One of the nicest things about buying an enormous computer with one terabyte of space is that, if you’re me, you can add every photo, music, art and writing file you own, and you will not even begin to fill up the big beast’s memory.
You can then sit back and watch its preloaded photo program (iphoto) organize your files by date. It is awfully sweet. You can then entertain* and frighten** yourself with exercises like, you know, looking up this week in history***.
This week in 2004, I was saying goodbye to my friends, school and host family in Guadalajara, Mexico and striking out on a bus & backpack trip of Mexico and Guatemala.
Goodbye, armed guards protecting the school entrance.
Hello, awful packing skills. I’m glad I have improved upon something in recent years.
(I have photos thanks to tech-savvy friends Estaci & Eveena.)
This week in 2005, I was still spurning technology and shooting pictures on film…until Christmas.
This week in 2006, I was in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho drinking beers and kicking ass at Stevie Wonder karaoke duets with two of my dear, lifelong chums.
Hello, Lauren and Garrett!
This week in 2007, I visited Omze n’ Thrillz and roamed the bars of Moscow, Idaho.
Omie & I pretend to be cool
I display my sportsmanship
Thrillahamm probably cheating
This week in 2008, I was Christmas tree scheming in the Sitka cabin. I was also tan and sassy after my first trip to the Hawaiian Islands (Kauai).
I miss you, Vitamin D.
This week in 2009, I explored a Grand ole Canyon in the American Southwest!
Mr. Holden makes photos.
I make airplane noises.
This week this year, I am in Sitka, and I took some pictures of my new Christmas shrub. In the continuing tradition of my Fantastic Zip Tie Christmas Bush, it is unconventional but festive.
But more on that tomorrow. For now I have very important photo-based cultural anthropology research to complete.
*If you like to reminisce.
**If you are gun-shy about mortality.
***History = the few years I have owned a digital camera.
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Giant Santa Fe horse head
Happy Holiday cow skull at El Paseo (almost as beautiful as the $1 tacos)
With snow flying through the air of Flagstaff, I busted a freeway move all the way to Santa Fe, New Mexico. What can I say about the drive between the two? Almost nothing.
Traveling here in the winter is strange as one can’t really tell if things are closed for the season (and decaying) … or are closed permanently and decaying. Maybe the paint just fades fast in the summer sun, and everything looks shiny and new before the new tourist season, but daaaamn – the Southwest looks like a spooky movie set (“No Country for Old Men?”).
Some cool chunks of petrified logs by the side of the freeway almost tempted me to take a trip to the petrified forest, but escaping the snow (and cattle bolt combover killers) took precedence. Finally at the New Mexico border, the flat turned into some nice rocky outcroppings.
I beelined to Harry’s Roadhouse where my amor Natalia was waiting for me. My gourmet grilled cheese was so good I didn’t care about the crusty sourdough bread turning my mouth roof into hamburger. With fantastic food, the best margarita ever and a classy little fireplace burning away in the corner, I kind of wanted to live at Harry’s.
I also had a bomb-ass breakfast burrito at the Plaza Cafe / Restaurant. The green chile made my snot drip, but it was worth the pain. The aluminum and tile was probably the most impeccable specimen of a diner I have ever seen. This place has been around for over 100 years, so I guess they know what they’re doing.
Santa Fe was a vacation from touristing. I was there primarily to see my cherished friend, but a huge dump of snow made sure I didn’t go anywhere too quick.
Little hyperactive bastard cat
But before it dropped to the single digits, it was time to brush the snow off the car and leave beautiful Santa Fe.
Enjoying the sunny Southwest
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The Sky Ranch Lodge is not the cheapest place in Sedona, Arizona, nor is it the most modern. But waking up to a fantastic view from bed of the famous Sedona red rocks, I didn’t really care about either.
After sunrise, it was time to descend the mountain in search of sustenance.
My asparagus, cheese and tomato omelet (one of 101 omelet choices) at the Coffee Pot Restaurant wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. I should have gone for the guacamole and green chile option (or the PBJ or the huevos rancheros for that matter). The biscuit, potatoes and coffee were all stellar, food came in less than ten minutes, and the coffee cups were so sweet we bought a whole set at the gift shop.
The restaurant is named after this rock:
If you can look past the quartz-crystal-chakra-healing, Sedona is worth exploring – even the churches.
From the Chapel of the Holy Cross, looking over a very opulent home
Leaving Sedona toward Flagstaff, I traveled through the Oak Creek Canyon. It is steep and switchbacky. Don’t attempt it in shitty weather in a 2WD rental car.
((The ride into Sedona is also really windy. Dropping down Mingus Mountain (the thinking man’s geological formation) into Jerome, I wished I had time to stop and explore. From talk in Sedona, it sounded like Jerome was a copper mining town which was abandoned then squatted in and renovated by some hippies, and is now a booming little tourist town.))
North from Flagstaff, I checked out this little rip in the ground people keep talking about.
Zaaaang! This canyon is grand.
The place is impossible to picture with my camera. It is so colorful and layered and gut-clenchingly deep. I really enjoyed my visit. Going during the off-season when I wasn’t boiling my balls off and waiting my turn at every outlook also probably helped with my rosy outlook.
Featuring Mr. Holden and his camera
After a big day of touristing, the Beaver Street Brewery in Flagstaff fed me right and and quenched my microbrew thirst.
Hummus platter & brew sampler = Praise be
I did leave uncomfortably full with an extremely frigid walk back to the hotel, but it was well worth it.
When I woke up, tiny dry snowflakes were swirling through the air, threatening my 2WD sporty rental Cobalt. It was time to get the hell out of Arizona.
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Sunrise over the Colorado
Behold, a cactus
Not southern Idaho. Arizona. No really.
That’s more like it. Sedona. Oooooooooh.
Festival o’ lights at the Tlaquepaque (which is nothing like Tlaquepaque in Guadalajara)
And it is cold – freezing in fact as illustrated by this non-flowing fountain
A snow storm in predicted for this area at the beginning of next week, so the plan is to see as much as possible and get the hell east. Everyone keeps talking about this big canyon that’s somewhere around here, so maybe I’ll check that out too.
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Leaving Blythe, CA I soon hit Ehrenberg, AZ which, as my trusty navigator (Mr. Holden) pointed out, had some pretty admirable street names.
On the corner of Juneau Ave and Hoonah Drive, I spied some intriguing fruit trees. One grew lemons, and I was delighted to find the other heavy with ripe pomegranates! The nice lady in whose yard they resided was out watering things and let me pick one which I plan to eat for breakfast today.
This was the most exciting thing to happen for some miles. On the road to Lake Havasu City, the towns shared some characteristics: dusty, sun-bleached and lonesome looking.
And then there’s Havasu. Founded in the ’50s or maybe ’60s, everything is very nice and new. It reminded me of stucco/red roof tile versions of the model home from Arrested Development, though a few uniquely architected home stood out as well. One had a wide, stone walkway that spiraled around from the ground floor to the roof, forming much of the exterior walls of the home.
When not Spring Break bumper boats, there is one other tiny detail that gives Havasu an odd look. It has the full-on (old) London Bridge in the middle of everything. Apparently they renovated the bridge in London and replaced the exterior pieces. They marked each one, shipped it off to the highest bidder and reerected it in Lake Havasu City (wiki info here).
A tasty salad, sammich and brew sampler at the Barley Brothers Brewery, and I was back on the road.
The mighty Colorado River divides Arizona and Nevada between Bullhead City (AZ) and Laughlin (NV). Laughlin shimmers up out of the desert, decked in flashy neon like a little baby Las Vegas. Being a slow vacation time and Laughlin being full to the brim with empty rooms, it is an inexpensive place to rent a room.
Views from $40 room at Harrah’s in Laughlin
With the $60-70 you can pay for a dump/near-dump in recent towns visited, the wood furniture and granite countertops are a nice change.
And now, having gambled away my $20 budget, drunk my complimentary booze and watched the sun rise over the jagged mountaintops (from bed), it is time to explore some more Arizona.
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I’m sitting at the Courtesy Coffee Shop in Blythe, CA enjoying coffee, sunshine and eavesdropping. So far both conversations between the waitress and other patrons are about illness and lethargy – no one feels well enough to start decorating for Christmas.
Day before yesterday I left Alaska for the first time since May. Clear skies followed me from Sitka to Seattle and San Diego, giving me a geologist’s-eye view of the west coast.
Walking out of the San Diego airport felt fucking great – 70 degrees, palm trees and agave. With a sporty, red sedan from the rental company (NOT HERTZ!!!!!), I was on the road headed East. Fueled up on cherries and turkey jerky from a roadside stand, I left the freeway and snaked through the hills and deserts of Route 79.
There were strange RV parks in the middle of flat nothing, with white campers circled like conestogas, but it got infinitely more strange. The Salton Sea is a large land-locked salty body of water. According to Wikipedia, it was once a thriving tourist destination with resorts and all. The GPS directed me along unmarked roads to the beach front.
It had a distinct Mad Max feel. Through the haze, the water blended into the hills with a light fogginess blurring it all. Cranes, pelicans and gulls stood around, screaming but not moving much. Walking down a derelict boat ramp, I had to a swing left to avoid a full-grown scrub tree. The stale air stank. The water had receded probably 20 feet from the original bank, and the middle ground was littered with barnacles, bones and small dead fish.
Picturing dead fish
Reducing water levels caused higher salinity, and fertilizer runoff led to algae blooms which depleted the oxygen level of the water, killing off most of the introduced fish.
After a beautifully bizarre sunset, I drove past a palm tree, date and grape farm and through some holey rocks to Blythe, welcomed on the outskirts by its gleaming prison complex. And now my coffee and biscuit are done, and it’s time to hit the road again. North to Arizona!