Three days. I arrive over one day ahead of schedule even though I pace myself. By ‘pace myself’ I mean I drive 15 hours the first day and 17 the next. Dover, NH to Howell, MI. Howell, MI to Oklahoma City, OK. As I push through southern Kansas I can feel something tugging on my heart strings. Whether it is a product of my imagination or not matters little; it is incredibly real to me. It is the west calling. After fifteen months of separation I feel the spirit of the southwest calling out to me, beckoning another nomad to it’s wild and rugged beauty; a place that can keep a restless soul within it’s expansive borders. Impatient & wanting to be in the southwest, I am also held by a permeating feeling of calm, knowing it is only a matter of time before being back home.
My last night of July is spent in Oklahoma, truly leaving the east for good and beginning the end of summer at the gates of the west – the panhandle of Texas. I am aware that these descriptions seem exaggerated and romanticized but if you knew how the west made me feel, you would find joy in my descriptions. After five hours of sleep in Oklahoma I hungrily push further south on a diet of orange juice and combos snacks. Gross – an unnatural combo (forgive the pun!). 8:43am marked the arrival I had been anticipating the previous day. To me, Texas equals the gates at the end of the Midwest’s
beltway. I try not to think about the few hours of driving over the unimpressive panhandle to get to where I want to be. I don’t have to think about it since driving through the town of Vega reminds me why it is best I refrain from doing so. The offensive smell of asphalt and cow farm-factories compliment the washed out color of the landscape and the trash everywhere. I am inclined to believe it is a federal prop town like the government used to make in the mid 19’s as weapons testing sites. Oddly enough, it bled right out of the town of Amarillo like leftovers. Halfway there.
Watching the blue arrow indicator on my gps more than the actual road, I count the minutes until I reach the first part of enchantment. Finally…..12:12pm arrives and I let out a scream like a cowboy high on adrenaline while racing his steed across the flats and under the towering mesa’s of the desert’s first frontier. Dear New Mexico, Snads has arrived!!
Although the state line is not much for scenery, it quickly changes as you move further through the state and broad mesa’s stretch out from nowhere taunting you from your car on the road. You feel smaller and in the presence of something far older and greater than you. This is the nature of nature in southwestern America. It challenges you. It brings me peace.
Over the years I’ve heard my friends impressions of the southwest, only one of whom has actually been there; that it is barren, brown, and a wasteland. While some parts fit that unflattering description, there are plenty of areas that are full of life, water, greenery and beauty. Allow me to show you.
For the next 5 hours, I climb in elevation and the air naturally changes with it. Crisp, light and detached is how it feels. In spite of it, I am infused with a feeling I cannot describe. Perhaps it is just a placebo effect and I want to feel it or have anticipated it and created it myself. Who cares! This is my land and where I belong.
As I charge toward the mountains sitting in front of Albuquerque, I see the sunsets I have witnessed in this exact spot over the years; hybrids of orange and red light spill over the ridges of the dusty purple mountains. There is little transition from the warm colors of the sunset to the cold, deep blues of the impending night sky that hovers above it. Magnificent in my mind and fresh it is! One would think I’d pull over in Albuquerque and find a place to live due to my reaction to it. No, it’s not enough and I always knew there was more further west. Having arrived in Albuquerque 4 hours early, the debate over whether to stay the night there or continue onward is brief. Arizona, I am coming for you tonight (as creepy as that likely sounds).
An ominous storm looms outside of the city limits – a completely different sentiment than the one I am filled with. I had been hoping for sunshine to provide me with better picture opportunities of western New Mexico but it is not to be. I no longer care; pictures be damned, I am now solely focused on arriving in Arizona. The rainstorm crosses the state line and I figure I will be welcomed home with pouring rain the rest of the way. How wrong I am. Within twenty minutes of crossing the border into Arizona, the clouds begin to roll back, dissipate and fade into my rear view mirror, leaving me with the following sight.
Tears fill my eyes (I did not cry though) and a feeling similar to the one I was taken by upon leaving 15 months ago fills me again. If I smile any bigger, my teeth might shatter into a million pieces. And not because that is a defense tactic I learned how to do for the sake of my survival. I cannot go into details. I’m joking, right?
I spend the night in Holbrook at a Motel 6 because I don’t care where I stay the night, so long as it is clean. The euphoria of being back in Arizona, a mere four hours from home, combined with the appreciation of the beautiful sunset out my window makes me wish this feeling has no end. I meet a family outside that has a ten month old boxer named Milly and when I mention to their two kids that I was traveling with Thane, my 2 year old boxer they shriek with excitement, asking me to bring him out. A 30 minute play date between the two dogs ensues, much to the amusement of everybody gathering.
Back in the motel. Starving. Dirty. I order pizza & breadsticks from Pizza Hut (poke fun or turn your nose up if you wish organic zealots but that kid of food is what we all need in such circumstances, lol), shower and shave quickly, light up, turn on my KiD CuDi and enjoy the rest of the evening, the end of which includes talking with my love on the phone. After two months we are so close yet must wait one more day. Needless to say, morning breaks and I make the last short leg (like a stump – the stumpy part) of the trip into Phoenix.
Fifteen trying months on the east coast and now I know this is where I want to be for good. I have finally returned!