Road Trip – June 26, 2010

I am back, safe and sound (if a bit discombobulated) in Los Angeles having spent the last four days driving in a baby blue Town and Country minivan across the Southern United States.

A:  Nashville, TN B:  Memphis, TN  C.  Clinton, OK (after a drive through Arkansas)  D.  Santa Fe, NM  E.  Grand Canyon, AZ  F.  Los Angeles, CA

It is a long drive.

I have stayed in a wide variety of places (at a wide variety of price points)

I have eaten many things

I have had many, many good times

And one not-so-good one (easily recovered from – a flat tire in Amarillo Texas)

There’s almost too much to mention in a single email.

Every state is physically very distinct.  The red dirt of Oklahoma changes to the flat terrain of Texas.  New Mexico, red and craggy rolls into a green grey Arizona almost like there has been a line drawn down between states.  Maybe that’s how they decided where the borders would be.  LA is positively chilly in the mid 70’s – much of the drive was spent (in blessed air conditioning) with an external temperature over 100 degrees.  There was a rain storm in New Mexico that saw the temperature drop 30 degrees Fahrenheit in half an hour, then soar right back up again.  There can be a 50 degree difference from the floor of the Grand Canyon to the rim.  It is a land of contrasts to say the least.

Little Rock Arkansas is more charming that I expected it to be (the Ex-Pres comes by it honestly) with trolleys and nice architecture (although the Clinton Library looks like a giant trailer).

I watched 2 guys attempt to eat a 72 ounce steak each in order to get it for free at a place called the Big Texan in Amarillo.

That is my (delicious) 6 ounce version pictured above, complete with plastic cowboy boot of lemonade.

Beside that flat tire, and seeing THIS sign shortly after having traversed the area behind it:

Texas is lovely, and the people friendly and delightful.

New Mexico is ethereal.  I tripped briefly through Albuquerque, did NOT make a wrong turn (a little tip of the hat to Bugs Bunny with that reference) and wound up in Santa Fe.  The town is a bit high rent, filled with wealthy tourists, but the difference is that all the shops sell beautiful quality art rather than the typical T-Shirt detritus you find in the road side joints.  There is something abut New Mexico.  I don’t know if it is the air or the water or the light but I have to go back and stay.  I am almost reluctant to let the little atheist in my admit to a spiritual presence to it, but it is there.  Plus perhaps the best salsa I have ever had.  I actually took very few photos as I gave up any hope that I could capture the essence of the place.

I think I have to go back and rent a place and just soak it in. All musicians, painters, writers and other creative entities have to come with me.  Oh yeah.  That’s all of you.  I will get a big place.

Arizona is another place that will leave you gasping.  It doesn’t have the same vibe as New Mexico but the terrain is beyond description.  Flagstaff, the frontier town, has the advantage of Sedona lying to the south and the Grand Canyon to the north.  By map Sedona is only about 30 miles away but is takes forever to get to along a twisted road that winds down through a green green canyon filled with pine and cedar.  The town itself is nestled in a nook surrounded by red topped peaks.  It is a bit touristy (at least the area I was in, where I had a lovely bit of deep fried snake) but I am told the sunsets are incredible and it too has a reputation for the quality of light and a spiritual bent.

From Sedona there was a race up to the Grand Canyon in the hopes of catching a sunset.  Just made it.

I remember watching a documentary on the Blue Whale.  I was delighted to learn that the Blue Whale is not only the largest living creature on earth, but also the loudest in that their heartbeat can be heard underwater for dozens of miles.  That being said, they are almost impossible to find.  The Grand Canyon has that kind of contradiction, only multiply it a thousandfold.  The Canyon is so gigantic the mind reels at the concept except you can really see it until you are standing right at the edge.  Apparently people go tipping off into it all the time and it is about a mile from top to bottom.

I went back to the Canyon the next day, and took a helicopter ride over it to get a better sense of perspective.  Unbelievable.  needless to say I took about a million pictures, none of which begin to sum up the scope of the place.

Seeing Arizona and New Mexico makes you understand why there is such a thing as religion.  Some of the outcroppings look like castles.  Some look like giant toys that a youthful deity forgot to put away.  You need to ascribe some kind of anthropomorphic descriptions to things to comprehend their existence.

The latter half of day 4 was a bit of a letdown – the home journey.  I noticed at the Arizona border the common Southern response of “You’re Welcome” to a statement of thanks was ceding back to the common California retort “uh huh”.  (I hate that, I don’t know why).  I was heading back to a much colder place (physically and emotionally) whose metropolitan population is six times larger than the entire state of New Mexico.  The drive in was pretty enough (black mountains for part of it where the rocks really look charred) but the sense that the dream is over is very real.  Getting cut off fifty times in heavy traffic (at 10:30 PM no less) can do that to you.

Anyway, two days to adjust, get my foul laundry assembled and then back to Toronto.  Then I shall start harassing you all in person.

Let me know if you want to see any more photos of anything.  Cheers in a couple of days!

J

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