STONE AND CANVAS©️
Nana Cook and Charlotte Madison
Leaving G.B. alone for Christmas was not a cruel thing to do. He accepted and enjoyed any festivities provided for him but he was not a festive man. His interest at holidays was for us to operate the 76 station and reap the holiday financial harvest. Besides, I think he needed to forget about me for a while. Knowing I was safe and happy with my family left his mind clear to supervise repairs to the stone yard. He also planned to have Wayne make renovations at home to surprise me upon my return. Best of all he was free to enjoy festive days in the gas station.
We were loose! Unless G.B. changed his mind and caught up with us, we were on a happy winter’s drive to Canada, with motels reservations and our family waiting for us to arrive.
There were no doctors or physiotherapists, trips to the hospital or fears. The freedom of travel, our laughter and serenity was my healing therapy — and the air smelled a whole lot better than the hospital.
Once Kingman was behind us we knew we had truly broken loose and were on our way.
At the first rest stop Nana dreamed up an odd idea. In order to prevent infection, before she rolled me into the building, she bagged my legs in brilliant lime green garbage bags.
At the first gas stop the attendant called our attention to the fact that our tires were all ready to be replaced. We decided to poke along to a major department store, till then adding air as needed.
At Bakersfield, Nana rolled me numb with medication up to the salesman and I glibly ordered the five best tires he carried as long as they fit. The bill total looked a little high to me, having become accustomed to the modest grade of tires and low mark up in our station. Later however when the credit card statement arrived for G.B. the only way he cold deal with this terrifying expense was to endlessly brag on his extravagant wife and the price and quality of his tires.
It was always my preference to travel any day of the year except National Holidays, that way I could not be a National Holiday statistic. It wasn’t until our second day out that we noticed the inordinate number of vehicles on the road. Gradually it occurred to me, it was —THANKSGIVING DAY!
Just about that time Nana was able to pinpoint something she pulled from the back of her mind, the name of our night’s destination. She, who had experienced her first earthquake at Coalinga California, was on her way to our motel reservation at — COALINGA!
As we approached our accommodations, I smelt gasoline then noticed an immense truck-stop and car service station backing on the motel fence. We saw long lines of trucks and holiday travelers slowly moving closer and closer to row after row of pump islands. We also noticed the ongoing succession of — TANKER TRUCKS! They were replenishing diesel and gasoline in the storage tanks.
Being Thanksgiving we knew we did not have a choice so that night we fell asleep knowing before morning the motel would collapse upon us — just before a gasoline explosion blew us to the stars.
The next day as we approached the summit of the pass leading into Oregon, Nana suddenly made a sound of distress. While speeding along the freeway she found herself driving on ice, draped in a heavy fog “I can’t see! I can’t see — anything!”
My spontaneous panic was compounded by my thoughts. Oh my baby and Morgan! If we crash I can’t run! But I saw what I could do “Morgan, Down, on the floor! Now!” it was a command we had taught her in case of danger.
I spoke loudly but slowly, precisely with an exaggerated calm. “Nana, watch that yellow line between you and passing traffic. Keep your eye on that line — watch the left wheel of that car in front. Ignore everything on the right side, totally. I’ll take care of that!”
Trust freed everyone to respond. I lunged and with my knees on the back seat, my burns in the air, I hung over the front seat concentrating my gaze on the passenger side road edge.
Various and horrible sounds of mental stress issued forth from our vehicle, blood curdling screams “HELP ME” and “AAAAH” each time Nana lost all sight of the vehicle ahead of her or as yellow lines were veiled and lost in the fog. Each of us was further terrorized when eighteen wheelers — riding above the problem, raced on past blowing fog and blasting their traumatizing horns.
“Honey,” I said intensely, “I can see the edge, your are safe . . . just ease a tiny bit left . . .right . . .no go left . . . NOW! A bit to the right . . . okay . . . okay . . . .” I tried to reassure her yet distract her from fear. But in my mind I wondered how long this would go on.
“It’ll only be a few more minutes Sweet. I think we’ve gone over the summit, we seem to be going down.”
To which she replied, “HELP ME, I CAN’T SEE ANYTHING!”
And then I noticed beside us on the right, at the edge of the blacktop, a sheer drop off, down the mountainside. . . . .
NANA YOU HAVE TO SLOW DOWN, SO I CAN SEE THE EDGE CLEARLY”
“THEY’LL RAM ME IF I SLOW DOWN!”
SLOW DOWN . . . . WE HAVE NO MARGIN FOR ERROR . . . . FLASH YOUR BRAKE LIGHT . . . A TINY BIT LEFT . . . . NOW EASE RIGHT . . . . KEEP IT STRAIGHT!”
The veil of fog was abruptly gone to reveal a long ribbon of wet black-top that glistened as it trailed on down the mountain To the east Mount Shasta towered above us, a great and beautiful lady draped in a snowy ermine cape.
“Let’s stop for a Pepsi and enjoy the view.” I gasped as I melted back onto my seat.
“NO.” She replied still tense from the trauma. “WE HAVE TO KEEP GOING . . I NEED A BAKED POTATO!”