Tag Archives: travel usa

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01-08-19

I was feasted by the owner of Myers Rv Campground–I think she said her name was Joleen, or something to that effect. I’m not quite sure why she fed me so, unless she was really that desperate to get rid of the food from the “party” she had last night, or she realized that as a cyclist I would be very hungry, or maybe she is just this generous with everyone. All I know is that I was feasted to the brim on gumbo, rice, veggies, dessert and now I am satisfied and all the mosquitoes in my tent are dead. No finding refuge in here, no siree!

I went to Avery Island my first day in New Iberia for a TABASCO tour, and I’m reminded of this because I kept my rather large ticket as a bookmark, and on the side currently facing up, which I hadn’t bother to read as it’s something like a crest or seal, it states: “Avery Island “Man and Environment In Balance””. They do a lot of environmental conservation on the “island”, which, if you’re interested you can read about briefly here. I shall like to go back some day as I didn’t pay the fee to wander the jungle gardens within which there resides a large Buddha statue from, supposedly, the 12th century—quite a wonder! The gardens are themselves too a wonder.

In the distance, the middle-near distance, a cow moo’s, and another, and that is a wonder. A mournful kind of wonder, though. And fifty yards straight on is an oak wreathed with Spanish moss lit up by a lamp, the moss radiating light faintly, like a phantom, like horror stories from nineteenth century African(-American) slaves. And THAT is a wonder, a fearful, savage, sad wonder.

All these fucking RV’s are humming with the energy of their generators, or whatever is producing electricity for their microwaves, tv’s, air conditioners, stereos, computers, or whatever it is to run. I don’t know if that’s a wonder or not. I suppose it’s a technological wonder. But what I can’t understand is why when camping one wants all that noise and blather around. Where went the sanctifying peace and quiet of nature? The soft and continuous chirp of crickets. Or the mysterious crunch and rustle of leaves as a curious creature scurries past. Inside their five insulated walls they miss all this with their televisions and stereos blowing static, and they miss the mournful lowing of the cow, and the “who cooks for you” of the Barred Owl, and the chatter and squeaking that has just sprung up out of the darkness like hundreds of rubber duckies squeezed over and over in a sort of distant musical cacophony.

Of all our senses I think the sense of hearing is the most mysterious. All these ethereal tinglings of hair follicles in one’s auditory canal. Things perceived at a distance just far enough away so that you can not quite make it out visually, or so nearby that you might step on it but unable to discern where at all it is, and so unfamiliar that even if you could see it it would be almost meaningless. Sound can come from anywhere and be transmitted through anything. It floats on air, is carried by the wind, is the wind itself. It is like millions of taut wires protruding from your ears in countless directions being tripped by tiptoeing feet or colossally heavy hammers or butterfly wings of dynamite. We hear things in the dark, and may, through their agency, be brought into the light, yet we may hear things in broad daylight and be pitched into an impenetrable black.

November 6, 2016, Bit East of Gallup

A couple miles off is a train, creeping along beneath towering, red, sandstone cliffs spotlighted by the lowering sun and glowing like they had recently been removed from a forge. The train looks like a toy miniature running on plastic tracks amidst an elaborate display set up on a table in an old firehouse.

October 30, 2016, Nogales Borderwall

So, I’m in Nogales, AZ. Came down here to see the spot where José was shot across the border and killed by U.S. Customs Border police. A sad story, as so much of what regarding the United States’ border with Mexico is, particularly in light of the politics of the day, not least because an innocent boy lost his life and a family lost a son. To add to the family’s pain, it’s nearly impossible to prosecute an officer for an incident of this sort. In fact, to my knowledge, the prosecution, and the found guilty verdict, of the officer who shot José was a first in history. This took yearssss, however. Anyway, just being over by the wall was such a singularly surreal experience. I’d never been anywhere near the U.S.-Mexico border before, and yet there I was standing beneath the wall, peering up at it, and sighting along its length: a twenty-ish foot steel wall, slatted so that one can see through it. A monstrosity which dominates the town because it is so very hilly here, and so it rides those undulations of the hills so that no matter where you are you never lose sight of it. I can only imagine the feelings of the residents on either side of this… thing. I can ONLY imagine, and perhaps my imagination differs from reality. Do they feel like caged rats, subjects in someone’s science experiment? A remarkably sentient tropical fish swimming back and forth along the glass of an aquarium?

This is just the silliest thing in the world to me, that we create these barriers around each other, because, really, we’re all humans. We’re all the same people, essentially. And when one travels over land, either by bicycle or by car, you see that the land continues, and animal and plant life continues, and it all bleeds and blends together, and fluctuates and changes with climate zones, terrain, soil types, etc. And the fact that we create these borders… I mean the idea of countries is utterly ridiculous. Yes, culturally we might be different, but again, that’s something to be shared, and there’s some of that going on, but at the same time the idea of sticking a huge wall up, like that clown Trump insists, is utterly insane (particularly because there already exist walls along this border where it’s been deemed necessary). That money could go towards countless more beneficial social/industrial/environmental projects rather than trying to divide us further as human beings.

October 29, 2016, Nearing Algodones Dunes

Just passed a citrus grove a bit back. Lemon trees or orange trees, some date palms around: this lone green spot in a landscape of tan, brown, sand, taupe. How queer and lush and so removed from its environment it seems.

This is what humans do when they feel foreign to the land, the environment in which they find themselves; they transform it into a place that is familiar and comfortable to them, hospitable to their needs, instead of appreciating, respecting it for what it is. In effect a judgement is made, and that judgment is usually that the land has no value, because we all want things that produce for us, and if the land doesn’t do that, well, we can’t for some reason see that the value of the land is in its uniqueness, that it is valuable simply as it is because IT IS, and so by claiming that it has no inherent value we are actually devaluing the very real value that it does have in being what it is in order that we may turn it into a machine, basically, that churns out things that we say are valuable (namely goods to be sold for cash, because in the world of humans very little is more valuable than money).

Coming up on the Algodones dunes now. The name implying what it is: a vast tract of sand…. Just sand. Mounds and mounds that go on for such great distances. I can see them from this hill I am driving along. It’s a beach that stretches out into nothing but more beach rolling, rolling along like great ocean swells. It’s, it’s an incredible sight. Mountain peaks in the distance. It does remind me a bit of Great Sand Dunes in Colorado, but I think this is on a vaster scale, though the mountains aren’t nearly so terrific and awe-inspiring.

Sort of a martian landscape, but up ahead it looks like there is a convoy of RV’s camped out in the desert. A common thing for retirees to come down and escape the cold winters, but I could be wrong. I can’t exactly tell what these are from here as its a good distance.

They’re trailers. Part of these dunes are used as a recreational area. The highway splits the area into two parts, left is the wilderness which I’ll be able to access further down, and to the right is the recreational area. Lots of people with ATV’s, dune buggies, lifted pickup trucks, etc. tearing around out there. It’s basically one big party, especially along the highway where everyone is camped out. There’s a party going on out in the desert too. Just a different kind of party. One fueled by adrenaline and gasoline. It’s not what I came for, but I’m interested….

October 29, 2016 Driving (Near Algodones Dunes)

Mountains brown and black. Not even mountains. Just jagged, ragged hills, like the earth had been wounded some time in the past and the stuff of her oozed out and dried, hardening into thick, ugly scabs—sharp peaks pockmarked, harshly eroded, carved out—not by rain (which never comes)—but dissolved in acid.

There is a rawness and a primalness to this desert landscape that is hellish and unforgiving. It takes life without a thought, desolate and emotionless, dead eyes staring, bloodshot. It cuts one to one’s soul. Painful (nearly) to look at.

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 magic 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.

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 it’s 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.