Generally, I stay in during the holidays. I prefer to avoid the crowds and traffic that comes along with the celebrations. I made an exception to spend Memorial Day with some close friends. We made plans to all meet up at Eagle Ridge Campground.
To beat the rush North, I left early. I stopped at a breakfast joint I hadn’t been to before called Mark’s Cafe. The service was slow, but the food was quite good. Not really worth the wait, mind you, but good even so.
On my way up the hill, I decided to make another stop to pay my respects at the Anthem Veterans Memorial. To my surprise, it was quite busy. There was a farmers market, live music, and lots of commotion. Again, surprised, I bumped in to another dear friend of mine. We caught up for some time, and I was amazed to see how big his two sons had gotten. We exchanged goodbyes, and promised to get together soon.
Back on the road, and heading North again, I caught up to the tail end of backed up traffic. I suppose it was to be expected. It was a warm afternoon, and traffic was stop and go, at best. Other motorists were becoming impatient. After nearly an hour of struggling up a banked highway, and nearly getting rear ended multiple times, I decided to ride the shoulder and cut past traffic. I’d rather pay a moving violation over a medical bill. I cut back in to traffic when I saw the red and blue lights of fire engines and patrol cars. Turns out a car had veered off the road and started a small brush fire. Contained and under control, with no blocked lanes on the highway, traffic was backed up for miles due to people wanting to look at what had happened.
Having passed the traffic jam with no other delays, I was well on my way to our rendezvous point. I felt the chill in the air as continued to gain altitude. When I finally arrived, I realized the temperature had dropped a solid 20 degrees. One of our party had already arrived, and shortly, the other three joined us.
Toy haulers, trailers, tents, and me with my hammock and lean-to. There were four adults, and five children between the ages of one and 17. We made an interesting bunch, to be sure.
After a bit of rest, I decided to go exploring the woods. An acquaintance opted to come with me. She seemed enthusiastic, excited to bring her camera out. We hadn’t spent much time together before, and generally only exchanged pleasantries. We took our cameras, and set off. We enjoyed the serenity of the forest, and the peacefulness of it all. We spent our time taking pictures, discussing things, and getting to know each other better.
I boiled some water and made Chicken a la King (from a freeze dried packaged meal) and had that with a few pieces of steak. A quick clean up, and we gathered around the fire pit to enjoy the rest of the night.
I loved my friends’ concern for my well being as we were making ready for bed. They all offered to share their space with me, despite my efforts to reassure them I’d be fine. The temperature was forecast to drop below freezing.
I slept like a warm, cozy, happy log. It rained through the night, and into the morning. Up before everyone else, I decided to get the fire started. I took the poncho half of my lean-to, and got the morning ready. For breakfast, we made burritos from lastnight’s leftovers. When the rain finally stopped, we packed up and headed home.
On the way down, I stopped at the Sunset Point Rest Area to stretch my legs. Camera in hand, I took a look around and found a sundial. It was a memorial to the Arizona Department of Transportation employees who had lost their lives. Riding a motorcycle, and knowing full well how hazardous traffic can be, I recognized that tragedy could strike in an instant. The sundial reads: ” As the sun sets over our fallen companions, may they always be remembered.”