Monday, August 15, 2011
Two summers ago, I took a trip across the western United States with my girlfriend. We'd both quit our soul-crushing jobs and, almost on a whim, decided to drive across the country looking for adventure with the ultimate goal of finding jobs and eventually settling down in California.
We were making our way to Carbeza Preita National Wildlife Refuge when, much to my chagrin, I realized we were almost out of fuel. We weren't too far from the small hamlet of Ajo, about 100 miles south of Phoenix. I passed the idea of driving up there to get gas, but it was already late, and the girl and I decided to just camp, and pray that we had enough gas to get the car started the next morning and get us to Ajo. We found a dusty gravel road leading off into the desert and drove just a short distance amongst the sparse desert hills until we were out of view from the road.
We set up camp, sleeping bags but no tent, fire, the whole thing. I remember we were eating top-ramen noodles and just really enjoying the sounds of the wild when my girl first heard the sound of tires traversing the gravel road. Someone was coming. Having encountered all sorts of people on our trip, both good and bad, neither my girl nor I were concerned at this point. Then, slowly, a police cruiser comes around the bend.
It is at this moment that I start to worry. You see my gal and I enjoy the use of some recreational substances every once in a while, and though I'm pretty sure we've used all of our stash, at this point in time, I'm not 100% certain. I'm a little nervous now.
The cop walks up to us, hand on his pistol, and asks us to stand up. He says he's received complaints, from a couple of campers in the area of people shooting guns off. My girl and I explain that we don't have any guns and that it wasn't us. The cop says he needs to check our car. My heart drops. If we have anything in there...
Just as the officer opens the car door, and begin his search, his radio cuts in. My girl and I both hear clearly when dispatch says they received another call saying the people are still shooting off their guns, just a few moments ago. It can't be us the cop realizes, tells us to be safe, and then drives off.
A few hours later my girl and I awake to what sounds like sixty people coming our way. We hear some gunshots, and cursing and laughter, the crush of feet, and a cacophony of voices and it is all getting closer. Freaked out now, the girl and I grab out sleeping bags and run to the car. We jump in and as I put the keys in the ignition, I remember that we're almost out of gas. I turn the key and the car starts. I flip on the headlights and see a hoard of people rushing toward our car.
I don't know who they were, what they were doing, or what their plans were for my girl and I, but it sure a hell didn't look good. I throw the car in reverse, turn around, and get the hell out of there. We made it to Ajo, but all the gas stations were closed. We parked in a small strip mall parking lot, and tried to get back to sleep.
In the morning we bought gas, and I mention to the clerk as I'm paying for gas what happened to us last night, the clerk just laughs and then gives me this smile like he knew exactly what was going on, but he wasn't telling.