Tag Archives: usa road trip

Version 0.20

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.

Version 0.19

01-06-19

Another day.

Another day spent questioning what I am doing, or, rather, why I am doing. Most of this stemming from thoughts abut the self-guided tour of the TABASCO facility: of was it worth the money ($5, which is very little, really) on a Sunday when no one is there working, and so the bottling plant, which is where I would see any activity, is just a large room with a lot of inert machinery, instead of a place humming, alive with employees applying themselves to whatever tasks are tasked them. You might say it’s like going to see an opera on a day that it’s not being performed, and paying for a ticket anyway, and going to your seat and sitting for two or three hours. Well, the theater it’s being performed in might be beautiful, but what’s the point of rustling up the price of a ticket to sit amongst the old bones, to stare up at that sternum and ribs vaulting over you like a cage just to look out on an empty black? It’s the musicians and actors, the set design and props that put flesh on the skeleton, that are the blood and the heart and the lungs that give it life, that enable it to move one to tears or make him laugh uproariously or gasp in astonishment. That’s what people go to the opera for. Not to stare at a skeleton, no matter how old or fascinating it might be! Leave that to the archaeologists and historians to sweep away the dust from the bones, and inform you on just which date it was born and how old it was when it died…

[Later]
I was interrupted mid-thought for dinner with my hosts, and now I’m back a different person. The way they talk, these two! And their life experiences! Their knowledge and feeling for the South, but Louisiana in particular, is a beautiful, admirable thing. It’s like finding a pearl hidden amongst all the junk and trash and sediment of the road, or on the banks of some garbage-strewn bayou. It shines with the light of a thousand suns, and its flame is fanned by all of these crazy yet simple contraptions that have been collected and refurbished so that they work and shine like they are new, and are placed just so on the shelves and tables like so many trophies and pictures of loved ones smiling down at one affectionately. “Would you like to go on a bicycle ride around town? We can eat at such and such a place and you can take a tour of Shadows. It’ll be fun and easy. New Iberia is small so it won’t take much time at all, and there’s a lovely city park just the other side of The Teche. Or how about some open-water fishing? I can tell you the fish like to congregate around the oil rigs out there in the gulf. If you get hungry again Kathy’ll make you some of that delicious shrimp gumbo. NO tomatoes in gumbo, and the stock is made from boiled shrimp heads like it should be. And you know why Louisiana has such a French character, or at least it used to, well the English who were busy settling Canada and the northern United States didn’t like these French mongrels and kicked ’em out and they somehow ended up in Spain and later a deal was cut whereupon the Spanish shipped ’em into the swamps of Louisisana and then you got cajun cooking. If you need some salt to season anything just head on over to these places called “islands.” They’re not really islands, but just look it as they’re large mounds surrounded by swampland, but these mounds are solid, subterranean mountains of salt forced up out of the earth like a pimple. If you go to Avery Island you can get yourself some TABASCO sauce and pray at the buddha all together. The camelias might be just beginning to bloom too. And when you’re done all that just come back to the house and we’ll feed you some more and we’ll give you a history of Mardi Gras, how it’s a Catholic event, Fat Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday and all, and you can look at these pictures in the creole cookbook of how the holiday is celebrated out in the country because it is far different from what they do in New Orleans.”

So, now I am relaxed and happy with a full belly and WILL be taking a tour of Shadows tomorrow and getting a Po’ Boy and eating at Victor’s Cafeteria, and God knows what else. The bike trip. Ah, the bike trip. I’m less concerned about that now. What comes, comes. I’m just here to record the experience.

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.

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”
“Rugs”
“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 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.

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….

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.

83 – Arcosanti

As mentioned in my last blog post I stayed a night at Arcosanti, breaking up the drive between Tucson and Flagstaff, Arizona. I first read about Arcosanti three or so years ago, and was immediately gripped by the theory behind the development of the community. In a way this visit has been quite a bit of time in the making (and very nearly all of that time thinking I wouldn’t ever get the chance to visit), so I’m elated this trip had provided me the opportunity to stop there and see for myself what it’s all about.

In short Arcosanti is a sort of urban laboratory in a very much non-urban setting on several hundred acres of Arizona desert highland about an hour north of Phoenix. It is a community of a few permanent residents and numerous volunteers working together to create a living space that is in harmony with the environment, and within which the members of the community themselves live in harmony.

Arcosanti was first begun in 1970, the brainchild of the architect Paolo Soleri. It is the physical manifestation of the philosophy that is ‘arcology’—a portmanteau of architecture and ecology—the idea that all urban development should be created as harmoniously with its environment as possible.

For a shockingly low price one can choose from a few various sized rooms, from the “Sky Suite” which comes equipped with a living room, kitchenette, and private bath, to their small standard rooms with writing desk and shared toilet and shower. As I’m mainly a pretty low budget traveler I opted for a standard room, all of which are located in one area on the south side of the community. The twelve or thirteen rooms sunk into the hillside all lie in a row, sharing walls, and utilize the earth as a temperature stabilizer. The single exposed side facing south is an enormous window providing for spectacular views over the landscape from anywhere within. I could not have been more shocked and delighted as I walked up to my room then stood there mentally open-mouthed as I peered through the glass. As I mentioned, there is a writing desk, another great surprise for me, though, I did any writing in bed, as often seems to be my custom. Still, from an aesthetic perspective it was absolutely darling and, I thought, extremely thoughtful. The third and final thing that truly made me smile was the plaid, flannel throw at the end of the bed. The whole room and everything in it being white or off-white, the poured concrete floor brown, everything in neutral tones but for that single piece of brilliant red and black. It truly felt extraordinary to me, and lent the space character and comfort. It seemed to me to be saying about Arcosanti, “See? We care. And it’s details like me that prove it.”

The following morning I walked up to the main complex for breakfast (a continental not worth writing about, but considering the cost of a night quite excusable. Dinner on the other hand, which I did pay $10 for, was outstanding and well worth the additional cost.), and afterward packed up before heading out for a tour of the complex. The guided tour which was supposed to last an hour, though ours went on for nearly two since there was no one behind us, covered everything about Arcosanti and Paolo Soleri anyone could wish it to: from the life of Paolo Soleri himself, who only died three years ago, to the first inklings of his ideas which were put into practice at Cosanti, his home and art studio in Paradise Valley, to information about volunteering and/or becoming a resident of Arcosanti, to the philosophy behind the development and community, to information about the environment Arcosanti is located within, to what many of the volunteers and staff do with their free time, etc. It was a wealth of information. Our tour guide, Mark (I think that was his name), was the most excellent person. Answered every question, was patient and kind, extremely knowledgeable, and enthusiastic. Enthusiastic! It was quite obvious that that enthusiasm quickly grasped hold of the group and, for me, didn’t relinquish its grip for days. Quite obviously he loved living there, and, frankly, it was easy for me to see why.

If you’re a resident of Arizona, or someone who’s road tripping through there is absolutely no excuse not to visit this place for a day, a night, a few nights, a week…. A) it’s a most enjoyable, comfortable stay at a budget price and, B) if you’re unfamiliar with urban development will provide a fascinating introduction to it, especially with regards to what ought to be changed about the way much of our country is currently being developed. Hell, I’ll say it’s worth a flight if you’re out of driving range since it is close to Phoenix and Flagstaff.