Extraordinary stories from everyday life on the edge of the world

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Interstate 15 || Monday, 10.30am

Ranked in the top 3 questions people ask me about my trip is: "What will you do about food?" (The others being “You’re going alone?” and “What are you going to do for work?”) Depending on my mood, I answer in varying admixtures of snark and sang-froid. But as of today, I can now answer this concern with the story that just took place:

I have one exit to drive between the Starbucks where I met Cayla for our last catch-up before she returns to Iraq, and the house where I’m staying before I return to the road. It’s only 10.30 and already warm. I turn on the radio and am reminded of how much I love NPR. As an entity, that is; at this moment they’re warming up the listeners for the imminent broadcast of the Democratic National Convention, for which I have .

Nevertheless, the phonetics of Sylvia’s Poggioli’s name have filled me so completely with love for the airwaves and all their analog durability, that I take my chances with the dial, rather than reach for the customized music of my iPod.

And the airwaves don’t let me down; Led Zeppelin is screaming “Over the Hills and Far Away.”

Screaming along, I notice another Jeep Cherokee approaching in the next lane. It’s dark green; but for that, it’s the General’s exact match.

Back when my dad drove a soft-top Wrangler, he insisted there was an unspoken brotherhood between Jeep drivers, and used to lift his hand in greeting whenever he passed another. (They always lifted theirs back.)

Maybe it’s the radio or the weather or that tomorrow is Tuesday…

Anyway, I feel that brotherhood now, and lift my hand to the two guys driving it.

They grin and wave back.

I pull ahead in my lane; my exit is approaching. But after a beat I see them pulling forward, too. I glance over; the guy on the passenger side is holding up in the window what appears to be a whole wheat pita round. I see more of the same stacked on their dashboard.

I roll down my window. He rolls down his. I reach out but there’s no way. Have I mentioned how narrow the drive shaft is on these things? I try to sidle the General up but I can feel the potential to swerve.

My exit is coming up fast.

I lunge to my left, and my hand reaches the pita just before the General reaches the green Jeep in a sheet metal kiss. I yank the wheel back to the right, and for a few breathless seconds we buck and twist across the off-ramp like a rattlesnake holding onto its prey. Zeppelin is screaming; I’m grinning my face off; damping force gradually allays the General.

[Insert some facile effusion about life.]

At the light, I take a bite and find that the pita (or whatever it is…at close range, it more resembles an English muffin) is filled with peanut butter and jelly.

Leaving the light, I find that the dark green Jeep is pulled up again beside me.

"Where are you guys headed?" I ask.

"Poway Crags," answers the passenger.

"What for?"

"Climbing."

"Have fun," I say, and leave them behind.

Provisions