There’s a young boy riding a dirt bike slowly in circles around what presumably is his guardian’s garage. A girl his age chases apathetically after him, as if saying “but it’s my turn” for the hundredth time. They go out of my sight, and I’m left staring at the garage – an old, concrete building with chipped-blue paint in varying shades. One garage door is shut, the other open to show a seemingly random assortment of mechanical equipment and vehicle parts, which I can vaguely make out through the chain-linked fence and two trees. Beyond the garage is the Rt 66 gas station and its sign atop a metal tower saying “Big Rigs Welcome.” I snacked on mint chocolate muddy buddies and a hand-made caramel pecan praline, my treat from the 66 station, and watched cars glide by on I-40, just beyond.
I remember when I first started driving on highways. I often thought about all the other people, all around me, experiencing the same road, the same scenery, same conditions, all at the same time, and how I would most likely never know any of them. When you’re driving you might be on the same highway with the same car for hours, leap-frogging through traffic, passively coming and going through someone else’s journey. That thought always made me a little sad.
Now as a walker, I don’t think about the lives happening in cars – they move too quickly past my own, and with the exception of the ones who wave or pull over to chat, they are gone from my mind as soon as they enter. Instead, I wonder about the woman I met in the gas station who just lost her mother-in-law, the rancher who said he’d have to sell his cows if it didn’t rain, the new friends who will begin filming a documentary on a Hatch Chile farmer. It’s a much more personal wondering, one that leaves me feeling grateful for the beauty of human connection. As the cars whizz down I-40, I’m happy to not be in one.
The boy on the dirt bike rounds back into view, his companion lagging behind, and I wonder if there’s an adult with them who will make him give her a try. I have the urge to go over and tell him it’s her turn. I don’t. I stay with my chocolate covered Chex, next to my set-up tent, wondering why the fence has barbed wire on top. I think people just like using barbed wire.