Salina was fifty miles behind him and yet Eli was still thinking about all that Mathias had done to help him on his way. Yes, he might feel this was a foolish venture for someone so young, but he had said nothing this morning on that subject. He had, however, explained more about his aunt.
Dinner the night before had been outstanding, and Eli knew that Mathias had told Juanita exactly how to prepare the meal. The steak had been burned black on the outside, but the inside was tender and delicious. The potatoes which accompanied the meal had been fried up with mild chilies and other vegetables which created a dish his father would have adored.
Mathias was wasting his talents on the few thousand residents of Salina, but then he knew that. This was one step on a long road to the top and Eli felt that in his kinship with the boy. There were miles to go before reaching his own goal, but just having met Mathias made a big difference in the way he felt. And then there was the aunt.
“The road gets pretty steep along the way so you need to check your radiator every morning and look at the dipstick in the oil pan every time you fill up with gas. But once you pass through Provo the Salt Lake area can get pretty hot. You won’t dwell there for long, and then you hit the really beautiful scenery.
“Just watch your step when you enter Yellowstone. Lots of rangers who might just stop you for some reason, so make sure all your lights are working. Yeah, and the tourists are a real mob driving around on those roads. The highway goes right through the park and you’ll be glad once you pass the exit, I sure was.
“You will see more than a few buffalo, and when you do, stop and say a prayer to the spirits of our ancestors. That will bring you good fortune. As for picking up any hitchhikers…I think you know what to avoid.”
All that had been said at around six that morning as Mathias opened the restaurant for breakfast. Eli had slept on the couch, got up to wash his face and then lugged his bag back down to the wagon. Mathias already had the coffee on and was frying a monster amount of bacon. He laughed when Eli exclaimed how unhealthy bacon was. The folks in town didn’t care if it was the bacon or the hard work that killed them.
But Eli got a bacon and egg sandwich for the road. Ilene was still asleep when Mathias walked him out to the car. Eli paused for a moment and dug the camera out of his bag.
“Do you mind?” Eli asked.
Mathias smiled. “Not at all…let’s take one together.”
And so Eli set the timer, placed the camera on top of the wagon, and stood with Mathias in front of the wall advertising Mom’s Café. A snapshot in time, the first of many to come.
“Thank you,” Eli said. “Perhaps I can make a photo journal if I take enough pictures.”
“I hope you can, I’d love to see it,” Mathias said.
“Give my best to your aunt…a very interesting lady.”
“I hope she didn’t freak you out. She has the power, you know.”
“The power of what?”
“Puha is what holds everything together…I don’t know if the Diné understand the concept. The Paiute believe that there is a connection in all living things and that gives us a spiritual link to the earth. Some of our people have a very strong way of using the Puha, and my aunt is one of them.
“She is Puhagant, a spiritualist you might identify as a shaman…I don’t know your beliefs. But her sense of perception is very strong and my uncle used to tell me that her mind was as keen as the eyes of a wolf. She believes in dreams and occasionally has visions of another world which I don’t understand.”
Mathias smiled. “She freaks me out sometimes, like she can read my mind. Well I hope not, there are some pretty strange thoughts in my head on occasion. Have peace, my brother, and I hope you find what you’re looking for. You know where I am now so don’t be a stranger if you get back up this way.” And then Mathias had hugged him long and hard before turning back to the café and his chores in the kitchen.
So Ilene believed in dreams and now Eli wished he could stay and tell her about what he had seen in his sleep last night. He’d experienced many dreams in his life, most of them about the people and places he had seen. Once he reached puberty there had been some very explicit sexual material which captured his imagination, but those dreams he had expected. Last night was far different.
In this dream he had been sitting behind a large drum, beating time for the dancers who leapt and twirled on the packed earth in front of him. Eli was one of several drummers and the beat was simple and repetitive. The dancers were dressed in the full regalia of beaded leggings and vests, feathered bands around arms, legs and head. All the bright and beautiful colors shimmering in the light from a huge bonfire.
The whoops and calls from the surrounding darkness revealed hundreds of people watching the event. Eli looked up as one of the dancers spun in front of him and realized that it was a young Mathias. His outfit was completely traditional and his dancing skills quite apparent to Eli’s untrained eyes, but then he turned his head to see another boy step into the firelight.
Unlike Mathias, Neil’s body was thin and emaciated as if he were already sick. His feet shuffled in time with the drums but there was no strength or energy behind his movement. The noise from the audience ceased and the boy moved slowly around the fire, his steps stumbling and weak…until he fell.
Eli started to stand up, and cast aside his beater until he saw Mathias drop to the ground beside Neil and cradle the boy in his arms. He touched the boy’s face and chest, gave him a slight shake which brought no response. Only then did Mathias tilt his head back and cry out in anguish. It was the most powerful scene Eli had ever witnessed…then the dream evaporated and Eli woke up.
It was only two o’clock in the morning and Eli lay there staring at the pictures on the walls until he fell back to sleep. Ilene had been right, there was a great truth in that dream and Eli figured that Mathias had felt something for Neil…something that still lingered.
Mathias had felt grief for Neil and his sickness. The gay issue had come between them and then vanished when Neil had the most need for his closest friend. Ilene understood her nephew and now Eli did as well. Compassion ruled the lives of those he respected most, and Mathias had just moved to the top of the list.
The road was embraced by the mountains once Eli left town and around him was the high desert Mathias had promised. Vast acres of scrub, grass and small trees filled the slopes. But much of the soil was alkaline and the mineral salts would make for bad grazing.
Eli went through Ephraim and saw the signs for Snow College. Although not much larger than Salina, this was definitely a more prosperous town and perhaps the college made that possible. He didn’t linger to look around. Eli promised himself he would be in Salt Lake City by noon. It was only a hundred and fifty miles away.
One small town after another, and they only seemed to be spread about thirty or forty miles apart. That was an easy one to figure out; it was the distance a man could travel in a day on horseback. The first settlers in these parts were Mormons and they were a very organized people. They would have measured out the distances and begun settlements which became towns over the course of a century.
Eli smiled when he saw the sign for Uinta National Forest because that was the last obstacle before he reached Provo. But the cities would slow him down and he would have to be a more careful driver. Provo and Salt Lake City were Mormon enclaves and the whole state was under their influence. Eli gave little thought to his personal faith, and yet he knew a lot about religion.
His father was Christian, as were many Diné who had been influenced by the missionaries and his mother was a Presbyterian. But with thousands of sheep on a twenty-four hour schedule seven days a week there was little time to attend church. The Mormons had a broad reach, and that included Arizona. Their young missionaries were seen in Flagstaff, Phoenix and even Yuma.
Ever since his first encounter with Michael, Eli had followed the course of gay issues in the news. Mormons it seemed were not very gay friendly, and yet there seemed to be a number of outspoken gay Mormons. Eli figured gay was hard enough, but a gay Mormon must have an uncommonly hard life to lead.
He finally drove into the outskirts of Provo and figured he wasn’t going to see anything that indicated there were gay people living here, but he was wrong. Route 89 became State Street through Provo. A rural area of neighborhoods that slowly gave way to city streets lined with houses and townhomes.
Provo was a college town and Brigham Young University lay right in his path. The signs for 89 took a jog and Eli followed. He came to a stoplight and pulled up behind a car with some bumper stickers on the back, and one of them was a rainbow flag.
It was startling to see such an open display of gay affiliation here in such a bastion of conservative thought, but there were two guys in the car…interesting. But of more importance at the moment was the gas gauge which said he was down to a quarter of a tank. Eli pulled into a gas station.
While the pump ran, Eli checked out his map. Route 89 remained on State Street all the way into Salt Lake City, but this was such a congested road. Traffic and stoplights meant he would make slow progress through endless neighborhoods and take hours he didn’t want to waste.
Interstate 15 was only a short distance away and he saw that 89 eventually merged with that highway in about ten miles. Better to do it now and get moving since he still had no idea where he would be spending the night. There was always the sleeping bag which he could roll out in the back, but even that was risky if there were cops around.
Eli had no encounters with the law at this point, but he didn’t think that would last forever. Rest stops were patrolled, and a young guy alone sleeping in a car would be a curiosity most cops couldn’t pass up. Driving alone like this wasn’t illegal, and it was his mother’s car. But all it would take was one small misdemeanor and Eli would be busted.
Gassed up to the tune of sixty dollars, Eli pulled across the street and went through the drive-thru of a fast food restaurant. He had to make tracks up the Interstate and didn’t feel like stopping again until dinner. With two chicken sandwiches and a bag of fries on the seat beside him, Eli pulled onto Interstate 15 northbound.
It was seventy-two degrees outside which felt cool to a boy from the desert, but the noise on the interstate blasting through the open windows was too much to handle. The rush of wind at higher speed and the sudden blast of a passing truck made Eli roll up the windows. At least now he could hear the radio.
Wide lanes of concrete, often between tall noise abatement walls, left little for Eli to see of downtown Provo, so he focused on his driving. In no time he was seeing signs for downtown Salt Lake City and he thought it interesting that there were no tall buildings to be seen. Instead the roadway was sunken and lined with more of those damn walls.
The tallest things east of the highway were the mountains which never seemed to disappear. That only reminded Eli that he would be venturing onto higher ground shortly once he passed through these cities. He never did see the Great Salt Lake from the highway, just the signs that showed him that he had reached Ogden.
Somewhere a short way up the road Route 89 would split off towards the eastern part of the state while the interstate continued north. Eli had a decision to make and he was reluctant to change his plans. Canada was still a good distance away and he would reach there faster if he stayed on the interstate. Route 89 was slower and meandered through small towns and vast stretches of park land…but it was here that he would meet people.
He saw several signs for Route 89 but he waited to leave the interstate. After another thirty minutes Eli saw the sign for Perry, and it was from this small town that the highway he wanted turned east so he took the exit. The mountains filled the horizon in the distance and Eli knew he would soon be climbing into them on his way to Bear Lake.
Eli had nearly reached Perry when he saw two boys sitting on a stone wall at the entrance to a housing development. There wasn’t any construction yet, just wide sandy lots with a few flags in the ground. The two couldn’t live here, there were no houses around. As Eli started to drive by one of them jumped up and waved at him, so he pulled over.
He rolled down the passenger’s side window as the boy ran up and then smiled as he leaned on the door.
“You going into town?” the boy asked.
“Yes…what are you doing out here in the middle of nothing?” Eli asked.
“We hitched up from Ogden, but got out here. Where are you going?”
Now that he had a chance to look a little closer he judged the boy to be about fifteen. His companion continued to sit on the wall and he looked a little older. Did he want to tell this boy where he was going? The boys were well dressed, but perhaps they were runaways.
“I’m going to Bear Lake,” Eli said.
“Really? Um, can you give us a ride that far? I have money for gas, but Danny sprained his ankle so we didn’t get any further than this.”
“He’s Danny, and who are you?” Eli asked.
“Matt Perkins,” the boy replied.
“I’m Eli…go on and get your stuff.”
Danny hobbled over to the wagon while Matt carried their backpacks. Eli got out and put their stuff in the back with his things, and then helped Danny climb into the rear seat.
“You could stretch out if that ankle is painful,” Eli told the boy. “Otherwise, you both have to wear seatbelts so the cops don’t pull us over.”
“Yeah…no cops,” Danny said, and Eli knew they were running away from something.
Matt slid into the front seat and looked around as he snapped the seatbelt in place.
“Cool old car,” he said.
“Mom’s car, I just borrowed it,” Eli said. “What are you guys running away from, or are you running to something?”
“Yesterday we were running away from Danny’s father. This morning some fag tried to pick us up,” Matt said.
“Matt…Shut up,” Danny said.
“Sorry…I didn’t mean to say that. We don’t know you…”
“And I might be gay, huh?” Eli laughed, and then he stopped abruptly. “Sit up straight, there’s a cop behind us.”
The State Trooper rolled on past in the fast lane and only gave them a cursory glance. Eli figured out he was looking for the seatbelts, and then he remembered the Arizona tags. Damn, they were going to get looked at a lot. They all watched the cop drive away and Eli laughed again.
“I bet he just got off the interstate to take a piss,” Eli said. “So you’re on the run…do you have any idea where you’re going?”
“Bear Lake, same as you,” Matt said. “My parents have a cabin up there…”
Danny groaned from the back seat. “You can’t tell everyone where we’re going. That’s how we’ll get caught,” he asserted.
“So you ran away from Danny’s father for some reason and are going to a cabin owned by your parents…it won’t take them long to find you,” Eli said.
“Danny’s father doesn’t know about the cabin and my parents are in Mexico,” Matt said.
Eli thought about that for a minute. If what the boy said was true they weren’t likely to get picked up in the next two hours, and by then they would be at Bear Lake. He didn’t want to question their reasons for running away, but...
“What happens when your parents come home from Mexico and find you gone?” Eli asked.
“Won’t be the first time,” Matt said. “Look, it’s complicated. Our parents are Mormons and I despise the LDS church. Danny is my step-brother, although not legally. His mother is my aunt and his father’s second wife.”
“What’s illegal about that?”
“He still has the first wife, too,” Matt said. “Bigamy is illegal now except there are some who ignore the state laws and the bishop doesn’t seem to care. But this woman doesn’t like any of my aunt’s kids and she rules the house.”
“Okay, so Danny’s got problems, why did you leave?” Eli asked.
“My parents are in Mexico visiting the relatives, or so they say. But I heard my father tell Mom that they just need to convince my uncle to take me on. I’m not turning out to be the good little Mormon they want so they’re planning to send me down there and let my uncle deal with me. I’m not going anywhere near that part of the family.”
“So you think you can hide out at Bear Lake? What about school, food…how long can you last up there?”
“Danny is sixteen and I’ll be sixteen by the end of the summer, we don’t have to be in school. We can get jobs at the marina, I know some people there,” Matt said. “So why are you going to Bear Lake?”
“I’m not really,” Eli said. “I’m headed further north.”
Matt grinned. “So you’re running away too.”
“No, I’m just out exploring. Not sure what I expect to find. What happened this morning?”
Matt laughed. “Some trucker at the rest stop offered to have sex with me.”
“I told him he should get his hair cut, he looks like a girl,” Danny said from the back seat.
“He didn’t want a girl, dumbass. I told you that,” Matt replied. “He was just a pervert.”
“Did you guys eat this morning?” Eli asked.
“Not really, I’m trying to save our money,” Matt said.
“We’ll hit the Bear River Mountains soon,” Eli said. “I’ll stop and buy you guys an early dinner.”
Logan, Utah, was a small city, and the last one Eli would encounter in this state. They stopped at Kentucky Fried and bought chicken dinners which were quickly eaten. The wagon had over half a tank remaining, but Eli filled it back up at the gas station next to the restaurant, and then they were off to Bear Lake.
The road wound between steep hills and seemed to follow the river east. Eli could only imagine how difficult a drive this would be in winter, but he wouldn’t try such a twisting road in bad weather. Danny fell asleep and Matt just stared out the window as they traversed the miles to the lake and then turned north into Garden City.
The cabin, as Matt had described, was built on a side road just north of the state park and the marina where they planned to work. Eli pulled into the driveway and came to a halt before a good sized log home. The house sat amidst the trees on a rise which gave it a great view of the lake.
It was only three o’clock in the afternoon and Eli was tempted to get back on the road and then look for a place to stay the night up in Idaho. That would take him closer to his planned route through the parks to Yellowstone, but that was still a long drive. He couldn’t do it in one day, and staying overnight in Yellowstone Park was not an option. He would have to space this out very carefully.
“Come on inside,” Matt suggested. “You know you’re welcome to stay the night, and we have satellite television.”
Eli smiled. Television was the last thing on his mind, but it would be a nice thing to get these boys settled in. Their plan didn’t seem well thought out, but then neither was his. What if they didn’t have enough food? But he soon discovered that was not going to be a problem.
The house had a heavy looking front door which Matt unlocked with a key. Then he quickly stepped inside and disarmed the alarm system. Eli entered and stood in a small front room with walls that were just painted cinderblock. This was certainly curious, and there were no windows in this room.
“The house is through here,” Matt said, and opened another heavy door which led them into a living room.
“What was all that?” Eli asked.
“People trap,” Matt said. “My father is one of those survivalists. You know, when doomsday comes he’ll be up here with the family. This place is packed with all kinds of things he thinks we’ll need when the government fails.”
And Matt was right. The basement had a generator for emergency power and several freezers filled with frozen food. There were shelves loaded with dried rations, batteries and radiation protection suits. Eli picked up a gas mask while Matt went on talking about the final days his father envisioned.
Danny had hobbled halfway down the stairs and sat down on the steps. “The man is nuts, you know. He’s got guns and enough ammo to fight off a small army. A lot of the LDS people buy into this nonsense so we had to get away from them.”
“It looks like an expensive hobby,” Eli said, waving a hand at all the stuff around them.
“They don’t think it’s funny,” Matt said. “Dad’s convinced the blacks will try to take over the country and support a Chinese invasion.”
“You left out the queers and the liberal politicians,” Danny said.
“So how long before your parents come back and find you gone?” Eli asked.
“Oh, they probably already know I ran away. They left my sister in charge and she’d rat me out in a heartbeat. But they won’t hurry back because I sorta left behind the notion that I was headed to Mexico to find them.” Matt laughed. “She’d be dumb enough to believe that.”
“A little misdirection…that ought to hold them off for a while,” Eli said.
“My father has a sailboat down at the marina so we could be anywhere along the lake if he decides to look for us here. I am not going to Mexico.”
“You got any first aid supplies down here?” Eli asked. “Danny needs to sit still and have an Ace bandage wrapped around that ankle.”
“You know first aid?” Danny asked.
“I know a little bit about everything and not a lot of anything,” Eli replied, and they all laughed.
The cabin had four bedrooms and two bathrooms, but everything was slightly small. Matt said the house was all cinderblock construction with the wooden logs on the outside to make it appear normal. Each window had metal shutters hidden behind the drapes which could be closed in an emergency. A small fortress which probably wouldn’t last long if someone really wanted inside.
Matt admitted he didn’t bring a lot of money with him, but that there were several thousand dollars stashed away in the house. He had decided to borrow what they needed and pay it back when they started working. Eli figured that perhaps they had given this some thought, but they couldn’t hide out here forever.
There were things left unsaid about why they had run away, but Eli didn’t feel comfortable about prying into their business. He wasn’t sure they would tell him the truth if he did ask. But then his own reasons for being on the road were something he didn’t want to discuss.
Matt opened a canned ham and heated some frozen vegetables for dinner. Just a quick survey showed Eli that the boys had several months’ worth of food available if they were careful. He didn’t like the idea that they were dropping out of school, but perhaps by fall their plans would change and they would go home.
The map showed Eli that the run from here through Yellowstone Park and into Montana was a good four hundred miles, but the pace would be slowed by the park roads and traffic. If he was going to make it in one day, then Eli knew he would have to leave at dawn and keep moving until almost dark.
He had done remarkably well to this point, but he had learned that travelling alone was something he would like to avoid in the future. If there was a future trip somewhere…if he didn’t get caught. This would be his second night away from home and somehow that felt important. He could do this, he had to.
Eli took several photos of the lake from the front porch before turning his camera on the boys. The first shot was easy, and then Matt felt inspired. He went in the house and was back ten minutes later dressed as a mountain man.
“My father collects this old stuff,” He explained. “I think in another life he would have been a pioneer.” Then he posed in a fringed buckskin shirt, slouch hat and a large checkered bandana around his neck. What made the photo special was the large .50 caliber buffalo rifle Matt held that looked really menacing.
Danny sat on the porch steps and grinned at the camera. A few shots later Matt joined him and Eli once again set the timer and placed the camera on the hood of the wagon for a group shot. He might never see these two boys again but at least he would have the images saved up.
The sun set behind the mountains and darkness slowly crept into the sky out over the lake. This was beautiful country, a place once filled with native people who lived off the land.
“So…Eli…where are you really going?’ Matt asked.
“The Canadian border if I can, and then back home. I don’t know why I’m doing this, it just seems important.”
“You don’t really have any plans, do you?” Danny asked.
“No, not really,” Eli said. “I just wanted to get away and see something different. Things don’t always work out the way you want and if that changes your plans then you get disappointed. This trip is about discovering who and what I am. That’s something you can’t learn in school.”
“School is a pain in the ass,” Matt said.
“But knowledge is necessary,” Danny said. “If we all don’t learn certain things then we can’t communicate with one another. Math, science, language…I get that, but the Church stuff they sneak into the lessons just fucks me up.”
“Religion is fine for some people, if that’s all they want out of life,” Matt said. “But don’t tell me how to think, and don’t try to make me believe I owe everything to the Church. I’ve had ten years of their brainwashing and I had to get out.”
“You should see what they put people through,” Danny said. “I would hate to be a woman in the LDS church. They have no life of their own and that’s sad. Guys have to toe the line or get kicked out, not just from church…the family is expected to kick you out too.”
“I wouldn’t belong to a church like that,” Eli said. “I don’t really have any religious feelings, and if I did they would probably be considered pagan.”
“I think paganism is perfectly fine,” Matt said. “But then you have native blood and that gives you an affinity for everything in nature.”
“Except sheep,” Eli said. “My family raises sheep and I am so over it.”
They all had a good laugh about that, and then Eli decided it was time for bed. He would be up with the dawn, shower and hit the road. It would be better to stop somewhere in Idaho for breakfast and keep pushing throughout the day.
“Perhaps we should say good-bye now,” Eli said. “You don’t have to get up when I do.”
“Wake me before you leave,” Matt said.
Eli took the bed in the first room down the hall and watched Matt and Danny take the bedroom at the end of the hall. From what he remembered on a short tour of the house there was only one large bed in that room. Curious, but he wasn’t about to say anything.
It didn’t seem like he should be tired since the day had been fairly short, but Eli quickly fell asleep once he laid his head on the pillow. He must have been tired because there were no dreams. Instead he awoke in darkness and grabbed his watch off the nightstand…four in the morning. Damn, he had slept like a log, but it was time to get up.
He took his clean clothes into the bathroom across the hall and glanced at the door where Matt and Danny had gone to bed. What did it say about them sleeping together? Matt’s faggot comments from the day before didn’t leave any room for thinking these boys might be engaged in anything.
Eli showered and looked at himself in the mirror. He had never shaved, and from what his father said he probably wouldn’t need to anytime soon. With all that mixed blood in his body, Eli always had a hard time figuring out which of his parents’ genes would be dominant. So far his father’s side of the family was winning the race and that was just fine.
He carried his bag down the hall and out into the front room. He should just leave and not wake Matt, but he didn’t know if the boy would be mad. Their bedroom door was closed and Eli opened it quietly. The room was dark, but he could just make out the two sleeping forms on the bed.
Danny was lying behind Matt with his arms around the boy’s chest. The room was warm and there was only a sheet covering their bodies, but Eli knew they were both naked. This didn’t mean they were gay, but something was going on here.
I’m envious, Eli thought as his eyes adjusted to the gloom. They have something that I have only thought about. Those few precious moments where Michael hugged and kissed him had left a yearning, and this scene brought back all those feelings. No wonder they had run away together…their families would never understand this.
Eli turned back into the hallway and closed the door. Matt would probably be embarrassed and find this hard to explain. It would be better if the boys were allowed to sleep and discovered him gone. Eli walked back to the front room and picked up his bag.
Matt was standing in the archway to the hall when Eli turned. The boy was naked and didn’t seem awake quite yet.
“I didn’t want to wake you,” Eli said. “Good-bye and stay safe. You should go back to bed.”
But Matt crossed the space between them to give Eli a hug. Perhaps it was then he realized that he was naked.
“I heard the door close so I suppose you saw Danny and I…”
Eli smiled. “I’m glad you have someone. It explains a lot about the reasons you ran away.”
“He loves me, and I’m just getting used to the idea that I can love him back,” Matt said. “I hope this doesn’t shock you, but yesterday…well, yesterday there was a point when I thought you were gay…I’m sorry.”
“I probably am, but that’s what I’m trying to find out. I live in Yuma most of the year, so if you get down there just ask anyone where the Begay sheep ranch is. I wish you and Danny all the best, I really do. Just be careful who finds out what you share.”
“There are a few gay people around the lake, that’s another reason to come here,” Matt said. “Thank you, Eli…Thank you for not judging me to be some stupid kid. I don’t know how this will end, but at least Danny and I will have some time to build up the courage to face our parents. I wish you all the luck in the world on your quest…I hope you do find what you’re after.”
With that, Matt threw his arms around Eli‘s neck and kissed him on the cheek. That would be a moment to remember, but it was over too soon and Eli was out the door and slid into the car. Matt stood on the porch in all his glory and waved as the wagon started and then pulled away. Eli only wished he had the guts to take a picture.
He was back on the highway headed north when the sky to the east began to lighten and Eli didn’t even see the sign announcing the Idaho state line. A half hour later he pulled into Paris, smiling at the name and wondering if they had an Eiffel Tower of their own. But he stopped at the Paris Café for breakfast just for the fun of it.
The map showed that his path lay into higher elevations and once past Montpelier Eli would be on a steady climb for most of the morning. He was only about thirty miles from Wyoming where he would venture into the Teton National Forest and then reach Yellowstone.
There were small towns along the way, plenty of places to gas up and then keep on going into the mountain range. Eli had a couple hundred miles ahead before he reached Yellowstone, and then he would have to drive another hundred to get out of Wyoming. There was no time to dawdle and look around at the scenery. He was beginning to feel the sense of urgency.
He had told Miguel he would be gone only a few days, a week at most. But two days had quickly flown past and he was still hundreds of miles below the border. His cell phone sat on the center console and Eli kept it plugged in the whole time, but it had not rung once. Miguel must not have felt any need to bother him, and Eli knew he would be just fine…until that phone rang.
Like most of the towns he had encountered, Route 89 was the main thoroughfare, and so he went through Montpelier where he stopped to top off the gas tank and check the oil. It was here on the outskirts of town that he got a good look at what he was facing. The Tetons lay ahead, and damn, there was snow on the tops of those mountains.