Tag Archives: Las vegas

Putting it in Drive ~ Santa Fe, NM to Boise City, OK

After two years of sitting still in Santa Fe, The Endless Roadtrip is once again in full time travel mode. The reality of this situation has not hit home quite yet. It has only been a few hours since we said our last goodbyes, gave our last hugs, and headed northeast, towards the panhandle of Oklahoma.

 
On our way, we crossed paths with Amtrak's Southwest Chief in Las Vegas, NM. Despite the frigid winds, Tim hopped out of the truck to take some pictures. I, of course, stayed warm and toasty in the truck, communing with my phone.
 
 
We drove on through a landscape painted in gold and lavender. Clouds clung to the mountains. Road signs flashed in the setting sun, shivering in the wind. New Mexico holding nothing back; a crisp winter day tilting into one last majestic sunset. We stared in awe, occasionally pointing out a herd of antelope, a lonely tree high on a curved ridge, a distant mountain.
 
 
Eventually we caught up with the a Southwest Chief as it it barreled its way towards Chicago. Set against the vast expanse of the high plains, it looked insignificant. Tons of steel singing against railroad tracks reduced to a child's toy.
 
 
Everything seems magical when you're on the road. The shifting landscape tells you its secrets. The world is thick with meaning. What is life if not possibility and freedom?
 
 

 

escape from santa fe ~ las vegas, nm ~ july 17, 2011

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spanish revival train depot ~ las vegas, nm ~ july 17, 2011

las vegas, nm used to be one of the most important train hubs in the american west. built by money from railroads and mines, this once magnificent town has since fallen on hard times. the old harvey house still stands, although abandoned and somewhat derelict, but the charming depot — a wonderful example of spanish revival architecture — is still active!

new mexico road trip ~ first attempt at a gif animation ~ july 19, 2011

i’ve been wanting to go for a good hike for a while now, but pretty much all of new mexico’s public lands are closed because of extreme fire danger. this past weekend, we decided to visit storrie lake state park which, according to the internet, was still open for hiking, fishing and swimming (!). we drove up to las vegas, nm with visions of an alpine lake with pristine water the color of sapphires. we were greeted by a dried up remnant of what was once a large lake, now reduced to about 25% of it’s original surface area. we took mazy for a hike and watched people fishing and wading in the stagnant water, trying to ignore the fact that this state park is slowly dying.

on the drive back, i stared out of the window. this gif, my first attempt at a gif animation, was inspired by the seemingly endless new mexican landscape, unscrolling across the horizon.

las vegas or(is) bust(ed)

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after the vast, desolate majesty of joshua tree, the mojave, and death valley, las vegas’ skyline looks ridiculous; a few brightly colored buildings, garish and ostentatious, scattered like lego blocks on the dusty floor of eternity. as we approached the strip, following a series of 5-lane roads that divided one desperate condo development from another — new lower price! affordable luxury! free flatscreen televisions! — i kept thinking, that’s las vegas? in the media mythos, las vegas is singular, gigantic, overwhelming; not so much a city as another dimension where the normal rules do not apply and where anything can happen. sin city. land of legalized prostitution. what happens in vegas stays in vegas. hunter s. thompson. mike tyson. tupac shakur.

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but the reality of las vegas — at least my reality of it — is much sadder, more desperate. it is a place in which distraction and disorientation rule the day; the ultimate in learned passivity. blinded by sequins, deafened by the sound of silver, and numbed by too much food alcohol, the tourists of the world lie back, close their third eyes, and let this place suck them dry. it is everything that distracts our attention from our true priorities, our higher objectives. it is the set of america’s biggest reality television show and everyone gets to play the spoiled little bitch or the self-obsessed asshole. here, human beings reduce themselves to caricature and enact the most powerful and superficial priorities our culture has to offer: love of money, worship of sexualized youth, profligacy, alcoholism, and 16 oz. prime ribs for $7.99.

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even worse, las vegas is tedious beyond measure. the endless barrage of entertainment inspires only boredom. the attempts to arouse and excite us leave us feeling apathetic and unsatisfied. whatever momentary hilarity or transient thrill we experienced seemed to dissapate all too quickly, leaving a thwarted feeling of anticipation. was that it?


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tim made an evening out of trying to find people who looked happy in vegas. the city supplied him an endless, neon-lit conga line of drunk; happiness, however was in much shorter supply. the image that has stayed with me far longer, and far more vividly, than any of the luxurious appointments of the bellagio or the golden nugget, is this: a group of 6 young women with identically made up faces and fancy dresses shrieking drunken inanities in the hallway of an anonymous casino. the fun and adventure that the evening had promised had so far eluded them and their earlier enthusiasm and hunger had given way to bitterness and entropy. drunken and insecure and lonely, they trudged along towards “somewhere else”; a place with better music and hotter guys and cheaper drinks. in their hands, they carried improbable shoes, all sharp points, wire-thin straps and credit card debt. the soles of their feet were stained black from wading through the bile of the city, but they did not care. they had spent hundreds of dollars on this weekend, dammit, and they were going to have fun or they were going to die trying.

Posted by Wordmobi

the unknowable vol. 1 ~ amboy, ca

route 66, that much-mythologized mother of all roads, has been shattered into a broken line of asphalt and sun-baked paint that stutters across the american landscape. it was only when i lived in albuquerque, nm that i learned that parts of it still existed, first because of a 50s-style diner that served the best chicken fried steak ever, and then through the series of small, sometimes seedy motels/apartments that lined the west end of main street, out where i’d go to see the lowriders cruising. at night, elaborate neon signs shouted names like ‘the apache’ and ‘ desert rose’ into the indigo sky, reminders of a time before highways were super.

other fragments of that same road, stretch through southern california, sometimes as frontage roads, sometimes as arrow-straight secondary highways. on one of these sections, just south of the mojave national park, is a ghost town marked on the map as amboy. amboy is known for two things: the amboy crater — an unusually symmetrical cinder cone that the lonely planet guide warns against climbing during high winds and/or summer months — and roy’s motel — an abandoned mid-century modern motor hotel.

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as enigmatic and as creepy as roy’s motel may be, it is not the sole subject of this issue of the unknowable . there is also the strange sight that awaits you just outside of amboy heading towards las vegas. i was so startled by its appearance that i made tim stop so i could investigate.

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are they prayers to lady luck left by pilgrims on the camino to las vegas? are they unwanted memories discarded by kids hoboing their way across america? what can this behavior possibly signify? some believe this is just one of dozens of shoe trees scattered across the globe. what a startling idea! what shared human experience does this speak to? what collective emotion vibrates into this manifest form?

about two weeks after the above photographs were taken, tim, mazy and i passed through amboy once more, this time heading east. i had planned on stopping at the shoe tree again to take a few more pictures, but as we approached, i realized something had changed. at some point between february 21 and march 9, 2010, the amboy shoe tree finally gave up and collapsed under the weight of hundreds of dreams, wishes and prayers.

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outside a ghost town, a phantom tree stands beside a forgotten highway. the memories of one thousand desires sway in the thin desert breeze, as potent, as puissant as prayer.

Posted by Wordmobi