Cornfield Meet

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Road Trip photos: June 18

I liked this stretch of the trip for several reasons: 1) The desert continued to amaze me; 2) It included my stop on Tatooine;

Tatooine, by way of Interstate 8 westbound. Click the photo to see the day's whole set.

3) Interstate 8 from El Centro to San Diego was just a stunning drive; and 4) Hey, I made it from Ohio to Southern California!

The day’s worth of snapshots can be found here.

July 29, 2010 Posted by | geek, Travel, Weblogs | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Road trip photos: June 17

I crossed most of New Mexico and Arizona on Thursday, June 17, going from Tucumcari in the northeast all the way down to west of Phoenix.

Just west of the Arizona/New Mexico border. Click the photo to see the day's set.

I remember this as a day the road surprised me a few times.

First, despite the fact that I’d planned my route in advance and knew this was going to be a long haul – 630+ miles, give or take – I was unprepared for the vastness of the land and the idea that I could spend so much time and cover so much highway and still have only covered ground in two states. I mean, I’ve spent years doing the Ohio-to-Florida route, so time on the road wasn’t a new thing to me – but going 640 miles south from Canton, you cover territory in five states and get damn close to number six. Even earlier this year, I did roughly the same distance when I drove to Rhode Island for PAX East.

This just felt like a much longer drive through much more alien territory. Don’t get me wrong: I loved it, but man, the scale of everything and the distance between populated places was almost overwhelming at times.

I remember being somewhat startled by Interstate 40’s dramatic descent into Albuquerque, because from the east, you climb into the hills so gradually you hardly notice, and then BAM! things open up and the city is far below and the desert is just spread out to the horizon.

Near Flagstaff, several hours later, more mountains and another surprise juxtaposition: this one the sight of distant snow even as the sun baked my windshield three days shy of the first day of summer.

And then the drive south to Phoenix, which covered all three of Arizona’s geographical zones, starting on the Colorado Plateau, down through the Transition Zone, and finally into the Basin and Range. Pine forests and saguaro cactus and canyons and valleys and mountain range after mountain range. Despite being pretty well exhausted by this point in the day, I really enjoyed this stretch of highway.

Check out the day’s worth of photos here.

July 26, 2010 Posted by | photos, Travel | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I DID make that left turn at Albuquerque.

I’m in Raton, New Mexico, and it’s a gorgeous, breezy evening, and though it may rain sometime in the next hour or two, it’s supposed to clear up overnight, so I’m hopeful for a night in the tent. I also have the shortest drive of the trip scheduled tomorrow – just over 4 hours – so even if the tent gets wet, I can sleep in a bit and stick around and let it dry out.

Today’s journey began with about 40 miles of Arizona Route 89 , and the northern half of it was as incredibly beautiful as the southern half (between yesterday and today I pretty much drove the whole thing except for the part through Prescott itself),  though without the 25 mile-per-hour mountain switchbacks into Yarnell that were fun to drive but made it all but impossible to really enjoy the views.

Then I did Flagstaff to Albuquerque on I-40, which I did on the way west, and I think having just traveled it made this stretch seem to go on forever. Easily the longest, toughest part of the drive.

I tried to break it up with a quick spur-of-the-moment detour to Meteor Crater, but the $15 admission price tag meant all you’re going to see from me is this view from its parking lot:

For all I know, Meteor Crater is a truly stunning experience and totally worth that fifteen bucks, but to get my money’s worth out of the climb to the rim and the museum and exhibits and bells and whistles would have taken more time than I wanted to spend on a day when I was already looking at almost 11 hours on the road.

I also considered breaking up the monotony by stopping to stand on a corner in Winslow, but then I found out on the radio that it’s already been a cheesy tourist thing for awhile. No kidding. According to the radio ads, you can even get your photo with the girl in the flatbed Ford.

I did see the Fight Obesity Ride guy heading east on I-40, and eventually I crossed into New Mexico and had to give back one of those hours I picked up on the way to California.

Fortunately, reaching Albuquerque meant traveling a new road – I-25 (so, yes, I turned left!) northbound, and I was surprised at how the landscape changed again. More green entered the picture, dotting and then covering the hills, although the mountains kept their distinctive western shapes.

At one point, I was treated to a storm off to the west of the highway, on a broad flat plain between me and a distant mountain range. What made it cool was seeing lightning strikes that were actually in front of those hills. Most times, back home the horizon is much closer, so even close-range lightning strikes are behind just about everything you can see. Seeing the bolts link the ground and the clouds in the middle distance rather than in the background was awfully neat.

I was listening to a Retroist podcast about The Dark Crystal during this stretch, and the wide grasslands that opened up to the east , coupled with the hills that still ran alongside to the west, somehow fit the moment.

I got into Raton about 5:30 p.m. during a light rain and bought myself a K-Bob’s steak sandwich for supper, since it had been a really long day of driving and I could feel a hunger headache coming on.

Now I’m going to post this and reward myself with some arcade time – the game room here actually has a working Side Arms – Hyper Dyne, which Aaron and my brothers and I used to LOVE playing at Aladdin’s Castle in the mall (sadly, the Pole Position game has sound but no picture) – and maybe even some ice cream after that. Here’s the view from my campsite:

June 26, 2010 Posted by | Games, geek, Travel, video games | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Heading back home

San Diego and the gymnastics meet – which was only yesterday – already seem a long way behind me, and not just in that 400-road-miles way. It’s strange knowing that Jenn and Kelsey are already back home asleep in Ohio, but at the same time, I like that I’ve got this drive ahead and the time it will give me to mentally revisit and unpack my memories and thoughts from the trip.

So I left San Diego this morning around 8 a.m. after dropping mom & Jeff & Jenn & Kels at the airport, and over the next couple hours, I realized that I really love the Interstate 8 drive between San Diego and El Centro. I mean, there’s about 5 different kinds of mountains and vistas in there, and it would be awesome to spend a week just driving and shooting photos of the region at all different times of the day.

I mean, you go from scenes like that one up into these towering, rocky piles, and then there’s this absolutely breathtaking drop on the eastern edge, and you come twisting out of the hills to find the desert seemingly miles below (it’s less than 4,000 feet, though), and spreading to the horizon. This doesn’t do it justice, since I was almost all the way down when I took it:

I took a different route back after El Centro, though, and did most of today’s driving off the Interstates and on two-lanes that took me through some neat places like the Imperial Dunes recreation area –

– and a long stretch of single-intersection “towns” in southwest Arizona often consisting of sparsely-populated RV parks and maybe a restaurant and convenience store. Abandoned places, too: Clusters of homes and buildings just left vacant that made me wonder at what point someone last lived there or when it was that a person finally walked out those doors for the last time.

This afternoon, I had the great pleasure of finally meeting another fellow GeekDad writer, Jenny Williams, and her husband and family, who very generously and graciously arranged for tonight’s accommodations here near Prescott. Games – there was Super Circles, and Go Fish and TransAmerica and Chronology – and a marvelous dinner of lasagna and some brownies to die for, I tellya, and the whole evening flew by in a flash of nonstop talking and playing and fun, and once more I marvel that I have had the good fortune to come to know such excellent and kind and generous people who truly made me feel welcome.

We looked at the stars outside for a few minutes, and though they stretched from horizon to horizon, I could also imagine them over the smaller patch of sky in my backyard, bordered by familiar trees and rooftops. Home seems far away and still close in many ways.

June 26, 2010 Posted by | Games, geek, Ohio, Travel, writing | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

NM and AZ

Wednesday afternoon, after checking in at the campground, having dinner and then driving around Tucumcari and taking in some of the neat Old Route 66 hotel signs, I relaxed a bit in the campsite’s rec room and charged the laptop and phone while letting a windy patch of weather pass. Got the tent set up around 9:30, and though it was a breezy night, it was comfortable and rain-free

So, up at sunrise and on the road again yesterday morning for what I knew would be a longish driving day across New Mexico and into Arizona.

West of the city, things stretched back out again.

Never having been this far west, I found a lot to look at in the landscape, but the vast distances between signs of civilization did kind of wear on me after a bit, and I was glad to reach Arizona around lunchtime:

Arizona struck me with its change of scenery – after that dramatic introduction (those photos are from the Welcome Center area), it was a lot like New Mexico had been.

I did see my first dust devil, and though it was a weak one, you could still see it rising from miles and miles away:

Then I saw the distant mountains that I knew signaled Flagstaff and my swing southward, and damn if there wasn’t still snow visible up there, just a couple days from the onset of summer.

Flagstaff to Phoenix was as gorgeous and varied a stretch of highway as I’ve seen, from these pine-topped mountains (which, again, had snuck up on me with a gradual climb from the east) down into canyons and cactus-dotted hillsides and broad valleys and incredible views.

I reached the home of my friends Jim & Michelle in the afternoon, and we passed a great evening hanging out and swimming and talking and staying up late.

June 18, 2010 Posted by | geek, Travel | , , | 1 Comment

   

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