Mrs. RRR and I drove south west from Dallas, leaving the Famous Country Western Singer's ranch early in the morning and driving on and on. The heavily loaded Green Hornet hummed along, its new engine and transmission (courtesy www.cncmotors.com) performing flawlessly. At 60 mph, 50 miles per gallon. At 70 with the airconditioning on, 41 miles per gallon. And south west. And south west. On and on. First through the oil fields that fed the Bush fortunes. Then on. And the earth grew browner, the vegetation more dispersed. We saw more and more cactus. Some I recognized, some I didn't.
On toward evening we got to the north entrance. Closed. "Continue on or pick a camping spot and register in the morning" the sign said. We continued. We got to the park headquarters at Panther Junction about an hour before dark. Closed. We drove up into the Basin. An alpine region in the only mountain range in America completely enclosed in a National Park. We found the campground. Maybe one in ten campsites were taken. Fierce warnings to conserve water. No electricity. We sat up the tent by flash light. The ground was gravel and rock. The French Foreign Legion tent uses 16 wire stakes. Three went in without bending. The clang of the Swiss Army entrenching tool driving them echoed off the cliffs. I had the feeling I was desecrating the silence like shouting obscenities in a temple. Finally I found rocks and tied off the guy ropes (8) and built cairns around the end ones.
Suddenly Mrs. RRR called to me in the voice she uses for genuine emergencies. "Get over here NOW and bring your flashlight!" She had accidentally stepped on a tarantula the size of my hand. It spun in a circle around the two broken legs she'd stepped on, looking for an enemy to bite. Mrs. RRR whom I'd promised I would keep safe, was less than impressed. I stomped it out its misery, shuddering at the bulk of it under my foot. Tarantulas and one of the more impressive of the bugs God made. I didn't like having to kill it, but could hardly have left it alive under those conditions. It was no surprise to me to find it was the first one seen all summer in the Basin. Somehow it only made sense that Mrs. RRR who has seldom camped and was a total stranger to the desert had stepped on it in the dark. She quickly retreated to the tent and unrolled the self-inflating mattresses and the sleeping bags while I puttered about stashing gear and neatening the camp.
My attention was drawn to Casa Grande, the towering mountain that looms over the east side of the basin. There seemed to be a city behind it. The night sky had that much glow. Soon the whole mountain was outlined in white light. I stood awestruck as the white turned to silver. Then a brilliant silver sliver of light rose above the exact center of Casa Grande. And grew bigger and rose higher. My mouth hung open. The full moon in a glory I've never seen rose majestically above the mountain's flat top. The whole basin was illuminated. The silver light showed the ring of cliffs and spires. The feeling I was in a temple returned. But now I was not the interloper, I was part of the worship. The flattened tarantula was no sign of what was to come... this was. I knew what I'd come to seek was there to be found.
I crawled into the tent and zipped up the netting, but left the flaps open. All through the night I would awaken from a dreamless sleep and watch the full moon slowly treading its path out the south facing tent door, then snuggle back up to Mrs. RRR and sink back into nothingness.