Friday, March 25, 2011

Life on the Tango Highway

These postings are not going to be a discussion of just steps and music, but also a look into the journey that the tango can be.  I did not know how I was going to get into it, but then it happened in.......where do you think?  A milonga.

A friend took me to a milonga in Miami, my first trip there, and I had a great time.  There are some very good tangueros there.  Very traditional milonga, music and structure and good dancers.  Good sized crowd as well.  I ran into a woman I had danced with a decade earlier in Las Vegas and she dropped me a line having heard a bit about me traveling around the country in a trailer and was interested in taking off in a similar fashion with her cat and seeing the country.  Rather than send her an email, I thought I would answer her here, since it will reveal a bit of the life of one man's pursuit of tango.

The short answer is, don't do it.  It is a hard, difficult life.  If you want to travel on major highways, to major RV parks and campgrounds, in season,  basically from Memorial day to Labor day, then it is pretty safe.  Stay where you can call for help from your cell phone, and have plenty of money available.  But once you vary from that, the risk factor starts going up fast, and the skills necessary get more demanding.

Once you get off the highways and start heading into the back country you realize that this is a great big beautiful country, and it is a country that is very dangerous and unforgiving.  The conditions that took the lives of so many people crossing the country in both Summer and Winter are still going on, and when you travel off the beaten path, there is always the possibility of encountering those conditions without the conveniences of modern society.  In other words, you break down, no phone, no fuel and survival becomes an issue.  Trust me, it happens.  If one wants to travel the back roads, a solid working knowledge of mechanics is bound to be necessary.  Everything that moves, breaks.  Planes, boats, RVs, all require constant attention, and everyday you discover new things you need to pay attention to.

As well as mechanical skills, one must have serious survival skills.  People die every year in situations that should be no problem, but without the essential skills, they succumb to the elements.  And once you are out of the Summer season, things can happen fast.  High in the mountains, the temperature can dip in October to the single digits for a high.  Extended periods of extreme cold, definitely play with your mind.  Not my dogs.  The colder it is the happier they are.  There is always the reality of wildlife that would be happy to eat you.  In the mountains of California there is an abundance of mountain lions, since they are not hunted, so they are always a concern.  Black bears are the main bear and are generally fairly mild, but then anything as large as they are deserves respect.  Coyotes are a everywhere and I have had some very interesting encounters with them.  One time North of Phoenix, my dog and I walked through a pack of coyotes, with some within 15 feet of us.  Another time I found myself in a tree, similar to the scene in Apoctolypto, where the hero was in a tree with the lion cubs on one side and the mother on the other.  In my case it was a bobcat mother and two cubs on the other side.  It was pretty tense for a few minutes, but mother was reunited with cubs, and I went on my way.  But then there is the real serious threat that should dissuade any sane person from venturing of track, and off season, humans.

The most dangerous law enforcement job in the country is game warden.  Back in the wilderness, law is, flexible.  The veneer of civilization is thin at the best of times, and when many miles from other humans, things change.  The mountains of the Southwest, South, oh hell, anywhere the climate is good for growing pot, there is the chance that you might run into people from South of the border.  I had a close encounter once where a couple of guys in a truck made a long detour to come over to where I was walking, and there was no question that 200 pounds of wolf dogs and a 45 made them leave after some veiled threats.  I have been set upon by multiple dogs back in the mountains of Big Sur.  Ugly situation that left my dog with a big bite out of his butt and a pit bull half drowned.  A forest ranger in the Tahoe National Forest told me that they do not pick up garbage because of the possibility of it being booby trapped.  The back woods are also used by the people who cook or whatever they do to make various drugs.  Then there is just the good old fashioned poachers.  My point in all this, is, a woman in an RV with a cat is pretty vulnerable.  Not saying it cannot be done, but don't think it is going to be fun or easy.  But then, whoever said life was, fun or easy?