Road trip, southwest style, Day 1, expanded

Posted: April 24, 2012 in Nature, Personal, Travel
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

As I leave the Phoenix area, the sun comes up behind the mountains, making them look black and one-dimensional.  Driving a new car makes life interesting as I don’t know automatically where all the controls are.  I went over some yesterday but the manual wasn’t with the car and although I have a crib sheet of important items, the 328 pages are otherwise only available on my laptop, which means I would have to stop.

Heading towards Flagstaff

As I climb, the saguaros stand like sentinels on the hillside.   As I get closer to Flagstaff, they disappear and trees take their places.  High mountains, still edged with snow, loom ahead.  Not too long ago, Flag had a big snowstorm that shut things down.  Now only remnants remain, thankfully, as May approaches.  I take a right onto I-40 and head into country with very little life apparent other than scrubby desert plants.  On the horizon are red mesas.  Garish trading posts appear periodically.  I can’t imagine the Indians themselves would choose such exteriors.  I wonder whether what’s inside for sale is as bogus.  I’m not experienced enough to know.  I know I like old pawn, the old jewelry often found in trading posts or stores after it was used for money.

I see a sign for First Mesa and Tony Hillerman, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Hillerman, springs to mind.   I’ve always loved Leaphorn and Chee and was happy when they finally appeared together, so I didn’t have to wait for the next book for the other one to show up.  A trading post just before I get to the border with New Mexico is called Chee’s.  Hard to believe that’s by chance.

I pass Petrified Forest, an amazing place that our younger daughter and I visited the last time we were on a road trip from Phoenix to Cleveland.  I can just glimpse some of the canyons and the colors from the highway, but not the trees now turned to rock in gorgeous, southwest colors.  As I drive, I see dry washes, good places to avoid during a thunderstorm, even if the thunderstorm appears not to be nearby.  Every year, it seems, people drown when water floods down the ordinarily dry washes and sweeps them away.  There are frequent freight trains on the tracks near the highway and once I even come upon a cyclist, bicycle type, resting before a descent.  At least the temperatures are comfortable today.

In Gallup, one exit has two enormous and lovely pottery pots.  Probably not real or they’d be stolen or broken, but they look real and beautiful in their southwest brown tones.  I come to Crownpoint, evoking more Hillerman.  There are red mesas and cattle guards and I see a sign for the Chaco Cultural Center.  Maybe Chee and Leaphorn are there right now, wishing Tony Hillerman were still alive to send them on more adventures.  I know I wish he were.  Odd how when an author dies, I feel that the characters have died as well, which I guess they have, unless as in some cases, another author takes over the series, bringing them back to life.

Farther on, black rocks seem to sprout along the sides of the highway for a distance, as if some volcanic force were pushing out, then turning to rock.  In places, there are small orange and purple flowers in the median and finally I reach Texas which, contrary to stereotypes, is very green and pretty; also, at this point, very flat and empty.  I pass a row of tall, white windmills.  Near Amarillo, there are fields of green.  I see hay being harvested, left then to dry before being baled, and what looks like wheat to me.  Everything is green.

Not my Grandpa’s windmills!

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