This was when I had left Seattle in the early summer of 1987 and was going back to Iowa. I had driven into Montana, then headed south on I-15, through Dillon, Montana. After that, settlements got pretty sparse. Light was falling into a dusty concrete-colored night. And in Idaho the mountains gave way to arid plains, moon-hills and emptiness. I drove--alone in my blue Ford--and I needed gas.
There was one exit that promised a station, I took it but the station was miles off the Interstate and, when I got there, it was closed. So I had to drive those miles back to I-15 (using up my gas) and onward, mild anxiety and loneliness mixing into the wide desolate spaces.
But the memory was when I pulled off at a rest stop or somewhere--not for gas (which I eventually found before Idaho Falls, and I spent the night in a very cheap motel in Blackfoot, Idaho)--and I stood outside my car trying to think what I should do. I wasn't really worried, not unhappy or happy; I was like the landscape: open and empty, stark, dark and roughly beautiful. So I stood there in that lonely treeless expanse of plains and bald hills--dark mountains in the distance--and let the void seep into me. Deep into me. The smell of sage and dust. The only sounds the diesel engines of tractor-trailers on the highway, few and far between in the darkness. And it was just one of those moments of solitude and solemnity, where the landscape and the suspended seconds match your own life, however briefly. And maybe that's why I still recall it, can sometimes conjure the emotion and landscape up, vividly, when I hear lone trucks on highways at night, or stand alone at gas stations or rest stops when there is nothing much around me.
It was a moment of desolation and peace, of knowing and not knowing my place in the world.