities. Not caring means you get more out of life. He was living that moment to its fullest.
I left that place with a smile on my face. This was just the beginning of one of my favorite days on the entire trip. I like to think that smile-line streaked man who danced his tush off was a large part of that.
If only I could find him and send him some brownies.
More to come, like what Death Valley actually felt like - because when you get inspired, words flow.
A BREAK IN THE ACTION
5 months ago