White-Knuckle Driving Under Relaxing Circumstances

Back in May of 2008, I was on an epic, 4500-mile solo road trip. I saw some friends, I explored numerous National Parks, saw the birthplace of Jesse James and drank rye whiskey from Iowa (or was it Illinois?). On the tail end of this trip, I got to visit a place very dear to me, even if I’d not yet been there before: The Badlands. Like the picture here, I had imagined the ridges and pyres of clay and sand to be layered by the most vivid sunlight. I had tasted my own sweat, running from my brow to my mustache, from the intense heat of this desert-like place when I dreamt of standing there. That dream, that Hollywood-incepted romance could not have been further from the truth. Tuesday, the 27th of May, 2008 was frighteningly cold and condensed with fog and misted clouds almost becoming rain. It was 42 degrees. Visibility was a touch better than looking out the window on a 727 as you pass through the last cloud layer.

Nonetheless, I was determined to enjoy the hell out of The Badlands.

I pulled up to the gate, happily paid my $20 entrance fee and started on in for what I built up to be an awe-inspiring day. Just past the gate is the first lookout point, so I pulled up and got out to just soak it in. After a little session there, I started on down the road to find some other spots to get out and look around. Merely 3 miles inside the gate, my paranoid sixth sense started pinging and I checked the temperature gauge. Sure enough, my Suby-Sue was redlining. Fuck. I pulled over, got out and popped the hood with a jug of water in hand. Naturally, a ranger pulled up to check on me, told me there was a general store back past the main gate and that I should certainly get some radiator fluid. After I filled Suby up with some much needed fluids, I went back, still just as determined to enjoy. You see, I have a hard time relaxing with cars when there is any sort of problem or potential for something to get worse, so my re-entry to the park was commandeered by a steering wheel that may have been straining under the vice-grips I now had for hands at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions. White-knuckled for sure. In times like this, I often search for a good soundtrack, often with instinctively sharp decisions leading to keen memories uploaded to the musical choice. Somehow, my musical seventh sense knew to run to Murcof. Just the year before, in 2007, he had released Cosmos, an ever-reaching sonic signal to the gods and the nebulae. I put it on, skipping the first track, because I never did groove on it. Immediately, soothing blood pumped out to all extremities, loosening my hands around the steering wheel. While I did stop at a number of viewpoints and suck in the sound of the wind, this soundtrack to my drive through parts of the park mas where the magic was at. The road swells and falls over the hilly composition of the park, an easy roller-coaster ride, with ‘Cosmos I’ and ‘Cosmos II’ syncing up with the topography. The prolonged cello notes and synthesizer drones seemed to elongate the moments of joy and wonder, despite all the reasons not to. I was in a fantastic place in the space-time continuum where directionality and time stretch like rubber, but feel no strain. The alien landscape around me lifting off and into space with me. All the other cars on the road became passing stars or comets. And I could control only myself.

Simply put? With Murcof, revelations come easily, as if you had only to look up to see them towering over you, instead of staring down at your feet.Cosmos II


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