Seemingly lifeless, hot, silent, and dry. The predominant colors are brown, tan, olive, and sage, with shades of gray and purple filling in the contours of the distant hills. The ribbon of highway slices through it all, mile after mile.
This is what the drive from Benson, AZ to Deming, NM is like. There is little that occurs to change this view of the desert. Other than the occasional small town truck stop, the only evidence of habitation is the random house or barn, abandoned or otherwise, that flies by at odd intervals. Why would anyone choose to live there? What was it like when the unrelenting desert forced their dream to die?
The flashing yellow highway warning lights alert us that blinding dust storms can happen on this road (ZERO VISIBILITY! DON'T STOP IN THE ROAD! PULL OVER AND TURN YOUR LIGHTS OFF!). But today the only movement, other than the cars and semis speeding through the barren landscape, are the dust devils. Four or five can almost always be seen somewhere -- they take the form of far off columns of brown dust that seem to reach the clouds, or of nearby whirlwinds, kicking up the dirt in the fields and looking like a mini tornado. Then a really odd thing happens -- within seconds, they just evaporate. Poof, they are gone.
Despite this numbing-of-the-senses drive, John and I are happy to once again be in Deming. For it was here, 5 years and 13 days ago, that we first met. Instead of showing us interesting little dust devils, the desert gave us a full-blown dust storm that day. It blew relentlessly, seeping into folds of clothes and the cracks in windows and doors. Cabin-fevered RVers ventured out with mouths and noses covered by scarves, but the dust still seemed to find a way into eyes and ears.
Our good friend Cookie introduced us. She and I had been traveling "separately-but-together," and we wound up in Deming. She had lived in the Chicago area; John had Illinois plates. So she introduced herself to him, and then introduced him to me. Our first outing was a lunch trip to The Pink Store in Palomas, Mexico -- John and I in the front seat, and Cookie and a guy named Robert (never Bob!) in the back. Our second outing, just John and me, was a hike on a trail named "Lovers' Leap." If that gave John pause to reflect on the wisdom of his actions, he didn't show it!
So here we are, five years later, back in Deming, watching the dust devils form and annihilate, and being glad that Mother Nature held back the journey-halting dust storms for some other day.