My return home Friday was a 10 day, 1500 mile loop originally planned to cross through all of the Four Corners States. Sorry Utah, I ended up cutting you out, but I still love your sandstone canyon lands.
This was somewhat of a dress rehearsal for a similar length drive I will take in mid October to get to Kamloops, BC for a start of a 4 month fellowship at Thompson Rivers University. This trip gave me chance to see how it feels behind the wheel for so long (the drive home is usually a long marathon, 520 miles stretched over 13 hours), but also to see how things worked packing gear without the camper shell on my truck.
Red Dog wants to roll open, as a big dog should. No boxes on his back.
Typically, my efforts at hand written notes fizzled out halfway, somewhere north of Glenwood, New Mexico.
That much time on the roads, in so much uncrowded space, gives one plenty of time to think and develop powerful ideas. I must have had a few, but poof! But there was a thought on that last stretch south on AZ 87 from Winslow. It’s a route I’ve been on before, but I felt how time, experience was almost folding back on itself, and folding forward, but never exactly the same.
This route home (from Paonia CO to Strawberry AZ) was exactly the reverse (in direction) of the start of my 15,000 mile trip in 2011. But on that trip, I spent 2 days driving it, took a different router (first night camping out in Dolores National Forest). Three plus years separated visits form my good friends Ken and Oogie and Desert Weyr, a ranch where they raise rare Black Welsh Mountain Sheep.
It was also on this stretch of highway, after sunset, in November 2011, that I rounded a corner and marked the 15,000 mile mark of the trip, at the same time my iPod shuffle randomly played The Rolling Stones She’s a Rainbow. This was the same song my friend Andy Forgrave played for me the night I visited him in Belleville, Ontario after I got the unexpected news my Mom and passed away.
Coming on that curve, I imagine the same song coming on and the world exploding in a flash of white serendipity fusion energy.
It did not happen, but another song that come on there, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers Mists of Time— and that was different, yet more fitting.
Before this point, I stopped on the empty highway to take in the evening sky.
To my right, to the west, was the last glowing embers of a gorgeous, routine Arizona sunset. To my left, a crisp moon was hanging high, about 2/3 full. And right down the middle of this was the clear line, direction of AZ 87, leading me home (the line got warped in the panorama above).
Standing there, everything made sense.
I wrote it up as a story on medium, but its pretty much what I just wrote here.
Many highlights, I track them mostly in photos…
The idea of going forward with the past, but also the tremendous shows of Arizona monsoon clouds, here somewhere south of San Carlos, AZ.
As with my trip last year, Brad and Karen offered over the top hospitality at their self-built adobe home near Rodeo, NM. I had a fabulous bike ride into Horseshoe Canyon that is the backdrop to their home and gardens. Great foods, many of them new to me, totally healthy too. And we had two nights of watching old Planet of the Apes movies! Brad is now soundly beating me in Words with Friends.
Then I was off (the grid too) for two days of camping, driving north through western New Mexico. Talk about open roads and places you do not hear much from –Alma? Reserve? Quemado? Been there?
And thinking about time, the time of ancient cliff dwellers, house builders, and a lot of dedicated parks volunteers at Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument; it’s a 44 mile but windy 90 minute drive from Silver City. And so worth it to walk inside the walls of these ancient spaces.
It’s a place of simple advice…
… and remnants of lava flows only 3000 years old, barely a blink of the geological eye in time. Even in hard, hot, cracked lava rock, life takes old, and flourishes.
Good and relaxing times had in Durango, Colorado with my friends Mike and Sara, in a lovely 1901 vintage home they have made both new and old. We had fantastic food (I ate twice at Moros), and two good bike rides. I like that town, I like it, I do.
Maybe one of the most gorgeous routes is from Durango through Silverton and Ouray; by road, or by narrow gauge train, or other self propelled means. Thats s sobering thought, seeing road bikers scaling those grades. You know you are in Colorado when you drop down a valley and the elevation is over 10,000 feet.
And then I got to run with the black sheep at Desert Weyr, a ranch and warm home of Oogie and Ken, whom I have known going way mach to Director multimedia work in the 1990s. They are just good and giving people, sharing not only home, food, but also information.
I got an inside look at the technology they are developing to tag sheep with ID tags, read that via bluetooth, and track their sheep data with a mobile app — Lambtracker.
Ken was generous in helping me hack a controller and activity light for my PirateBox. We ate well (fresh laid eggs, delicious mutton) and enjoyed the tasty fruits, local people, and great live music of Revolution Brewery.
And then it was the all day drive home, ignoring the GPS’s advice and taking the way I knew, through Four Corners, with the tacky selfie–
I bought some Navajo hand made items as gifts for my upcoming New Zealand trip, and had a great time talking to Rena, whose literally was making them as I walked up. I feel conscious of the white tourist / native person divide in these places, but all it takes is conversation, they kind where you ask and offer answers, and smile. Just back from a show in Arkansas, Rena told a story of her father, a minster, taking some of her art on a trip to Cuba. She said, “He gave it to… that… man.” Castro, I asked? She smiled a yes. Talk of slivers of paths and experience that can happen just in the back and forth of talk.
The solace and empty fullness of the spaces of Navajo country, all the way along highway 191 south, was a spectrum of subtle change from slickrock sandstone and pink dunes to scrub high desert and low forest. There are dead dogs in the road, and ornery well sheep munching the scrub on the sides of the road. Almost every homestead ranch bore a sign displaying the Navajo version of “Smith” the name “Begay”.
It’s a place to stop, breathe, and get your belly down on the road. Yes, a highway (deserted, mostly).
So that’s a roundup of 10 days, just the slivers of experience. While my note-taking is spotty, my photos remain my memory place (see the whole trip played out in photos).
It’s forward, backward, the same, and different. All at once. Like us, the flow of time seems simple at first, but is much much more complex. And interesting.