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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Home is Wherever I'm with You {Southwest Trip 2010} Part I

On Friday January 8th, 2010 Levi got home from a 5 week long job in Fort Leonard Wood, MO. December had been quite a long and bittersweet month for us both. We worked a lot and (on average) saw each other 3 times a week. That Saturday we decided to set off on an excursion to conquer the southwest. His next job wouldn't start for a few weeks and I had all the time in the world to take my long awaited "fine art" trip.
Routine and I have love/hate relationship...it was time to breakout of the "daily box". Finally! At some point in our lives we'd like to think we can be socially rebellious but most of us end up happy spouses with suburban homes. We had a chance to take a dive (or shall I say drive) into the young and spontaneous world of little responsibility and adventure. We had $1000 bucks, a trusty Honda, a camera and no set schedule. Goodbye suburbia!
Monday night I scrambled to get things in order: gas, check! tunes, check! personal necessaries, almost check! Talk about a scramble, Tuesday morning Levi left me to finish packing while he treated himself to a Brenda's omelet. What a brat! After a bit of fuss, we hit the road at 9:30 am (CST). It felt so good to be leaving the recognizable and venture into unfamiliar territory. I had a lot of anticipation but no idea what to expect. WESTWARD! Trip meter: 0 miles

"Oooooklahoma where the wind comes sweeping down the plain..."After passing through Tulsa, OK civilization began to get scarce. I looked to the right...desolation, looked to the left, nothing but an occasional oil rig or tumble weed. I imagined myself in the sky looking down at an aerial view of complete symmetry. Down to the lines in Interstate 40, it all appeared to be the same for miles. I was in awe of its simplicity.
Wind power was another thing that threw me. I guess I never really thought of this technology being predominant in the mid-west. Levi explained to me how the wind comes down off the Rockies; I always thought it needed a coast. The only time I've seem windmills is in Atlantic City, NJ in the same landscape as the high rise casinos. These industrial giants stood amongst themselves. Trip meter: 420 miles

TEXAS WELCOMED US! North Texas sure is flat! I could see for miles 360 degrees around our car. Not to mention more wind energy and lots of cattle. I believe Amarillo considers itself to be the 'Beef Capitol of the World'. I think Wisconsin and Texas should morph into one state; it would be a plethora of CHEESE and STEAK!
At 3:53 pm (CST) we were cruising our way through northeast Texas, when Haitians were experiencing a magnitude 7 earthquake. We had no idea, oblivious to most things except the open road.
When we got to the outskirts of Amarillo, we were completely distracted by the "Free 72 oz. Steak" billboards, that we didn't see much else in town. We had seen the advertisements in every state and now we were finally standing in front of "The Big Texan Steak Ranch, Home of the Free 72 oz. Steak". As I snapped a few pictures, Levi impatiently waited for me to conclude, so we could chow! Levi didn't attempt the 72 ounce steak (which would cost you $80 bucks if you didn't finish it in an hour) but pounded down a 22 ouncer. I had some soup and fried okra. Mmmm, comfort food.
This was the first time I had ever seen someone openly carry a gun, behind a fudge counter. The menu featured "Mountain Oysters, if you think it's seafood, get the shrimp". Confused, Levi explained to me that mountain oysters are actually bull testicles. I passed on that opportunity...'thanks but no thanks'. haha! The bar had slot machines, endless amounts of frosted mugs and J├Ąger on tap. Not to shabby! (The Big Texan has been featured on shows like Man vs. Food and has a lot of history. Go to http://www.bigtexan.com/ for more facts and videos).
That night while we were tucked in our motel bed, 2,424 miles away over a half a million people were buried in rubble. It's crazy to think about it now. Trip meter: 569 miles

The Next morning we were on our way; the sunset was magnificent in our rear-view mirror. HELLO NEW MEXICO! The landscape had dramatically changed, so unique from OK and TX. Were now had breathtaking views of mountains and valleys. My jaw dropped at the sight of snow capped peaks and flat red rock mountains. I felt all fuzzy inside when I saw my first natural prickly pear (ironic I know).
We were coasting along listening to Grizzly Bear, when I thought...we're along ways from Brooklyn! If you asked me two years ago if I thought I'd be living in the Midwest and exploring the country, I would have thought you were crazy! Times do change! We had been driving for some time now and needed a potty break. We had to pay 25 cents EACH to use the restroom! Levi joked, "What if we don't flush?" It was quite the experience.
View from the gas station...
We were astonished to see that Albuquerque, NM is tucked into massive mountains; some homes looked grounded below boulders! We stopped again, fueled up and bought a few trinkets. Levi was all excited about his "trucker cassette"...oh shit! Trip meter: 850 miles

When we entered Arizona, it seemed we'd hit flat land again. Although there was no water to be seen, we would pass canyon like "cracks" in the earth's surface, that seemed like they should have been streams. By this point we were at an elevation of 4,500 feet. To give you an idea, that's 1,200 feet higher than Pennsylvania's highest peak. In the distance, over a hundred miles away we could see Humphreys Peak (also known as San Fransisco Peak). Humphreys is the highest peak in Arizona coming in at 12,633 feet. We were closer to our first destination and were getting very antsy. Here's a clip of our boredom:

We arrived in Flagstaff, AZ awestruck by the town settled at the bottom of Humphreys Peak. Elevated up 7,000 feet, the town was cold and covered in leftover snow. Levi was excited to be back. He has a sense of root in Flag; 25 years ago he was born there. We poked around a little and stopped for some sushi. We made it! Trip meter: 1,173 miles

This is what we woke up to the next morning! The view from our hotel balcony...
Good morning Levi! Isn't he cute?!
After our breakfast at Denny's we went on a quest to find the house my father-in-law built, some 26 years ago. We almost got the Honda stuck in snow the first go around, so we decided it was a better idea to venture on foot. An hour and a half and sopping wet feet later, we thought we'd found it. Thanks stranger for the map!We headed downtown to "gallery hop" and shop for a bit. I had a much needed gyro at the
"Pita Pit". Yum!

Boots galore!





We drove up to the Lowell Observatory (where Pluto was discovered) and shot some images of Flagstaff. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pluto) Here are some shots:






That night we ate-in and drank wine. Wine, Levi so kindly opened for me with a knife and his teeth. Sexy...

More to come! Stay tuned for Part II, The Canyon!

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