Correspondence turned into friendship into plans over maps and gear and words. Cass contrives an itinerary, Nick and Lael pedal south to the rendezvous. I start in New England chill leaning in with the turning leaves and dark, bags familiar stuffed near the door for the drive train plane to the sunshine desert other end, flights for hours passage, finally Santa Fe. Turning allen keys for assembling the scaffolding that allows reaching up to the landscape and the doing, the laughter and talk.
Heading west by nudging north, headwind and burning eyes, asphalt bike paths leading to the kinds of almost highway roads that leave a place, dirt then climb and a choppy descent from a sage plateau into a rolling valley implying canyons. No ambition of hurry. A convenience store clerk glares at us when we fill our bottles from the soda station by pressing the small lever labeled “water.” “With a little work we could get a hug out of her,” I say, but we don’t pursue the matter. We camp near the little used forest service track just past our turnoff, dinner from stoves made from beer cans, shared pieces of chocolate and clutching sipping hot drinks for the ritual, the comfort of how easy our traveling together is. We don’t tell all our stories all at once, but at least a few. Unrolling bags to fall to silence, I follow needle scratch streaks against the void.