When we were about an hour outside of Boise, Tess called to confirm our hotel reservation. The four of us--Tess, her fiance Kimball, Kimball's sister Mandi, and I--were having a hard time finding enough room to sit upright in the rented Kia Soul, and having to sleep in a sardine can compact like that would've been more painful than camping outside.
But the good people of the Bridge Street Inn had somehow lost our spot and given our room to one of the hundreds of minivans that had descended upon the town for the 1A basketball tournament that Baker City was hosting. The Knights Inn lived up to the legacy of its name, saving us from a night on the streets, and so we made our way.
I was driving, Kimball was playing Angry Birds on my iPad in the backseat, Tess dozed in and out of sleep in the front, and Mandi had passed out, her head bouncing against the window with every groove of the roadside rumble strips. I took the appropriate off-ramp, and, instantaneously, everything stopped.
Tess woke up, Kimball put down the game, and Mandy's head rose upright. Eyes were rubbed free of sleep and readjusted for streetlight glow. Ooohs and ahhhs were made with every shop, every church, every bed and breakfast we passed. My three companions discussed how early they'd need to wake up to experience some of the town prior to their departure for Portland, their ultimate destination.
But I love Baker City. I love it here. It's gorgeous. It's the place where I had the single most spiritual experience of my life. It's one of the two spots where I can still feel close to my late grandmother. The air here lets me see things more clearly than I can anywhere else. This is it for me.
I've been here four times now.
Visit #1: trying to distract myself from a potential loss.
Visit #2: trying to comprehend the echoes and ripples of the two biggest betrayals I've ever experienced.
Visit #3: trying to build a new life with someone who meant the world to me.
Visit #4: this visit, right now: I don't know.
I'm already noticing how similar this particular visit has been to several of the other ones. But I can't decide if I want to break the cycle or let it come to full fruition.
This is my last night here. Tess and Kimball are coming back tomorrow evening and then we'll make our way home. Today, I slept in, had a fantastic chicken sandwich at The Main Event Sports Bar/Grill, saw Rango (which whispered into my ear everything that I needed to hear), enjoyed a delicious steak dinner at the Geiser Grand Hotel, and finished some Steinbeck.
So now on this, my final evening in town, I'm going to put on my headphones, turn on some Peter Gabriel, take a walk, and try to figure out why nothing is as clear and gentle back in Utah as it is on these familiar streets.
Even in the pitch-black of night, Baker City manages to be nothing but green.