2021

Bricktown and Bentonville

Gluten-Free Bakery in Bentonville, Arkansas

A lot of America is subject to cultural stereotypes, good and bad. Southern hospitality. Hot tubs in Marin County. Rude New Yorkers. Traveling through Oklahoma and Arkansas, I am reminded that people from these states have been type cast as “backward.” The stereotype can probably be traced to the Dust Bowl disaster of the 1930s, when thousands of “Okies” and “Arkies” migrated to California to find work. Many had been farmers and ranchers who found themselves powerless during an economic depression that left many homeless or barely getting by in a strange new place. Maybe people who are feeling that vulnerable could seem a little “backward” to their more fortunate, and sometimes disdainful, new neighbors.

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Flat as a Panhandle

Yesterday, I arrived in Amarillo, Texas, to visit an amazing state park called Palo Duro. The park is a giant crack in the flattest land I’ve ever seen and looks a lot like the Grand Canyon. I went to the park with a plan to hike the trail to Lighthouse Rock until I learned in real time that getting to the trailhead requires driving down a very scary road into the canyon. One of my best driving skills is finding a way to turn around on a narrow mountain road with no pull outs while I am feeling terror. As I was finding a way, several large RVs towing jeeps went by on the other side of the road, which was annoying. Anyway, even though I never got down into the canyon, I’m sharing this information because Palo Duro is beautiful from the rim, and you might not think the road to the trailhead is scary. So. Highly recommended!

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The Mother Road to Tucumcari

India’s most holy river is called “Mother Ganga.” America’s most holy highway is called “The Mother Road.” Route 66 is the highway equivalent of Old Glory and the American equivalent of the Silk Road. Between 1926 and 1985, it linked Chicago and Santa Monica for vacationers and every kind of itinerant during a period of westward migration. It’s been a symbol of American freedom and hope in some of our best literature, like Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath.  

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How I Learned to Love Albuquerque

At first, I wasn’t crazy about Albuquerque. Miles and miles of strip malls, empty lots, parks with highway roar. Although the city’s Old Town is atmospheric, most of the stores sell junk, and the Old Town’s “best” café served me a greasy chili rellano with a side of canned spinach. Wasn’t canned spinach banned in 1959?

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Abiquiu to Albuquerque: Art Meets the Great Outdoors

Church at Ghost Ranch

Woo hoo! This week I am exploring New Mexico’s Rio Grande Valley between the Sangre De Cristos and the Jemez Mountains in the northern part of the state. The region’s largest cities are Taos in the north, Santa Fe in the middle, and Albuquerque in the south. But forget about them for now. This is about a few of the little guys.

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A Chaco Sola

I arrived in Farmington, New Mexico, on Sunday hoping to convince myself to go to Chaco Canyon. I have wanted to go there forever, but a solo trip felt like a teensy bit of a stretch for me. It’s 80 miles from a city, and 13 of those miles are on dirt roads. The weather has been unpredictable, and my car had a minor episode this week that could be a big problem if it happened again in the wilderness.

But I went! By myself! It was not a big deal! It was amazing!

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Rocks and Rolling Through the Southwest

Gas station in Page, AZ

I left Sedona on Monday, headed for Louisiana. Slowly. I’d originally planned to make a bee-line for Louisiana through New Mexico and Texas, from big city to big city. I now know that would be silly. What’s the rush?! And I love cities but, during the pandemic, they’re mostly not going to be much fun. Museums are closed. No festivals or performances or tours. I’m not a shopper. And there’s so much to see that’s not cities!

So I’m taking a circuitous route to see whatever seems interesting. So far there’s been plenty of that, along with a few challenges…

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Long Layover in Cornville

Belle and Bill’s adobe house in Cornville

After my too-short detour to Monument Valley, I returned to the Sedona area last week to visit my friends, Belle and Bill. I’ve known Belle since the 6th grade. We were (and are) horse girls, although not the Pony Club new-jumping-saddle-for-Christmas variety. More the I’m-shoveling-manure-in-trade-for-a-ride type. One time when we were twelve, we rode out to the two-lane highway into Scottsdale, and got our horses to buck and rear for the people driving by. Thrilling! Dangerous! Belle’s idea!

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