When I returned to my campsite, Roxy snuggled into my sleeping bag at my feet and I threw an extra blanket over us for warmth. Although it was barely mid-September, the nights were already chilly at forty-nine hundred feet. It wasn’t much warmer when I awoke the following morning, but the moment I opened my eyes I knew what I had to do — with a certainty that was staggering in its clarity of inner vision: I was to skip the workshop that had brought me here and depart, immediately, for Sedona. Why Sedona? I didn’t know. Why the urgency? I didn’t know that, either. The only thing I knew was to pack the car. I walked to my nameless friend’s tent to share my news. Her campsite was deserted. Moments later, mine was, too.
The quickest, most direct route to northern Arizona would have been south along I-5 and west along I-40, a sixteen-hour drive. But I had moved through this odyssey largely on secondary roads and, despite the apparent urgency of Sedona’s call, it did not feel appropriate to make an exception for this thousand-mile leg of it. Instead, I left Mount Shasta the back way, through Lassen Volcanic National Park, and spent four days driving through northeastern California, central Nevada, southern Utah and northern Arizona before pulling into a Route 66 Travelodge in Flagstaff, totally confused about the time. I didn’t know then that Arizona stayed on Standard Time year-round, and my watch didn’t match the announcer’s on KNAU, the local NPR station.
The following morning, I skipped the hotel breakfast, found Oak Creek Canyon and began the winding journey down to Sedona. It was September 16, the morning of the harvest moon. What I was about to harvest — a new life and identity that would include marriage, parenthood, divorce and a road trip ten times the length of this one — was beyond anything I could have then imagined.
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