I have so many things I want to write about and every time I try I find myself stuttering. Do I write about my new job? Or that retched time I lived at my parents house? What about my research? Mostly I want to write about my road trip.
It was what… Day 4? 5? The day before I spent all day driving through western Texas taking pictures from my car of wind turbines because at the time I was just excited to see anything unfamiliar. I had driven through Albuquerque and eaten these amazing vegetarian “carne” asada french fries with zucchini from a hole in the wall, walk-in only, cement walls and floors joint outside of the university. I made it to this expansive gas station/truck stop/restaurant/casino/resort off the interstate. I walked around the gas station buying post cards and magnets and talking to Rachael on the phone. It was my first night in the car and I passed out quick with the windows cracked and the soft chilled desert air creeping in.
I woke up at six in the morning, time-zone unknown. Went inside to “clean up” in the loosest sense of the phrase. It’s rare I’m ever up before the sun and feeling chipper so already New Mexico had won me over in some strange way. (As if zucchini-heaven-fries weren’t enough.) I sat on this short cinderblock wall and watched the sun rise in the chilly quiet parking lot. Someone stared at me as I brushed my teeth and spat in the roadside grass. “Whatever, I’m in fucking New Mexico.”
My only goal for the day was to get to Flagstaff and once the sky faded from faint orange to pale blue I drove to the nearest Denny’s. Exotic western food at it’s finest…. or just some damn good coffee. Three and a half weeks on the road really built up my appreciation for diners. I chugged my coffee and ate my hash browns and stared at maps figuring out where to go. I was ready to pay when my waitress informed me an older gentleman, a New Mexico Denny’s regular, already paid for my meal. Something he likes to do every so often. Appreciation for random acts of kindness aside, I couldn’t help but wonder what he thought seeing me sipping coffee alone at 7 in the morning. Unshowered, bright eyed, 25, and all alone.
I had decided to check out the El Malpais National Monument. So I drove. And I lost it. It was the first of many many emotional attacks incited by my surroundings. If you haven’t been to the American Southwest… Go. It may be one of the most understated regions in the states. I loved everything about it (a sentiment I repeated often about many places). I stopped at the station, chatted with some rangers, and found a trail to hike. First, I had to make the long drive through the park to get there… oh boo hoo. I drove with the windows down and the music up and basked in everything that ever was. Coming from Florida/Louisiana the temperature was gorgeous and sweat was minimal. What more could you ask for?
I hiked the trail of lava rocks and lava sinkholes and new ground formations. I took a million pictures of black crumbles. I drove through other parts, leaving my car to venture a look-see at natural arches and strange new plants. Eventually I dragged myself away and crossed over to Arizona.
It’s kind of a blur now. I can’t remember if I stumbled upon it or had vague plans to begin with but from the interstate I started following signs to the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert. A long drive through the desert with intermittent stops to walk along the vast empty burnt tinged space. To read signs about desert shrubs and pick up one pleasant smelling yellow plant only to accidentally pick up another skunk flavored yellow plant. To gaze at ancient petroglyphs and have rangers joke about aliens with you. To drive through the “teepees” and be utterly confused about how things exist.
Eventually I made it to Flagstaff which is an entire weird and bizarre story in and of itself.