Just (2000 Miles) Down the Road

The interstate in my backyard, if followed long enough, will eventually lead to the small town of Holbrook Arizona.
It’s a little town that the old route 66 used to run right through until it got bypassed in recent years by the construction of big interstate 40. Holbrook also inspired the little desert town in the movie Cars.
The people behind the scenes of the movie Cars apparently spent some time in this cafe, planning out the movie.
(For some reason we didn’t eat there?!!)
We rolled into the town of Holbrook on a chilly late February afternoon, after spending the day wandering through the Petrified Forest. Old neon signs lined the streets, and big dinosaur statues guarded the many little gift shops scattered around.  I wanted to walk around and explore the shops, but it seemed everything was closed. There was nobody around, except for a random car passing by here and there. With the cold wind blowing through, Holbrook felt like a bit of a ghost town. Or at least on its way to becoming a ghost town.
I dreamed of what it might be like, in the hot summer weather, and what it had been like many many years ago.
I still find it amusing, when I listen to the cars on the interstate behind my house, that this little town lies way down the road. And then I dream of racing off, back to the desert.  It’s just 2000 miles down the road!

 

 

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The Lost Beach



Cape Lookout Island.  Only accessible by Ferry, and with no paved roads.  It was once a home to a small fishing community but is now owned by the National Park system.


A short walk away from the tourist area, down the lonely shoreline, and remnants of the island’s past begin to appear. 

Barnacle laden debris from the houses burned down by owners who refused to let them become acquired by the government. 

And maybe parts from an old car that became engulfed in a sandstorm, only to appear again some time later. 
Conch shells, still inhabited by their original owner can easily be found in the shallow waters. 

This beach is different than others. A beach forgotten.





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.

 

The Desert Watch Tower


Along the edge of the Grand Canyon, the Desert Watch Tower stands out. A rocky beacon rising tall above the trees. 

Designed to look like the remnants of a tower built by an ancient civilization, the structure was completed in the 1930s and contains a gift shop and many observations points overlooking the Grand Canyon. 



A circular staircase rises up four stories of the petroglyph covered tower. 















Another reminder of how cold it was!



It was fun admiring all the charismatic petroglyphs on the way to the top.  The Desert Watch Tower was definitely an interesting stop along the rim of the Grand Canyon. 

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.



Seven Days in the Desert




An entire week, wandering the desert.

A different hotel every night.

Crazy new landscapes nether of us have ever seen before. 

I want to spend more weeks in the desert.



I stumbled upon a cheap flight to Las Vegas, on a budget airline and couldn’t pass it up. The first evening in the desert was spent wandering under the crazy neon lights.


The next day was the short drive to Arizona across the dam. 

The Hoover Dam is huge. And even huge-er in person.


Ghost towns were explored. Some were abandoned, some were tourist traps, and some were in between.


The realization that it snowed in Arizona, occurred when we arrived at the Grand Canyon and it was in the 20s with snow and ice everywhere.



After a long day’s drive, Monument Valley was full of peace and calmness. 
(Plus amazing Navajo food!)


The wigwams were a cozy destination on another frigid desert night.



The petrified forest national park was full of strange striped rocky hills, trees turned to stone, and the strongest winds I’ve ever experienced.


Silly roadside attractions made for many quick stops for a picture.
(Or 100!)


Another realization that it snowed in Arizona happened while driving though a snowstorm at the top of an enormous mountain range. Upon the decent, we were greeted by a sea of cactuses. 


Sunny southern Arizona is home to hundreds of resting aircraft, in the airplane boneyard.


The meteor crater was at another wild windy location. At the center lies a 6 ft tall astronaut statue, only visible with a telescope.


The last day involved scaling a craggy desert mountain road to get to a town where donkeys roam freely. And follow everyone around in hopes of being fed!


The desert landscapes are crazier than I ever imagined. I can’t wait to go back!

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..