Highway Angel

My memory of this is a little hazy now, but back in the fall of ’95…

I was running hard, headed west on the 10.

A couple of hours earlier I was out of Alamogordo – where the day before had been hot and dry, just like all the rest – and through Las Cruces. I had started my journey before the heat would set in for the better part of the day, and thankfully it stayed cool into the morning.

I grabbed a tankful in Deming, and that got me into Willcox at around 0800 in the morning, maybe 0830. Maybe a little later. It was still cool, but the sun was getting up and it was looking to be another scorcher. I pulled into a gas ‘n’ go, picked up some water and climbed the overpass to hit the westbound 10 one more time.

She was leaning against the steel railing at the top of the overpass. I didn’t know she was a she until I was past, of course, but in that split second of recognition I hit the binders and pulled off onto the shoulder. I figured since she had a small bag that I could strap it on the back and we’d be off post-haste.

Instead, on the walk towards her I decided that I’d take my time. She was wearing dark sunglasses, so I couldn’t see her eyes. She was bundled up against the fresh morning air in an old army parka. A scarf covered her head. She had socks and sandals on her feet. She was holding onto a mesh bag filled with what looked like mail, or letters or documents of some kind. I didn’t ask any questions about that.

I pushed my sunglasses onto the top of my head, hoping she’d do the same. No such luck. She left them on the bridge of her nose, revealing nothing.

Angel. She said her name was Angel.

I took her for a local.

She told me she was headed west for a bit, and then north to a music festival, of all things.

Well now, I thought, I could use some entertainment. And it’s Friday. Why not detour around and check out the sights and sounds?

“No problem,” I told her. “I’m going that way.”

I don’t remember the exact exit now, but I’m certain it was well before Benson, and probably by Johnson. She told me to pull off so I headed north. Eventually the road turned west again onto two-lane blacktop.

Now, I’m a gullible bastard when it comes to women, but I try to keep my eyes open. For a music festival trail, this road was remarkably free of traffic, notwithstanding its closeness to Tucson. In fact, I didn’t see any other traffic on the road at all.

I mentioned that.

Well,” she said into my ear, “maybe I got the day wrong.”

Oh, okay.

Let’s see now. I was in the middle of nowhere, having swallowed lock, stock and two smoking barrels a music festival storyline that had started to look and sound more and more like a fairy tale. The woman on the back had her days mixed up and I had no idea where I was headed or what was waiting down the road. I was adventurous, but this was starting to get a little strange.

I went on for another ten miles or so, and eventually came to a small country store, pulled in and shut down. I was somewhere, finally. The road ahead rose up into the hills, and looked to be gravel. I used that as a perfect opportunity to explain that I couldn’t take this heavy decker onto gravel. That’s not the truth, of course – I’ve ridden on plenty of gravel – but it seemed the prudent thing to do at the time.

Angel seemed happy to be there, so I said goodbye and left her to wander into the store while I backtracked on the music festival route to the 10 and on into Phoenix.

In retrospect I’m sure she wanted only to get as close to her destination as she could, and selling a story probably seemed the best way to do that.

Still…

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