Driving on Mars

During the dive away from the Grand Canyon, towards northern Arizona, the landscape grew more and more like nothing I had ever seen.
Around every curve was an entire new world. It was a valley, with sharp red cliffs rising up to the sky.  Then around just another curve, the road was on the top of a mountain, looking out over a flat golden plateau. Snow capped mountains stood in the distance.
It felt like another planet. Like Mars.
Every so often was a house, or a trailer, or what could be considered a minuscule town. But mostly, there was no sign of civilization.
The farther the drive, the more alien the landscape looked. Eventually the curvy desert roads led to this bridge. Red mountains surrounded the area, while the bright blue Colorado river flowed beneath the bridge, heading towards the Grand Canyon.
The goal was to reach Monument Valley by dusk, so not much time could be spent in this foreign place. But it stands out in my mind as one of my favorite areas of Arizona.
I hope to one day return.

 

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Monument Valley

When planning a trip to the desert, Monument Valley almost didn’t make the list.

It was a bit out of the way from other sights and didn’t seem possible to fit into the tight itinerary. But we ended up extending our trip one extra day, which meant an evening could be spent at Monument Valley.

  I barely knew anything about Monument Valley, but when it got added to our trip I was so excited.  It seemed like a place I had to see!

The day that ended at Monument Valley was a long one.  It started off before seven AM at the frozen Grand Canyon, and after a quick frigid morning walk and a hot breakfast, we packed up the car and were off down the road that curved along the Grand Canyon rim.  I didn’t think the drive away from the Grand Canyon would take as long as it did, but stopping at nearly every overlook to admire the canyon views could not be avoided. We continued through the crazy desert landscape of northern Arizona, an area that ended up being my favorite part of the trip. I wished we could have spent more time in some places, but Monument Valley was waiting. 
After many hours of driving, it was nearly five PM and we were both very tired  and nearly crazy from being in the car so long, when we finally arrived at The View Hotel.




Soft Navajo music was playing throughout the hotel lobby, big windows overlooked the towering monuments that were glowing orange in the setting sun. Everything felt so calm and peaceful. I wasn’t sure I had ever been in a place as peaceful as this before.


Every room at The View hotel has a balcony which overlooks the vast rock formations that make up Monument Valley. Except for the lone car traveling occasionally down the dirt road, there wasn’t another soul in sight for as far as the eye could see.



After a little walk around the outside of the hotel, it was time to head to the restaurant inside the hotel for some traditional Navajo food. This was where we first discovered Navajo fry bread. 

Navajo Frybread is delicious, and so was the taco filling that was contained inside mine.











After diner we stared out at the monuments as the icy night arrived.

Monument Valley ending up being on of my favorite stops on the trip despite it barely making the list.

  Some day I hope to return to this place for a longer visit. 




A Frozen Canyon


It seems like the majority of our trips happen in the cold. We froze when we went to Pittsburgh, froze on both trips to Washington DC, froze in NYC at Christmas time. And as we stood, freezing in Detroit this past November, we decided that our next trip would be someplace hot. 

 The Desert.


I planned the trip for the beginning of March, when the average temperatures appeared to be in the 70s. Perfect.

Except they weren’t.

On this trip we learned that it snows in the desert. And that it actually gets quite cold.


We arrived at the Grand Canyon as the sun was setting, and snow covered the ground. I jumped out of the car and ran up the walkway to catch my first glimpse of this infamous gap in the earth. 

Just like with every part of the desert so far, I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. The landscape here is so crazy.




The next morning we walked along the icy path, bundled up in the 20 degree weather. Being careful not to slip on the ice and plummet over the edge.







I didn’t mind that the desert wasn’t hot. I’m glad I got to see what the Grand Canyon looks like with snow.



When the Mountains Looked Small



Flying back from Houston, the plane took a detour to go around an enormous lightning storm.

The detour meant I got to fly over the Blue Ridge Mountains.  It was my third time flying, and the first time ever seeing mountains from a plane, so with my face pressed right up against the glass I started snapping 100s of pictures like a maniac. 

The beautiful landscape distracted me from the turbulent ride as we circled the storm.









This mountain range feels enormous and never ending when you’re on the ground in the middle of them.  But from the sky, they are just some fleeting ripples in the ground.

Detroit At Last


I was born in Detroit Michigan.  Even though we moved away when I was young, it has always felt like my home. 


It has always felt strange to be from a city that I rarely get to visit. I’ve lived in my current town for so long, but it just doesn’t have the same feeling. It doesn’t feel like my “real home”.

Maybe it’s because every single one of my ancestors is from this city. I’m even a direct descendant of some of the families that founded Detroit. I’ve just always felt like I belonged in Detroit.

I was overjoyed to finally return this Thanksgiving, to visit family members, and to explore the place I came from. 


The few times I have been back never included a venture downtown, but I had always wanted to go.  I love cities, but I didn’t even know what the city I was born in really looked like and it drove me crazy. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but as we made our way to the center of the city I was born in, I loved it instantly. 


It wasn’t the run down, decrepit, broken, abandoned city that I had always heard it was. 

The ornate skyscrapers towered over busy streets. The sun was setting and people were just getting off of work and rushing home. The city seemed full of life and overflowing with energy. 


There were all kind of restaurants, and shops that filled the bottom floors of the buildings, there was a tram car that ran down a busy street, an above ground subway train, there was even city stream rising up out of the streets! 


At some moments, I felt like I was back in New York City!














Downtown Detroit exceeded anything I had expected. It is a city with so much character, so much history with everything it has been through over the years and so much to see.

There are definitely still poverty stricken parts of this city, but that doesn’t mean it is a place to be avoided. It’s a place that needs attention, and that will hopefully one day have the same opportunities as it once did. 

I’m afraid I’m going to be thinking about this city, ever more than I was before..

Houston Downtown

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A few more photos from our drive around Downtown Houston.

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I found the sight of palm trees among all the skyscrapers quite amusing. All the big cities I have visited so far have been in the north. I found myself having a strange desire to go to California..

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Houston seemed different than other cities I have been to. It was clean and shiny, and on this particular day, quite quiet. It was definitely a contrast to the grimy bustling feel that New York or Pittsburgh had.

Train Bridge

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I have always loved trains; I find them mysterious, and intriguing. I like to dream of where they’re going, and where they came from. I wonder about what they’re carrying, and who’s riding them. I live close to the train tracks, and most nights I can hear the lonely whistle of the train, and I try to imagine where it is headed as I fall asleep.

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Sometimes I dream that I am on that train, headed to some far away, unknown town.

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I always have the yearning to travel far far away, and train tracks always make me dream of distant places.