Ursula Tillmann

The Road Less Taken


One more hill, one more corner. Maybe there will be a sign or a turnoff.
I am hoping, as I have for hours now. It is starting to get dark. I must hurry. If I cannot see the road properly, I won't make it out of here, that I know for certain. Where am I exactly? I do not know. I cannot see a ray of sun, it's cloudy. Where is south and where is north. Trees , nothing but trees. The only cleared land is the path in front of me - the narrow road. There is no map or food in my car. I only wanted to go for a quick photo-shoot. The road less taken looked good at the outset. There were some farms - and cars coming toward me once in a while. But for the last 50 clicks I have only seen two lone deer, gazing at me in amazement.
  The last few signs I noticed, gave directions to oil and gas patches. Dead ends. Deeper into the bush, I am certain. Roads for heavy trucks, not for my light-weight convertible. I hear myself now apologizing to my car, which I have named Gemini. I have slowed down now. The last curb I nearly missed. Icy patches appeared out of nowhere, beyond one of those step hills on this mud road. Gravel would have been better.
"Slow down," I hear myself yelling. But I dare not step on the brakes. I'll never get out of those steep ditches, they'll never find me. I can only go about 40 km per hour. Anything quicker is suicidal. Curb after curb and hill after hill, the dust is trailing my whereabouts, herever that may be. Two hours ago, I noticed, that it said: "No service" on my cell-phone. That was, before it started to get dark. I wasn't afraid then. But now, I have to admit, fear is creeping up my spine. My options are to start pushing the gas pedal and risk losing the road or going slow and driving into vanishing dusk. I decide for the latter one. Crazy scenarios are entering my mind. What if I get a flat tire or lose the road. I am somewhere, but nowhere anyone knows. I could be in the Wilderness of Alaska, instead of the vast foothills of Alberta.
So near, but yet so far away from any settlement, even here. I have turned on my radio. No reception. Not even a cracking sound. I am far away from anything close. Another steep hill, and beyond that several more. I feel itchy, not really frightened. And start to sing some German folk songs I learned in kindergarten. It seems to calm my nerves, as I am driving slowly yard after yard through this magnificent and untamed wilderness. A white truck is coming toward me. The first vehicle in hours. The man waves at me, I respond thankfully - thinking, I must be really far off now. I have kept track of the distance, I have driven. It is definitely too late to turn back now after nearly one hundred kilometers into the wild. To keep on driving may give me chance to find a road that eventually leads to a highway again before it's pitch black dark. The road ahead can't be worse that what I have driven on, I argue with myself.
Suddenly I spot two four wheel vehicles. Men are leaning with riffles against a tree. This is hunting country. Their army like outfits blend in with the trunks of the naked birch trees. They don't even look up. as I pass by - focused on their prey. The hours are passing slowly, while I am driving without haste. I am not running out of childhood lyrics. In fact, songs, long forgotten are sliding back into my memory. It has to be that way, when you lose your way. I am convinced. Now what - this main mud road splits like a giant V. No signs. Nothing. I stop and start to contemplate. Suddenly I hear the sound of a vehicle coming closer. I wave down the driver.
A hunter and his teenage son look at my dusty convertible with pity. A vehicle, which has been admired by city slickers, doesn't count out here. It looks pathetic to them. But I also catch a glance of empathy in the mans face, as I beg him to tell me how to get out of this wilderness - the quickest way. He leans down in his truck to look at a map. His son keeps staring ant my sports car. I can envision, what story his father will tell him later. A warning, I am certain, about what not to do. My desperation will be helpful to teach avoidance. It takes some time, before the man has figured out on his map, as to where we are. But when he talks, it sound like as if angles are singing for me right here in this forest.
"There is a way out to a secondary highway. But that is quite a ways," he dampens my expectations. "Keep on going for a long way and you will see a turnoff," he says, while speeding away in his heavy vehicle. Crystal clear. Keep on going, he has said. But not for how long. Distance doesn't seem to matter. The lesson can only be made stronger. And so it should. I am alone again on the road less taken. But I feel some comfort now. Hope.  I have spoken to someone. And he knew the way. I start my engine and continue, but now with more force and higher speed. I can see the tail-lights of his truck. I don't want to lose my savior.
But after a few minutes, I give up. I am losing grip with my tires. Too much lose gravel now. I have to slow down. The truck is out of sight now. I lost it quickly on this road, which is now winding like a roller coaster - up and down steps hills and many curbs. Checking my mileage, I realize, I have only covered another ten kilometers in what seems like half an hour. Suddenly I see a shade on that next hillside among the trees. It is the truck - my savior. He has slowed down. Maybe he has been thinking about my agony, which I am certain, he saw in my face during our brief encounter. Or maybe, his son motivated him to slow down, after he has listened to his fathers warning words of traveling alone in the wilderness.
I rejoice, while speeding up. The road seems less dangerous, when someone is in front of you. I can feel, that he wants me to trail his truck. I whistle a happy tune. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you ...
Nearly half an hour has passed, when I see a big sign: Important intersection ahead. The truck is waiting for me at the bottom of the hill. I see the turn. I wave and wave, like someone, who has just been washed ashore. The man and his son smile and wait until I have taken the turn for the better. It's still a mud road, but it will lead out of the bush. This knowledge is sparking such joy and enthusiasm, that I turn on the radio to find a station.
Nothing yet, but soon.
I can now see farmhouses in the distance and cattle. How I love those cows.  Has anybody ever loved the sight of those fenced in animals more than I? 
And the road. How I adore the road. It's now made of asphalt. All is good. I am now traveling again on familiar grounds toward home.





All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Ursula Tillmann.
Published on e-Stories.org on 31.03.2011.


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