Jul 252011

The small cabin on the dock was our home away from home here at Five Branches Camper Park in Bayfield, Colorado on the Vallecito Resevoir

That sweet little cabin over on the dock was our home away from home for the past five days while we stayed at Five Branches Camper Park on Vallecito Reservoir. Our lakeside view, the beautiful forest, and the ride through the woods every day is hard to leave behind. Lucky for us, we leave with fond memories. The two bears that had been visiting the camp nearly every night, didn’t have the chance to eat us or any of our neighbors. The sun rose, it set, and inbetween we saw the sun, unless the stars were out. This place could easily stay on our list of places to return to someday. Sadly, we never had the opportunity to go out kayaking or canoeing. The problem here is that no one can take a boat out before 8:00 a.m. by which time we were already gone, and boats had to be returned by 5:00, we never got back much before 6:00. No matter though, we enjoyed our stay.

Two osprey starting to build a tree top nest next to Vallecito Reservoir in Bayfield, Colorado

Today Caroline was sporting her eagle eye as while we were driving along the narrow lakeside road she spotted two large birds sitting atop a barren tree. I turned around so we could inspect (and verify her rare find – think myopic), sure enough, she had seen two osprey, also known as sea hawks. The bird coming in for a landing is carrying a branch that we watched it snatch off a nearby tree with a pronounced snap. It circled around and was about to deliver the beginnings of a new nest for momma and poppa bird.

Aspen stand off the Redrock Highway in northern Arizona on the Navajo Reservation

The next hours we drove through the Ute Reservation and their town of Ignacio. Next was Aztec, New Mexico and the first and one of the last Starbucks we would find before passing through Flagstaff, Arizona later in the day. So, I’m addicted. It is a long drive from Durango, Colorado to Phoenix, Arizona. After Aztec and nearly the same town, we drive through Farmington. It was in Farmington back on October 19, 2000 that we had the chance to spend a night at Kokopelli Cave while my mother in-law Jutta was visiting. The cave is one of the most unique places in all of America to stay at. But today, we are going home.

Looking south on the Navajo Reservation in eastern Arizona

We have left the Redrock Highway with some great views and beautiful red sandstone bluffs but quality photos were not in the cards this trip. Back down on flat land we were afforded some tremendous vistas, even a little rain was spotted way off in the distance left of the centerline. No rivers, no trees, not much of anything out here, can you guess why this made perfect Indian Reservation land? The answer is easy, there was nothing our forefathers wanted from this land. Caroline and I find it infinitely gorgeous, sadly, most tourists do not. The casual observer gets distracted by the poverty, desolation, and inane stereotypes that have been propagated over the years regarding the indigenous people of North America.

Two dead calves roadside on the Navajo Reservation

Two dead calves lie in front of the gate that leads to Keams, Arizona – they are a warning to white people to not trespass on Indian lands. Black magic as used by drunken Indians on welfare is a fashion on the Rez, it’s like white trash girls wearing big framed sunglasses sporting slutty clothes or some dufus guy wearing his white baseball cap backwards with his pants hanging off his ass so we can read what size boxers he wears – it’s just a fashion, nothing more – but it is effective in keeping others away. Or I’m full of cow-poop, yep, that’s more like it, but these two cows wasting away, who could-have-been-steaks, are probably clean out of poop or any other fluid. Even if one were to want to open the gate to take a shortcut to Keams, how would you maneuver the carcasses?

New Native American pictographs of Mickey are replacing the more old fashioned Kokopelli, dear, or sign for the sun, water, or some other dumb stuff

This is the new face of Native American rock-art, also known as pictographs. Out with Kokopelli, the sun, water, dear, or other tired old-fashioned symbols from the previous thousands of years. Modern Indians are putting down new icons, like Mickey Freakin Mouse. Strangely, Mickey is almost across the street from the two dead calves, could this be some mysterious signal to passing native motorists that running down animals to leave subversive and superstitious looking roadside messages is right on? Then they throw out Disney characters to disorient us tourists into fearing the red man. Maybe the tide is turning and the Indian is getting wise to our wacky rightwing belief systems and are starting to toy with our heads. Native America, rise up and takeover the media landscape, it’s time for revenge against what was taken from you. First step, corrupt our icons.

A curve in the road on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona

With the aerosol bombardment of peyote starting to wear off, a curve in the road returns me to my senses and out of the hallucinations I was obviously having back there deep on the Rez. I’m sure that later when I look back at those photos, the dead calves and Mickey will have proven to be a figment of my imagination. You can bet I’m happy to be returning to normal.

Up that way is the Navajo Rez, behind the camera is America. Fuck yeah!

In front of the camera is Rez land, behind me is America where I feel like a white guy. Soon, we will approach gas stations with hordes of hot tourists driving down Interstate 40 clogging some the grimiest bathrooms your nose wants to experience in the summer. Flushed of their overflowing bladders, they will flock to the freezer for ice-creams and coke – good old American food, no more of that sinewy old mutton and fry bread cooked in lard for me. Just me and my America, going home. Makes me well up and think about listening to this when I get home. Click here to listen and watch


Sep 262010

Old fashioned motel signs on Main Street in Mesa, Arizona

Nostalgia beckons on Main Street in Mesa, Arizona with a slew of old fashioned motel signs lining the road. Caroline was attending a meeting of the Intermountain Weavers and I had about an hour and a half to entertain myself. Out of the parking lot of a fancy new hotel where the meeting was taking place I drove east on Main stopping to admire these great old motel signs. I wish I didn’t live in the Phoenix area so I could justify taking a drive to Arizona and staying in a couple of these places that harken back to an era when exploring the United States by car brought a sense of amazement that neon was lighting the night and the drive-in restaurant was making life convenient. Today’s hotels are sterile and common, the restaurants uniform and generic. A golden age is gone replaced by a sense that nothing is very important or new. What of this modern era will have us look back in thirty years with fond recollection of a time when things looked more modern than the future?

Aug 212010

Caroline Wise and John Wise standing in front of the sign welcoming visitors to Bagdad, Arizona

Some years ago Caroline and I were on a quest to see as much of Arizona as possible. In our attempt, we kept a map and after each trip we took a Sharpie and drew over the roads we had traveled. That map was ultimately nearly full from corner to corner and top to bottom of markings designating the path. And so it was that this year we retired that map and started a new one where we are attempting to retravel all of those roads that stretch across our state. We have been to Bagdad twice before but our current map wouldn’t be complete if didn’t visit small towns like this one all over again.

A rare rock duck indigenous to the Arizona desert

On the narrow winding road out of Bagdad towards Kirkland the rolling desert landscape changes little from corner to corner. But as the elevation increases we are noticing a gradual change from brown to green. Then off in the distance we spot a rare native to the Arizona desert: the elusive desert white rock duck. When they sit very still they blend in with such great stealth that one could easily pass the rock duck and never notice it – well, we did.

Between Bagdad and Kirkland, Arizona somewhere in the low mountain desert

Leaving the town of Kirkland which is actually little more than an intersection with one remaining business still functioning, called the Kirkland Bar & Steakhouse Hotel – on the National Historic Register! If Caroline hadn’t planned on meeting another fiber fanatic while in Prescott before 2:30 we would have stopped for a bite to eat in this historic building, next time. Up the road we went higher and higher.

The Skull Valley Garage in Skull Valley, Arizona

Not far from Prescott is Skull Valley. You go to Skull Valley just because the name is cool. Who cares what’s to do while in Skull Valley, that doesn’t matter as you are now in SKULL Valley! Maybe it would be cooler to be in Nothing but as Nothing is no longer anything we must now satisfy ourselves with visits to Bloody Basin and SKULL Valley! 

A street side mural in Prescott, Arizona

There was actually a bigger purpose to this trip besides a map line, we needed to visit Prescott for a stop in Puttin’ On The Hats. For our trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon which is quickly approaching we needed river hats. Something to shade us from the sun that wouldn’t be ruined after getting drenched. The hats would also require chin straps to prevent them from being dragged off our heads. With the best selection of hats in Arizona and us needing just about any excuse to take a road trip, it was easy justifying a circuitous 250 mile trip just to buy hats. Caroline took some time to meet with Rowena who makes glass bead jewelry. Rowena recommended lunch at Pangea Bakery and for Caroline to dip her toe into A Good Yarn where she could easily lose and arm and a leg spending a small fortune on fiber. Wow, the discipline my wife had in only buying about 3 miles of weaving yarn. We drove back home, end of trip, not end of day, though. Later that evening we attended an incredible performance of Rahim AlHaj, a world-renowned oud virtuoso, at the MIM.

Jul 062010

On the east side of highway 93 the spot called Nothing no longer is anything here in Arizona

Back when Nothing, Arizona was something, it really wasn’t much of anything. And now that Nothing is no more it truly has become nothing, it might even be considered less than nothing. If only there was something to miss besides the thought that we might long again for Nothing.

Jun 292010

Pascal from Montreal, Canada riding his bike across America takes rest off the I-10 in Arizona where it was already over 100 degrees before mid-day

Pascal Lapointe, seen here, started a crosscountry bike ride about five days ago in San Diego, California. The reason for our encounter was that as I was driving east on Interstate 10 from Tonopah, Arizona I passed a man pushing a bike up an off-ramp around noon when the temperatures were already well into the 100’s. Knowing that noone from Arizona would be doing such a thing, plus the man wasn’t wearing white socks so he must be a foreigner, I go to the next exit, turn around and try to find where this guy disappeared to. I could see for miles to the north that he hadn’t gone that way, nothing out there, but there were some building to the south. About to give up I see a bike propped up against a church wall, my worst fear is that he went looking for help but this being Tuesday, no one would be at the church and this poor guy might be having a heat stroke. I pull up and walk over to this rail thin man who greets me with a French accent.

"Hallo, my name is Pascal, I’m from Montreal, you know, Cananda?" Are you ok? "Sure, but it is quite hot." I asked if he was drinking enough, he assured me he was and that he understood the hydration requirements of crossing a desert on bicycle. I shared some fresh picked green beans with him, chatted a while more to make sure he really was ok and wished him luck on his 2,900 mile ride across the United States. He’s blogging about his journey, in French. You can Google translate if you are interested and don’t read French. Visit his site here