At first he saw only the top of it from near the bottom of Desperation Hill. Only the reflection of the sun suggested there was an object perched on top of the hill.
It was obscure at first.
It was orange in color, he noted, as he drew closer.
It was a Volkswagen, as far as he could tell from a hundred meters away down the hill.
It was sitting low on the side of the road, with its back to him, the late afternoon sun reflecting sharply against its twin exhaust pipes and shiny chrome bumper. The bright, glittering reflections made him squint as he urged his tired legs up the steep road, pushing the mountain bicycle, too tired to ride until he got past the top of Desperation Hill.
He wondered at the car. Must have broken down there, he thought. Or maybe abandoned.
He was panting from riding the bicycle up and down a few hills along the road, and from marching uphill on some of the mean ones along this lonely mountain road. So far, he had covered about eight kilometers of the hilly road heading toward Mission Town.
The road was a two-lane country highway, graded to blacktop about seven years before. It went nowhere past the mission school built at the end, like a frontier town where all travel, business and civilization paused uncertainly, indefinitely, pending navigational exploration and construction further ahead. But this road had not gone anywhere past the last stop for the last eighteen years. It had come to a permanent stop, or end, as far as most folks could see in the near and far future.
It was all of twenty-four kilometers from the last highway junction in the west until the end. It was built along and atop steep hills and valleys, and dipped down one side of a hill, jumping up the other side of another, like a long snake slithering across boulder-strewn ground. The road dangerously bypassed some deep valleys, down which an occasional farmer’s donkey drawn cart or unfortunate motorist had rolled and ended up in smithereens way down yonder. There were only few spots with guardrails along the length of this treacherous and taxing road.
Most of the land around was government reserve. The country around was mostly forest with thick undergrowth and occasional patches of corn or beans where a desperate farmer had cleared a spot and planted. These were few and far apart. There were hardly any homesteads to be seen.