Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Shoe Fence Story

No. It's not the Rice Shoe Fence-- because we didn't stop there.
This is mostly just a snippet from my "Don't Tell My Boyfriend" post on my solo motorcycle trip to Yellowstone National Park in 2014.
The thing is, the Rice Shoe Fence story was a pivotal incident my relationship with the BF. I refer to it often and it really needs its own post.
So here it is:

One of the first long road trips that the BF and I took together was over a holiday weekend to Phoenix, Arizona where the BF attended tech school. And worked at Burger King, and had his first apartment, and his first "real" girlfriend, etc, etc, and-you-get-my-point-we've-all-been-there. So it was important to him to take me back to the nexus spot between child BF and adult BF and show me around.
I had never considered visiting Phoenix, Arizona recreationally. It's not that there's anything wrong with Phoenix, but it is notoriously hot and I'm not so much a fan of hot weather.
At the time, the BF was quietly trying to convince me that Phoenix wasn't actually that much hotter than it gets in the central San Joaquin Valley and I think he was hoping that I'd fall in love with it and consider it as a possibility on our list of places we might someday move to.
I knew that wasn't likely, but I do like going places I haven't been before, and I love a road trip, so we set out for Phoenix on Memorial Day weekend.
It hit 103 while we were there. 'Nuff said. 

We had a grand time on our shopping mall tour of the greater Phoenix area. Seriously, he took me to four different malls! I had to laugh. He was, after all, 17 years old when he moved to Phoenix for school. Even he had to shyly admit that maybe it's not quite the way he remembers it.
What I really learned from that weekend was how differently we approach the concept of the American Road Trip.
I'm all Jack Kerouac: I'm on the road. I go out there with a loosely defined destination and a hunger to see, feel, and experience everything I encounter in between. I'm open to the possibility that my destination may change with my course as new experiences take me in new directions. I want to stop and take pictures, I want to absorb the scenery, I want to quietly contemplate the meaning of Life, I want to stand under a tree covered in shoes and ponder the ways of Man.
For me, a road trip is all about experience, creating memories for my old age, and gathering the stories I will tell.
For the BF, a road trip is all about how fast you can get to your pre-determined destination, and the only data you need to collect along the way for sharing with friends and family is your time, average speed, and fuel economy.
Woe be to your passenger if she needs to stop for a bathroom break along the way.
This is why the BF doesn't get to drive on our road trips anymore.
On our return trip from Phoenix that fateful weekend, we opted for the long way home, weaving through the U.S. highway system on lonely roads eschewed by modern travelers who opt for multi-laned Interstate bliss, bypassing the dying communities in favor of easy-on/easy-off rest stops and gas stations.
We were westbound on US 62, a simple, 2 lane road that stretches toward the sunset in a straight, endless line of ebony ribbon against the pale tan desert hills on the backside of Joshua Tree National Park.
The BF was at the wheel and we were headed home at an impressive speed. But hundreds of homeward bound vacationers were also on the road with us. Caravans of boats and RVs and travel trailers traveled with us. No one was going slow, but most of the traffic was going slower than us.
The BF was downright gleeful as he made repeated use of the nearly deserted opposite lane of traffic to pass by 20, 24, 31! vehicles at a time, with my little Nissan Sentra singing along at speeds flirting with 100 miles per hour. This was bliss for the BF; counting how many vehicles he could pass at once.
I watched the desert fly by outside my passenger side window. Marveled at the endless railroad track that managed to keep pace with us, stretching across the desert at least as far as any road, and the names and pictographs that decorated the rise of sand along them.
This area was devoid of human establishments aside from the road and the tracks. Where did the people come from to carry the white rocks to the side of the tracks and how long did it take to arrange them in the shapes of names and flowers and promises of undying love? 
Were the rocks naturally white? Did people paint them before deciding their careful placement?
Was this something that the railroad companies tolerated easily? Or did these people have to sneak out under cover of night, and flee like cockroaches from the sweeping beam of a sheriff's spot light?
I turned my head from the tracks on my right for a momentary glance at the expanse of desert to my left. 
I saw it come into view long before we reached it. It was long and square and positively reeked of human construction. It appeared to be fence.
As we got closer, I could see that it was just that. A fence. A fence around nothing in the middle of nowhere. Just a big, fenced-off piece of space by the side of the road in the middle of the desert with out much clue as to what used to be in the middle of it, or if there ever had been something in the middle of it.
It was a totally random fence.
And that totally random fence was covered in shoes.
I heard angels singing. The shoe fence called to me. It was like the Mecca of shoe gatherings and my soul reached out to worship at its altar.
My head swung around, eyes fixed upon the vision as the BF gunned the accelerator and sped past the shrine without so much as a muttered "hrumph."
"GO BACK!" I cried. "GO BACK!" My voice sounding like a child who's parents just drove past Disneyland.
The little sedan's speed never faltered. The BF said "Why?"
I excitedly said, "I want to see that!"
In his best dad-voice and without so much as glancing sideways at me he replied, "No you don't."
If he had begun the process of slowing down and pulling over when I first told him to, I would have had quite a hike back to the fence. But it would have been within hiking distance. We were on a simple, two-lane highway; the act of turning the car around and driving back to the fence was not outside of reason. But by the time it sank into his neandrathalic pea brain that I actually meant that yes, I really wanted and it was kinda important to me, to go stand in front of the damn shoes on a fence in the desert, we were well into 29 Palms; 73 miles later.
The Rice Shoe Fence stands in the history of our relationship as the first major exfoliation of a great granite dome face. The moment when a huge chunk of the fa├žade on our Happily-Ever-After gave way and began to form the inevitable talus pile that every long term relationship eventually develops around its base.
For the last 8 years, and forever more, the Rice Shoe Fence has been a source of great contention between us. It is the brilliant and beautiful illustration of what makes us different. It is a metaphor of our relationship, and a metaphor of what separates the minds of women from the minds of men: whenever we tell the tale in mixed company, the men are united in their horror that such a thing is even allowed to exist. They all agree with the Boyfriend-- shoes in the desert is exactly the sort of thing you should flee post haste.
Women, on the other hand, never need coaxing for sympathy, they are always fascinated by my description and deeply disappointed to learn that I never got to stand before the Great Fence of Shoes.
I assure you-- the shoe fence will be revisited.

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