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Jan. 18, 2010 – The Point of the Mountain and its enduring message

January 18, 2010
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Claudia was tucked in tight behind me. We had left Reno just a half hour before, and the sun was now peaking over the mountain range ahead of us. It was about 6 in the morning. The air was clear, fresh and cool. We were both glad we had gotten up, loaded the bike and hit the road. No traffic, anywhere we looked. We had it all to ourselves as we headed east, back to Salt Lake, back to home.
We pulled off of I-80 in Fernley, and after passing through Fallon, we’re on US-50. Nothing but the soft hum of the Gold Wing in our ears and the feel of the desert air on our faces. Little town of Austin. Had been on the road for two hours so stopped to rest. It wouldn’t be long. Grandma was home in Salt Lake with the kids, and Claudia was anxious to get back.
Gas, and back on the bike. Off into the desert once again. Had to be careful now, the folks in Austin had told us to watch for cows and snakes lying on the road. It wasn’t fenced, and they liked the heat. Anything that looked like a cow probably was. Slow down, give them time to move and if they don’t, give them plenty of room to jump at the last minute.
But it made the trip a little more interesting. Claudia was a city girl, and fascinated by all the openness, all the miles, and all the space. I liked the way she settled into my back, how she held me tight, and how she looked at me in the mirror. It was just us. Again.
We’re just out of Delta. She wants to stop. It’s so quiet we can hear our own hearts pumping. The only other sound is the pipes that crackle as they shed heat into the desert air. She pulls off her helmet, and walks to the center of the road. With a grin, she does a half-turn and sits down exactly on the white line, facing me. “Come on,” she says. “Come on and sit down. If the cows can do it, then so can we.” And she’s right. I sit down, and for 15 minutes it’s just us, the tiny tinkling sounds coming from the cooling exhausts, and us breathing in the late afternoon air.
North on I-15. Its dark now. And starting to rain. I know I should pull off, get under the overpass, and sit it out. But we’re only 30 minutes from home and we both want to walk in that welcome door. I drop in behind a semi and start the grade up Point of the Mountain. It’s not much, but just enough that for every foot we climb, the rain gets harder. Within seconds, I’m in trouble. The rain is coming so fast it can’t run off the road, and the splash from the rear wheels of the semi is so heavy it’s making it hard to stay in his wheel track. I drop back, but the car behind won’t give an inch. I’m in trouble. And I know I’ve got to get around the semi.
I pull to the left. It’s clear. I have a chance, so crack the throttle just a hair, and start to gain on the 18-wheeler. I’m halfway up his side, just starting to come even with the cab when I hit the splash from his front wheel. It’s too much. I can’t stay here. It’s pass him, or drop back behind, and I know I can’t do that. I feel Claudia tense as she realizes the fix we are in, and her arms wrap all the tighter around my waist as she tries to tell me with her touch she knows I can do this.
So I tweak the throttle and add just enough power to get me moving up on the truck once more. But it’s too much. And I can feel the start of the hydroplaning. Back off. Try again, but not so much. There. Just right. Keep on it. Steady. Watch the front tire, keep it in the track. Don’t give it too much. Watch the tach. Get through his splash. There. You’ve got it. You’ll make it.
And we do. And home is especially warm that night. Claudia hugs the kids just a little longer than usual, and Grandma can’t figure out why we both are so quiet. But I know. And
Claudia knows. We used everything we had. And when we had used it all up, we just had to hang in there and gut it out. We did. And we were home. Safe.
Kinda like you. It has been a hard year. You have used everything you ever learned — and then some — to make it through. You were dead-honest with the banks and the flooring companies. You kept product on the floor. And you were able to keep your best employees and techs. Somehow, you made every payroll (OK, except your own check a couple of times), and you even managed to pay your taxes. You pulled it off, and you are here to do it all again, in 2010.
So now, as you walk through that darkened store for the last time in 2009, bending between the mirrors and the footpegs, keys to the front door in your hands, the alarm ticking off the last few seconds — you are already thinking about your plans for 2010. You are thinking of the Polar Bear ride you are going to organize in January, and the hill-climb for March. A new floor layout. And all the other things that have been slowly gathering in your head. Another year. And you are going to come back in January and start it all over again.
Claudia passed away last April. A stroke. After 40 years together, 15 minutes and she was gone. I miss her dearly, and will always remember her goodness, her grace and her sweetness. But in times like these, it’s something else I remember from her. I remember the feel of her arms around me that rainy night on the Point of the Mountain, the touch of her helmet against my shoulders, and the unspoken message: I know you can do this. She was right. I know I can do this. Just like you. You know you can do it too. And we will.

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