Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Road Trip Highlights Having Little to do with Retirement

Being on this road trip wasn’t much different that trips I had taken before, except that my mind didn’t occasionally wonder to work issues and I had more flexibility in planning when to go and to come home. But I have retained the visuals and sense of the experience longer than I was able to when working. So I thought I’d share some highlights – in order of appearance.

  • Once I hit Flagstaff, there were bright yellow roadside flowers and flowering bushes, some spreading all the way into the forest, all along the northern part of the trip.

  • Peering into the Grand Canyon with crowds of tourists, most of whom were speaking languages other than English – and some I didn’t recognize. This, coupled with just looking in, rather than hiking in as I had done before, made for a somewhat odd experience.

  • I drove out of the Grand Canyon NP by the eastern route for the first time. Reeeaallly beautiful. You see the Canyon become shallower and the river more accessible. And an unfamiliar set of outcroppings and features.

  • The first quietest night in memory: In Navajo. About 15 miles NW of Ganado. The landscape was flat and, with recent rains, green – that grey-ish sagy green made up of bunches of grasses and sage, close to the ground. In the surrounding distance were bluffs and mesas of deep earthy reds, browns, burnt sienna. My friend’s Aunt lives in a small house with solar electricity, and the most luxurious outdoor privy I’ve been in, with a number of dogs, a large white pet goat (sleeps on the porch) and a small heard of sheep. And several out-buildings and a hogan (traditional Navajo dwelling). I slept out in my truck (I have a camper shell and comfy air mattress). It was so quiet it was almost unnerving. Not. A sound. The stars were stunning. I could see the whole Milky Way like a cloud across the sky. I don’t know if it was road buzz, the occasional barking of the dogs, or having read too much Carlos Castaneda in the early 70’s (Yaqui not Navajo, I know) but I had a hard time falling asleep.

  • Counter Culture (not a movement – a café a short walking distance from my friends’ house in Santa Fe). Order at the counter (of course) and take a number. I sat at a small table on the patio. Groups of stylish, attractive middle-aged men having conversations. With each other. About what I’m not sure but I’m pretty confident it wasn’t about sports. An array of beautiful middle-aged (and beyond) women. Some of them in what I call the five-hundred-dollar-disheveled-artist look.

  • I saw Robert Redford close up at a gallery opening (of his wife’s work). You know that saying that people look “larger than life” in their movie roles. It’s true. Still hanging in though, for a 76 year old guy.

  • Did a nine-mile hike. Fairly little up and down. But still – pretty good. Aspen colors were half-way between green and yellow.

  • The second quietest night in memory: My Santa Fe friends have a long strip of property (used to be a bean field) up a hill from a small town near Las Trampas/Tuchas NM - literally where the Milagro Bean Field War movie was filmed (speaking of Robert Redford). There is a “cabin” and studio building – built by the husband half. Think something out of Dwell. Beautifully designed so that the small, compact space is used to best advantage like on a boat or a train. Clean lines. No electricity. Lots of windows and glass in the doors. I slept in the studio.  It was so quiet that I could hear the sound made by those huge black ravens as their wings flap against the air. Woosh. Woosh. Woosh. Heaven.

  • Much anticipated watercolor lesson from same said husband (a talented and accomplished artist) while we were up there. I thought he’d give me a brush, paper and few tips so I could attempt to recreate the scene before me. No. We painted squares and lines just to get the feel of the paint, understand the differences in each color (which have different properties because they are made of different things). It was fab-u-lous. I learned so much in that hour. There is a lot to watercolor painting. So next time you think “I could have done that”: think again. No, you couldn’t. 
So, thanks for indulging me in my little travelogue (and a somewhat long post). We’ll be back to the topic at hand soon enough. The post-trip centeredness is really setting in.

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