Wednesday, February 23, 2011

High Deserts and Hi Jolly

Give me a hug you spiky devil!

The Tumbleweeds have broken new ground, forged a new path, gone where no man has gone before...not really, but I did hug a cactus.

We don't often get off the interstate. Sadly, back roads tend not to be the shortest route. The drive north out of Flagstaff, AZ on US 89 is one of the most beautiful we have driven. We were just east of that big, wondrous hole, the Grand Canyon. It was gorgeous high desert country, the colors all muted and wind washed. Those fabulous saguaro cactus that you thought only existed in Roadrunner cartoons, dirt in every color of the rainbow, a big blue sky (with clouds, *squints* at Los Angeles) and hardly any people. It's heaven!

Glen Canyon Dam Bridge
Near Page, AZ

These pictures don't do the land justice. The sand under these vibrant orange cliffs is green, pink and purple.
It is illegal to blow up a saguaro with explosives (called plugging) but I don't know
how else you would do it. 

The road less travelled

This is just like the fake tunnel Wile E Coyote puts up
for Roadrunner. 

Later, coming out of California in western Arizona we stopped in Quartzsite. This is where every old person in an RV comes to drive slowly. It's also the grave site of Hi Jolly. 

In 1855 the government had the idea to use camels to help build and supply a wagon route from Texas to California. A Syrian camel driver named Hadj Ali was hired to teach the the new US Camel Corps the finer points of camel driving. Hadj Ali soon became Hi Jolly to the army guys and things were going swell until the Civil War, which hogged up all the attention and the program was abandoned.

In typical ADD style, the government left the camels to fend for themselves in the desert as they went on to play war. The last wild camel was seen in 1941.

The only camels left are man-made. At least they don't spit on you.

I could climb it if I really wanted to...

Leaving the sunset behind.

Monday, February 14, 2011

California Thinks I'm Fat

The Tumbleweeds have temporarily escaped the ravages of winter and stumbled into a land called California. It is green here. Things grow here. 

 We had a pleasant drive south from Sacramento to Los Angeles in California's Central Valley. Mile after mile of orchards, vineyards and all manner of green and growing things. Plums, oranges, pistachios, olives, grapes, almonds and who knows what. They ought to put signs up telling you what this stuff is, the grocery store does it why can't the farmers? 

The traffic wasn't too bad, the view was interesting. 

California Grass Angel

And then there's Los Angeles.

The City of Angels is very crowded and not green. 

We drove through the heart of the city for the first time. Saw the Hollywood sign. I was really hoping to see a celebrity like Angelina Jolie or Festus but it wasn't meant to be. They don't hang out in traffic like regular people. I did see a guy driving a dump truck who looked like Tony Orlando, but Dawn wasn't there so I didn't ask for an autograph.

If you squint really hard you can almost see Festus

There are 2.7 things I found disconcerting about LA:

#1. Saying LA makes you sound like a wanker.

#2. There are no clouds. It's a Stepford-Wife sky. It is unnatural.

#3. In 10 miles I saw 10 billboards telling me I should get skinny with surgery.

#3 1/2 The fast food restaurants have the calories posted on the menu next to the prices making it:
                    A. Confusing
                    B. Guilt inducing (compounded by said billboards)

No clouds. No Festus
On the way out of Los Angeles toward Phoenix we passed the birthing place of all windmills. It is a veritable windmill nesting ground in southeastern California. Only about 10% of them were spinning but clearly that's enough to blow away the clouds...

*****The green pictures are inspired by Glen. He who loves snow.****

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Tree of Utah Has Balls

 Metaphor: The Tree of Utah....what?

I-80 mile marker 26

Dedicated in 1986 by a Swedish artist with the inscription; "A hymn to our universe whose glory and dimension is beyond all myth and imagination".

What the what? I have no idea what an 87 foot concrete tennis ball tree has to do with myth and imagination but then again, I'm not Swedish. Although, once I did tour a Swedish Navy ship and those were some of the best looking people I have ever seen. They were all clean and shiny and milky looking.

This landscape is beautiful without the Ball Tree, I think. It's stark, endless, surreal. One hundred miles west of the mountains of Salt Lake City and all of sudden you're in the middle of this great expanse of sky and flatness.

I wouldn't want to live on the great salt flats. But sometimes I think beauty is where we find it, how we find it.

I just love looking into the distance on the highway. I feel like Wile E Coyote. Anything's possible!

Great Salt Lake Desert

The art could be worse, I guess. It could have been Freddy Krueger hands in Iowa.

The Great Salt Lake.
This is where Sea Monkeys come from.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Highway Hints and Darth Vader Mittens

Himself, concentrating on the wintry roads of death!

Here are some random facts from the road that I have learned over the past three years.

Mayonnaise is explosive.

Nebraska is flat, but as you travel west in the Cornhusker state you are gradually going up in elevation. 

This has the effect of increasing pressure in things like squeeze mayo, lotion and potato chip bags. I never remember this and it always seems I'm making sandwiches in Nebraska. The mayo spurts out at roughly the same velocity as the speed of light, but it's a lot more messy! (if the speed of light doesn't actually have a velocity, I don't want to know)
Wintry road of death in Nebraska in February

Seasonal changes are noticeable in different ways on the road. Spring in Alabama is a wonderful sensory experience for the nose; azaleas, magnolias and jasmine in bloom are delightful. Nebraska in the spring, not so much. Spring time means planting and fertilizing with manure. Lots and lots of it in the corn fields that cover the state. On the plus side, the corn fields bring in tons of fireflies, which start showing up in the early summer. Is there anything cooler than a bug that lights up?!

If you are looking for a winter investment, put all your money into windshield washer fluid. We go through gobs of the stuff, trying to clear off the snowy, muddy slush that accumulates on the windshield. Truck stops charge twice as much for it in the winter.
Minus 17 in Wyoming, but I have toasty hands!
My Darth Vader Mittens...say what you what but these are warm!

Darth Vader's brother, Chad.
I love the acoustic Darth Vader theme!