After recent time spent in New Mexico, beyond White Sands, I felt I had little more to experience there. In only three days traveling there in March, we had such a truly amazing time. My mother and I met a friend of mine friend in Taos, NM to see another friend just before he took off to Alaska for the Coast Guard. The beauty of the high desert blew my mind. You are dwarfed by the brushy and rocky mountains and there are soo many stars at night and sage and quartz; it’s magic! Our first day we drove our sled team of snow mobiles up 14,000 feet of the stunning sunny and snowy mountainside of Taos. For any of you who know my St. Bernard Opi, you can understand how I delighted in visiting the St. Bernard Lodge afterwards. The next day there our friend insisted that we experience an off the beaten path hot spring tucked into the Rio Grande gorge. Despite the fact that this sweet little spot was at least a ¼ mile down a rocky and tumultuous path, he’d carry me down there. We sat in the in the warm rocky pool until the sun set. The slippery and very chilly way back was terrifying, but we survived. I can’t ever adequately express my thanks. There are sometimes experiences beyond our physical limits, but there is also a kind and willingness of others that I am eternally appreciative of.
I had to shed some positive light on New Mexico, for a lot of what I drove through was somewhat saddening. I figured that I’d just cut across the south western corner of New Mexico; it seemed a barren, arid and pretty desolate part of land. I can actually say that while not quite a dust “storm”, I drove through a pretty huge dust cloud and in my defense, it did have tumbleweeds. I came across countless shells of shelters and businesses, lost unto the elements. While I don’t mean to be insensitive of any poverty stricken circumstances, because at the same time it’s sad; it is also somewhat reassuring that in some places there aren’t Starbucks and Walmarts being placed everywhere. I’m fascinated and drawn to the old and dilapidated cafés or gas stations, wherever the vagabonds and sparrows have taken over. I’d love to open a “Sandwitch” shop in this other place. I was glad to stop at a yard sale outside someone’s trailer and browse about their old Halloween decorations. Where I wanted to buy something and didn’t, our conversation was reciprocally enjoyed. Sweet people, speaking openly about their struggling, sitting out in the sun trying to make a buck. I veered off at some point to visit the Adobe Deli. I was practically dared in whatever I read about it saying, “If you can make it there…” It was certainly out of the way and with its old windmill beside it had a bit of Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibe, but I loved it. There was tons of interesting taxidermy, an oxygen bar and tons of other cool macabre things. Here I enjoyed a Corned Beef Special and a beer and set out for Arizona.
It was really wonderful to travel across Arizona, not sure why, but I was fairly surprised. My first night there I stayed in a lovely little hostel in Tucson. After seeing a coyote running through the city, it was slightly comical to me that the hostel was called the Roadrunner. I was unsure whether or not I could fit through the front door, but once that worked out it was all awesome from there. Hostels have been a great alternative to camping in my car. While I feel I could almost never tire of hearing the stories of other travelers, my bottom bunk with a purple Mexican blanket was calling me home from my fish tacos, pint of Dragoon and music at the Congress Hotel.
Heading Northward, I had two options, to either take I-10 and I-17 through the city of Phoenix, which reached 130 degrees that day or the alternative which passes through three different National Parks. Yea, it was not a tough call at all and I swear, I’ve learned since Texas. The latter option of taking Route 77 and 188 was such an incredible drive. It began with diverse cactus collages of the Saguaro and Tonto National Forests. I am an idiot in my attempts to make cactus collections while traveling, this time at least after my first spines in finger, I figured it’s a collection made better by my camera. I passed streets named Sunflower and Rye and was enchanted to see these silly orange and yellow tufted shrubs that belonged in a Dr. Suess book. Note: I did not see the Lorax. By the time I reached Coconino National forest I was completely captivated at how the vegetation and land can change. It was a really beautiful progression which eventually ended in Flagstaff’s gorgeous Pines. This night I was hoping to stop by a friend’s house, but when my first call went unanswered I was eager to check out the seemingly happening little town. He recommended a bar, Mia’s, where I wound up having such a wonderful night. There was a phenomenal sort of Punk and Bluegrass fusion of a band called The Haymarket Squares who set such a tremendous energy about the place. I could not take my eyes off of the gold and fuchsia lights reflecting off the steel guitar. In sipping my beer, I could not help to notice how crazy filthy my hands get while traversing a city. Exhausted, I sought a place to sleep. I called to ten hotels all of whom were filled and in refusal to pay over $80 for a hotel, I noticed the Walmart parking lot. Apparently, Walmart welcomes people to stay in their lot at night and there is quite a Car and RV camping counter culture at the one in Flagstaff, let me tell you. It was fun, I even woke up shaded from the morning sun by one of their big Pines.
The next morning I finally met up with my friend and at this point in my journey it felt really great to see another familiar face. We caught up in conversation over breakfast burritos. He had so many interesting stories from working in forestry to tell: encounters with a mountain lion and their big green and glowing eyes, a bear spooked by horseback riders barreling towards him while he was going to the bathroom and the way they move enormous boulders, with not machinery, but big iron rock bars. I guess, I had the realization of how fairly managed our forests are, which is strange to me, yet there are fires and floods to prevent and without human intervention, we might not have these places lasting to enjoy at all.
The Grand Canyon was the next of my adventures, another one of those sights that will never leave me and I am so incredibly thankful to enjoy.