Cross Country, For No Reason

I crave the road.

And not as a metaphor.  I mean that I crave the dusty American highway.  I crave the chase of a sunset over the horizon as I cross yet another state border.  I crave climbing into my truck amongst the red-rocked Arizona deserts of home, taking off in any which direction I desire….tonight’s bedroom could be anywhere from the boulders of Joshua Tree to the high mountains of the Rockies to lightening bugs in Missouri to the open fields of North Dakota.  I crave the idealistic adventures perpetuated by Jack Kerouac and Bob Dylan and J.D.Salinger, infused into my consciousness since I was eleven years old.  I crave not knowing where I will watch the sun rise over a steaming cup of tea tomorrow morning — adventure, the unknown, the uninhabited, and a taste of the ideals of a previous generation.  Those ideals may not exist in the way they did twenty, fifty, a hundred years ago, yet they are firmly cemented in the way I see the world.  In spite of a time defined by modernity, knowing what I yearn for has been lost to an increasingly changing world, I nonetheless crave that intangible, probably gone “open road”–and have set out in search of it.

I think as Americans we all identify with this kind of freedom on some level.  The Pioneer Sprit, The Wild West, Manifest Destiny–all those americana keywords we grew up studying in text books, and to some degree carry with us into adulthood.  But how to do so in today’s ever shrinking world?  Where wilderness includes cell service and once pristine, untouched places are rife with discarded coca-cola cans and plastic bottles?

Without any real answers, at least for me, we just get out there anyway.

Thankfully, for now, this country is still home to a lot of open land.  Get a map (a real one, not on your phone), and look at all that green……that is all open, public land.  And most of it is still just that……open. This summer, I found myself (and simultaneously lost myself) in these lands–by loading up my little dog, a cooler full of wine and avocados, a stack of books and antiquated ideas, and driving crosscountry–I became the cliche of my 1950’s books.  Below is my trip in a few snapshots.

And for those with the time, the energy, the booze, the nostalgia, and the need for a semi-unplanned drive across our still beautiful country–do it.  As you follow the black pavement and dashed yellow lines running seemingly endless, tantalizing and encouraging you to join in their journey into the depths of that fading evening light, you will find both answers and questions.  And there is nowhere else to find them, but the open road.

Arizona–>New MexicoIMG_5929IMG_5956 IMG_5959 IMG_6020 IMG_6111

 

New Mexico–>East Texas
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Texas–>MissouriIMG_6173IMG_6174

 

Missouri–>IndianaIMG_1628IMG_1658IMG_1647

 

New York–>Pittsburgh
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VermontIMG_1772IMG_1759 IMG_1765IMG_1758 IMG_1775

 

OhioIMG_6202IMG_6226IMG_6233IMG_6211IMG_6243

Minnesota
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South Dakota
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ColoradoIMG_1975IMG_1962

And so this summer, from west to east and back again, I spent the majority of my time alone (apart from the pup).  I had held the notion that such a trip would be not only a journey of place but also of people–however I came to realize that either that idea is wrong, or gone, or I am as inward of a person as I always thought.  Romantic (perhaps childish?) ideas of simply venturing into the unknown and jostling into people and experiences along the away is not the reality–at least not anymore or not for me.  We are no longer forced to interact with strangers; never once did I need to stop and ask for directions, nor stop to ask for a good place to sleep or park my car for the night, nor ask for the nearest grocery store or best place to grab a midday drink.  The trip was both easy and disappointing because of an overarching, intruding sense of disconnected-connectedness.

I was never truly lost, never felt truly scared, never felt completely unsure.  And isn’t that part of the allure?  Isn’t the unknown supposed to be just that, unknown?  I realized with a sharp tinge of loss that the strong-held beliefs of every preceding century, the notion that “adventure is out there,” is largely lost.  Where to find that sense of wonder, sense of nervousness, the rush of adrenaline, in an age that allows for wifi from my tent?  We are now forced to find it in, and for, ourselves– to make a commitment to disconnect and to get completely lost, which by our nature is hard to do.  We now must chose the harder path, and seek out the challenge in a way that our parents, grandparents, and ancestors did not have to chose because that was just life.

 

However, although I feel this loss deeply, I did end up finding truth on the road.  I think now, more than ever, that the past will always seem as the better, more wild, more real times–but it is simply progress, and the way every generation has and will always feel.

And in actuality, I did find what I sought; all the angst, the love, the beauty, the confusion, the simplicity, the challenge, and the life. I did get lost, and I did feel scared, and I wasn’t always so sure…..just not in the way I had envisioned.  The challenge will forever be out there, we just have to decide for ourselves–decide to follow those dashed yellow lines as they disappear beyond the horizon into yet another day, another day on the uncertain and still open road.

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Chinlé, Canyon de Chelley, & Clouds

Thanksgiving among The Diné

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A mix of oddly appropriate and also intrusive, I spent the Thanksgiving holiday driving through the Navajo country of Arizona.  It was expansive, dramatic, thought-provoking, sad, and inspiring.

On the one hand, the tribe still inhabits a vast amount of land throughout the Southwest, and it is in fact the largest of the tribal lands established in the US.  Therefore there are grandiose landscapes with nothing but scattered scrubs and distant mesas, not a house or creature to the eye for what seems hundreds of miles.  You are taken back to how the land was for The People before the pioneers “settled” here…….and then on the other hand, the harsh fact that it was swiftly and painfully taken away.

The melancholy nature of visiting the tribes is the harsh reality of what has been stripped from them.  There is no escaping it, nor really any value in dwelling on it.  It is the reality of today.  I find perhaps the best way to honor the history, the plants, the creatures, and most importantly the people and the land is to simply know it is there and preserves it the best we can.  To thank the Navajo and support them in keeping their traditions which so worship the beauty of this land alive.  Let us visit when we can, and tell others of the wonder that continues to exist here.

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The Dine are The People here, and this Thanksgiving I am but a humbled and thankful visitor.

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Reflections from the Road: Rediscovering the Southwest

It is easy as a traveler to forget where you are from, or more importantly to forget the beauty of your homeland. We become jaded to its loveliness in pursuit of what we perceive as the ever lovelier exotic landscapes. I admit I have the grass-is-always greener syndrome that affects many constant travelers. Therefore, I have taken a step back recently to truly look and appreciate my homeland, for it really is something magical.

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The Southwestern United States is a land of the imagination. Visions of a cowboy riding into the distance, purple orange skies throwing his outline into the horizon as he heads into the desert’s seemingly endless vastness. Tales of rowdy mining towns, where vigilantes and sheriffs sit side by side at the darkened local bar, heads hung over as they cheers each others’ whiskey glasses, a pistol on their hips and a toothpick in their mouths. Images of Native American elders draped in traditional blankets and intricate turquoise adornments, gathering the tribes’ youth around them to tell the tales of their ancestors through a cloud of smoke from burning sage and sweetgrass.

In truth, these images still live in today’s Southwest. There is still a rugged and undiscovered edge to the Southwestern region. There are still the cowboys, still the vigilantes and vagrants (indeed with a pistol in the bar, legal as it is here), and still the sacred traditions of the Tribes.

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And there is still the land. An increasingly important part of traveling is seeing places yet untouched by human civilization. Appreciating the way the Earth wants to be and how, hopefully, we can preserve her for the future. The Southwest is a pristine example of the importance of nature preserves. Luckily, although it is tragic the ancient Tribes were confined to such small spaces and deprived of their true nature and lands, the reservations of the Navajo and Hopi (to name just a few) have allowed for large expanses of the region to remain largely untouched.

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I recommend this roadtrip to anyone with that same sense of adventure that brought the first of us to this area. Although it is tinged in the sadness of greed and insensitivity, this area has evolved into a shared space between the conquerers and the native inhabitants, and we all now call this home.

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Take advantage of this while we can. Humans are still explorers and Americans are still manifest-destiny-ers. Drastic measures need to be taken to preserve what we have for our children. In the meantime, experience these amazing lands. I hope the above mementos through this region will inspire others to love this land as I do, as the cowboys do, as the Tribes do, and as the plants and animals do… and help keep it for the generations to come.

So You Closed Me Out of My National Parks, Eh?

Antelope Canyon to the Rescue!

It’s midweek, and I am bored.  Well, pleasantly bored, but still bored.  I’m hanging with my puppies in a little cabin up in Prescott, AZ and have done my fill of walking around the neighborhood.  So I do my usual game of opening up Google Maps, looking for the green of public lands, and picking a new one for the day.  Then I realize, SHIT.

GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN = NO NATIONAL PARKS.

John Muir would be so pissed.

What am I to do?  Well, one of the benefits of living in the Southwest are the reservations.  They aren’t particuarly fair and happy places throughout history, but for all the bad, the Hopi, Apache, and Navajo Tribes have been able to maintain some beautiful landscapes for themselves and the rest of us to enjoy.  One such example is Antelope Canyon.  Andddd, as it is under the Navajo Tribe’s control, it is open during the government shutdown.

Decision made, I am in the car the following morning.  I have one day (as I need to get back to the cabin and feed those hungry pups).  So here’s how I do it, and do it alone.

Antelope Canyon, AZ

5 am: Out the door. From Prescott, or actually most major cities in Arizona, Antelope Canyon is anywhere from a 4-6 hour drive.  Again, because of the shutdown, the 89A North out of Flagstaff is closed, which shots me out an hour east by way of Tuba City; a remote, enlightening detour through the deep parts of the Navajo Reservation surprised me.  The Rez is pretty spread out and underdeveloped, to say the least.  I found it very, very beautiful.  Very quiet.  And very awakening.  I purposefully made multiple stops in small gas stations and general stores along the way, and found more cowboy hats than I had originally anticipated.

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11:45 am:  After the above mountain, I hit the final stretch towards Page, AZ, which is the closest town.  All of sudden, you’ll see a small sign that says “Antelope Canyon Info” (which you are to ignore, as this offers paid ‘tours,’ which is just a rip off, because the Navajo guides at the entrance of the canyon are all you need for a tour).  A mere minute later you will come across the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon turn-offs.  Coming from the East, Upper will be to your left and Lower to your right.

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12:00 pm:  I am not one for crowds, if you can tell.  Therefore, Lower Antelope is for me.  It has about 1/4 of the cars as the Upper Canyon and is supposedly a longer and more winding stroll through the bottom of the canyon.  I simply stand in line with an eclectic crew of chatty German and French tourists, pay the $26 dollar fee to the Navajo Nation and tour guide, then head down.  I hung back to the very last of my group of 10 or so, which allowed me to feel almost completely alone many times throughout our 90 minute tour.  And now I will shut my trap, and let the canyon speak for itself…

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1:40 pm:  I spend a few minutes chatting with the guide about his favorites spots in the canyon, and ask for some tips for next time I come back.  He also mentions he wishes less tours came through, but that his job would be less lucrative if that was the case.  Ah, the dilemma of money versus preserving nature.  Maybe he just wanted a bigger tip, which I end up giving him.  Hey, he let me take his picture, so it was worth it.

IMG_0367 IMG_03702:00 pm:  Quick drive out to Antelope Canyon Marina, because why not?  I hadn’t realized there was a body of water this far from Lake Powell.  I find the reason is that this is called a Marina, not a Lake, as that is because that all it is really is.  A bit of water and some boats in the middle of a vast desert landscape.  Water and a view, something I’ll always take.

IMG_03797:00 pm:  Dogs fed,  Lizzy showered,  day is done.  Now I can sit on my couch and relive Antelope Canyon, which is going to take awhile considering I took something hovering around one hundred pictures today……Oh, make that one hundred and two.  I added a few more of zee puppies.  I mean come onnnnn, wouldn’t youuuuu???

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California Coast: Roadtrip Number Two

This Time Solo

Highway 1, Big Sur, California

This summer has been the summer of roadtrips.  How this came to be is a bit non-sequential and unexpected, like most of my life “decisions”.

At the beginning of this year, I would be sitting at my desk at work in Startuplandia (SoMA San Francisco), and daydream about getting out on the road.  I’d stare at Google Maps and National Park websites and put together all different combinations of routes and stops.  There were a couple hinderances at that time though, stalling these thoughts as just a mid-workweek fantasy.  Such roadblocks (get it???) included that I worked full time and so do all of my friends, I sold my car before moving to the city, and I’d never done a true American roadtrip on my own.  Having camped a lot back in Arizona, enjoyed Thanksgiving jaunts to Big Sur, and hitched around South America with a friend, I felt I had some relevant experience to backup my daydreams.

Well, soon enough my opportunity came.  This has happened to me often, where thoughts that had crept in a few months prior become realities later.  This time, it started with my becoming restless in June and asking for some time off from my job.  Wish granted, I sublet my room and my apartment in San Francisco and came back to my family in Arizona.  After spending time with my dad and my family, I came to realize going back to San Francisco was not in the cards for me.  So………….

Here we are.  2013 has offered me three opportunities to jump on the road, my prior hinderances melting away.  I was now free of commitment, my dad has given me his little Tacoma truck, and I am feeling pumped to try new things and meet new people.  Below is the route and journey of Roadtrip Number Two (Roadtrip Number One was longer and will need a bigger post, so therefore will come later 🙂 )

The Route/The Plan:

Phoenix to San Francisco Route

Things to consider:

  • How long do you want to drive each day?  Some days, I don’t mind just driving all day, but other days I want the freedom to get out of the car and look around on a whim.
  • Where will you stay each night?  I chose my destinations because I had places to stay in each.  Two of the cities had friends there and one I found a couchsurfer willing to take me in for the night (you know how much I love couchsurfing!!)
  • Will you be making stops along the drive or just drive straight through?
  • What are the average temperatures?  If you are camping, hiking, galavanting, partying, or just walking around, you will need to know this.

Really, all that is required is mental flexibility and willingness to get out there.  Feel free to message me for more advice on how to do such a trip.  Going solo is a whole different idea than doing a group roadtrip.  There are lots of resources out there for those striking out on their own, especially if you want to be social and meet people.  You will find that the open road can bring quite a wonderful and unexpected world.

Below find the highlights of this Solo Summer Roadtrip Numero Dos.

Prescott, Arizona

Sunset Point Vista, Prescott, ArizonaMingus Mountain, Prescott, Arizona

Joshua Tree, California

Joshua Tree, California IMG_0708Joshua Tree, California

San Diego, California

San Diego, California, La Jolla Cove San Diego, California, La Jolla Cove

Roadside Highway 1

Highway 1, CaliforniaHighway 1, Elephant Seal Rest Stop, California

Highway 1, CaliforniaHighway 1, Big Sur, California

Morro Bay, California

Morro Bay, California

Monterrey, California

IMG_0797 IMG_0824Monterey Bay Aquarium, California

San Francisco, California

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CAFort Baker, San Francisco, CaliforniaDolores Park View, San Francisco, California America's Cup Pavilion, San Francisco, CA

14 Hour Drive Back to Arizona

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Camping, Bluegrass, & Couchsurfer Reunion

Arizona Camping, Flagstaff Arizona

Adios to Arizona, Hola to San Francisco

Joyous news!  I just accepted a job in San Francisco and now have 2 weeks to up and move.  Looks like I am doing it again….it has been exactly 8 months that I have lived in Arizona and now here we go, time to try something and someplace new.

Before I go, here is the last hurrah of Arizona.  I happened to find out about this job while I was camping and watching bluegrass with some friends up in Flagstaff, including a French couchsurfer of mine from when I lived in Ecuador.  It is a couchsurfing reunion!  In other words, the best possible way to celebrate.  Here’s the quick recap.  See you all in California….

Arizona Camping, Flagstaff Arizona
Lots o’ guitars and my little new hobby, the Ukelele
Arizona Camping, Flagstaff Arizona
Arizona Camping, Flagstaff Arizona
Yellow flower fields on the way to Flagstaff, AZ
Arizona Camping, Flagstaff Arizona
Sleeping in wildflowers
Arizona Camping, Flagstaff Arizona
Arizona Camping, Flagstaff Arizona
Pickin’ in the Pines Bluegrass Festival in Flagstaff, AZ
Arizona Camping, Flagstaff Arizona
Arizona Camping, Flagstaff Arizona
pickin fresh Pinon nuts
Arizona Camping, Flagstaff Arizona
Prickly Pear Fruit
Arizona Camping, Flagstaff Arizona
Arizona Camping, Flagstaff Arizona
Pinons
Arizona Camping, Flagstaff Arizona
Arizona Camping, Flagstaff Arizona
Adios Arizona, and thanks!

In Between

Wow.  It has been a year since I last posted.  Well, although my travels have not been outside the US, they have still be splendid.  I’ve been all over Arizona, from lakes to desert to pine trees to cacti, and have also ventured up and down the west coast somewhat.  Following are my favorite travel pictures from the last year “in-between” – as in in between South America and my next….well, something.

Telluride – January ’12
Telluride – January ’12
Oak Creek Canyon – February ’12
Oak Creek Canyon – February ’12
Oak Creek Canyon – February ’12
Oak Creek Canyon – February ’12
Deer Creek – March ’12
The Grand Canyon – March ’12
My puppy, Mikki ❤
Saguaro Lake – April ’12
The Colombia River, WA – May ’12
The Colombia River, WA – May ’12

The Gorge Amphitheater for Sasquatch Music Festival, WA – May ’12
The joys of pure Music and pure Beauty – Sasquatch Music Festival May ’12
Saguaro Lake – June ’12
Saguaro Lake – June ’12
San Francisco – June ’12
San Francisco – June ’12

San Francisco – June ’12
San Francisco – June ’12

Departure

Hey all!  Welp tomorrow is the big day, heading out…………..finally.  The original date I was set to fly out of Phoenix was October 1st, but due to political unrest and police strikes in Quito and throughout the rest of the country, I had to postpone my arrival.  The strikes immediately headed to the main airport, Mariscal Sucre, which was where I was set to arrive the next day (here’s more info on the situation and issues that happened during this attempted coup attempt as President Correa called it http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-11447519 ).  Anyways, I rescheduled my flight and leave tomorrow, October 5th, at 8am, make a three hour layover in Miami, then fly straight down to Quito to arrive by 9pm their time (they are only two hours ahead of Arizona).

My original plan, when I was still arriving on the 1st, was to stay with a family I had found on craigslist (of all places) for one week at the very least.  I had been corresponding with them a lot over the past month and the 17 year old son was going to pick me up at the airport.  Unfortunately I didnt hear back from them for a couple of days after I changed my arrival, so I had to scramble for other plans.  Luckily, as it turns out I have a friend who went to both my high school and UofA, and who is down there finishing up his first cycle of teaching at the same University that I will be teaching at.  We’ve talked a bit after I found his teacher bio on our school’s website, and he is going to meet me at the airport tomorrow night and help me get my first night in the city figured out.

Overall, I’m feeling very blessed and lucky, from the little things about my situation such as the friend I have down there and the fact that I missed the strikes by just one day, to the overall chance to live in this amazing new place and culture that is Ecuador.  I’ll have to figure out many, many things when I arrive such as a phone plan and a place to live, but I am so ready to be busy and learning again.  I will let everyone know how things are when I get there, and be sure to post pictures as soon as I can.

here’s some links for info on my future city as well as where I’ll be teaching.

http://www.cec-epn.edu.ec/idiomas/linguistica/
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/ecuador/quito

Love everyone I am leaving behind here in Arizona and the States, and I shall see you all in a year or more!  Adios mis amigos y familia, te quiero mucho!!!

bye AZ ill miss you!