Wednesday, February 20, 2013

One Last Night Outdoors

We drove until early evening when we turned a corner and saw Geordie, Pat and Guy setting up camp and lighting a huge fire. Ever since Zaya had confided in me her attraction for Geordie, I felt it my duty to put opportunity in the way of circumstance. Nick on the other hand wanted to press on and find a camp in the next village somewhere up the road. Pat was equivocal, he’d stop or go on, whatever the majority decided. Zaya, for obvious reasons, was ready to stay and hang out. Geordie played it cool. As a crotchety, diehard romantic I played my “I’m old enough to be your dad and I’m going to make the final decision card” and overruled Nick.

Seated at the roaring fire an hour later Nick managed to thaw out his blanched and lifeless toes enough to get some blood circulating back in them. By 9:00PM the sun finally disappeared altogether and the temperature dropped off the scale of Pat’s thermometer. That meant it was colder than −25C and heading down. Passing around the vodka kept the stories flowing as we whittled the clock down towards midnight. Suddenly, out of the fog of our woodsmoke the peace was shattered by the throb of a Ural heading directly towards us at a hundred kilometers an hour. It was Ben Cooke roaring down the road, his long black hair and beard stiff with ice. As soon as he spotted us he hit the brake and spun to a stop directly beside the fire to a round of applause. He explained that two of the group's bikes were shot and they were heading to Salekhard with all possible dispatch. Shortly a truck appeared carrying the broken bikes and their riders. As Rob and Jenna opened the door of the cab it blew a jealous fug of warm air in our direction and we exchanged a few updates. Moments later with a wave and a flourish Ben and crew disappeared into the night. Heading to our tents under the stillness of the stars, I remember the only sounds were the faint snap of the dying fire releasing sparks into the darkness and the squeak of snow like styrofoam under my back as I turned over to sleep. 

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