Desert Driver

By Katiedid Langrock

August 29, 2020 5 min read

"Don't be scared," my driver said. "I'm going to take you a back way. We won't see another car for miles and miles."

"OK," I said.

"Also, I have a loaded gun next to me," my driver said. "I thought you should know. But don't be scared. You're going to be just fine."

Maybe it's the city girl in me, but this would typically be about the time I'd start looking to see whether I could pull off some old Jean-Claude Van Damme move of hopping out of the moving vehicle via an Olympics-worthy cartwheel and backflip, all while delivering a perfect sidekick to my abductor's head. (Never mind that I pulled a muscle taking a shower last week.) Being driven into the desert wilderness by a complete stranger — with no formal exchange of information, so there was no way to track where I was going or whom I was with — was something my New Yorker parents would have called "poor street smarts." Not to mention, the words "don't be scared" tend to be a sure sign something scary is coming. Like when someone says "it's not that bad" and you know it's about to be followed with something horrific, such as "your house burned down" or "I ran over your pet gerbil — twice."

But I wasn't scared.

I met my driver over the phone when I was frantically calling around in Vernal, Utah. My son, we'd just discovered, had left his glasses in Dinosaur National Monument the night before. Now we were about 45 minutes away and packing up to move to our next stop.

"You there?" my future driver asked after I was silent for a long time.

"Yes, sorry," I said. "I'm just weighing the cost of getting there and the likelihood of finding the glasses."

I went on to tell her that my son is legally blind in one eye. It's hard enough to find someone to fill his difficult prescription, and even if we did, we wouldn't know where to have the glasses sent because we're on the move in our RV.

"Where are you staying?" she asked. "I'm coming to get you."

"I'll pay," I said.

"No need," she responded. "Your kid needs his glasses. That's all I need to know."

I asked her name.

"Fortuna," she said.

Of course it is.

Fortuna arrived in an old white Mustang convertible. Top down.

During the ride, she told me about her town — how her family has owned a homestead for six generations, how her relatives helped Butch Cassidy. She taught me that if you till the pink soil, you'll always find fragments of dinosaur bones, and she taught me how to read the petroglyphs as a map. She spoke about how the local bank had been built with bricks that were brought slowly via Pony Express, how Obama-imposed regulations decimated the wealth of their town, how a bunch of hippies painted their welcome dinosaur statue pink but no one knows why.

"Makes sense to me, seeing as the dinosaur bones are found in the pink soil," I said.

Gobsmacked, Fortuna turned and said, "I never thought about that! What's your name?"

I'd been in her car for over a half-hour.

"Katiedid," I said. "My parents were a bunch of hippies."

"Well, that's not your fault," she said, laughing.

Fortuna didn't know my name when she offered me the ride. She didn't know my politics, my religion, my race, my sexual orientation. My guess is that we disagree on absolutely everything, but Fortuna opted not to care. She knew I was a mother, and that was enough. She chose to bypass hate to offer help.

At the park, I didn't find my son's glasses. On the drive home, I was quieter, knowing how devastated my son would be, worrying about how to get him a new pair.

"Wanna know something?" she said with a brightness that pulled me from my woes. "When I was young, I saw a flying saucer in that field right there. It flew overhead as I was driving just where we are now."

"You saw a UFO?"

"Oh, sure. Dozens of 'em," she said.

"You weren't scared?"

"Never. I think they're here to do good," she said, "like most people."

When she dropped me off at my RV, she said, "I sure hope someone finds those glasses. You could use some good fortune."

"I already got some," I said.

Ten minutes later, the park called. The glasses had been found by a ranger.

Katiedid Langrock is author of the book "Stop Farting in the Pyramids," available at Follow Katiedid Langrock on Instagram, at To find out more about her and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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