Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Well, the traveling is over for now

We arrived at our destination a few hours ago. The trip was mostly uneventful - just the usual issues of motion among the wee ones, and the usual crankiness and frayed nerves that come from being cooped up in a vehicle for hours on end. Much to my amazement, we only forgot minor items and nothing major! From my vantagepoint, that is the mark of a good traveling experience. Yes, for some seasoned travelers, such expectations might seem modest, but to me that is grand indeed.

I of course know this particular route like the back of my hand, and have been through the I-40 corridor from New Mexico through the Mojave Desert in California many times now for a quarter of a century (give or take). I make mental notes of the little changes that mark the scenery. One observation I would probably make is this: the forest surrounding the Flagstaff area is in the midst of a transition - to what I am uncertain. What I can say is that in the mid 1980s, the pine trees looked healthy, and aside from the lower humidity, it reminded me a bit of western Washington and Oregon. I have watched a growing number of those same trees show signs of stress and illness - whether it's from extended periods of drought, vulnerability to diseases or predatory insects, or whatever, there are a striking number of trees that are dying or dead. I wonder, if I'm around to travel that route in another quarter century, what the area around Flagstaff will look like.

Until recently, the atmosphere in the high plains felt every bit as dry as the atmosphere in places like Winslow, AZ. Perhaps that will give some an idea of the sheer scope of the drought that my home has experienced this year.

Gas prices are high, but not quite as outrageous as I had expected. I'm glad that our mode of transport, while bigger than what I'm accustomed, gets okay enough mileage. Oh, and this was the first summer where I didn't actually have to worry about finding a vacant hotel room - at least thus far. We'll see if I am of the same opinion after the return portion of the journey.

One of the cool thing about traveling is encountering some really cool fellow humans. While we were getting some lunch at a truckstop just outside of Tucumcari, we met a young man named Hakim, who was in the midst of walking from NYC to Los Angeles. We chatted a while as Madame and the younger ones finished their meals, and learned a great deal from Hakim, including the importance of starting on the west coast rather than the east coast so as not to have to hike through the desert in the summer (or to have to walk against the wind the entire wary), and of course that if I ever were to get serious about weight loss, nothing beats a hike across the US. Although a native of Algeria, he's lived in the US for quite a while, and appeared like someone just young enough to have recently finished college. His basic message seemed to be this: if you want to do something, it's possible. Hakim has a website, if you're inclined to visit, called Paint Atlas. I'm sure he's got some stories to tell. Hopefully the rest of his journey is a good one.

So it goes. Be well, and I will have more to say here as time permits.

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