The sky was ablaze as I climbed above the white sands of the national monument just off the end of the runway. It was another breathtaking sunset painted on the canvas of high thin cirrus. I was enjoying the beauty, trying not to let it remind me that that same darkening sky, hanging between day and night, also made finding the tanker a challenge. It was too dark for him to be a black smudge on a blue background, and too light for him to glow bright green through the Night Vision Goggles (NVGs). Nevertheless, it was a beautiful sunset and I found the tanker with minimal delay, the cruised out over New Mexico and Texas for more practice at guiding bombs to targets.
The next evening, I was bumping over sand roads in Mexico, watching another beautiful sunset, and trying unsuccessfully to find a hotel, a race meeting, and most of all, dinner. On the third try, instead of driving, I walked down the beach to the hotel, wishing they’d told me I could do that 2 hours before, and enjoying the last vestiges of the orange sunset while waves lapped at my feet.
The muted sunrise called me out of my warm sleeping bag. There was a race to run, and it started in less than 2 hours. The swim was in the northeastern corner of the Gulfo de California, the bike wandered around the countryside, and the run canvassed the streets of Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico. I finished the 10th Annual Rocky Point International Distance Triathlon in a bit under 3 hours, and less than 90 seconds behind the girl who won my age-group. My reward was a day of relaxing on the beach, listening to children playing soccer, adults playing volleyball, parents playing with their children, and waves playing on the sandy beach. Periodically a crowd of parachutes would descend from far above (and I’d look for the plane that dropped them).
Evening brought yet another brilliant splash of paints on cloud canvas, a very welcome Mexican feast, and the company of 2 fellow triathletes, a retired California school teacher, and a former Mexican TV anchor now seeking a new profession. Aida is in my age-group and finished not far behind me. In encouraged her as much as I dared, amazed that she did so well only a couple years after mounting a bike for the first time in her life as a 31-year-old, and having already recovered from a broken collarbone caused by a bike accident in a previous triathlon. Much as I enjoyed her company, I’m not looking forward to racing her in the future!
For the fourth consecutive evening of vibrant color, I was leaning on the railing of my deck, looking over the valley, distant mountains, and white sands, and enjoying a moment of stillness after my whirlwind “international vacation”. It was good to be “home”.