High temperatures typically don’t affect me, but last week it was hot, and I mean hot, even for this small desert community. Heat stroke has never been one of my ambitions, so I knew I had to be careful. As a result, I waited until almost 7:00 p.m. to get on the bicycle. By that time the sun was sinking lower on the western horizon and would all too soon slide behind Comb Ridge, a formation Navajo people refer to as the spine of Mother Earth. A few stringy clouds had rolled in to provide minimal cover, the wind had quieted to a whisper, and the thermometer had dipped into semi-tolerable territory. At that point, I had to get a little exercise or the new normal of Twin Rocks Trading Post specifically, and the world in general, would surely bring me down.
Since the early days of my re-tenure in Bluff, running and cycling have been my alternative to Prozac, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, and other medications intended to alleviate anxiety and dampen depression. Lacing on my running shoes or saddling up the bicycle has allowed me to avoid prescriptive remedies and kept me reasonably well-balanced. When I feel myself becoming overwhelmed by circumstances beyond my control, or if blackness clouds my cranium, a turn on the pavement resets my attitude and helps me cope with the pressures of operating a small business in rural Utah.
So, there I was, grinding up Cow Canyon, the long, steep hill just north of Twin Rocks, when it dawned on me; something has changed. While I don’t know how it happened, what I do know is that hill has grown longer and steeper over the years. I think this situation must be similar to Duke’s story of having to walk to school when he was young. According to that legend, the weather was snowy every day, year round, and it was uphill both ways, three miles. While Duke’s tale defies physics, geology, geography, meteorology, and logic, he always maintained it was 100% accurate. To explain the situation, Duke once paraphrased Yogi Berra, stating, “As Yogi says, in theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.” In my case, I think that means in theory Cow Canyon is precisely the same length and angle it has always been, but in practice it isn’t.
As I got close to the top of the canyon, I spotted them, a family of marooned travelers standing on the side of the road; mom, dad, and an approximately 10-year-old boy. Since the beginning of May, I have noticed an ever-increasing number of recreational vehicles on Highway 191. Boats, campers, side-by-sides, motorcycles, and expensive motorhomes are plentiful. People seem anxious to escape the restrictions mandated by the Covid-19 pandemic and have hit the road at the earliest opportunity. In this case, the small family had apparently escaped lockdown without adequate preparation. As I peddled closer, I could see the youngish father unsuccessfully attempting to remove the spare tire mounted on the back of their pop-up trailer. It quickly became clear the problem was he did not have the proper tool, and, as everyone knows, trying to do a job without the right equipment is a fool’s errand.
Spinning ever closer to the disabled vehicle, I notice the man attempting to remove the lug nuts with his fingers. That was never going to bear fruit, so in my best faux Southern accent, I shouted out, “Hey, y'all need help?” “No, no,” the woman assured me, “we called Canyonlands Tire. We will just drive up there.” “That will take at least an hour round trip, and it’s late,” I cautioned, stopping behind the caravan. “Let me call my son.” Grange has been home from college since spring semester abruptly ended and was at the trading post studying for his online classes. I knew he would be happy for a break, and also knew he was flat tire certified.
A few weeks earlier Grange and I had gone to the county landfill with a load of trash. Priscilla and I have used the extra time visited upon us by the shutdown to muck out decades of business records, outdated electronic equipment, cast-off restaurant implements, and just about every manner of detritus. It is amazing how that stuff builds up. By this time, Grange and I were on our third truck and trailer load. We dumped the contents only to discover our right-side trailer tire had gone bad. Despite both being Eagle Scouts with countless merit badges between us, we had not adhered to the Scout Motto and were unprepared. Buff Davis, my friend from high school, however, gave us a four-way lug wrench and we switched out wheels. The four-way was still in the back of our old Ford truck, so I said to the distressed dad, “Give me a minute and I will get help. We will have you on the road in no time.” When I called him, Grange confirmed he could be there in minutes, so I remounted the bicycle and continued north. About a half hour later, the happy family flew by on their way to a successful vacation. Honking and waving, they sped past. Grange later confirmed he had re-gifted Buff’s four-way to the vacationers so they would be able to adequately address future flats.
One benefit to the pandemic is that we all have more time for each other. While there is a lot to process and worry about on a daily basis, I have noticed people taking more time to lend a helping hand and share stories. Not long before Coronavirus altered our reality, I attended a gathering sponsored by Zions Bank celebrating the 100th anniversary of Zions National Park. During one of the associated discussions, the speaker noted, “Everything is held together by stories.” I have often thought about the moderator’s comment, realizing just how true it is. At Twin Rocks, we are constantly telling stories, and some are even true. During this dark period, we are accumulating history that will be related over and over in coming years: to each other, to our children, to our friends and acquaintances, and maybe even to our grandchildren. Hopefully these will be tales of courage, kindness, and caring, rather than fear, failure, helplessness, and despair. And surely, they will bind us ever closer together.