Oct 11, 2015

Finally back on the road...

A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more,
feel more, enjoy more in one mile
than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles.
Edward Abbey

Finally, and happily, back on the road...

... and as usual, we choose and discover a new road less traveled.

Following a windy road in the early dawn, the sun is barely warming the day while changing the look of the desert landscape as it travels upward; moving, lightening or deepening shaded areas. Long-horn cows feed their tiny calves on the open road, a good time for us to slow down, be still and watch, inhaling the morning air, and taking in this fleeting moment. Nikki wants to bark at these unknown large critters, her tail wildly swishing back and forth. It is hard to contain her excitement. The little ones finally become skittish and skip away into the dusty and thorny bushes of the unforgiving dry desert, enjoying this time in their young mother-protected lives. Mothers shortly follow. We are again seemingly 'alone' on this quiet road, resuming our drive.

A shrine pops up on the side of the road at the outside of what could be a dangerous curve if taken too fast. Simple plain black and white, a motorcycle helmet on a wooden cross. One doesn't have to think much to imagine that end. Yes this is a windy road. For some, an opportunity to take time to see their surroundings, for others, a time to test their limits. Three years of sailing has taught us to not fret time or distance. We all get there eventually.

At an additional curve we discover another interesting sight. Someone liberating a hundred or so homing pigeons from their cages scattered on the desert floor. Their white, gray, and black wings beating in unison towards the rising sun, like a very well synchronized team. They are aiming back to where they were driven from. The man who released them is taking pictures. We thought of stopping to ask questions but he seemed too busy recording the event. Many of these types of birds were used to carry messages up to 1,000 miles away. No one yet agrees how they accomplish this, many theories are still being researched.

Fortaleza Ruins. Tohono O'odham Nation

On the radio someone talks about Cuba now that relations between the USA and that country are changing. Cruise ships are already clamoring to be first to entice tourists to its shores. The way they plan to convince people to go is to use the angle that it is Educational Tourism since Wi-Fi, water, and other amenities will not be easy to find, avoiding the use of words like third world, impoverished or simpler lifestyle.

Few plants still have nourishing fruits hanging on, fewer flowers yet. We are at the end of another hot summer and things are slowly turning towards dormancy. Fruits have been mostly eaten by birds or insects, their seeds scattered so the next generation will grow further afield. The cycle of life continuing. Most of this valley is unfenced, the road nearly returning to gravel from years without upgrades, the wild slowly taking control again. Leaves are turning slightly golden, a hue more in tune with the slowing down of the fall/winter seasons. Dry skeletons of trees or cacti are holding sentinel over new generations of plants, providing little nutrients and shade for a hopefully better head-start.

Light is now too intense to take decent not washed-out pictures. A commentator on the radio shares words of wisdom that seem to flow with what we are currently experiencing: "Words are to the writer what light is to the photographer." We connect with that sentiment while we watch a hawk gracefully gliding towards its next meal.

Cottonwoods appear to the right, an indicator of a wetter location. Spanish sounding signs indicating 'rivers' pop up above dry beds, the desert merciless. We continue, now in silence, along this two-lane road, having finally lost radio reception. A few ranches proudly display their names by the road. Rancho Santa Maria, Rancho Diego, etc., works of arts (sculptures, paintings, metal cut-outs) hanging high above a wide gated entrance, other, afterthoughts on an old piece of wood haphazardly laid by the side of a weed-filled two-furrow road.

Lucha Libre characters at restaurant
Graying tumbleweeds have been freed of their roots by age, drought and wind. They are rolling around and piling up on the few obstacles they encounter along the way. Somewhat a version of nature's plastic bags, found in so many places along the road. I once saw a snowman made of stacked-up tumbleweeds painted white. My first Christmas in the desert - what a strange sight it was. Now I think of it as a very ingenious way of using what is available while not destroying nature. The bright white trumpets of the infamous datura vine are in full bloom. They line the roadway instead of the white lines we usually see on paved roads. Further up deep yellow tufted grasses line the road - reminding us of the yellow brick road of the famous Wizard of Oz.

Only signs of improvements are the road we are on, a few dams or water canals, power lines, the odd fence, and a small number of mine shafts usually surrounded by old rusty equipment. We are mostly surrounded by plants, sand, and rocks. Everything is raw, easy for the eye to see, but not for the mind to fully comprehend. We are aiming higher still and the air is cooler. We finally see a river with small interconnected pools of brackish stagnant water, no water truly flowing but a treasure to wildlife nevertheless. I prefer the work of erosion over anything human-made.

As we pass a few dormant towns, American Indian meets Mexico. Lucia's Restaurant has a Kokopelli mural near the door. Navajo blankets are sold at El Rey (the king). It reminds me of just how much Halloween is now being accepted in Mexico while we are experiencing more and more the 'Day of the Dead' here.

Patchworks of farm fields and desert intermingle, green, yellow, gray, deeper green, brown repeated over and over in various patterns. As we change altitude or latitude trees replace cacti or vice versa, micro regions colliding with one another at their junctions. Creosote and grasses replacing trees or tall cacti turning to shorter versions.

Being away from the boat has shown us we miss the physicality of things. You can see pictures of whale-sharks, read about an aurora borealis, or hear about the best regional foods but nothing beats the 'experience' of it, NOTHING.

A quick stop to refuel, back to 'civilization' to do so. It is September and over 88F at mid-day. We watch, and puzzle at the sight of a man with a very long white beard wearing a velvety red hat with a white pompom at its end and red pajamas walking down the road connecting back to the highway. Santa Claus is taking time off where it is warm... He reminds us of a man on a bike we saw about a month ago on an even hotter day. He had cut a pizza box to fit his head and was wearing it as a cap for shade.

The rising moon goes left or right of the car as we zigzag up and down valleys, basins, canyons, around dry lakes and mountains. Our first day of driving to our destination is over, it is time to find a place to camp for the night as darkness and coolness creep up quickly. We are at higher altitude, the air is crisp. We scare off a lone pronghorn as we crawl up a rutted grassy road. The sound of the grass under the car similar to the waves at the bow, swoosh... Cows are returning to the feeding stations. Coyotes' yelps echo against the tall cliff. Slowly their calls taken over by the chirps of crickets. We sleep under a very clear starry sky and it takes a long time for sounds to fade away with the cold of the night.

We are happy to relax for a while and hope you have enjoyed traveling North with us in the good old USA - not Mexico as you would have expected from previous posts on our blog. (All pictures on this post are from US).

The above descriptions are much more common in Mexico than the places we normally travel to in the US. Slightly change the types of plants and animals and you cannot tell the difference between the two except that we have seen the US portion at 50 miles an hour rather than the 5 miles we do on Déjàlà in Mexico. From cockpit to windshield we can still enjoy nature in all its forms. Hope you did too.

Don't forget to discover your own backyard...

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