Category Archives: On Location

Victory… and the end of a Great American Road Trip

When I set out from Washington, DC, I was unsure of where I would stay in New Mexico, mainly because I was worried about how my car (and let’s be honest, my driving skills) would do in its mountainous curves amid potential snow flurries.

Storm Trooper Regrets Decision

I had a Plan A, which was to proceed to Taos for two nights and enjoy the break from driving for a day.

And I had a Plan B, which was to stay the first night in Albuquerque on I-40, not attempting the 2 hours uphill in the dark, and if it was snowing, forgo Taos altogether and head south; if not, visit Taos for one night and then be on my merry way.

How did I decide? How did I sate that crazy monster inside that loves to hem and haw and put off making decisions that might invite regret?

I asked two natives their opinion on the day of my drive, and after both confirmed a safe route, that was enough. I pronounced it enough.

The predicted storm of 2 days later? Wouldn’t be that bad. And if it were, well, then I’d be delayed. It’s happened before and the sky didn’t fall.

So, it was a victory for me! Decision made! In less than the time it usually takes me to get to the root of the question!

World Cup Cafe in Taos NM

Following this victory, I enjoyed the atmosphere, the snow, the laid-back small-town feel of Taos.

Last Leg

The last leg of the trip involved a straight shot from Taos to San Diego, CA, where I’d be staying with a friend and basically home-free. I went from Taos, NM to Flagstaff, AZ, then from Flagstaff to San Diego, CA.

Nowhere on the trip did I experience more visible changes in my environment than in this space of time. I woke up in Taos and had to brush off the powdered-sugar snow from my car and wait for the sun to rise above the storm clouds. I drove down through Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Indian City, and arrived in Flagstaff tired enough to fall asleep Before. Eight. O’clock. With no dinner.

Mountain driving! Man, I tell ya.

Waking up in Flagstaff was similar, except instead of powdered-sugar snow, my car had frost like spiderwebs all over it. Thankfully I was parked in the sun’s rays and it thawed pretty quickly. Then I went south through Phoenix (winning a prize for Fastest-Growing-City-to-‘Out-Ugly’-Los-Angeles-in-Sprawl), and west on I-8, which, if you’ve never been on it, IS the Middle of Nowhere.

I left the snow behind, saw the red cliffs in all their glory, passed a forest of tough old cactii, contemplated the low desert, entered sand dune territory, and saw an exit market “Mexico: Next Left.” I could literally see the Border Wall, which was for some reason exhilarating.

I was at sea level, then climbed back up 4,000 feet of elevation to pass into California, cruising back down on what seemed like a cloud: the weather had changed. The arrow now pointed to ‘Perfect.’

The ten days were an adventure, but the last leg seemed like a finale, with even a cymbal-clashing finish. It all seemed to end so quickly, as I felt the California sun again and headed to my sister’s.

That was it? I felt like saying, even though the trip had been full of twists and turns and decisions and mayhem and awesomeness.

Next Leg

Today the trip goes from Stateside to Asia Edition.

Updating as I road-tripped was a little frantic, so I will be hanging this sign while I am off in Seoul and Beijing. I look forward to bringing back tales of delicacies and derring-do!

Closed for Vacation 

Images via Techneur and Designs by Mimi & Lola

Ta for Taos

Mind opened by the very long drives between Tennessee and Oklahoma, and Oklahoma to New Mexico (that’s 6 states in 2 days!), I arrived in Taos.

A Black Bird With Snow Covered Red Hills, by Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe lived the latter half of her life in New Mexico and painted its skies, clouds, skulls, and landscapes.

What do YOU know about Taos? I had some vague impressions of artists and writers, combined with images of the Southwest landscape that were stark and foreign. Something told me that it would be a good place, though.

I stayed at another AirBnB listing, the host of which really made the experience less about Taos and more about human connection. I enjoyed exploring the town at my leisure (which meant in fits and starts, as it was pretty cold, feathery snow still dusting the ground).

I found the Taos Pueblo closed for repairs (apparently a common thing), but the Plaza and many shops and galleries were open and showed the local style of historical pueblo architecture anyway. Kit Carson‘s home is here, a ridonkulously huge bridge is 10 miles west of here, and many homes-turned-museums pay tribute to the area’s pioneer past.

I got in after dark, but the next morning, after a spectacular sunrise, I stepped out to explore some small offshoots from the main drag, Route 64. This included a stop at The World Cup Cafe, which had scrumptious organic scones and delicious Mexican hot chocolate.

It was fascinating to stay in the cafe for some time, as I observed many local neighbors meet, greet, and even hold court. It’s a sunny spot, with bar seats only, and everybody really knows everybody.

I came from what I would call a small town, but this experience had me reconsidering the definition. What constitutes small town, what suburban, what metropolitan? It’s not just population or size of sprawl, it’s more of a feeling of how frequently you’re going to run into people you know.

In Taos, the answer seems to be all the time.

In San Luis Obispo, it was more like once every 3 outings.

Sangre de Cristo Mountains Winter Sunset

I had thought that a small town meant ordinary, confining, repetitive. But here I was seeing eyes light up, jokes being howled over, life-passion projects being shared and discussed. It made me feel a little Grinchy.

Maybe the small town is worthy of reconsideration.

Especially in such a setting.

 

Images via Wikipedia and Wikipaintings

Balance Positive

 

The Good and the Bad

Finding someone to rhapsodize about pottery with may not have been enough of a silver lining to balance out the car repair setback, but listen to the events that followed:

  • A long day of driving to Oklahoma
  • A speeding ticket in Arkansas
  • No wifi at the place I was staying
  • My credit card left at the pizza place where I had dinner

Those were my 2 days after the oil pan incident, summed up.

Yet none of these annoying/exhausting/expensive events broke the bank of positivity that I had stored up from my farewells from DC, or the general happiness with my present situation.

I know, hard to believe, right?? But these things also happened in those 2 days:

  • Meeting an awesome pizza entrepreneur
  • A beautiful sunrise over Edmond, OK
  • Not having to stop in Texas
  • Stopping to see a colleague at his beautiful home in Santa Fe
  • Arriving in the high desert town of Taos with no bad weather

All in all, I conclude that the good is outweighing the bad. The setbacks are not enough to tear down the joys from the small, beautiful things.

How is that possible?

Part of it involves that stored-up positivity, as when you receive the well wishes of friends to warm you in colder days. This bolsters your confidence in your own decisions.

Part of it involves awareness of many things at once, so that the speeding ticket doesn’t dominate my whole impression of Arkansas (well, maybe). You can appreciate the good weather while admitting that the ticket stinks.

And part of it involves perspective— which I’m frankly surprised I’m able to have so soon after these bad-luck events. Long stretches of driving, as I found out on the trip to Nova Scotia, enable you to reflect, process, and uncover your inner workings in some unique ways.

Since I don’t like driving, I’ll have to replace this with a different activity once I become local again. What’s your best suggestion? What gets you into that open-minded space?

Despertador image of open space

 

Images via Examiner.com and Despertador