Leaving Death Valley to the East the climb is very gradual. Around the corner from the most expensive gas in the USA, I would guess, you come to a recently completed luxury, spa hotel that overlooks the desiccated glory. The visionaries did all they could to make it look like the adobe is aged and had been there for over a century, clever landscaping and the design suggesting a renovation of an abandoned ranch house circa 1885, but I had been here a few years earlier for the Spring flowers with my mother and saw it under construction. Nice job, though.
Around the bend you can see why they chose this location. A spring-fed stream runs along the edge of the road for a half mile or so and then disappears where it has emerged to unknown depths and mysterious aqueous paths underground.
Can’t spa your guests without a good supply of H2O!
As we gently climb to 1000, 2000 and up, I find myself on some other imaginary trip, if Michelle were herself—a fantasy I indulge in from time to time—we might have planned a stay here at the spa, hiking to hot springs ourselves. She loved road trips as much as I and we were teammates on Oregon Shakespeare Festival School Tour several times. With the fully loaded rental Taurus, stopping at small towns and large cities and suburbs to entertain, teach and, hopefully, enthuse the next generation of young artists.
Those kids would now be in their late 40s or early 50s! Wow, right?!
We used to do our Combo Program in most cases, about 45 minutes of a mix of Shakespeare and more contemporary works. I got used to this one thing that always happened, and it didn’t bother me, but when we completed our program in some gymnasium or nice theater or the dreaded multi-use room, as the applause died down, the theater kids would always descend on us, we, these youngish adults, doing what they dreamed of doing professionally one day. They would form a little cluster and that cluster was mostly for Michelle.
The reason this didn’t bruise whatever ego I might have had at the time is that you just couldn’t fight it, inside or out. My best moments—and I could be pretty darned good, I think—paled by any standard of comparison with her normal moments. And when she was “on?” Look out! The stage was hers and any space, even ones with basketball court lines, became the epicenter of aesthetics.
I loved watching those ecstatic faces because it was not worship or anything like that, it was the pure response of an artist seeing the potential of art. It made them bigger, filled with the notion that it was indeed what they knew deep in their hearts, that it is the most powerful force on earth and that their desire or choice to pursue it was not a mistake. And, of course, she had that smile.
Looking at her as I write this, she retains a bit of the grace of the ballet dancer, the cowgirl, the Queen.
Our Destination for today is Cedar City and in order to head Northeast you have to go South. (Looks like Amish had the thing wired after all.) All highways feed into Las Vegas, no way to really avoid it that I can find on any map. I would imagine crows find themselves encountering strange eddies in the sky that push/pull them towards the lights and chaotic freeways. (Crows would probably beat the house which is, I’m pretty sure, why they are not allowed to play.)
We ease our way through the maelstrom, being passed by, well, everyone, though we are going the speed limit. Some pass us so swiftly, with such frantic intention, that it feels like we’re in a crap game and they’ve put it all on snake eyes, one chance at a big score.
Then, Interstate 15 starts angling North and East, a lovely hypotenuse toward Park Rapids, Minnesota just a couple thousand miles away. We are making time, baby! We’ll be in Cedar City, home to the Utah Shakespeare Festival, in, what? Just a couple hours? What could possibly go wrong?