January 10, morning
It’s about 8 a.m. The air is still cool. I am sitting on a low, semi-circular painted brick abutment, one of two flanking the sides of a tall green metal gate, an opening in a long white brick wall. Behind the wall are the tranquil grounds of the Viu Manent winery. A young man has arrived with a wheelbarrow and is now raking in a grove of trees.
In front of me is a dirt road, on the other side a gracious treed boulevard, then a ditch and then the highway.
As I look down the road in the direction I walked from, I can see Stephen has at least arrived at what will be his greatest challenge in this morning’s setback.
I have been sent out of the truck so my presense alone is not his undoing. From where I sit, if I bend my head to peak beneath some low greenery, I can see the back of the camper.
Thus far, Stephen has maneuvered the trailer backwards down about 600 meters of narrow country road and has made it successfully over the narrowest point, a culvert where the dirt dropped off sharply on either side of the road to a deep irrigation channel below.
That was, for me, the most stressful segment. Much as I wished to, I could not hide my fear that any of the eight opportunities for a tire to go over the edge would go from possibility to reality. To my credit I squeaked only once, but my body was rigid, I gripped the armrest, and my teeth were clenched.
This, however, was not my undoing. In fact, my downfall was just the opposite.
Another 100 meters beyond the culvert, the passageway narrowed again, this time because of a flatbed truck parked outside the gates to a truck repair depot.
This 100 meters, free of trees, piles of gravel, or large boulders, probably the most troublefree section yet, proved the most trying.
To push a trailer backwards is a challenge. If you want the trailer to go to the left, you have to steer your truck to the right. And you can’t do this by turning around and looking over your shoulder directly at the trailer; you have to do this looking in a mirror. Moreover, the steering trick only works if your truck is lined up directly with the trailer. If there is any angle at the hitch, the steering effect gets reversed.
Not only must the two vehicles be aligned, the wheels straight and the steering wheel true, you also have to be dead parallel to the road and directly in front of the space you want to enter backwards.
So while the 100 meters may have been free of obstackles, it was those 100 meters Stephen had available to get everything lined up in order to get the trailer through the gap between a tall metal fence topped with barbed wire–and the back corner of the parked truck.
The sub-atom is not the only world in which observation changes everything. The presence of even a benign observer, eyes shut, deep in a pool of relief, taking a brak from observing anything, just letting time pass and events unfold, even a presence as contained and calm as that, is unnerving.
And so I have been sent down the road, where I am sitting in the shade watching the sun climb the sky and staying out of trouble.
I’ve walked back once to confirm the arrangements still work for him and will wait things out from here.
The young man is done with grassy spaces in the grove. He is now raking the drive.
I can see the trailer has made it past the worst of the problem, the back corner. It also appears someone from the truck yard has arrived and is geniunely helpful. People often want to help, the residents of this country lane being no exceptions, but not understanding the trickier bits of the situation and giving instructions that even if they were in English would be hard to interpret never mind effect, they usually make matters worse.
Given the progress I’m seeing, however, I surmise it is time to gather my sun hat and water bottle, pack my notebook and stand ready for my pick up.
I can hear you thinking “It’s probably a a good idea before driving into a place to walk out the distance and make certain you can get out.” Indeed. I think the commitment to follow that suggestion is likely to be quite high, going forward.
We’ve planned a nice lunch at the Santa Cruz hotel. In light of the way the day has begun, I think I’ll allow myself dessert.