I don’t remember whose brilliant idea it was, mine or Todd’s, to go on a road trip but I’ll just go right ahead and take the credit here. I vaguely remember wanting to go north towards Oregon but we decided to visit our families in Colorado instead, via the looooooong way. My subject line for the itinerary emails I sent him was “please don’t hate me” parts 1,2 and 3. We took 3 days to get to our respective families, his in Denver, mine in Colorado Springs. The side-point of the road trip was for me to check out some potential places I can move to – a city that is actually somewhere I’ve been and can potentially establish some roots. Ideally a place out of California because my dream of owning a tiny home on an acre of land in nature with a manger of animals like a tiny horse, pigmy goat, mini pig, bunnies and a dog is not affordable here in this state, or so it seems. Backstory: I’ve moved 3 times in the past several years relating to this job idea I came up with… becoming a park ranger… or something like that. Instead of going back to school, I chose to move from place to place for work that would ultimately give me the experience I need to build a resume. I have not moved because of a deep connection or feeling surrounding a place, rather it has felt more like I’m a leaf blowing in the wind of chance, landing in a place that might hopefully be awesome. So yes, I have been thinking a lot lately about place and what I’ve learned from floating like a leaf, what I require for a place to feel like home and basically, what is most of value to me at this point in my life because this leaf business is getting old.
So it wasn’t just some road trip, it had a research aspect with calculated stops: Flagstaff, Santa Fe, Durango, Pagosa Springs, Moab, etc. and stops that didn’t even mean to be stops like Winslow and Salida. And Todd, being game and easy to travel with was the perfect pilot – promoted to pilot because he doesn’t mind driving so I can look out the window. When I drive, it can be dangerous because I’m easily distracted by nature’s beauty and swerve and veer off the road and well, I understandably make him nervous. SO we met in Vegas and began the Westward Ho! journey…
Flagstaff was the first night’s stop. We drove through Nevada and Arizona past places I’ve been like Lake Mead and Nevada City, igniting memories of my time spent in Parker, Arizona. I’ve told him all the stories by now but repeat myself none-the-less, being a good sport he says ‘yeah, I think you’ve told me that one before’…. as old friends do. Flagstaff is a mountainous town in northern Arizona right by Sedona with all its magical vortices but it is a college town and made me feel old. It had a charming downtown with train tracks running through it. We overheard people talking at the bar about shredding on the mountain and it felt like I was back home in the Sierra. On to Santa Fe but first….
…a stop at the Meteor Crater, a place I wanted to go to back when I lived in Arizona. 50,000 years ago a giant meteor hurling 26,000 MPH smashed into the earth in this random field outside of Winslow leaving a big-ass hole 700 feet deep and 4,000 feet across. I believe Todd referred to it as a tourist trap but I thought it was amazing. You can’t really explore much because it’s all blocked off from tourists like us eroding the thing. But their visitor center was pretty cool and the movie and the smooshed penny with the alien on it that I bought.
And then, a stop in Winslow, Arizona so I can take a picture on the corner, just like in the song Take it Easy by the Eagles. A band that Todd, HATES! What was even more hilarious was when the bus of Canadian tourists pulled up to the corner, right when we did! Todd was so mad and I thought it was the funniest thing. We had to wait for them to finish taking their pictures, while the Eagles serenaded us from the speakers all around, just so I can take this amazing picture below. Being the historic Route 66, there were other notable things like this tipi hotel I was so excited about that I careened over a few lanes to get some pictures, scaring Todd in the process. HEY! Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy! Take it easy man.
Another stop was next amongst the Petrified Forest National Park, about 30 miles of road through rocks that used to be trees that turned to rock from being under layers of minerals, water and sediment, basically more rock. The logs soaked up groundwater and silica from volcanic ash and over time, crystalized into you guessed it – rock. Now badlands, the petrified forest used to be like a watery jungle full of dinosaurs from the Triassic Period – in the middle of Arizona. CRAZY! RIGHT?!
Santa Fe was next and I was so excited because we were going to see Angel Olsen that night. If you haven’t heard her new album MY WOMAN, stop what you are doing right now and listen to it. Heart Shaped Face is my favorite song from that album, if you were to hear one track, make it that one. We checked into the most adorable motel called the Silver Saddle after eating the most amazing New Mexican food from the world famous Frontier Restaurant, then wandered over to Meow Wolf. Now let me just say that Meow Wolf is unlike any venue I’ve ever been, it is a legit work of immersive art called The House of Eternal Return that you walk through, around and in and out. Through refrigerator doors, laundry machine doors, secret walls that are actually doors, tree houses with swirling stairs… then just like a dream, emerge into the room that will be filled with Angel’s beautiful voice from a stage surrounded by a village of more windows and doors and balconies, just surreal. I proclaimed that I am moving to Santa Fe right then and there, look no further. Please, I beg you if you are ever near Santa Fe, stop here – it will change your life. That and listen to Angel Olsen.
Durango was our next over-night stop but not without seeing some cool ‘indian shit’ first, as Todd would say. We took a crazy long dirt road past some cows to Chaco Canyon National Historic Park, another place I wanted to go to while living in Arizona but never did. About 1,200 years ago, the Chaco people built bricks out of dirt and water and constructed multi-story buildings of such a grand scale for the time period. Of course they were oriented to solar, lunar and cardinal directions using astronomy markers. I remembered, I was researching the Chaco Sun Dagger for one of my interpretive programs and discovered that at the top of Fajada Butte there are slabs of rock that collapsed to shine a dagger of sunlight onto petroglyphs that illuminate/illustrate when the equinoxes and solstices happen. The area is blocked off now but we did explore the Pueblo Bonito, the best example of their architecture. I made the fatal flaw of taking a guided tour because I aspire to be a “ranger” and it felt like the thing to do! Todd was smart and did his own tour. Let me just say that the tour guide could use some guidance on how to guide, and leave it at that.
Finally, Durango. We stayed in a historic haunted hotel called The Strater that was super charming and had an adorable hotel bar called The Office which I called The Library and was wondering why Todd had no idea what I was talking about. He usually speaks fluent Jenny so I was very confused why he was confused. Sigh, we are getting old. I didn’t see any ghosts but wasn’t really looking for them either. We went to the smoky town dive bar Orio’s – home of the Purple Fucker (some nasty, hangover inducing shot I assume), which someone stated in the Yelp review that if your pansy, liberal, college-educated California fag ass can’t handle the smoke, then get out) and Todd beat me at darts and we went back to The Library/Office. There was a man playing music, any music you want! You just pick a song from his catalog and off he goes. I thought it was just amazing so I shouted out songs and stuck some money in his jar.
We left in a snowy wonderland, which Todd thought was beautiful and which I thought tired of, and drove onto Pagosa Springs so I can say hiya to Dayna, my sweet kindred spirited friend from June Lake that moved there last year with her husband John. We had lunch with her at her work and she tried very well to convince me to move there. Not sure about that but she did convince us to check out the roof top Overlook Hot Springs in town, so I hug her and off we went to soak. It smelled sulfur AF and we dipped for a bit with the snow falling all around us then hit the road destined to the Great Sand Dunes National Park.
It was a windy, stormy day that doesn’t make a run up the sand dunes seem appealing, but we drove to them and payed our respects to their greatness. Todd got a wild hair up his butt and wanted to go to Zapata Falls. A real tit jiggler of a road lead us to the short, snowy trailhead and when we rounded the corner of the falls, Todd proclaimed “I WIN THE ROAD TRIP!” I admit, the falls were pretty cool and the idea of them breaking and flowing right in front of us was exciting.
Colorado Springs (Todd onto Denver) finally! In the bosom of my awesome family. I had the best week celebrating Claire’s my niece extrodinaire’s 4th Birthday, exploring the town, seeing movies (Sing! and LalaLand, both of which I admittedly cried at), going to the awesome Bristol Brewing (a school turned brewery/eatery/awesome), playing trivia with my parents at the local bar (Geeks Who Drink do not fuck around, trivia was so hard I almost gave myself an brain aneurysm!), playing Super Mario Brothers with my sister who I kept confusing for Luigi or Mario or Luigi (which one am I?!?!?!?), going to the climbing gym and feeling scared of heights (we did this last time, why am I such a weird-o), taking my parents to the Florissant Fossil Beds National Park (“I just love when you visit, you take us to cool things!”), eating a cake made of cupcakes, retail therapy and other wonderful things like not wearing a coat and playing with Playdoh.
Our trip back to Vegas was another adventure, would I have it be anything less?!? Our first stop was in Salida for breakfast, based on a recommendation from Todd’s friend. Salida is an adorable banana belt town in the foothills of the Rockies along the Arkansas River. They even have their own Roller Derby team there and happy people on bikes and happy dogs… a town I can picture myself in for sure. Next was Black Canyon of the Gunnision National Park, that was barely open due to snow but we did get to take a picture, watch the movie and chat up the ranger.
Utah, you are stunning but so so weird. We made it to Moab just in time for the sun to set and to eat Mexican food while not drinking margaritas and after that, shooting pool and playing darts in the town’s only tavern. The next day we had an eventful drive planned on our way back to Vegas. Arches National Park was amazing and we were only able to spend several hours in the park, most of were hours of me telling Todd to pull over so I can take a picture. Knowing full well the pictures do no justice to the immensity of the landscape.
A drive-by of Goblin Valley State Park was next and it was wonderfully weird. Curious why it’s called Goblin, the muddy rock sculptures actually look like goblins. Some even had faces (yes, I was sober)! The goblins are very delicate and crumble when you touch them, yet people were running and climbing all over them and this irked me. Upon leaving some strange looking deer were on the side of the road and getting closer, we happily discovered they were pronghorn! So cool!
The rest of the drive through Utah was stunning at every turn, we even got to drive through Capitol Reef National Park, just because it’s on the road we were on.
Now, after being back home for a few weeks and if you actually made it this far in my epically long post perhaps you are asking yourself, what did I decide, where am I going to move to next?! Your reward for reading this far is being privy to the fact that I might have to stay here a little longer than I anticipated. Even though I felt chewed up and spit out after the shitstorm of 2016 alas, just like in the song Magic Man by Heart, I met someone amazing and it is going to change everything. “Try to understand…..”