Good Partners

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The Saguaro cactus increases its chance of survival several-fold if it takes root under the shade of a Palo Verde or Mesquite tree. The seedling and young plant are protected from the elements and given time to dig deep and establish a good foundation. At Saguaro National Park just outside of Tucson, you can see this happening and mark the progress from tiny bump in the ground to soaring 75 foot tall giant. In a 2008 FJ Cruiser now 2000 miles from home, we are living it out. Granted, the seedling is 6’3″ and the old Palo Verde is shrinking and wrinkling every day, but I still like the metaphor.

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Rhumb Line

Technically a rhumb line is a navigational term for a heading that crosses every longitudinal meridian at exactly the same angle relative to true north — so on the surface of the earth, it has a kind of spiral look to it. On a map, it looks like the shortest distance between two points. In a car, it looks like Interstate 20 from Atlanta to Big Spring Texas. Bags packed, geared stowed and secured, music selected, sunglasses adjusted, we headed west at 5 o’clock in the afternoon and we didn’t stop until we hit Carlsbad Cavern National Park 1,400 miles later.

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Wandering Again

Well we are in the final stages of prep for another adventure.  In Australia I have heard them refer to these sorts of things as “walkabouts” where you head out with no real agenda or plan, and just enjoy the experience.  We are a little more organized than that – we know generally where we are going and when we expect to get back – but not too much.  The point of these things is equal parts what we go to and what we leave behind.  For a time, we leave everything, on purpose, to make room for new experiences.  There just happens to be a ton to leave behind this trip, and that somehow makes it seem more valuable.  Both of us are ready for what is possible and we have that great sense of expectation that my grandmother used to call being “journey proud”.  We will make a great loop from home to Carlsbad, Guadalupe Mountains, Saguaro, Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Kings Canyon/Great Sequoia, Yosemite, Great Basin and Black Canyon of the Gunnison and back home.  We will see things, great things and not so great, we will share the experience of leaving behind and going to.  And we will come home.  Watch here for our wanderings along the way.

A Balancing Act

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After wrapping up day six in Canyonlands Island in the Sky district, we spent the night in Moab to escape the heat and have a pizza. It was a good choice. The hotel bed was welcome and the pizza was first rate. We woke rested and headed out for Arches at 7:00 am to beat the crowds and catch some good light. If you are ever in Moab, Utah, stop at Wicked Brew and have the best cup of straight Americano ever made. It got us to the park with the motor running.

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A Multi-Layered Life

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We started our fifth day in the town of Escalante and drove via Utah 12 to Capitol Reef National Park. The road passes through the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and basically rides the bannister all the way to the top of the Waterpocket Fold which constitutes Capitol Reef National Park. It is a very cool ride and it proves that the American worker can lay a ribbon of asphalt anywhere someone pays him to lay it. At one point there is nothing on either side of the road except air. In the battle of nature’s impenetrable geology and man, man won here. The irony is that more people see Grand Staircase Escalante than otherwise would because he did.

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Around Every Bend

It is probably telling that, having indicated in a previous post my inability to deal with the scale of the landscape in our journey, my second national park stop was the Grand Canyon North Rim. I won’t waste your time trying to put words to what so many before me have written about. I will, however, tell you that you must go – to the north rim at least. It is the shock that makes it special, more so than the scale. You are in one minute at 9,000 or so feet amidst thick pine and Aspen and then, in a blink, are confronted with nature’s largest and deepest storybook of what once was, but is no more. You can read it in the canyon walls if you know how, or you can stand agape and stutter about your own inabilities. Which is what I did. We hiked around and out to several points, but then left the park proper and drove 25 miles through Kaibab National Forest so that we could pitch camp literally on the rim of he canyon. We went to sleep to the sun setting and awoke to it rising over the Grand by-God Canyon. As I said earlier, you really should do this. Period.

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Let There Be Light

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Day three had us on the road from Tucumcari, New Mexico to Holbrook, Arizona. The absolute scale of the landscape tests the limits of my mind. As we travelled and viewed vista after vista of changing colors, rising rock formations and seemingly endless juniper flats I was challenged to establish any sort of perspective. I could look at one thing or a few things, but when I tried to look at the entire view, it left me exasperated. The scale is beyond my experience and the subject matter too foreign.

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Day Two Getting Our Kicks

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Day two in our journey finds us overnighting in Tucumcari, NM after another grind west on I-40. The final 30 miles or so we jumped over to the old Route 66 and followed it into town. We are staying in an old Route 66 Hotel. I want to wax nostalgic about the old road and the towns it passed through, and I may yet after a bit more time on it tomorrow, but right now it just seems old. The town is essentially a ghost town save the touristy Route 66 stuff. Downtown is vacant, Main street is a slum where there is any residential population at all. I don’t think the interstate did that – it is only a few blocks away. I think people left for the same reason many of their predecessors came here – they wanted a better life. Whether they found it or not, or if it is even findable, is another blog entirely. At its best, however, there wasn’t much in Tucumcari to stick around for.

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Day One Chasing the Sun

We left Atlanta this morning on day one of our road trip out to and through the canyon lands area of Utah, as well as a couple of stops in Colorado. We hope. Today was a day to cover as much ground as possible. Not sight-seeing, old town gawking, or scenic driving – just grip the wheel at 10 and 2, find I-40 and grind out the miles. We made it to the Arkansas/Oklahoma border and gained an appreciation for all those who pioneered the move from east to west.

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