Tag Archives: road trip

Version 0.22


Little I have to write of tonight. There is, however, much to be finished from last night’s journal, but I’m far too tired, so that will have to wait. Today, though, was simple. Pick up car from rental company and drive to Houston, stopping here and there along the way to get out and walk around some of these towns with my camera, then upon arriving in Houston check in to my hostel before returning the car.

The drive was sublimely relaxing (something I think I craved) for not having to bother with sore legs, nor was there cursing at rough and bumpy roads with no shoulders, horrid traffic or crushing headwinds; just cruise and watch the landscape slip past. There were two tiny towns, Nome and Raywood, along the way that I stopped in, as well as the larger town of Dayton, which I managed to not leave myself enough time—classic me— to explore as I would have liked, and I stopped along one desolate, straight stretch of road that led 180 degrees, from horizon-point to horizon-point, without a car on it to photograph a single tree standing in the distance isolated in space between the blue blue of the sky and the brittle, dry, straw-yellow of the immense field within which it stood, and all around me and it only silence and a slight breeze tumbling through the grass and my hair like the gentle purring of a cat. It was a truly remarkable stretch, and made for a fascinating contrast with the wetter, estuarian regions of this eastern Texas landscape.


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Leaving New Orleans today.
Don’t really feel like it.
Don’t feel like it at all.
Not sure what I want to do, though. Apply for hire at this wonderful, little bakery and cafe that I’m currently writing this at and learn how to make delicious breads and vegan treats. This trip has just been so disjointed. Like a bloody asthmatic trying to run up a dusty mountain trail: all fits and starts and stopping to take breaths off the inhaler. I haven’t had a chance to build up any kind of momentum. I’ve spent more time in cities, mainly Tallahassee and New Orleans, than I have cycling. Frankly, I’ve enjoyed being in town more than I have cycling. The question is is that because I’ve cycled so little, i.e., the disjointedness of the trip, or is it because I just don’t really feel like cycling? And do I not feel like cycling because I have this deadline for the Australia trip that I don’t even want to go on, or do I just want to travel differently? Like via motorcycle, which I continue to think about. It seems to me that all these questions and considerations are tied in such a knot that one can’t find the cause of it all (and so never the answer), or that they’re all simultaneously causes and effects, and so intertwined with each other that they can not be separated. It is a fine day though, regarding weather, but I wish there wasn’t such an abundance of gusting winds—leavings from the rainstorm that blew in last night, I suppose, all upset for being left alone, and so thrashing about in their anger and frustration.

My next stop, briefly, is New Iberia, where the Shadows on the Teche, a 19th century home that has a special appeal for me, is located. I’m curious about it because Henry Miller visited there on his cross-country journey, which he recounts in his book The Air-Conditioned Nightmare. There are Warmshowers folks in town, so a possibility of staying with some people in a cozy home before my next and final stop in Houston. From Houston I’ll be taking a sleeper train to Los Angeles. I’m most excited about spending two or three days in Houston exploring, and then traveling in fairly luxurious style to L.A. over a period 36 hours, leaving Houston on the fourteenth at seven pm and arriving in L.A. at five am.

[Later that night]
Not the best day. Not the worst day. Just a much much much… much much much… MUCH too windy day. That together with leaving so late meant covering only fifty miles. On the other hand I have a great camping spot in the area of a boat launch. Wonder if anyone’ll be here early tomorrow morning. No matter. It’s nice here, and lit up and surveilled for my safety. The only company I have is the noise of passing cars and the neighbor’s air conditioner, the few mosquitoes outside my tent, and a backhoe which is propping up my bicycle. I would expect frogs, so close I am to a bayou, but nothing. Perhaps they’ve all been eaten.

So, as I said, today was rough. Clear blue sky and cool temps, but I couldn’t stop myself from cursing myself, Australia, and the wind. THE DAMNABLE WIND! AND DAMNABLE DEADLINES! And my foolish self. Foolish for being a fool, and foolish too for getting so worked up about all this. Well, in less than a week I’ll be in Houston, then it’s only a couple more days by train to L.A., then the flight to Perth. In the meantime New Orleans was great and I’m so grateful to Nico for giving me his apartment while he was away. Not sure what I would have done otherwise (probably left sooner). But New Orleans! It’s stunningly beautiful, even if most of the buildings are half-decrepit and rotting, molding, and falling apart from the constant damp and humidity and mild to hot year-round temperatures, and many people can’t afford to fix their dingy hovels, or some people just don’t care. Crazy too that one could see on a single block two magnificent specimens of Greek Revival architecture, one building being immaculate with fresh coats of paint gleaming in the sun, and a verdant, manicured lawn; and the other green with algae, lichen, moss, the concrete chipped, pillars discolored, lawn in disarray, basically looking like it’s been neglected for half a century. The food can be wonderful too, if one goes to the right places. I saw many lines of people waiting to get into certain tourist traps in the French Quarter. There are of course many excellent restaurants nestled in there; you just have to know where to go. Like anywhere else I suppose.

Version 0.04

I’ve taken refuge tonight at the Unity House Bed & Breakfast, an unassuming, nineteenth century house located on a side street in downtown Madison. I was soaked again earlier today just after I had finished my lunch break of an hour and a half. It only rained for twenty or thirty minutes, but my stubbornness and consistent feelings of resignation at being soaked prevented me from moving off the road and finding some sort of shelter beneath a tree that would have availed me of being drenched, and even though upon arriving in Madison I was not as wet as I had been, the weather service is calling for storms tonight and I’m simply not keen on trying to sleep through that in my tent just to save some cash and then have to put on cold, wet clothes the next morning.

I was, as usual, in agonies over making a decision because of the high cost of accommodation so early on in the trip (paid lodging for three of four nights so far), but once the decision was made and I was firmly inside the bed and breakfast, with my bicycle rolled into a corner and my bags strewn in a semblance of organization around it, and receiving the grand tour of the place, I was near to ecstasy. To have made a decision! What a triumph! What a weight lifted from my shoulders! The hell with the money. I can earn more later, doing something, anything if I have to, but for now to be reclining in a stuffed chair in a warm room with food in my belly (which I cooked on my campstove in the bathroom of my bedroom), and to know that the money is spent and there’s no possible way to get it back, I am CONTENT, like a fat dog on the hearth of a lighted fireplace.

My room exudes coziness. The queen-size bed is nearly chest-high so that I nearly have to climb into it, and thrusts itself well into the center of the room. The thick memory-foam mattress is piled high with numerous pillows, There are two tables, each with a lamp, on either side of the bed, and an armoire against the wall opposite. Near to the bed is the rather large, comfortable chair I am lounging in, my feet resting on a sort of attached ottoman. There is a flatscreen tv which I will not use on a table against the wall opposite me. The closet is filled with women’s clothing. The floor hardwood stained dark, and a soft light effuses the room through the tall windows draped with lace curtains. In the bathroom my wet clothes are spread about various fixtures, hanging from hooks, etc., drying. All is peace.

Not all was peace today, though. In some places along the way I wondered if peace ever came. Not long after leaving Lake City I passed a Native American church: Broken Lands Native American church to be exact. What peace may be found there? Certainly none in the name. Is it found in the two half-built teepees on the property? Mere skeletons with no flesh, no skin, just a pile of lumber leaning against each other in the shape of a cone, as if by doing so they might manage to stay upright, and lashed together at the top. If there was any peace there it would not stay for long. Perhaps there was peace in the two crumbling, dilapidated hovels that I suppose served as the church proper for whoever worshipped there, but the doors were left swinging ajar, and windows open. Some perhaps shattered. But, too, there appeared little to keep peace contained within. Could it somehow be captured in the three rundown, decrepit, old cars in the lot, parked between the unfinished teepees and the church? None of those looked as if they might run. It appeared as though someone had parked them there years ago and promptly forgot about them. I just don’t think one could find peace in any of those three cars.

On the other hand there is no physical thing that can be representative of the glory of God. Or I should say all things, all places are representative of the glory of God. They are all the glory of God from the lowliest dung beetle (if one sees the dung beetle as for some reason being lowly, as opposed to quite marvelous and magical), to the noblest of humans, say Thailand’s king, or the queen of England (as though birthright means anything in the grand scheme of it all). That said, one can worship or meditate anywhere and find peace there. Often I think I can find more peace in a fingernail clipping than I might find in one of these ostentatious mega-churches that are popping up all over the place. Costs a lot less to build too. Powder it up. Turn it into a wafer. This is MY body. Go worship in your monolithic church, crosses gilded in gold, and the wine unwatered; or go worship at broken lands, broken dreams, broken hopes, and broken promises; it makes no difference. Go to the swamp. Sit under a tree. Lie in a prairie full of wildflowers. It makes no difference so long as you know peace and you feel peace. What’s important is the you, not the it (the thing), for you become it when you project yourself onto it, whatever it is….

A little bit farther along I espied what appeared to have once been a home beneath a magnificent Live oak with Spanish moss hanging from its branches, surrounded by vegetation, covered in vegetation, looking rather rotten and squalid, but looking magical just the same, covered as it was in moss and lichen and vines, green things growing out of its gutters, and that magnificent Live oak with its limbs spread wide over the hovel as if protecting it or wishing to embrace it. It would make a great place to squat or camp as well hidden as it is, what with the forest grown up all around it. I damn near missed it pedaling along. Had to come to a screeching halt as I just happened to glance over at it beneath the trees.

Later on I passed a manor of sorts. Manor Hill or some such thing on 90. Huge property stuck full of pine trees, beneath the pine trees tarps, beneath the tarps bails of pine needles. I’d never seen such a thing. Will have to research it…. Research done. Easy. Apparently pine needles are bailed (called “pine straw”) and used as mulch.

 A little further along I stopped for lunch in Live Oak, at a panaderia (a Mexican bakery). The young woman, who I took for the proprietor, as it’s called Sandy’s, is maybe in her late 20’s or early 30’s. She seemed excited to see me. I saw this look in her eyes as I walked in and she greeted me from behind the counter while at the same time walking around from behind it of “Oh, this guy doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into here.” Of course I could have, in an alternate universe, spoken Spanish quite well. But of course this is not an alternate universe; it is this one in which I speak very, very little Spanish. She was very helpful in a way that seemed to give her pleasure; I suppose this would be called “hospitality.” There was a warmth in her smile and an engagement with me in describing the menu items that one doesn’t experience often—the delight to delight—partly, I guess, because she was a fluent English speaker (and rightly guessed that I was not a fluent Spanish speaker and so was also likely unfamiliar with the menu) and Sandy’s predominantly serves the Latino population in and around town—though there was an enormously, effusively appreciative white man in his sixties there too, who needed to make a phone call and send some money which she helped with—so I think she WANTS more white people to come in and have a pleasant experience, which as a business owner makes sense because she should want to maintain the profitability of her business. In this case though, I think there was more to her helpfulness than simply the financial aspect. There is also, I assume, the desire to be accepted as a Latino and a Latino-run business in this small American town (thinking of the socio-political climate of the nation today, particularly with Trump in office), and also the desire for her bakery and eatery to serve more than just the Latino population, (because this creates a sort of cultural friction) but to serve a multi-cultural community. Of course in order to do this it takes some courage and curiosity on the part of non-Latinos to bother going in. And if both of these qualifications aren’t meant there exists this subtle tension, which of course is all mental, but just because its mental doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Furthermore, the more one looks at something as a “they” or “them” place and not an “us” place, the greater that tension becomes. This would, I think, be a more prominent issue in a small town rather than a city, not that it doesn’t or can’t exist in cities because it does there too under certain circumstances, but in a small town there’s no hiding it. In a city it can be sort of swept under the rug, so to speak. All of this is a bit of an assertion on my part of course. She didn’t show any preference to me, and she didn’t ignore those (Latinos) already there ahead of me, but she simply saw the need to help someone who perhaps was in need of aid in navigating the menu, for I’m certain there had to have been a look of unfamiliarity on my face.

Anyway, once things were explained to me good and proper, and my order was placed, I found a seat at the bar, and then a man older than her—perhaps her father, or maybe HE was the owner, or maybe even just an employee, and maybe not her father at all—cooked my food, and it was really good, basic Mexican fare: a torta which is basically a griddled Mexican sandwich, and may be filled with a variety of things: meats, eggs, jalapeños, mayonnaise, cheese, pickles, onion, etc. Not something I would ordinarily eat, and certainly not healthy, but I make exceptions when traveling in this fashion sometimes, and to have met those people at that tiny eatery it was a joyous occasion I think, and at the time I also thought it would make for a most excellent cultural exchange, which it did, and so was justifiable. And it was not long, twenty minutes in fact, after I finished my lunch and was on my way again that the rain began again.

But I’m here! In comfort and resignation!, as I wrote earlier. My laptop is resting beside me, and I’m still ensconced in the same cushy chair. I’m watching a short video of a couple who are visiting Martin Heidegger’s cabin in the Black Forest in Germany. They describe a ritual that he would practice regularly each morning upon opening the cabin door and setting foot outside, of collecting water in a white bucket from a nearby trough of a hollowed out log that was fed by a pipe projecting from the hillside. And each morning he would take this bucket of his and collect his water for the day, or morning, or whatever, and this was all part of finding and cultivating a connection with nature, with the land that his cabin was built on and was a part of. 

According to the couple, or the man, Heidegger had a distaste, or disgust, for the Socratic idea of the duality of man, which is the separation of mind and body, that they are not a whole but are distinct and separable. I think more commonly people think of the; at least in a religious sense, which is what I was thinking of while watching this portion of the video (because it seems obvious to me that mind and body are not dualistic); separation of body and spirit. This is generally assumed as true in Western religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. I’m for thinking body and spirit are one, though. The body is no different from the spirit; it is the spirit. And now I’m pondering Indra’s Net which, at its simplest, is the Buddhist philosophy of the interconnectedness of all things, the multi-dimensional spiderweb. There is a lecture by Alan Watts, called Buddhism as Dialogue, in which he speaks of Indra’s Net, and there is a line in there, and I quote, “That’s the meaning of Indra’s net. So that, this is called in Zen, to take up a blade of grass and use it as a golden Buddha 16 feet high.” Inside that blade of grass are contained all things, and Heidegger’s bucket it seems to me is a metaphor for this. This connectedness to nature, this mind-body-spirit meld, Indra’s Net, the blade of grass, and the golden Buddha 16 feet high. His white bucket is the blade of grass, it is the golden Buddha. It is perfect.

There is another quotation of Heidegger’s cited in the video that I feel is strongly relevant to me now: “By confronting what is often anxiety producing we gain our freedom from living a life just like everyone else, and our lives become our own.” And so this bike trip is a thing which I think defines me in that manner. It is at times anxiety producing, uncomfortable, not pleasurable, but it is my freedom, and it, among other pursuits, separates me from the herd. But is this important? This idea of Heidegger’s, I mean, not the trip. The trip is obviously of importance. Actually, scratch that. I don’t know that this trip is important at all. But then I’m one to question the importance of all things, of everything. So, should this idea matter? Is the herd inherently bad (not that Heidegger is explicitly implying that)? When one thinks of a herd of animals one thinks of protection and safety in numbers, the preservation of the species, etc. But the term “the herd” used in reference to humans is generally connoted as negative, as a bunch of lemmings walking off a cliff, as self-destructive, as a group of people feeding off each other, being only informed by each other and thus being siloed from other ideas and ways of thinking and so being ill-informed, incompletely informed, or outright misinformed; or essentially acting in the manner of dumb beasts which we are purportedly above (at least in intelligence), forming a circle, some facing inward heads hidden away, some facing outwards teeth bared, ready to lash out with horn or hoof at an offender of “the doctrine.” Yet, can these people be blamed?, especially when one takes into consideration the inbred objective of all animals, humans included, which is the preservation of life (and with that comes the preservation of all things dear to or associated with that person, and thus the group) and the continued reproduction of the species (this is simply the desire for sex, regardless of whether you want to produce a child or not). These people are simply protecting themselves. So you can see why they (the herd) might be looked down on by a more intellectual “elite” who have a greater capability of thinking for themselves (though these types often end up doing the exact same thing as the group they’re looking down on, and rejecting any idea that wasn’t propagated by their own or which threatens their own set of rules and ethics (the irony!). I think the best thing a person can do for himself is to intermingle, to raise herself beyond the fray, to understand both sides, but these people are rare. They’re also often the least judgmental of people because they have no doctrine to defend. Their doctrine is essentially the doctrine of no doctrine, or of everyone’s doctrine, because often multiple groups have valid perspectives and valid points to make (even if one has to dig for them). They’re also usually not so concerned with self-preservation, and as a result they have nothing to lose. This creates a fluidity in their interactions with these various groups and factions that those members of the groups don’t have outside of the group.

Anyway, I’ve written much, and thought deeply about this, and am frankly tired, and what happened to this travel blog? I think it is time to turn in.

To anxiety! To freedom! To the white bucket! To defining one’s own life! Joy to all the world!

November 6, 2016, Thinking Outside Gallup, NM

Gallup, NM, El Rancho Hotel. Huge, just enormous sort of mansion-like place. Above the front porch is a large sign, clearly visible while hurtling along the highway: “Charm of Yesterday, Convenience of Tomorrow.” Fascinating! Already thinking towards the future. Already in the future! I wonder what Tomorrow’s convenience might be like? Is it better than Today’s? How does it work? Does it know what I want before I want it? Will anything and everything, all my wishes and demands simply be brought to me and dropped at my feet? It’s unfortunate that I won’t be staying here, but am instead just passing through. I’m curious as to what this future will be like. Alas, here I am in the present. Sounds like a good business model though because everyone is either infatuated with and looking back to the past, or obsessed with the future. Very few people seem to be content with the present.

November 6, 2016, North Arizona Landscape

Arizona landscape driving east from Flagstaff to Santa Fe: a flat plain interrupted by shallow ravines, the occasional wash, plateaus, mesas; dotted with pastel, mute, sagey green shrubs large and small. The occasional tree. The colors of the land, various and multitudinous: greys, siennas (burnt and raw), ochres, umbers, oranges, reds. On the whole, unsurprisingly warm.

Ahead, something that lies visible but which I can never reach, tantalizes with its unknowns, its questions: the horizon, a flat line like that which separates, yet holds together, ocean and sky, as if without it they would burst apart and anything and everything would be flung off, ejected, torn into the vacuum of space.

Very much a ranchers’ landscape and, once a wilderness where buffalo freely roamed, and the Navajo with them (or so I might imagine).

Railroad tracks paralleling Interstate 40, and a miles-long train, its individual cars bound together with an invisible string stretching from coast to coast, like a necklace encircling the throat of our mother, Earth.

Signs for Indian gifts, moccasins.
Earlier: “Petrified Wood From the Forest”
“Indian Ruins Gas This Exit Save”
“Indian Ruins Exit Don’t Miss It”
“Indian Center”

Here is one of the loveliest, most enchanting landscapes I’ve ever experienced. Today the air so clear. The horizon crisp.

Does a horizon have a beginning or ending? Does it simply go on forever, an arc around a human body? A halo played like a hoola hoop, as well as a symbol of divinity, rather than just worn as a crown?

October 23, 2016, Route 1 Somewhere On

To the left of me are mountains, their naked bodies showing, and looking just like the flatirons in Boulder, like bare-chested men bronzing in the sun (such little sun, though), and to my right the spot-lighted ocean, overhung with dismal clouds, and pricked with a few oil rigs far out near its horizon, and the occasional splash of sunlight sparkling on its wave crested surface.

I don’t know what to look at. I am dazzled. My visual sense overwhelmed by riches and extraordinary beauty in abundance in all directions, even on this dreary day.

And around a bend I come, peering at an arm jutting into the steely-grey waters like a creature crawling into the ocean, or out of it (Golbez’s arm crawling across a crystal floor searching, searching for something), smeared with starlight in places.

Smeared with starlight in places.

October 23, 2016, Around Santa Maria, CA

California and her rolling hills. Eternally rolling along the 101. Trees sprouting from these hills like spores on a mold. A prehistoric landscape untouched by the hand of man. I see some fences of course. A cow here and there. But otherwise it’s nature, nature in its unaltered original form. Some of the tops of the hills and those in the distance are veiled, obscured in a mist: mere soft silhouettes. Appropriate, because I’m looking far, far into the past…

And I think back to yesterday along Big Sur. About people trying to capture moments and memories with a camera (like clawing at the air, trying to grab it, grasp it, hold it in one’s arms), and watching while driving along the highway, watching the waves hammering continuously against the rock walls, and after we go to bed at night this living world continuing to hammer against these rock walls which will continue to deny it, absorbing blow after blow. And this goes on eternally. After we sleep. After our deepest of sleeps.

California is a magical place. What must settlers have felt when they first arrived here to this bounty? This impossible world where it is spring and summer year round. It is very much an Eden, like that from which Adam and Eve were tossed out I imagine. And here I am, rediscoverying this lost land buried in antiquity and legend. What right do I have to be here?, for surely I am no better than Adam or Eve (though I might have wisdom enough not to take advice from a serpent or snake, unless he was a very tricky and persuasive one, even if I am in the habit of trusting easily).

These hills remind me of bread dough a little bit: in their smoothness very much uniform. Like agglomerations of soil covered with a smooth, even carpet of grass, like a table cloth thrown over a dining table, then stuck with trees like a pin-cushion.

October 22, 2016, Big Sur

Driving Route 1, Big Sur. Pinned into the hillside to the right and the left of me, like the bristles of a hairbrush, are thousands of frondsy things, like cattails wafting in the wind; and the sun slowly sinking lower and lower, lower and lower to the pacific, glowing like a pearl, softly, embedded amongst gauzy clouds that drift in the sky like gossamer curtains lifted on a breeze. And around the bend of the road the shoreline rocky and rugged, like a brass knuckled fist limned in white, the water crashing up against it relentlessly, splashing hard and high, seafoam flying like spittle.

Signs for Vista Point. Cars and RVs parked, and people standing on the edge with cameras in their hands pressed to their faces, or their faces peering into a smart-phone taking pictures to commemorate a moment.  THE moment.

It’s difficult to deny oneself the pleasure of creating and holding on to memories like these (and really, why should one?). But the sun is dropping lower and lower. [These frondsy things are wonder incarnate.] The waves are always crashing against the rocks. The rocks are always there, pummeled by the waves. At times their jaggedness cloaked in secrecy, enveloped by a thick fog; other times poignant, acute, sharp enough to draw blood.

What can a photograph say? What feelings and emotions might one dredge up a year or more in the future?  Do these people grasp the magnitude of what they are seeing? Do even I with my words and poetic sentiment have an inkling? Are we not all headed into a night to which we will succumb? And yet this night comes repeatedly over the Earth, but always she experiences a morning, a new sun, a bright day, a warm wind….

Autumn in Flagstaff, at Least for this Moment

Humphrey’s Peak right up there
With clouds tailing off
Dusted with snow like a cinnamon bun.

Flagstaff silent but for the crows,
Some traffic rolling along cracked and tar strapped asphalt
Breeze pushing yellow, green, yellow-green leaves along a sidewalk
Bluebirds bright, their song with joy
Happiness like a child’s reflection in an iced over pond.
the very air
—crisp, crackling with energy.

Winter draws nearer.

The smell of old leaves,
Of dead leaves,
New soil,

Blue of autumn sky.

84 – The Face of Joy

Having left Arcosanti feeling slightly regretful of having not stayed another night, I drove north to the comparatively colder (and wetter) city of Flagstaff. Temperatures were in the 40’s and the rain was coming down by the buckets full. I wanted to go for a run that day as there are trails all over, and so skipped stopping in Sedona unfortunately, but the uninviting weather that greeted me on my arrival at Flagstff discouraged running. I suppose that’s sort of an ironic way of killing two birds with one stone. Oh well. I was happy to check in at Motel Du-Beau, which nowadays is not just a motel but a hostel too.

The motel/hostel is an old, traveler’s motor-hotel (hence, motel, if you didn’t know) from the earliest days of the great American road trip. Opened in 1929 by a French Canadian, it’s original purpose, which it certainly still meets, was to provide a place for traveling motorists to lodge for a night, or several, on their travels across the country. The U-shaped, single story motel is classic in style, and reminiscent of a picture on an old postcard one might find in an antique store. Standing on the opposite side of the street one can easily picture those old, heavy, steel cars of the thirties, forties, fifties… parked out front of each door. Maybe someone is lugging crates of luggage packed full of clothing and souvenirs between a car and room. Others are standing around, slack-jawed, some turning in circles, heads thrown back, gazing up through a confusion of pine needles at the blue sky, smiles on their faces. Despite the rain that appeared with me, and would reappear in bouts throughout the few days I was there, this was how I felt during my time there. In fact, all of Flagstaff struck me as a magical place where one’s head must be thrown back quite regularly to smile at the sun when it’s around, or a bird or tree, the beautiful clouds furling and unfurling, appearing and dissolving, skating across the sky, some marvelous building, or one of the three tall hotel signs from decades ago that are still standing today.

For a city its size it manages to accommodate a much larger population than one might think. Permanent residents are outnumbered by students from the university during the fall, winter and spring months, and during the summer it’s inundated by tourists come to visit the Grand Canyon. What this means is that despite its small size there is a surprisingly large number, almost gratuitous, of restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops for one to peruse.

Despite its proximity to great outdoor adventures and sites, I went on none. Instead I spent much of my time working on this blog, exploring town with my camera, relaxing with a book, and hanging out with this older fellow I met, Marc. His is an interesting story, though short. He lives up in Buffalo and his girlfriend travels a bit as a performance artist. He was on his way here for the third or fourth time to visit her when in Colorado he sent his car several hundred feet down an embankment (incidentally, near where I was staying with my friend Doug, months ago). Somehow he survived this ordeal—he calls it a miracle, which seems to me an apt term—though his car was obviously trashed. Some way, after attending the hospital and apprehending a back brace (yes, that’s all), he continued his way to Flagstaff. I’m not sure how because I never asked, but he was in the room we shared when I arrived and immediately introduced himself, coffee in hand.

A coffee cup isn’t a mere detail with this man because there is nearly always one in his hand, as though he’d lost an appendage and affixed a coffee cup in its place. That leaves him one good hand for holding a cigarette, phone, set of keys, camera, etc. Perfectly fine. Anyway, he felt an affinity for me, and I for him. There was a kindness in his face, an affability, joy. A tiredness in the way he walked it seemed (though that could just be the bad back) that had me feeling a deep sympathy for him. When he smiled, which was often, it was that of a child, and his eyes shown brightly. He listened to me eagerly when I talked about my trip, when I talked about traveling in general. He’s retired and it’s something he wants to do more of. He also wants to leave Buffalo. Move elsewhere. I think part of his journey here was looking for that place. He really enjoyed Flagstaff. He talked about wanting to stay, but unfortunately with the accident it was important that he got home to his family who were naturally concerned for him. He took an Amtrak home the day that I left, though much much earlier in the morning. We said our goodbyes the night before with a simple handshake. Exchanged numbers. He implored me to call him. I haven’t yet, but I was just thinking about this earlier today. I should soon. There are few people in this world that I bond with so quickly. I can’t even say what it is that attracts me to him. He strikes me as a sort of saint. One who smokes cigarettes, is profoundly addicted to caffeine, and listens to a lot of classic rock, but a saint nonetheless. Despite that, I felt that I was the one imparting some sort of esoteric knowledge or wisdom, not he. I’m genuinely curious about what has transpired in his life these past two months since we parted. I still have a number of people to call and get together with here though, too. Well, all in good time! And Merry Christmas to him!, though I know he’s not reading this.