Quin's Progress


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Buckle Up For A Whirlwind Road Trip!

Time for a quick update, to bring y’all up to speed.  Since the last post, I’ve been across the country and back, getting ready to leave for Korea tomorrow.  I don’t want to bore you with too many details, so here’s the nutshell account.  Let’s see, where did I leave off….oh yes, the Grand Canyon.  Okay, so, we’re in Arizona….P1030112

P1030116I had been driving for hours along the old Route 66 between Flagstaff and Winslow, and I desperately had to pee, so when I saw this funny little unofficial looking sign saying there was a meteor crater at the next exit, I figured, what the heck, there’s probably a bathroom, I’ll check it out.  P1030101

That's one screamin' fast shuttle!

That’s one screamin’ fast shuttle!

Six miles down the road off the highway, there’s an asphalt parking lot, with tremendously stimulating signs leading up the hill to the entrance of the aforesaid meteor crater visitor center.  They only tell you after you’ve climbed the hill that it’s $16 to get in, which I thought was kind of mean; they should tell you that before you hike your butt all the way up there, because, you know, there might be some people out there who don’t want to spend $16 to look at a big dimple.  But, I didn’t want to have climbed that hill for nothing, and the potty situation was closing in on dire, so I paid my sixteen bucks and went in.

The floor of the crater is bigger than 20 football fields

The floor of the crater is bigger than 20 football fields

Holy cosmic pock marks, Batman, that is one big hole in the ground!  After the Grand Canyon, the threshold for big holes in the ground being impressive had been raised quite a bit, I must say.  But if you go through the little museum, and watch the short film they have, the significance of the place becomes clear–it’s one of the only confirmed meteor impact sites in the world.  Most other craters are the result of a volcanic caldera.  I never knew that.  P1030099Anyhoo, the really groovy thing about this spot is that, in the 1960s and 70s, NASA trained astronauts here, including the Apollo astronauts, because of its similarity to craters on the moon.  They even had a lunar landing capsule on site that the astronauts used for training purposes.  Very I Dream of Jeannie.  Ooh, and remember that 1984 movie “Starman” with Jeff Bridges?  The spacecraft impact parts of it were filmed here.  Cool, no?

P1030075

Not a Painting

There was a red brick wall around the visitor center plaza, with this open viewing window in it; with the vista beyond, it so reminded me of a Magritte painting.  Don’t you think?

"Standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona...."

“Standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona….”

A few miles down the road, I had to stop in Winslow, Arizona and, well, you know…stand on a corner.  Because of the Eagles song.  I didn’t see any girls in flatbed Fords, and the only one to slow down and take a look at me was the guy driving the street sweeping truck.  That’s not very poetic, though.  There is, however, a loudspeaker on the appointed corner, that blares Eagles music on a loop, into the otherwise unoccupied atmosphere, and there’s an Eagles-themed shop on the adjacent corner, where one can buy all manner of “Take It Easy” t-shirts, etc., but I refrained.  I’m told I missed out on the classic gag, though, because I didn’t find a pay phone and crank call someone and sing a few bars of “Take It Easy” to them.  Sorry for failing y’all like that!  Moving on….

Middle of nowhere, New Mexico

Middle of nowhere, New Mexico

Driving through the southwest, you really do get a sense of how vast the United States is.  Miles and miles of open, literally amazing landscapes and endless horizons, with hours between towns.  It’s strange, too, how the landscape shifts subtly but so distinctly as you cross state borders.  Leaving Arizona and entering New Mexico, suddenly the Painted Desert splashes different colors across the land, and the surface of the earth buckles up in spots to replace the flat desert behind you.  It’s quite beautiful.

IMG_3607P1030141Zooming along toward Santa Fe, I had to pull over again to see the Continental Divide.  That’s got to be something, right?  Where the water flows in different directions from a specific cleft in the tectonic plates of the earth?  Well, turns out, all there is to see is a U.S. Geological Survey sign, and a truly weird curio shop, that was closed anyway.  Still, worth pulling over, just to note the occasion.P1030148

Santa Fe and I didn’t get off to a good start.  I was in an evil mood from the minute I got there; I seriously think I would have bitten someone in the leg if I’d had the chance.  Everything was annoying me, and I’m usually pretty easygoing.  Then, I overheard someone in a cafe say something about having trouble getting used to the altitude, and it hit me.  I butted into their conversation and asked what the altitude is, and when she answered it was 7,200 feet, I realized, I wasn’t just in a bad mood, I was oxygen deprived!  No wonder!  This happened to me in Mexico City, too.  I couldn’t walk a block without getting winded, and I felt so bitchy and mean for the first few days; it was ugly.  But, thankfully, the fix is easy enough.  Just slow it down, and drink steadily.  So, that’s what I did.

The Ladies' Room door at the Pink Adobe

The Ladies’ Room door at the Pink Adobe

Pink Dragon

Pink Dragon

Meet the Pink Dragon:  a prickly pear fruit margarita from the Dragon Room at the Pink Adobe in Santa Fe.  I plied myself with this elixir until I was restored to my usual state of near equanimity, and then Santa Fe’s charms were more obvious to me.  There’s really no disputing that the surrounding high desert is breathtaking.  Even if you aren’t a desert person, just stand still and stare and breathe for a while, and the palette of colors, and spectrum of textures will dizzy you.  Or maybe it’s just the altitude, I don’t know.

Old HouseI particularly loved how the oldest house and church in the United States has an adjacent beer garden.  Perfect for my altitude coping mechanism.P1030184

I happened to arrive in town on the eve of the annual Santa Fe Fiesta, which commences with a Burning Man type ritual in which they immolate the “Zozobra,” a 50-foot tall effigy of the boogeyman, intended to chase out the bad spirits for the coming year.  P1030228P1030281The remainder of the weekend hosts a festival, with booths of food and art and crafts and such all over downtown, and several stages of music and local dance troop performances.  It was just the thing to sand off my moody rough edges.

Navajo Taco

Navajo Taco

Especially, the Navajo Tacos, made with roast lamb and Indian fry bread.  Mmm-mmm!

I saw Melissa Etheridge wandering around town that weekend, and heard she was in town giving a concert at the Santa Fe Opera House, which is about 20 minutes outside town out in the desert mountains.  I’ve always liked her music, so, I snagged a ticket and went.

Santa Fe Opera House

Santa Fe Opera House

What a glorious place that opera house is!  The architecture of the theater is open on the sides, so you are basically sitting outside in the desert air, but covered, so it can storm and rain and thunder and lightening, and the show can still go on.  A fantastic venue for a Wagner opera, I’m sure.  But Melissa Etheridge was pretty good too.  I think the sound of her voice is like having whiskey poured down your naked back.

P1030284After a couple days’ break in Santa Fe, it was time to hit the road again, for two more days driving to Fort Worth to Dad’s house.  I must say, though, the highway through the eastern half of New Mexico is not exactly hard on the eyes.  Although, I did accidentally blast past the exit for Roswell, and didn’t realize it until I was almost to  Amarillo, because I was singing along with great gusto to Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ Greatest Hits…that’s some good road trip music, right there.  Anyway, I had been hoping to bookend the meteor crater report with some shots of the Alien Autopsy and UFO museum for you, but oh well.  Sorry ’bout that.

cadillacs

Cadillac Ranch
Amarillo, TX

As a consolation, just west of Amarillo, I happened upon the Cadillac Ranch:  a plowed field into which someone has upended a bunch of old Cadillacs, nose down into the ground, in a sort of single-file Stonehenge homage.  It was very random and definitely hilarious.  cadillacs2Graffiti is welcome, and there are squillions of discarded spray paint cans strewn about, for anyone to use to add their mark to the Cadillac canvas.  Who says Texans don’t have a sense of whimsy?

As for the rest of my time in Texas, I discovered that macaroni and cheese is classified as a vegetable at the Cracker Barrel (I can get on board with that), and that this song exists:

Next stop, New York City!  My friend James and I were lazing about Washington Square Park, and this girl was sashaying around the fountain, workin’ it hard enough to throw her back out, throwing smoldering glances over her shoulder at no one in particular.  girl1She was like a living Virginia Slims commercial, and I instantly loved her.  So, I stalked her for a while, taking pictures of her….since that’s obviously what she thought was already happening.  Hate to let all that catwalkin’ go to waste.

Fabulous thighs on that model, no?

Fabulous thighs on that model, no?

We happened upon a real photo shoot under the steps in front of Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, and I felt bad that Ms. Virginia Slims wasn’t there to jump in on the fun.

Bethesda Fountain

Bethesda Fountain

I finally made it to the Tenement Museum on Delancey and Orchard Streets on the Lower East Side, which I’ve been meaning to do for the last several times I was in New York.

It’s a well-preserved example of the type of tenement homes that housed thousands of immigrant families in New York in the early to mid- 1900’s in cramped, sometimes unsanitary quarters.

I know the museum and tour were supposed to impress upon us the squalid conditions in which these people had to live, because they had no other options, but honestly, all I could think the whole time was “I know several people who would kill for this apartment!”

Then it was back to San Francisco, to see the doctor, the dentist, the bikini waxer, and basically get everything fluffed and buffed and ready to take off for Korea!


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Can You Dig It?

My Road Trip Route

My Road Trip Route

It has been an action-packed couple of weeks, gentle friends, and may I just say, I’m glad it’s behind me.  I sold my house, and got rid of the vast majority of my stuff in anticipation of the big upcoming adventure.  Moving sucks under the best of circumstances, but trust me, the air traffic control on getting rid of large quantities of crap is way trickier than for just moving it from one house to another.  So exhausting.  Anyhoo, now I’m road trippin’ to Texas, to put my car in my dad’s garage for safekeeping while I’m gallivanting about the globe.  It’s almost 2,000 miles!  I’m giving myself a week to get there, so I can go at an easy pace.

After the Hell Week of moving, every cell in my body was whimpering pathetically in pain, so my first stop was Las Vegas, where I planned to have myself a nice, calm, restorative spa day.  Checked-in to a sexy luxe room at The Cosmopolitan (although the Google Maps mobile app seemed certain that I was, in fact, reserved at the delivery entrance behind the Bellagio–it would not direct me anywhere else).  This room was gorgeous.  However, there had apparently been some fairly significant shenanigans going on in there earlier.  When I got up there, there was a maintenance guy re-hanging the closet door, the bathroom mirror was cracked, the articulating lamp next to the bed was dangling from the wall like a disembodied arm with a compound fracture, and the TV had suffered some kind of blunt force trauma, damaging the LED right in the middle, causing an electric green splotch to appear on the forehead of any face in the center of the screen, as though a radioactive pigeon had been plaguing the set of every show I tried to watch.

Keep Refrigerated!

Keep Refrigerated!

I didn’t complain, though, because I was already kind of on the hotel manager’s watch list after having to tell him that his bell man had, somewhere between my car and my room, lost a small styrofoam cooler containing several capsules of live Typhoid virus, and that he had to find it a.s.a.p., as the virus is vulnerable to the heat (it was 95 degrees out).  I waited until the cooler had been located to tell him that, although the viruses were, indeed, alive, they were deactivated–eunuch viruses, so to speak–not an outbreak waiting to happen.  (These capsules were among a battery of travel vaccines I just got.  The others were all shots, though.  The FDA apparently recalled all the Typhoid vaccine injections; hence, the capsules, which I had to take over the course of a week, and keep refrigerated the whole time, or they would die and be useless.)  He was not amused.

The next day went smoother.  After brunch with bottomless bloody marys, I did this:

SPF 1,000

SPF 1,000 Required!

And then this:

sahra

China Poblano

China Poblano

Followed by dinner at China Poblano, a Chinese-Mexican fusion dream that finally makes it possible for Fernando and me to both have our favorite foods at the same time!  Ooh, it was good, too.  I had a Singapore Sling, chicken flautas with mole sauce, and these really imaginative, scrumptious lamb potstickers under a crispy, demure veil of cumin “lace,” with edible flower blossom garnish.  I’ve never put anything like it in my mouth before, and that’s saying something.  Just look at them!

Lamb Potstickers under crunchy cumin "lace" and chicken flautas

Lamb Potstickers under crunchy cumin “lace” and chicken flautas

After that day of indulgences, I woke up in a much improved, yet saucy mood.  So, I did what anyone would do, and I went……and dug a big hole with an excavator.  Yes, you heard me.  An excavator.

My Steed

My Steed

A Cat 315C excavator, to be exact. There’s this place across the freeway from the Strip, called “Dig This,” that is a sort of heavy equipment playground.  You can actually go and drive a big excavator.  They have bulldozers, too, but I didn’t want to just push things back and forth.  I wanted to dig a trench and pick up tractor tires and stuff.

Safety Sandbox

Roger and the Safety Sandbox

They make you take a breathalizer test first, so they don’t have a bunch of drunks out there ramming into each other.  Then, there’s a little safety class with a cute little demonstration with models in a sandbox.

I'm so pleased to have a new marketable skill!

I’m so pleased to have a new marketable skill!

Then they take you out and put you in the cab of the machine, go over everything again, and hook you up with a headset so Roger, the instructor, can communicate with you the whole time.  (He also has a remote shut-down switch for your machine around his neck, so if you go rogue, he can stop you from crossing the freeway and crashing into the Strip like Godzilla.)

Inside the Cab

Inside the Cab

There's even a hook for your purse in there!

There’s even a hook for your purse!

Never having been inside the cab of an excavator before, it took some getting used to.  It taxes the coordination a bit at first.  This lever moves the boom up and down, that lever extends the arm back and forth, this other one rotates the cab, that one opens and closes the bucket, and those two in the front operate the tracks that move the machine around.  Oh, and there’s a purse hook in there, too, for the ladies.  Very important.

Scoopin'

Scoopin’

Dumpin'

Dumpin’

After a while, I got the hang of it, and I was an excavatin’ fool!  Zooming all over the yard, spinning the cab around, digging trenches…I even won the tire stacking contest.  We even played Excavator Basketball.  It was a hoot and a half, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Carrying a giant tire

Carrying a giant tire

Tire Stacking Champion!

Tire Stacking Champion!

The excavator basketball version of dribbling

The excavator basketball version of dribbling

Swish!

Swish!

I got so carried away, I kept digging at that trench, and digging digging digging, until look what I did!

Excavator gone wild!

Excavator gone wild!

Just teasing, Roger pulled the plug on me long before I excavated across Interstate 15.  But, I did drive on to the Grand Canyon the following day.  I hadn’t been since I was a kid.  I’m sure it hasn’t changed much since then, but I don’t recall the sight of it, coming into view as you crest the trail up at the rim, having such an effect on me back then.  You’re walking up the trail, la-de-da, looking at the wildflowers and the squirrels busking for food, and then…the earth’s mouth opens up in front of you.  It’s a sight that is very hard to turn away from.  It feels disrespectful, almost, to turn and go, not knowing if or when you are going to see it again.  So, I just stood there, taking it in, until the sun was long gone.

South Rim Grand Canyon

South Rim
Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

Go at sunset, if you get the chance

Go at sunset, if you get the chance