The cotton candy twilight descends on the rural southern Missouri valley. Waning sunlight illuminated the early spring tree skeletons as the darkness steals the warmth from the day. Frigid night air rushes in like the emerald waters from the natural spring around the bend.
With a cold beer in hand and three friends by my side, I jump in the side-by-side. We take off down the rocky, dusty trails, chasing the neon lights of other vehicles. The speakers blast “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey as we traverse a shallow river. I feel the icy water kissing my boots. We climb the paths, passing burnt out tree stumps, boulders, and other adventure seekers on our midnight tour.
As the sky slips further into the indigo, the landscape is illuminated by a series of white headlights. Eventually, the convoy stops by the rushing river, everyone exits the vehicles and we find ourselves around a fire pit. Stories are exchanged, fresh beers are cracked, the kids run off into the black forest, and my heart is happy. I’m free.
The back roads, the dirt and gravel that bring me here, are home to me. Out here, I can escape the urban clutter. The noise, the people, the traffic. Lost in the rustic ideal, I can feel the pressure and tension of the day-to-day float away on the musical calls of the tiny tree frogs hiding somewhere in the darkness.
I will sleep tonight, under the stars, renewed and refreshed and revived.