Tag Archives: Arizona

four corners ~ bluff, ut to chama, nm ~ october 2, 2011

www.theendlessroadtrip.com ~ day two of my year-long daily video journal. from bluff, ut to chama, nm via athen, farmington, aztec, (more…)

i less than 3 new mexico!

arriving in new mexico felt wonderful. arizona’s springtime temperatures were starting to edge towards summer and as we climbed the western slopes of the mogollon mountains, we were welcomed by a cool breeze, a pine forest, and a blue, new mexican sky. our tentative game plan was to find a place to camp near the gila cliff dwellings. it being easter weekend, we knew we were taking our chances, but we acted boldly and with confidence. the universe, i am told, responds favorably to those who do.

despite our general tardiness and the amber sunlight of late afternoon, we made a quick detour through silver city to give mazy a walk and refill on coffee. immediately, it became apparent that we were no longer in arizona. people were craggier, rougher; nary a spray tan in sight. the town seemed poorer yet more vibrant. there was a co-op selling locally crafted herbal remedies and several of the many bakeries and restaurants were touting local, organic ingredients. it even had a beautiful old abandoned rollerskating rink tucked into the corner of downtown. looking at the handlettered signs and careful muralwork, i could almost hear the laughter and music that must have echoed from these cinder block walls. olivia newton john’s thin voice hovered in the air and i fell into my own private xanadu fantasy. the things this old place has seen!

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as the sun began to duck behind a high mountain ridge, we found an open campsite along the banks of the cherry creek, on the edge of the gila national forest. there were several other groups in the small campground, including one that was broadcasting an r and b oldies station. we set up our tent and cooked dinner while listening to the soulful sounds of the jackson 5, rick james, and teena marie.

after spending so many nights sealed off from the starry sky, it was wonderful to sleep outside again. the three of us bundled up in our tent, as thick as thieves, reclaiming each other as pack.

the next day we drove 35 miles of beautiful, winding roads into the gila in order to visit the cliff dwellings hidden in the wilds of the mogollon. as at mesa verde, hovenweep and chaco canyon, the structures were beautiful, mysterious and strangely comforting. outside, the air shimmered hot and dry; in the cliff’s hollows, a cool breeze blew. something about their scale and setting gave there ancient structures an air of safety and comfort. we wandered silently through the ruins, marveling. these folks built and inhabited this compound (we are told) in the 1100s! what will the ruins of our civilization look like in the year 2900?

while there, we had a short, satisfying conversation with one of the park rangers. we talked about religious bigotry and racism, president obama and the teabaggers. she told us about the vandal fires that destroyed the intact roofs sometime in the 1800s. after a couple of weeks spent in mccain country, it was wonderful to meet a kindred spirit. “sometimes you just can’t understand what people are thinking,” she said resignedly. “you would not believe,” she continued, “how many people ask me why the native americans built their dwellings so far from the highway!”

i opened my mouth to let loose another diatribe against arizona’s willfully malicious ignorance and the hypocrisy that runs rampant through the current political discourse, but something stopped me. here we were, on a beautiful, early spring day, passing a few moments with a lovely woman in the shade of an ancient cliff dwelling. why continue to dwell on the imperfections of a transient world?

we thanked her for sharing her stories and continued our hike back down the canyon and to the shady dirt lot where our truck and our dog sat waiting.

the unknowable vol. 2 ~ the mohave museum of history and arts

when we visited my auntie and cousin in hemet, ca, we discovered a largish book called the reader’s digest traveler’s guide to the united states. now, to be perfectly honest, i have very fond memories of RD from my childhood. my parents seemed to have an endless supply of the things lying about and what with the whole seventh-day-adventist-no-television-or-radio thing, many of my happiest hours were spent giggling at life in these united states and thrilling at dramae in real life . as i grew up and my tastes matured, however, my affection for RD waned. it became apparent that RD’s target demographic was more GOP and AARP than PFLAG and LGBT.

but when we discovered this inconveniently-sized traveler’s guide, curiosity got the best of me. traveling is, of course, not simply about living within your comfort zone, it’s about learning to expand that comfort zone. i was a bit nervous about camping in rural idaho, for example, but after almost a month spent meandering the potato state, i was much more relaxed about the whole thing. nominally. it’s still a pretty scary place , but there are definitely bright spots. here , here , and here are three of the brightest. and although, as we perused the pages of the RDTG, we saw some entries that held no interest for us, when my auntie offered us the guide we decided to take it. hey, you never know what kinds of things you might discover if you keep an open mind.

one of the first recommendations we took from the RDTG was a visit to kingman, az and the mohave museum of history and arts. we arrived on a bright, windy, cheery afternoon. the parking lot was empty but for a few motorcycles and a billboard touting a local hospital’s dialysis treatments. something about its countenance seemed vaguely depressed. my first thought was, yes, this is exactly the kind of place that people who enjoy reading abridged books readers would find interesting. i mumbled something to tim about continuing on and then, suddenly, found myself parking. tim looked at me, confused.

well we’re here, i stammered, and we might as well take a look and besides, isn’t this all about adventure anyway? tim cocked his head, but kept quiet. we put our reflective sunshades in the windshield and shambled towards the entrance. a perfectly friendly grandmotherly type welcomed us, took our money, and gave us a brief overview: the hall of the presidents and first ladies is over there, the mining museum is that way, the farm equipment display is outside, and the history section is through that doorway.

the hall of presidents and first ladies is a small, flourescently lit room. the walls are covered with portraits of, duh, all of the presidents and their wives. on one wall hangs the newest entries: president barack hussein obama and first lady michelle obama. this being arizona, land of john and cindy mccain and not exactly a hotbed of civil rights activism, i wondered how the employees and museumgoers felt about the obamas’ entry into the HOPAFL.

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i noticed that every other portrait hanging in the hall was painted by the same artist, one lawrence williams. the obamas, however were painted by a different hand. given the current political climate, i wondered if there was some sort of backstory to this change, but did not want to pursue this train of thought much further. if there was, i probably didn’t want to know about it. suffice it to say that it made me extremely happy to see two brown faces in the sea of pink presidents and first ladies. this being kingman, az, i kept my exuberence to myself.

later i learned that the change in artists was due to mr. williams’ death in 2003. preconception destroyed; comfort zone duly expanded.

the strangest part of the museum — and that is saying quite a bit — was slow to reveal itself. purported to be dioramae devoted to the history of mohave county, a series of brightly colored scenes lined the walls of a large, bland room. the other tourists and i shuffled from one glass cabinet to the next, peering at the tiny figures and ineffable scenarios. folks mumbled to each other somewhat distractedly, unsure what to make of the display. as i progressed, i couldn’t help but notice that each cabinet contained strange, cryptic text that seemed at best, non sequitor and at worst, nonsensical.

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eventually, lessons learned from harriet the spy and encyclopedia brown got the best of me and i returned to the first diorama to began transcribing. the poem that revealed itself — for that is what it was — seemed timely and prophetic; an anomaly in post-millenial mccain country. it read:

close to the mother waters we came
seeking security in an alien land
visions beyond ourselves have drawn us on
to explore understand and transcend the frontiers of our being
freedom is only for ourselves
and our selfish passions blind us to the cruelty of our advance
we see our golden powers
as young lovers and create a mystic union with the earth our mother
and the serpentine coils of our union
drive us on to probe and prepare the earth for our foundation
the child of our imagination
arises on wings of gold to swell our pride with visions of security
and we see ourselves mature
as we force the powers around under our control in a final burst of energy
our frontiers conquered
we look back to bask in the fading light of our creations
and die consumed by the works of our hands
as a new cycle arises from the union of a golden sun
and the fertile womb of our abundant mother

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i asked the woman at the front desk about the dioramae, but she claimed ignorance. months later, i discovered the name of the person who, in all likelihood, created this strange installation. perhaps one day, if i ever make it back to arizona after all this nonsense , i’ll look him up. until then, i’ll keep checking our progress against the reader’s digest traveler’s guide to the united states. next stop: a slightly famous suburb of phoenix, az !

Posted by Wordmobi

arizona ~ get off my lawn!

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our visit to arizona was punctuated by three unexpected and unnerving run-ins with the powers that be. the first was a security inspection conducted by the department of homeland security just before crossing the hoover dam. the other two happened at security checkpoints set up by the border patrol. the first of these took place just north of patagonia, az, about 20 miles north of the border. the second occurred on the day we left arizona, just north of truth or consequences, nm.

there is something truly frightening about being scrutinized by folks with military authority. the line between a fairly benign interaction and one gone horribly awry is just one miscommunication, one misunderstanding, one unallayed suspicion. the balance of power is tipped almost entirely in their favor and it is easy to feel as though you are entirely at their mercy. the whole thing requires an attitude of deference, something i have little practice in. fortunately for us, however, we have a good luck charm from tim’s childhood watching our back. macgallowitz, a large-ish, two-tone teddy bear, has done much to lighten the mood and reduce the stress of these surreal interactions. at hoover dam, for example, the constables who were inspecting the contents of our truck were greeted by macgallowitz’s impassive stare. “who does this belong to?” asked a crew-cut. “that’s his,” i said, nodding in tim’s direction. the crew-cut looked at tim with an expression saturated with bemusement. “you don’t have any guns or other weapons in there, do you?” he asked. i scoffed. “no way!”

the combination of the stuffed bear, my incredulity at the thought of owning a weapon, and our general squareness banished any suspicions the crew-cut might have held. he waved us through with a slightly mocking smile.

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some things which might interest you about our visit to arizona, the 49th state of the union:

that picture up there? that’s chamoy. it is the craziest thing i’ve eaten in a good long while. i can’t even begin to explain it and i have no idea why nobody ever told me about it before now! it’s sweet, salty, bitter, sour, crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth, ice-cold spiciness. yummy!

in arizona, gay marriage is extra super duper biggie-size illegal. until recently, the state extended domestic partner benefits to state employees, but out of what seems like sheer mean-spiritedness, az has repealed them, leaving a lot of people in the lurch.

springtime in the desert is surreal. imagine entire mountainsides painted the bright orange of mexican poppies. with every breeze, billions of tiny petals trembling, setting the earth on fire.

the ads for john mccain’s 2010 reelection campaign use the tagline john mccain: arizona’s last line of defense. no wonder they’re so nervous!

thanks to the generosity, kindness, and goodwill of our many hosts, we ate the tastiest fry bread, watched the most staggering sunsets, lounged in the most decadent hot tubs, practiced yoga in the most crowded classes, and hiked the most painful trails. if you get a chance, ask tim about the restorative yoga class…it’s hilarious.

due to severe budget cuts, all state run rest areas in arizona are now closed to the public. seriously. they’re surrounded by chain link fences and bright orange closed signs. it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if arizona ends up changing its travel and tourism slogan to arizona: we don’t really want you around.

waterfalls in the desert? who knew? we were there at just exactly the right time to witness this spectacle. two weeks later it would have been a dry gully.

by june 3, around two-thirds of arizona’s state parks will have closed their doors for the foreseeable future. our last night in az we camped at a sweet little park set on the edge of a lake within sight of snow covered peaks. it offered a hot-spring-fed hot tub and big, clean bathrooms with good showers. it was also full to capacity with campers. despite all of this, in a couple of months it’s getting shut down. sigh. ain’t no shortage of wal-marts, though, so if you feel like camping out under the stars is essentially the same as sleeping in a parking lot, you probably won’t be affected by this tragedy.

a saguaro forest is an otherworldly landscape. when they become very very old, their dolphin-like skin becomes as thick and gnarled as treebark. occasionally, one will mutate and become cristatic. it is crazy looking, like it’s trying to grow a brain.

the two tallest buildings in tempe, az are abandoned condominium skyscrapers; casualties of the housing collapse. they stand there, dark, silent and unfinished monuments to hubris and greed.

frank lloyd wright’s last building, the gammage center, is on the campus of arizona state university. it is, as they say, a confection, but you can get an all-access tour for free, and it’s history is pretty cool. if you go to the gammage, then you have no excuse for not visiting asu’s fine arts building, designed by antoine predoc. when the new york times did a review of all of the buildings on asu’s campus, it beat out the gammage center as having the most architectural importance. it’s a pretty special place.

outdoor shopping malls are now being marketed as lifestyle centers. shopping at pottery barn and eating at the cheesecake factory? now that’s what i call a lifestyle!

although it gets very hot here, our visit coincided with the most beautiful and temperate season to be in arizona. cool evenings, warm days, and high overhead, the distant eggshell sky. while we were riding our bikes around and sleeping under sheets, the rest of the country was pretty much socked in by rain, sleet, hail and snow.

if you look like you or your parents were immigrants and the authorities have a wild hair, you’d better watch out! you are exactly the people that john mccain is trying to defend arizona against.

031320102181.jpg our campsite in chloride, az.


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031320102188.jpg st. patrick’s day parade in chloride, az.

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031320102207.jpg the mohave museum of history and arts, kingman az.

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031420102249-001.jpg mission san xavier del bac

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031720102308-001.jpg near mt. lemmon, tucson az

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032020102345-001.jpg magically, we found ourselves in patagonia, celebrating dan’s 40th birthday.

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michelle, adrian and jmichael made tucson our home away from home.

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032520102535.jpg tempetown.

scottsdale.

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032620102593.jpg the heard museum.

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032720102765.jpg desert botanic garden.

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033020102827.jpg phoenix.

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leaving arizona.

we spent almost 3 weeks being held by the vortex that is arizona. i had a marvelous time hanging with friends and exploring the desert in springtime, but still and all, i was happy to get the heck out of there. what with the whole gay as second-class-citizen thing, the looming threat of surprise security inspections and the potential that i might be required to produce documents to prove my legality just to walk down the sidewalk, arizona just doesn’t feel particularly welcoming.

Posted by Wordmobi