I met a girl on the Internet.
It’s a long story, but after nearly a year of chatting away, we finally met face-to-face. There she was in my hometown and on her last day visiting, I decided to take her on a country drive around western Pulaski County.
This was in 2003, before GPS was handy. I had a map of Arkansas, showing every little country road in the state with the thinnest of red capillary lines. We found a scenic path that hooked Kanis Road to Highway 10. The area, its name primed for adventure, was called Rattlesnake Mountain.
The dirt road from the highway was twisty, leading us through small creeks. We diligently followed the line on the map with our fingers and met the intersection with Highway 10 in full view of Lake Maumelle.
We were also in full view of a yellow concrete barricade blocking our path. There may still be blue paint chips on that post from our nudging with the truck, but it remained firm in its duty.
So we turned around, but going back across Rattlesnake Mountain, our fingers slipped off the map. The dust clouded our short-term memories. We got lost in the maze of logging roads.
At one point, we drove up a path that ended at a giant cattle gate. A heavy chain wrapped snugly around a metal post, giving us a clue that something important must be on the other side. At the very least, perhaps there was somebody who could lead us back to our entry point.
I hopped over the gate and landed smack into what seemed like another dimension. I stood in the middle of an abandoned golf course fairway, the nicest one I had ever seen in person. There were tall trees, ivory sand traps and the mountains of the River Valley providing a silent backdrop. Everything was still and quiet, and I was now expecting to see the ghost of Bobby Jones coming up the path to meet me.
With a chill, I decided I’d resume taking my chances on the roads. I hopped over the gate where my girlfriend was still standing. I got into the driver’s seat by myself, confirmed that there was no golf course on the map and slowly panicked about how I had ruined our last day together by getting lost on a mountain.
I looked up to see her through the windshield with the sun setting in her green eyes, just as she took one last sip from her Coke bottle. With a casual glance around, she nonchalantly screwed the cap back on and looked past the truck toward the mountains. Her face showed no worry, just signs of adventure to be had and a deal-with-it-now attitude.
We finally made it back to Kanis, thanks to a friendly couple who answered our knocking on their mobile home door during supper. (“Come out to the gun show. We’ve got a jewelry booth!” they called out to us as we left.) We hightailed it back to civilization, or in this case, Vino’s.
The next summer, a billionaire investment banker would reveal his mountaintop golf course Xanadu to the world, confirming that I hadn’t actually been inside the Twilight Zone. Six months after that, that girl from the Internet and I got married. We’ve taken some more metaphorical blind turns and dusty roads since then, but I’ve never lost hope in our journey. Just seeing the sun reflect in those green eyes helps me find the way every time.