As I stood across the counter from the tall, gray-headed, leather-encased man, I became immediately perplexed. This obviously well educated individual was attempting to explain an impromptu cleansing ceremony he and his amigos had recently experienced. Due to his rumbling, rambunctious arrival and unusual appearance, I was, however, having difficulty focusing on what he was saying. His narrative involved the discovery of a hard rock jacuzzi cooled by a westerly breeze and filled with drifted sand. It seems he and his buddies had lounged around this dry pool, toasting each other with bottled water and letting their troubles dissolve into the good earth.
Steve and I actually heard the group coming before we saw them. The sounds of a gaggle of motorcyclists spinning into the parking lot reverberated from our sandstone backdrop with the rolling thunder associated only with Harley Davidson motorcycles. As the group dismounted, I could tell they were all in a fine mood by the laughing, joking and boyish punching that was going on. My old friend and retired Hells Angel, Crash McQueen, would have never accepted this group of characters. Their equipment was far too new and polished, as were their manners.
The glare of Southeastern Utah sunlight on highly polished chrome reflected through the plate glass windows and drew our attention to their motorized symbols of rebellion and freedom. As the men strolled up the steps and into the trading post, I could hear the squeak and groan of new boots, leather outerwear and the accompanying smell of saddle soap. As I spoke with the tall gray-haired man, I found that he and his friends were all professionals; doctors, lawyers and dentists. They were old college classmates who got together every few years, toured the country and attempted to reconnect.
This time, they had met in Los Angeles, rented Harleys, bought out the motorcycle shop's wardrobe department, mounted up and headed east, towards the real west. I learned that as they exited the city and found the wide open spaces, the boy that dwells just under the surface of every man began to reemerge. The further east they traveled, the lighter the load of responsibility became, and the group's decorum began to disintegrate. After nearly being arrested in Flagstaff for disorderly conduct, the group was escorted out of town by the local gendarmes and set loose on the Rez.
At this point, my new friend explained how the journey became more spiritual; the group had spent their recklessness and now began to open their minds to the natural beauty of the physical world. As they rumbled down from the midst of the sacred San Francisco Peaks, they reveled in the golden grasslands and dusty, stunted, emerald-green Junipers near Gray Mountain. The land of the Navajo was working its way into their imaginations and Mother Earth was assaulting their senses. Entering Long Squaw Valley, the group was captivated by Black Mesa, with its mangled slick rock drop-offs and myriad of hidden folds, rising majestically on their right.
They were awestruck at Tsegi Canyon, with its immense flows of red, yellow and white sandstone split into uncharted depths by ancient waters and buffed by the scouring sands of time. When the group came to Kayenta, they were overwhelmed by the allure of Northern Arizona. They stopped in at Basha's Shopping Center for water and snacks and were fascinated by the Navajo people in traditional satin, velveteen, silver and turquoise. Since everyone in the group had been through Monument Valley before, they decided to continue their easterly journey past the volcanic core called Rabbits Ears and towards the southeast corner of Utah.
Just past Dennehotso, there is a land mass of roiled sandstone on the south side of the highway. Upon seeing the unusual formation, one can imagine a mighty and majestic monument buried deep beneath the migrating sands. As the bikers came to this highly unusual scene, they were attracted to it and drawn to the side of the road. One of them made it over the range fence without becoming high-centered, and the others were inspired to do the same. They wandered the lunar-like landscape until one of them discovered a large sandstone pit resembling an oversized jacuzzi, which was nearly filled with blow sand.
The men settled into the depression and began to laugh and joke among themselves. Before long the conversations became serious. Everyone began to divulge his personal problems and fears. Because they were the best of friends, the group was totally supportive and willing to listen intently and share in the moment. It was as if the pit absorbed their anxiety and healed their inner beings. By the time they exited the pit, the group was better acquainted and more together than they had ever been. At that point a more emotionally invested group could not have been found.
After the men purchased gifts to appease their significant others, they mounted their mechanical beasts and roared off into a magnificent southwestern sunset. At the trading post it is common for people to share stories like this with us. This outrageous landscape and its Native people have a calming, settling effect on those from the outside world. The harshly exposed layers of rock, talus slopes, stunted brush and red earth formed through eons of time seem to have a way of stripping the detrimentally emotional shroud and scouring away the nonsense we saddle ourselves with in a matter of moments.
With warm regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.