O.k., so it didn’t work out with Sharon, unfortunately, for various reasons, including the fact that I wasn’t quite ready for a full time job again and this, I think, is part of what made her Mom hate me.

Me being white definitely did not help.

So I spent six weeks in the autumn of 1992 in Minneapolis with Sharon and her family while she was teaching at a local alternative high school for Native students.

But as I said, it just didn’t work, and so after the first snow, one week after Columbus Day 1992, I left her, and went on back to OKC to finish up my last class and try to get certified to teach.

I was quite poor at this point, as I hadn’t done any temping for over six months. But it was November and my birthday came up which helped, and then I spent a week doing data entry on the night shift for like $300 and my Dad gave me the old station wagon (which had of course been fixed since the Valentine’s Eve accident out by Lake Overholser) as sort of a birthday/graduation present.

Now, I had flown in to OKC when I moved there from San Francisco (by way of New York, as my brother was graduating from law school that same weekend I needed to get the fuck out of San Fran, and I also managed to squeeze in a quick trip down to Maryland with Jeff and Eddie Alarcon) so I had left all kinds of shit out on the west coast with my lady friend as I had planned on going back there after I got my Master’s and teaching certificate, which needless to say did not work out and I ended up getting Tim Kosloski to drive down to the city from his place in Sebastopol (after he got a new car and got his license back as he had been somewhat tipsy when he flipped his car that night) to pick up all my shit and keep it for me at his place up in Sebastopol where he lived with his two cats and the local stray giant coon cat Walter.

Alright, so I just get done working the night shift and so I’ve got a couple hundred bucks in pocket and the good old white station wagon, and I decide to finally drive myself back out to the west coast and pick up all my shit and bring it on back to Oklahoma, as it now becomes clear that whatever I’m doing, I’m not going to be moving back to San Francisco.

So being that I’m rather poor, I map out my trip to take me through Ft. Collins, Colorado as young Ken Shaughnessey, a fellow graduate of Taconic High School (Class of ’84, just like Mitch Caplan, whereas Jim Maddox, Jeff Faircloth, and Dudley were all ’83 like me) was then going to school at Colorado St. and I could stay over there without the $40-50 expense of getting a motel room.

So, I get out of Oklahoma City around 2 in the afternoon that first week of December in 1992 and head on up to Colorado, driving up I-35 through Wichita to Salina to pick up I-70 west through western Kansas and eastern Colorado, a tremendously beautiful area of rolling grassy hills although, on this trip, by the time I got out there it was dark.

I finally arrived in Ft. Collins around 4am and let myself in and laid down to sleep. Boy, it was cold that December, about 10 degrees in Ft. Collins and not much warmer in Wyoming where I was headed to pick up I-80 to wend my way across Utah and Nevada over the Sierras at Tahoe and down to the Golden Gate.

So we hang in Ft. Collins for a day or two, very short days now as the Winter Solstice is right around the bend, so the afternoons start winding into evening around 4:30 or so.

But anyway, so I head out to Wyoming on what seems to be a rather peaceful day weatherwise, however, I soon find out differently.

Everything’s fine all the way from Ft. Collins up to Cheyenne, Wy. (about 50 miles) so there I pick up I-80 and head on west and the shit hits the fan, or more specifically the snow hits the windshield.

West from the high plains of Cheyenne, Wy. is what’s known as the Medicine Bow Mountains, and I tell you, boy – on that day there was some bad medicine goin down for white boys in white station wagons.

There was about 4-5 inches of snow on the interstate which made me a little nervous, but what was worse were the 18-wheelers. Every one that blew past me at 70-75 mph (I was piking along at about 50) kicked up all that dry snow which was covering the road and produced a little 30-60 second white-out.

Literally.

This was no fucking joke or exaggeration, I could not see a damn thing for close to a minute every time a truck drove past me which was every five or ten minutes for about 2 or 3 hours. Never mind the fact that I was having trouble even seeing where the road was because of the 4-5 inches which covered the blacktop, and every time I drove past an exit and thought about getting off of this nightmare, there was at least eight inches of snow on the exit ramp so there was no guarantee I would even make it to the end of the ramp (or even that there would be a town or a gas station or anything to go to if I got off the interstate). So I stayed on the interstate.

Finally, after about three hours of this nervewracking misery, I come down out of the mountains into Rawlins, Wy. and get lunch at the local Subway.

I ask them about the weather but they don’t really know. They’re friendly enough and let me use their phone to call the highway dept. but that’s no help and so I head out back on the road.

Things are a little bit better, but then it starts snowing again, and by now it’s late afternoon and getting seriously dark so I make it to Rock Springs and get myself a room, warm and safe for the night, anyway.

After eating, I check out the TV and it turns out that California has been hit with blizzard conditions in the Sierras and they’ve SHUT DOWN Interstate 80 going through Lake Tahoe (this was the same December that that soldier and his wife and kid got lost in a blizzard going over the Sierras on their way to Idaho).

So now, there is a drastic shift in plans.

I pull out the handy-dandy road atlas to check out my options.

Well, it looks like I can head down I-15 from Salt Lake City through Vegas into the California desert, and then turn north up to San Francisco.

So, there it is, only my cash is very low, as I had planned on getting Tim to cash a check for me when I got out to San Fran.

So I lie there calculating distances and gas mileage and gas prices versus the money I’ve got in pocket, and I realize that it’s going to be VERY CLOSE. But, from my vantage point in southwestern Wyoming, I really don’t have much of a choice.

(Down East, Maine September 1998)

Advertisements