Monday, June 30, 2008

on another adventure

Better late than never. Two weekends ago I spent on the road of another random adventure: the quest for ghost towns. I'd heard of this highway somewhere in New Mexico that was supposed to be home to a whole bevy of ghost towns. After seeing some uber-touristy ones that charged admission (come one, people, it's supposed to be a ghost town), I was anxious to see a genuine deserted town. So, the dread pirate and I set out to see what could be seen. We left Tucson heading on some scenic highways east into New Mexico. The drive was absolutely gorgeous the entire way, and after spending the majority of the day on the road, we actually made it to 12, the legendary ghost town road. By this time it was rapidly approaching dusk, so we decided to try and find a campsite. We see a sign directing us off the highway to get to a lake. We assume there will be camping here, so we head off the road. We are now on an unpaved road, with the knowledge that the lake should be like 10 miles away. My car isn't exactly four-wheel drive, but she handles pretty well. We are the only people on the road, and suddenly we are climbing up this mountain. The dirt road is rough in spots, and sometimes it feels like we're about to bottom out, but oh my life is it beautiful. Funny thing is we have no freaking idea what road we are on, or where exactly we are, and we also have no cell phone service. BUT it's beautiful. And that is that.
After several miles, we come across a group of elk. They are right on the road, and then they scurry up the mountain face through this sort of canyon. They are absolutely majestic. We continue to see loads of wildlife, and the scenery only gets more beautiful as we get deeper into the middle of nowhere. At one point (well past the point where the lake should have been), we come to a fork in the road, and one direction is too rough to drive on while the other has a bad vibe. Thus, we turn around and decide to try and find a place to camp along the road. We get to drive back through all the amazingness we just saw, and finally pull off to the perfect little spot (except for the swarms of bugs). The stars out there were so clear, so we sat on top of the ridiculously dusty car to watch them shine. It was lovely.

After a relatively uncomfortable sleep on the knotted ground, we awoke to sunshine and hit the road again. Stopping at a general store in the middle of nowhere (one of those 'we don't take kindly to strangers 'round these parts' kind of general stores), we inquire about the ghost towns. Everyone we ask claims they've never heard of such a thing, that they've lived here all their lives and never saw one. On the other hand, they claim, this could be a ghost town. Hm. This road is famed for the ghost towns. Even google says so. So now we think we are in the twilight zone. or that we've just met some ghosts. Anyway, we drive the whole length of the highway, and nothing. Or what we think is nothing. As it turns out we assume that all the random clusters of 2 or 3 rotting buildings are probably in fact ghost towns. Kind of cool. Finally we make it to a larger gas station and buy a local map. They give us some tips. First stop: Magdalena. An old mining town. We eat at a little cafe that serves the worst enchilada I've ever encountered, and then head up to the mine to have a look. Turns out they'll arrest you if you don't have a pass, so we proceed to Jim's Rock Shop where the passes are sold, only to find them closed. Oh well. Who wants to pay 10 bucks to look at an old mine shaft anyway?

Now it's on some real back roads to the creme de la creme of ghost towns: Mogollon. This is one of those towns that was actually a pretty decent town, only it was abandoned, except for a couple of creepy people who still shack up there. As someone said, "It's like Providence, with eyes peering out the windows as you drive by." Only to get there, we took the most scenic route possible. I'm talking dirt roads, trail roads, that were meant for four wheel off road vehicles. Thel held up pretty well. There were many parts where I thought we'd get stuck, but we drove the entire afternoon on roads like this and it all worked out. We were utterly alone in the middle of New Mexico, on dirt roads, and able to see some beautiful and probably rarely seen wildlife and landscapes. It was wonderful.

We even found this off-the-path state park, and some dude who'd been there for 10 days. There was only one way in because the other road was completely washed out. It would be the perfect escape. Finally, we roll through Mogollon and it is everything we'd heard. Creepy as all get-up. It was super cool, though. We ogled it for a while, and then the sun started setting. We drove down into Silver City, got a hotel room, and headed over to teh Drifter's Lounge in hopes for dinner. Too bad, they didn't serve food, but the completely wasted hostess kept begging us to order a pizza so she could eat some. It was insane. Then we met this crazy character who wouldn't leave us alone, giving us life advice: "Write everything down. Write it down first. At least then you can erase it." Turns out his name is Arcturus (the brightest star in the night sky). Oh, irony. That's not even the best part. This old drunk cowboy taught me how to two-step! It was wicked awesome. He kept asking me to dance, telling me I was a beautiful dancer, and then saying "God Bless you!!" It was hilarious. And he was a good dancer. So now I know the two-step!! Rock!

The next morning we hit the road on the way to Shakespeare, yet another ghost town. We got the tour of the place, and it was kind of cool, and really hot. We watched this blacksmith working his magic at the forge, and that's always awesome. From there, it was down into Bisbee where we chilled at a country bar and attracted a lot of attention (being the strangers that we were). From there, a stop in Tombstone to walk through the streets of the wild west just before sunset. Finally we roll into Tucson just in time to catch the second half of Shakespeare under the Stars production of the Merry Wives of Windsor.

All in all, it rocked. And now I have a newfound desire to spend a weekend down in Bisbee and Tombstone. And to find even more ghost towns.

Otherwise, this past weekend was spent in San Diego yet again, which I will write about soon. Excuse the rambling as I'm running on about 12 hours of sleep in the past 4 days.

Love from the desert!

p.s. As far as pictures go, I can't get any to load up to blogger. So I'll keep trying.

Monday, June 16, 2008

on the road (again) but also in tucson

Well folks, it looks like this blog will be text only. I'll have to post a photo addendum. Actually, that might be kind of fun. You're going to have to work to get the full Fifel goes West experience this time. Haha.

You'll have to forgive me. I feel like I have lived 10 years in the past 2.5 weeks. If that doesn't speak to you, well just know that I have had one of the most amazing times of my life [and that's kind of intense considering how incredibly amazing my life has been ;)].

Two weeks ago today, Lindsay flew into Tucson late in the evening. I haven't seriously chilled with this girl since I moved away from Tennessee, and it just so happened that she had vacation funds and I had 2 weeks off work. These are the workings of wonderful things. So, she hopped the plane from Nashville and landed in the Wild Wild West where I promptly carried her off into the desert night on my white horse (I actually do have a white car, so ha!) That night we spent sort of re-acquainting ourselves with one another and our separate (but somehow strangely similarly evolving) lives. We enjoyed the late night hot tub under the desert palms, and some pretty loud bellydance beats complete with my best efforts at turning Lindsay into a bellydancer (not a hard task) so she can join my troupe and we can all travel the world together performing. Well anyway, after about 3 hours of sleep, we packed up the car and hit the road.

Our destination was north, and we thought we had planned accordingly. We hopped on the highway (me trying to show Lindsay what little of Tucson I could before we headed out of the Sonoran) and hit Phoenix just in time for rush hour! Lucky us! It could have been much worse though. We trotted through, though, to our first stop, the magical mystical red rock haven Sedona. Now, I've been here a million times (which you can read about in past posts) and every time it seems to impress me more. It's just another world entirely. We hopped on the trail at Bell Rock and took a nice easy hike up to the formation and a little ways up the side to sit and stare at the vast beauty of the Sedona horizon. It was very peaceful. Then we drove through into the touristy uptown area where we strolled through the shops, and ate lunch at this little Thai Cafe where I chanced upon the most delicious sandwich I have ever devoured. By far. Hands down. It was the raw veggie sandwich. Pumpkin seed bread stacked with raw carrots, onions, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, apples, sprouts, and all topped with herb mayonnaise. I swear this thing was to die for. I could never recreate it. As if that is not wonderful enough, we got to eat it all outside while gazing at the red rock.

Bellies full, we trudged forward (north actually) to the Grand Canyon. South rim, south entrance. We made it with plenty of time to pitch our tent before sunset. In fact, we had time to stop at the convenient store, purchase hot dogs, s'more makings, a bottle of wine, and still register for the camp site and set up camp with plenty of daylight left. We set up our tent and spread out our feast on the picnic table. Lindsay whittled some twigs into sharp points to cook our dinner on. Except it is completely illegal to gather firewood anywhere in the Grand Canyon. How crazy is that? So, we had to drive to the general store to BUY firewood for $7. We also bought some fire starters that were guaranteed to get our wood burning. On the way to the store, I somehow managed to back my car over the wooden campsite marker and into a boulder. Not that that's anything new. My car has some battle scars. It didn't hurt anything except the would. Only we drew a lot of attention to ourselves. Our neighbors looked like they had constructed a little village on their site, complete with kitchen, shower, RV, separate sleeping and changing tents, etc. etc. They came racing over to make a big deal out of the incident. Then after we got back with our firewood, they gawked at us from behind their propane stove the whole time we tried to get our fire going. I don't know if it was luck, or the wind, or the fact that the wood wasn't dry enough, but we had the hardest time starting a campfire. It would start for a minute and then die out. We were frantically scrambling for leaves and twigs to try to feed it, but we only got to roast our hot dogs for a minute. And they were still cold. And then our fire died out completely and we had no more starters. So Lindsay went to ask this French guy on the other side of us (with his big RV and bag of charcoal) if we could borrow some lighter fluid. In thickly accented English, he informed her that he "could, but it is not sound advice." The whole time the can of lighter fluid is right in front of him, but he won't let us use it because he is convinced we will blow ourselves up. Instead, he offers her some of his charcoal, so she accepts and he hands her the bag. Later when we try to use it, we open it only to find that it is completely empty. We were absolutely the laughing stock of the whole campground. The story doesn't stop there, though.

By this time, it is getting dark, and we are determined to go watch the sunset over this most magnificent of canyons. We take the shuttle from the campground to the Yu.....something....i Point just in time to see the sun sinking it's head behind the foggy shadows of rock. The whole thing just seems surreal. I swear it's all made of water color. It was gorgeous. After that, we make our way to the the Star Talk that is being held at another of the overlooks. The star guide tries to use a laser pointer to point out constellations (come on, dude. It's the sky. Not a whiteboard). Regardless, it was pretty amazing because (of course) there is very little light pollution over GC. So we listen and gaze at the vast expanse above us while feeling the vast expanse below us. It makes you feel so incredibly small, you know. Well, anyway, of course by the time we leave it is pitch black. We hop the shuttle only to find out that it won't take us all the way to the campground. It pretty much kicks us off and points the direction we need to walk. All we have is one of those flashlights that you shake to get power, and it is so weak we can't even see outside the 1 inch radius where it shines. So here we are in the Grand Canyon in the pitch black of night with no good flashlight. We have no idea where the campground is, so we are wandering along the road, hoping we don't fall into the canyon or something. At one point a car passes by and we try to get out of the way and end up tripping over each other. We felt like we were in the Blair Witch Project. It was insane!!! We had to go right up to the front of the signs and shine the light on just to read them. We finally got back. French guy had his nice cozy fire going, and we were wishing we had just poured water on his wood when he was gone. Hmph. Oh well. We completely crashed and spent an uncomfortable adn tormented night on the rock hard ground, freezing (because of course we didn't pack warmly enough. It's June, right? WRONG). And the ravens had a bacchanal all night long outside the tent. So, laughing in the morning at our misfortune, and scarfing down some peanut butter and banana tortillas, we spent the morning wandering along the rim trying to take in all the beauty.

We hit the road around noon, intending to hit up Bryce Canyon next. By the time we were even close, it was pouring rain. And cold. Oh my life, was it cold. And it was June!! What?!?! We even drove through this huge dust storm that made no sense because it was raining and dust storming at the same time. I thought the rain would wet the dust making it too heavy for the wind to carry. Apparently not. So rather than fight the chill, we high-tailed it to Ogden. This made for a rather long and tedious drive. We stopped for coffee somewhere in Southern Utah, only to discover what a rarity it is there! The first place we stopped was complete podunk town. The teenage boy running the desk at the "gas station" informed us, "if ya'll go on up ta freemont, i heard there's a maverick up there that's got a coffee pot." Haha. So, up we go. Apparently there's a lot of talk about this one place that finally got a coffee pot. Anyway, there's no coffee when we get tehre, so we wait for her to brew us some, and it's back on the road.

We roll into Ogden around 10 that night, and head straight to Mandy's. It was so good to see her and the little dogs again. I miss them so!!! I met the lady who lives in my old room as well. That's always weird. After catching up for a minute, we pretty much crashed. It was a long day. And it felt SO good to sleep in a bed after the rocks at the canyon. We showered too (this is a very important part of the story, so keep it in mind.... day 3- a shower). The next morning I showed Lindsay around Ogden. We ate some yummy breakfast, played in Union Station, walked the main street, and even chilled at the River right outside the canyon. Then we met up with Lexi. It was amazing to see her too!! Jay (my former boss) took us all out to dinner that night. He's such a character. Then it was back to Lexi's to chill in the hot tub. It was a little chilly in Ogden. I've really been spoiled by this desert heat. Then that night we hit up Salt Lake City. We went clubbing at AREA 51, and I really don't think they knew what hit them. It was out of hand. We had such a blast.

The original plan was to wake up and hit Yellowstone. This has been one of my dreams for a while now. We looked at the forecast, however, and the whole weekend predicted a high of 50 degrees with snow showers and thunderstorms alternately. Considering we were already freezing (having each brought 1 pair of jeans, one long sleeved shirt, and ten thousand skirts, tank tops, dresses, and pairs of shorts), we opted to head south instead. So, we high tailed it to San Diego. I've never driven 15 from SLC to SD, so I was really excited. We went straight through Vegas. The whole 12 hour drive was pretty much all vast expanse. I love that about the West. You can drive FOREVER and never hit civilization. It is all so incredibly beautiful.

Toward the end of the drive, we come upon this huge gang of motorcycles. They are driving incredibly aggressively and it is absolutely crazy. I'm right beside them for a long time, and there are trucks with them who keep riding up on them and forcing them to get so close to the other traffic. Lindsay and I are looking at them like they are insane (because they are), and I know I gave them some dirty looks. It got really out of hand, and I was finally able to lay off and back up. Later we see them ALL on the side of the road being arrested. I mean 15 cop cars pulling over 50 bikers. It was hilarious. Only later do we find out from the newspaper that the Mongols (what their jackets all said) are a violent biker gang and there were warnings issued to everyone in the area to steer clear of them because they are out for violence. Ha!! What are the odds!! That could have been bad.

Anyway, we arrive in SD around 10 or so, and get a cheap motel room (cheap for San Diego, that is). Christa meets us and we all go out to Kadan. I love this place. There's a bellydance troupe performing whom we quickly befriend, and spend all night dancing to our heart's content. We get back to the room wicked late (us and Christa and her friends), and we are sitting there when we get a knock on the door. It's maybe 3 a.m. at this point. There are about 7 thugged out people standing outside our door. They say they didn't mean to knock on our door, but who knows. We end up talking to them for a while, and it's all chill, until suddenly they start accusing us of hating on them. Of being prejudice. This is absurd!!! There is no grounds for anything, but you can tell they were just looking for trouble. At first they refused to leave, but Christa got in their faces and finally they split. It was completely absurd.

The next morning Lindsay gets approached by a lady escort who wants to recruit her to a job in the escort service. Apparently the stereotype about cheap motels is absolutely true. :)

We checked out (happily) and spent all day on the beach. Ocean Beach. My favorite SD beach. It was cold for the beach, and also overcast, but we somehow managed to get sunburned anyway. We did a little shopping, adn then went to pitch our tent in Christa's mom's back yard (no more motels, thanks) before heading out to party again for the night. This time we went to check out the Industrial scene first (great music but slow and really awesome bartender) and then this other hip pop club (where we stayed until it closed). Again, we danced and rocked out and had a blast. It was amazing have Christa and Lindsay together adn dancing with me. My two girls who have never met one another but who are the most important to me. It was wonderful! After the night out, we decide to get some food. This is fine, but what were we thinking going to a cheap Mexican fast food place? I got a carne asada quesadilla that had SO much grease. It was delicious at hte time, but we all paid for that later.

Anyway, the next day we spent on the beach yet again. It was overcast and cold. Of course. But we enjoyed it. We ate lunch on the pier, and then later Christa took us to Seal Beach and then to watch the sunset at an overlook. There wasn't really much of a sunset, but the whole place is extremely beautiful. That night we had to rest. It's hard to go out till the crack of dawn three nights in a row.

The next morning, we packed up and hit the road. It was back to Tucson. I wanted to be able to show Lindsay around before she had to fly back. We stopped to play in the sand dunes in Yuma on the way.

We got into Tucson in the early afternoon, relishing the heat and blaring sun. We headed straight for the pool. Very shortly thereafter, Lindsay's mom (Rhonda)'s friend, Charles , stopped as he was passing through Tucson. We all chilled by the pool and exchanged adventure stories (as he was having one of his own as well). Later that night we decided to go to 4th Ave where we did a lot of hopping around, dancing, laughing, and general debauchery. Arriving home at 3 a.m., we had decided we hadn't had quite enough fun, so the party continued. There was more laughing, swimming, and a very failed attempt at a motorcycle ride. But oh boy was it fun.

The next day brought an early morning motorcycle tour (one I very much enjoyed) courtesy of Charles. I didn't realize how much I missed all those days of bike rides in Mass. Oh boy do I miss it. We spent lots of time in the sun at the pool, and later ate an amazing Italian meal that made me feel like I was in Europe because it took more than 3 hours to eat. What a life! That night brought more good times, funny stories, and utter exhaustion.

Wednesday morning we awoke early to join Daniel for a little adventure to the San Xavier del Bac Mission just a little south of here. I've been wanting to go, but hadn't had the chance. It was pretty cool. We spent a while just taking all that in. After getting back, we chanced upon this antique gun shop where Lindsay and I found some cheap jewelry treasures. And later that day we dined like gods on some yummy Indian cuisine, and then headed over to Saguaro Naitonal Park to see the sunset. I love it there. We stayed long past sunset and laid on the concrete overlook to gaze at the stars. I love being in immense places with immense people. These two people are certainly immense, and I consider myself eternally grateful to have gotten to share things like this with them.

Thursday morning it was up early to go hiking in Sabino Canyon. It was already pretty hot by 8 a.m., but we saw a ton of wildlife. Up next was a little cowpoke adventure through Old Tucson where we were witness to the cancan show, the gunfight, and our own insanity. We even rode the train all around the little town. It's so cute there. That night was back to the Surly Wench where (on the last night we'd all spend together), we certainly went out with a bang. It was a blast.

Friday brought goodbyes as the wonderful cowboy who had ridden through town continued his journey and the beautiful cowgirl who had adventured with me continued hers. It was hard to know that I couldn't just spend the rest of my life on a vacation like this.

I headed straight to Phoenix after dropping Lindsay off at the airport, to meet up with my other Charles. I spent the weekend there and drove the Apache Trail (breathtaking), and even got to see Goldfield, an old ghost town along the way. We had many an adventure, and I feel like a different person.

In fact, my entire life stretches around me and all I know is that the physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual events of the past 2.5 weeks have left me beautifully and unalterably and profoundly dumbfounded. So much beauty!!! So much adventure. These are the things I live for.

Thanks for reading. And thanks for being a fan. It means a lot to me.