Field Notes: The Stranger

This is the first in our series of Field Notes from our Toad Warriors – the folks who hit the road and spread the Toad&Co ethos: Live well, do good and keep good company. They’re the people we’ve met over the years who embody the Toad lifestyle and practice what they preach. We met Jeff a few years ago when one of the Toads brought him to a photo shoot. He was good company, so we hit it off right away. Jeff and his partner Jen live in Santa Barbara, CA and are bonafide weekend warriors. Here are their Field Notes….

Silence3GrandCanyon

Sometimes it’s the vistas and the landscapes that stick with us. Sometimes it’s an unforgettable meal that stays in your mind for years. This time, it was the stranger we met at the diner counter in Arizona.

Jen and I had driven 6 hours south from Arches National Park to set up camp at Jacob Lake on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We rose early, before sunrise to tackle the 28-mile Grand Canyon loop and stopped in at the Jacob Lake Inn to fuel up. We found a seat at the counter next to another regular Joe.

We started chatting over a cup of coffee and egg casserole – we mentioned that we’d been to Bryce Canyon and were headed for The Loop that day, he said he was just passing through. We shared a bit more about where we were from and he told us how he’d been adopted from Austria by American ex-pats living in Venezuela. He explained that his father’s expertise in South American oil expeditions had led to his family’s relocation to Las Vegas. His father’s job was to drill holes deep into the earth’s core to test nuclear bombs miles under Sin City. He casually shared all of this over mediocre coffee, in the middle of nowhere, in the midst of a landscape that screamed of infinite possibility. But was it all true?

We never got the guy’s name. He left as mysteriously as he came, off to his law enforcement job in Vegas – or so he said. We finished our coffee n’ casserole and set off on our own journey, deep into a hole in the earth. As I descended further into the paths and pools of the Grand Canyon, I couldn’t stop wondering if the stranger’s story had been real. If it was, then what’s the story with those holes now? Are they still there? Do they still operate? Who’s drilling the new holes? I’ll probably never know. But if I could find the answers to my questions, would I want to?