Posts from the ‘Detours’ Category

9
Aug

Drifters

I never would have ended up in Florence, Ore., if I had not had someone there to visit, but that seems to be the way with Florence: you just end up there. That’s what happened with my friend, Max, and wife Jan, at any rate. Several years ago, Jan was trying to get back from their previous home on Vancouver Island to Oakland, Calif., where she and Max have a small six-unit complex of apartments that they rent out and where they were going to celebrate Christmas together— that is, until a snowstorm came in and closed down all surrounding roads, so that Jan found herself stuck in Florence. Ironically, though, it was the one place in the area that did not have snow, which inspired her and Max to buy a plot of land at an RV resort and set up camp, where they have now been living part-time for about two years.

I got there, because when I was in Sonoma, Pomona told me that if I was driving up Coastal Hwy 1, I should pay Max a visit. While Pomona herself had not yet been to visit him and Jan, she said she knew that in their backyard, behind their large mobile home, they had parked a smaller one for guests, and so I agreed to let her get in touch with Max and Max agreed to host me and that’s how we left things. Between leaving Ben’s place in Cotati and arriving in Florence, though, I had to spend a night at a campsite and I ended up in a rather dismal place in a dark valley with one gas station, where a glum attendant humorlessly rang up my potato chip dinner. Having arrived by night, I checked myself in using the self-registration station and so by the time I left at dawn the next day, I had probably spoken 10 words in 36 hours. Thus, it was with great glee that I pulled into Max’s driveway and extended my hand in greeting to this stranger. He showed me my bunk for the night inside of a Toyota camper, much like Roxanne but a little newer and bigger— with a better rear axle, I might add. I set my things down inside and looked around with a contented sigh. Yes, this would do for a night.

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7
Aug

California’s been good to me; hope it don’t fall into the sea

Crossing the state border into Oregon was almost painful. I watched the sign approaching on my right and I knew that I was driving my last few feet inside of California and I promise to you: I winced. Here is an ode then to those 24 hours before that moment, when I was still cruising up Coastal Hwy 1.

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16
Jul

Between friends

I had to laugh at the road signs on I-70 leaving Colorado. In one breath, they warn you of falling rocks, avalanches, runaway trucks and scenic views ahead. As if you’re going to stop after all that. I didn’t. I blasted right past Vail, watching the landscape turn from lush green to parched desert until I crossed the Utah border and looked back on the valley from which I came. It was a hard two days of driving to get to Prescott, Ariz., where I am now going to spend a little time with friends after about 48 hours of solitary time with the mesas and rocks and bright red moonscapes outside my window between here and Boulder. These are just a few things I saw.

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10
Jul

A walk on the moon

If you thought the transition from Texas to New Mexico was drastic, it was nothing compared to the one between New Mexico and Colorado. After leaving Santa Fe, I drove for a few hours and watched the landscape turn from open desert scrub to steep rock faces that closed onto the curvy highway. Then we rounded a turn and a valley lay before us and somewhere down there lay Taos, sparkling like mica in the sun. We stopped in the old adobe village for lunch and I talked to the couple dining beside me, who told me that it had become crowded and full of tourists but that when they moved north of the city in the late 1960s, you could ride a horse into town. Then we drove across a steel bridge and looked over the gorge that was carved into the earth and we were in that valley, crossing it in a matter of hours to arrive in green Colorado, where we drove across another valley and watched rain bear down on us, coming across that flat land as a mix of water and dust. And then, we reached the greatest conundrum I have ever seen: a huge pile of sand in the middle of a lush, green expanse of land. The Great Sand Dunes National Park.

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9
Jul

You almost had me at Hello

Within 30 minutes of stepping inside downtown Santa Fe, this is what happened:

“I love the color of your legs. You’re almost the same color as me,” a man shouted from several feet away. “Come here. Let’s compare.”

“I don’t know,” I said, eyeing his dark brown skin. “I think you’ve got me beat.”

But he was insistent that we were the same color and he walked right up to me and pressed his hip next to mine so that our skin was touching and I laughed, because I looked positively jaundiced next to him but he was still impressed.

“How’d you do it?” he asked.

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8
Jul

Life is a highway

Before I left Austin, I was sitting at the table in the dining room at my sister and brother-in-law’s house, poring over my atlas and pulling my hair out ever so slightly. I was not sure where to go from there. I knew that I had a whole route of people waiting to see me in California, starting with Irvine and working up. I also knew that I had a friend in Phoenix, Ariz., who wanted me to stop in, but she was going to be out of town for the next 10 days, which left a whole lot of empty space and about a week to fill.

My sister walked into the room and stood behind me, looking over my shoulder at what was happening. Forget Marfa, she said, because I was trying to make it work to stop in the little Texas artist community near the border with Mexico and it was clearly being forced. With a dog along for the ride, she said, it was going to be hard to see what needed to be seen there. Besides, once I cleared the state line at Arizona, there was a barrage of wild fires nearly blocking my path. Save Marfa for another day and go north, she said; go see my people in Colorado instead. It would be cooler up there and on the way, I could stop and see all sorts of amazing, dog-friendly national and state parks.

“And,” she added, “you get to see the transition from Texas into New Mexico.”

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