Drive. Drive. Drive. At a certain point, when dark has settled in and the comfort of the night closes against the sides of the car, a heaviness lures you to sleep, and you want nothing more than to pull over, get your bag out of the car and let the vibration of the last ten hours ease into the sleeping mat beneath you. But that time had come and gone, and we were still driving. It was one in the morning, we were somewhere in northwestern Nevada and I was drifting in and out of sleep.
The full moon illuminated everything: the road in front of us, the deer watching from the shadows, the snow-covered mountains outside Wells, then Elko, then Reno. I'd wake from a dream and the snow would surprise me, glistening in the moonlight outside the window at 75. Ahead of us Mati and Kina and Khyber and Mike Chase and Mike's dogs Deuce and Molly and Mati's dog Squirrel and the petri dish of smells that had worn itself into the shag rug of the van rolled ahead, toward California and the group's destination in Healdsburg. "I'll stop when they pull off," I thought, "get a hotel room, sleep for five hours."
This was ridiculous. This was stupid. I'd been driving for fifteen hours straight; they planned to have a meeting with the CEO of DC Power Systems at 8 that morning, load up a few more solar panels and keep driving.
I should have said no, gotten a hotel room in Elko, and done this in two days like I had planned.
Flat dull glare of a gas station somewhere near the California border at 3 a.m. I shuffled around to the passenger side with the stiffness of an eighty-year-old.
When I woke, we were off the interstate. Khyber was driving. The clock on the dash said 7:04; it was an hour earlier out here then it had been in Wyoming where the time was set.
Ahead of us, the road wound through a canopy of trees.
"Where are we?"
"I don't know," said Khyber. "I'm just following the van."
Live oak. We were in northern California. It was 6 a.m. and I was two hours north of my destination.
Screw this. Screw that. Screw a trip with these guys. I was supposed to be in San Francisco. They couldn't even get me to my destination--how were they going to get to Guaymas, and me with them, thirty-five hours of driving away?
I grabbed my phone and called Mike in the van ahead.
"Stop the van. I've got to go south."
A few minutes later, their tail lights receded from my rearview mirror. There had been few items to collect from either car; we hadn't been driving together long. And really, somewhere over Nevada, I had realized Mexico wasn't in the cards. I had to get to my meeting, and they were just going to keep driving, driving, driving, until they got to Guaymas, less than two days from now. By the time I got out of my meeting, they'd be nearly at the border.
Bon voyage, gents.
By Sunday morning, when I called Mike, the van had stopped in Flagstaff, Arizona, at Mati's sister's house. The team had gotten five hours of nonmoving sleep, then continued on at four a.m., with Mati's sister Jennie in the van. By the time I got Mike on the phone, my meeting was about to begin.
But in the past day, I hadn't been able to get Guaymas out of my mind. I was a few hours away from going climbing again, once the meeting was done, but they were on an adventure. Mike and Khyber were going to install the solar panels, Kina was shooting stills and photos of the work in the barrio, Mati and Jennie were going to teach the children. Who knew what would come of it?
The feeling had been growing in me that I was about to miss out.
"Where you at?"
"San Fran. Hey, what airport would you fly into if you were to fly into Guaymas?"
"Guaymas. You fly into Guaymas."
I'd never even heard of Guaymas before this trip.
"If I look into tickets, could you help with airfare?"
"Let me call you right back."
Ten minutes later, Mike called back. "I can throw in $400."
I checked tickets on my mobile phone: $746 to Guaymas, leaving SFO at 9 a.m. the next morning. Sold.
"See you in Guaymas tomorrow afternoon."