We were high when the battered red pickup truck pulled to a stop just ahead of us on the shoulder, signalling another opportunity to put more miles between us and Vancouver. The sun was a blazing furnace in the pale Rocky Mountain sky, and we were glad to escape its relentless fury. Ray-Jay got in first, and so got the honor of riding bitch between me and the rawest example of a mountain man I'd ever seen. He wore a sleeveless red-checked lumberjack flannel that was spread, open and unbuttoned, astride a swollen tattooed belly. A wild ginger flap of hair clung to his sunburnt and peeling scalp, and similar covered thick brown arms that held the steering wheel with cavalier looseness. I was only halfway into the truck when he peeled off down the highway, swinging the open door closed with a snap that nearly took my foot off at the ankle.

"You boys want a joint?" He didn't even spare us a glance as he pulled a baggie down from behind his sun visor and tossed it in my lap. Ray-Jay gave me a look that told me it would be unwise to refuse our Good Samaritan's hospitality, so I chose the fattest of the offered fatties and sparked it up. The wildman behind the wheel meanwhile rummaged under his seat and produced a can of beer, which he cracked open one-handed, swallowed in a gulp, crumpled into one ham hock of a fist, and then pitched out his open window.

"The trick to driving these mountains," he said, never taking his eyes off the road, "is naked aggression." He swung the truck out into the oncoming lane to pass a logging truck, and for a few harrowing seconds I was absolutely certain we were going to die.

2020.09.08 – 2020.12.11

Next: What It Takes