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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.

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

Road trip photos: June 16

Wednesday, June 16 took me from western Arkansas all the way across Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle into New Mexico.

2010-06-16 Storm over Oklahoma

Click to see the entire June 16 set: OK, TX and NM

It was just a day of wonder all around, really, as the landscape slowly shifted with the miles and took on forms I had never seen outside photographs, and the pictures in this set from that day are some of my favorites from the road.

By pure chance, not far into Texas just off I-40, I found myself across the street from the real-life inspiration for the body shop in Disney/Pixar’s Cars

2010-06-16 Conoco Tower Station, Shamrock TX

– and later, I took probably an hour’s detour into Amarillo to visit what’s left of the Air Force Base where my dad did his basic training.

2010-06-16 Old Amarillo Air Force Base 4

When I got to Tucumcari, New Mexico late that afternoon, I really felt kind of surrounded by the spirit of the whole trip. I’m in a KOA campground some 1,400 miles from home, sitting on a picnic table alone and watching a storm roll away to the east, this warm wind gusting and pushing the clouds off while the setting sun turns everything gold –

2010-06-16 Clouds over Tucumcari Mountain 1

– and I’m looking at this utterly unfamiliar and gorgeous horizon, and I cannot believe I’m here, and I’m trying so hard to share this amazement and awe because I want everyone to have a moment or two like this.

Even now, almost a month later, I can smell that air and feel those gusts and, if I really let myself go, I can feel an echo of that thrill.

July 13, 2010 Posted by | Family history, geek, photos, Travel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New friends, family ties and the edge of the desert.

After passing beneath a super-ominous and very cool storm front yesterday morning southwest of Eureka, Missouri – that cloud was so low and heavy-looking it felt like driving beneath one of the Independence Day invasion ships – the rest of the short 6-hour drive to Arkansas was easy and entertaining. It included a long stretch of winding two-lane through some very small towns in what was apparently once a river beach resort destination region, and I wish I had been able to stop and take some photos of a few incredible shots where the road actually undercuts these stone cliffs, so you’re driving with tons and tons of rock hanging overhead, with a river off to the opposite side. Unfortunately, I was being rudely tailgated because I refused to speed (I’ve grown up around enough small towns to know speed traps when I see them), so you’ll just have to trust me: If you ever have some time, check out Missouri Route 59.)

Got to Arkansas in the early afternoon and finally got to meet Kirk Demarais, who, it turns out, is as incredibly awesome and kind and fun and generous in person as he’s been online. And though he had no obligation to entertain me or anything, Kirk figured it would be fun to take a mini-road trip for the afternoon, so we zipped over to Eureka Springs – spotting, along the way, totally by chance and entirely fitting, the self-proclaimed World’s Largest Traveling Reptile Show in a parking lot. (Truth be told, things like that make me sad for the animals, so they never get my money, but the cheesy sideshow art on the trailers was too garish and bizarre and odd not to stop and gawk at.)

We wandered the three or four balconies of the supposedly haunted Crescent Hotel –

Crescent Hotel

Crescent view 2

– and walked around Eureka Springs for a little while, then went to check out the view of the place from across the valley, from the vantage point of the Christ of the Ozarks –

Christ of the Ozarks

The day passed in a non-stop conversation bouncing from nerdstuff to nostalgia to movies and science fiction and videogames and being dads and art and writing and books and road trips, and it was a total blast, and Kirk and his family are seriously great people for letting me crash at their place during my odyssey.

I got up and hit the road this morning about 6 a.m.

Today was quite the drive for changing scenery:

From an approaching storm over Oklahoma –

to the Texas panhandle –

Texas

to a blazing afternoon stopoff in Amarillo and a visit to the site of the former Air Force Base where my dad did his basic training back in 1968. It’s not a pretty place these days:

former Amarillo

And even though I wasn’t yet in the world when Dad was here and when mom and grandma drove down to visit him, I still wanted to see it, and I tried to imagine Dad coming down here on his own and being in this strange and isolated and expansive region so different from the parts of Ohio where he grew up.

From Amarillo, it was just a couple quick hours to Tucumcari, New Mexico, where I’m staying tonight, and I’ve got a couple good hours of the evening to explore, which I’m going to go do now, since tomorrow’s another hit-the-road-early day.

June 16, 2010 Posted by | Family history, geek, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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