Deer me

Shirley and I had so much to talk about, I almost didn’t leave the second day, either. Finally, in the early afternoon, we’d worked our way out to the front porch with my luggage. We were still telling stories, and Shirley still wasn’t dressed. Then she peered over my shoulder and asked, “What’s that sign?” I looked out and saw it, too, a white sign on the corner, several houses down. Bracing myself for the reaction, I answered, “Yard Sale.”

“Oh! Oh! Goodbye, then!” We both laughed uproariously at our shared obsession with yard sales. It was my cue to go.

I got onto the freeway and headed across Spokane in a light drizzle. When I saw a Best Buy, I decided to stop and pick up an FM transmitter for my iPod. I parked between the Best Buy and a Krispy Kreme donut shop, with plans to visit both. When I got out of the car, a man was walking towards me, purposefully. “Would you be missing a cell phone?” he asked, pointing at the rack on the rear of the Tracker. There was the cell phone, which had ridden across Spokane on the outside of the car. I thanked him profusely, although I had been finding the darn thing not very useful anyway. With the exception of Spokane, I haven’t found cell phone signal since I left Seattle. Traveling on 2-lane roads can be anachronistic.

Riding on a Krispy Kreme sugar high, I decided to spend a little time on the interstate before taking US 95 straight north. But even the interstate didn’t disappoint. The light showers and broken clouds produced a huge, luminous rainbow. I was heading directly to the end of the rainbow, which came and went like a guide.

When I turned onto Highway 200, I finally found a truly wild area of northern Idaho, with few houses and towns. The views were breathtaking as I followed the shores of Lake Pend Oreille. As if that wasn’t enough, the clouds became more and more dramatic, and I had to pull over again and again for sunset pictures. I finally made myself put the camera away and just look, because pictures could never do the dramatic sky justice.

After the sunset came twilight, and I still didn’t know where I would sleep that night. I thought I might just find a campground, pull in, and make myself a sleeping nest in the front seats of the car. But I couldn’t go to sleep at 7:30, so I decided I’d have to drive until dark.

About five years ago, when Barry and I drove through Maine, we decided we would no longer drive after dark. The chances of hitting a moose were too high. Hitting a moose is like hitting an 800-pound wall with feet and antlers.

So that evening in Idaho, when I saw signs warning me of deer and “game crossings,” I slowed down to about 50 mph and scanned the shoulders for critters. Then my mind wandered, and I crept up to 55.

Have you ever noticed how deer do not travel solo? When the first deer crossed the road, my brain was a million miles away in thought, but my subconscious remembered: There is always a second deer. So I slammed on the brakes, locking them up and screeching to a halt a few feet away from deer number two.

My heart was racing. The deer strolled nonchalantly away, as if to say, “See? We told you driving at dusk was a bad idea.”

A couple miles down the road, I saw the sign: “Cabins and RV Park by the river.” I followed a pickup truck down the long winding drive to a little complex of cabins and a half-finished lodge. “Do you know where the office is?” I asked the man from the truck. “I’m the office,” he told me. It made sense — he was as big as a house.

“I’m looking for a place to stay tonight,” I said, my voice still squeaky. My heart had not returned to its normal rate after the deer incident.

For $35, Dennis offered me a sleeping cabin. “It’s 30 feet away from the women’s bathroom,” he said. When he showed me the “Minnow,” an 8×10 cabin with a bed, dresser, and heater, I thought I’d found my new Happy Spot. A little private deck overlooked a river which the map identified as Clark Fork. I meant to ask whether that was the Clark Fork or the Clark Fork River, but daylight made Dennis too taciturn for many questions.

It was a funny sort of handshake cash transaction. I asked about a key to the cabin, and he admitted that the door was warped and didn’t lock. “There’s nobody here; we’re closing at the end of the month,” he said. “That’s OK,” I said, “It’s still a step up from my tent.” As we stood outside the cabin, talking, I noticed shadows flitting about. “Are there bats?” I asked. He told me there were, and that they’d had some trouble with them spending the winter in the heated attic of the lodge, leaving bat poop everywhere. Just then, a bat flew right between our faces. There were definitely bats. It’s a good thing I like bats.

It rained hard that night, making me glad for my warm, cozy cabin instead of my cold, leaky tent. In the morning, I thought about staying for a few days. It seemed like a peaceful place to sit and write. Just then, the power tools roared to life, and I remember what Dennis said about construction on the lodge. I tossed my bag in the car and kept going.

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