As we started out on a four-wheel-drive trip into the Sierra Ancha Mountains of Central Arizona, a blog idea had already sprung to mind. We were on our way to a town called Young and, of course, I started thinking about age.
On our ascent to Young, the landscape shed its lower-elevation saguaros and prickly pear cacti like snakeskin, in favor of pinyon pines and blazing yellow turpentine bush. The crisp air drew further clarity to my blog angle: I realized that I unintentionally gravitate toward books with characters close to my own age –not younger characters. This is not always the case, but I seem to initially be drawn to these stories – maybe because I expect to relate to my fictional counterparts?
This whole notion of youngness – youth – of age, of character age, is what I was going to write about. That is … until the characters of my real life story-in-progress began to misbehave on our trek into Tonto National Forest.
When we made it to one of our destinations (Workman Creek) after about a half dozen stops, we were rewarded with gorgeous views.
After our lunch at Antler’s Café & Bar (one of only two restaurants in this part of elk country), we took a tour of the tiny town. These old barns and buildings captivated me with their untold stories.
But here’s where the plot (and my blog post idea) shifted dramatically. Our girl Betty (my Jeep) – not Goldie – dropped a drive shaft. On a dirt side road. In the middle of nowhere.
Hubby took things in stride, confident we could make it home with only the front wheels in 4WD when he disconnected the broken rear drive shaft. It would be a slow, long ride home, but it was a plan at least.
Once again, however, our unfolding story swung in a new direction.
Betty wouldn’t budge. At all. The transfer case also was broken. And in a twist of fate, the once-limping Goldie now became our savior.
Because of the late hour, we had to leave Betty in the wilderness of the Sierra Anchas, 103 miles from home (I hoped she wasn’t afraid of the dark, all alone in the foreboding shadows of the Ponderosa pines).
Where is the world was Betty? This is precisely where Betty spent the night. Look at all that secluded forest. The winding road, above and to right, is the trail where Betty broke down.
Hubby was pretty silent most of the ride home. I was sure he was trying to figure out a way to bring Betty back home: find a trailer to accommodate her wide wheel base (and figure out how our small 8-cylinder 1500 series pickup could handle pulling Betty + trailer up and down steep hills); or find parts on a Sunday – a new yoke and U-joints to repair the drive shaft – so that he could service her in her wilderness resting place.
We continued along in Goldie, under the tint of starry skies and a periodic red glow, a suffused warning emanating under the dash. Time for another 4Runner rest stop. And another plot twist. At 50 miles to home. Of course.
Fluids now trickled beneath Goldie’s engine compartment. Not transmission fluid (which would have been bad with a capital B) … but antifreeze. Yes, bedraggled and weary, the four 4WD enthusiasts faced a new problem. Another conflict. Another plot shift in their story.
And it was time for another solution (or luck). With the help of some water in the coolant overflow, we did make it home. Mark and Roxanne got a new hose replacement the next day (and will be taking Goldie back to the transmission folks this week). Hubby scrounged around salvage yards all of Sunday morning (and found the replacement yoke).
Eleven hours later – after repairing the drive shaft at home, traveling 206 miles round trip into the Sierra Anchas and lying in dirt to mount the drive shaft – hubby made sure that Betty made her way home safely.
And this is how the story ended. Well, this chapter, at least.
For Readers, Writers & Everyone: We can’t predict the plot points of our lives, but with our fiction, we possess that kind of ubiquitous control. In fact, in our stories, we savor the very kind of conflict, collision and resolution faced by Betty and Goldie. The more twists and turns and surprises, the better.
What books do you recall with plot twists and turns that really surprised you? Do you like that kind of tension in your fiction?
Or maybe you’d like to sound off on the question posed by my original blog post idea: Do you see a parallel between your own aging and the age of characters you’re drawn to when reading? Does age of character even matter?