A Stopoff in Benson, Arizona

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Pilot Truck Stop State Hwy 99, exit 39, Bakersfield, California, Dec 4.

The trip to get here presented some spectacular vistas of haunting majesty.  Photography cannot do them justice in the hands of the most capable professional.  My own efforts are sporadic at best – blind snapshots out the window of my 40 ton vehicle, hurtling through space at 27.7 meters per second (Do the math!).

So, with that teaser, I’ll start by making excuses why I didn’t start until later.

Louisiana was overcast and drab and not photogenic.  The weather was actually hazardous.  As I was on the countdown to launch from the shipper, an old-style Civil Defense Siren filled me with Cold War nostalgia.  These things were a constant of life in the 60’s and 70’s.  If you heard one, it was either Friday at Noon (the weekly test) or Armageddon.

They were used not only for Nuclear air raid alerts, but also for severe storm warnings.  The alarm I heard in Natchitoches was the latter and followed by a public address (loudspeaker) warning to take shelter immediately.  Apparently a tornado was nearby.  Overall, an exciting start to my first trip after my home break.  As for shelter, I reckoned that I was safer than most.  You won’t see a loaded eighteen-wheeler flying around the funnel cloud.  Radio and radar reports on the iPhone soon showed a clearing, so I launched.

The opportunity to grab photos did not happen until Arizona.

Loves Truck Stop Midlothian, Texas, Dec 7.

Don’t you love the name of this place?  “Midlothian” – it sounds very Tolkienesque, does it not?

I don’t snap pictures out the windshield lightly.  This is a big lumbering mass of vehicle and it requires much respect.  I do try to pick moments where I am on a straightaway and no other vehicles are around and the scenery is stunning enough to merit the effort.  Even so, you would be surprised at the number of resulting images that just look out of the computer screen later and ask me “What on Earth led you to make the considerable effort to take such a mundane looking photo?”

Somehow, the Majesty that so moved me frequently just does not come through in the resulting graphic.  I do not exaggerate when I say that I delete five or six for every one I save.  Most of the best remaining from this batch are either of “pedestrian” origin or constitute the select few that convey at least a remnant of the beauty that inspired their capture.

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Above:  This truck stop “extension lot” in Benson Arizona was full to  near capacity when I arrived after midnight – once again with “Short Clock”. 

I had made the “roll-through” at a previous rest area that had been my goal for the day.  It had been another Standing-Room-Only” situation.  I actually tried out a remote exit before Benson where I might have stayed the night on the shoulder of the re-entrance ramp.  I didn’t like it because the truck was listing over to Starboard severely and gave me the distinct impression that it was ready to tumble down the hill.  I reluctantly pressed on to Benson Proper and this place.  I weaved the truck through the diagonal parking opportunities, many of which were made near-impossible by late arriving double-parkers.  Diagonal parking is not my strong suit, but I finally got a good angle on this spot, nailed it on the fourth or fifth try and had a hot shower (they don’t have those at the dark entry ramps or rest areas) as a reward.

I felt compelled to sing a particular song in the shower.  In about 1975, John Carpenter was a Film Student and made what is now an obscure cult-classic of a low budget Science Fiction Movie called Dark Star. I first viewed this at the University of Texas at the “Saturday Morning Fun Club”  – a wonderfully silly experience for bored dormitory dwellers with nothing much to do on the weekends. In a throwback to the Thirties theaters agenda, there were cartoons, shorts, newsreels and a feature presentation.  The organizers (The Donna Reed Fan Club) put stacks of computer printout paper to make and throw paper airplanes.  This was before computers had “screens” – all output was by green and white striped accordion-fold paper.  So, the raw aviation  materials were abundant.

Anyway, Dark Star was a weirdly humorous tale about a collection of misfit astronauts whose job it was to explode “unstable” planets.  I won’t explain further except to say that it is well worth seeing – at least for nerdy types like myself.  It was the title song that sent me off on this tangent that I struggle to reverse and return to the Road Trip.  It is a simple Country Ballad whose Narrator has flown off at relativistic speeds into interstellar space.  He recalls Benson Arizona and the true love he once knew.  Without further ado, the lyrics (which I have memorized, for future Karaoke adventures):

A Million Suns shine down

But, I see only one

When I think I’m over you

I find  I’ve just begun

The years grow faster than the days

There’s no warmth in the light

How I miss those desert skies

Your cool touch in the night

(Chorus)

Benson, Arizona

The warm wind blew your hair

My body flies the Galaxy

My heart longs to be there

Benson, Arizona

The same stars in the sky

But they seemed so much kinder

When we watched them you and I

Now,  the years draw us apart

I’m young and now your old

But, you’re still in my heart

The memory won’t grow cold

I dream of times and spaces

I left far behind

Where we spent our last few days,

Benson’s on my mind

That Basso Profundo lament, performed by a fellow named John Yeager, in his only commercial performance, has stayed with me for all those decades.  When I thought of this man, racing forward in time and remembering the woman he left behind who now must be aging or dead, I found it both inspiring and sadly haunting.

I hasten to point out that, while there are some similarities in my current situation and the Dark Star story, my own girl-left-behind -far from aging – is actually becoming younger and more beautiful as the weeks and months find us apart.  She reads these blogs, as well;-)  I love you, Shorty!

Yes, I know I promised more photos.  But, I have wandered off down a backroad of memory again.  Please check back again for more actual pictures.

Over The Road,

Steve

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