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!
I left Arizona on Sunday, half-safe after my first Covid shot, and headed east to Monument Valley in Southern Utah. If you haven’t been to Monument Valley, you’ve probably seen it in films. It was first featured in “Stagecoach,” 1939, with John Wayne. Since then, the Valley’s spectacular sandstone formations have been the setting for more than a dozen classics, including “Thelma and Louise” and “Forest Gump.”
When I was 20, my then-husband and I drove from Colorado to California in a Volkswagen bus. One moonless night, we stopped at the end of a dirt road, laid our sleeping bags out on the ground, and went to sleep. When we woke the next morning, we were about 3 feet from the edge of a sheer cliff overlooking this:
In the mid-19th century, the Mormons left New York to escape religious persecution. They kept going west until they found a place of peace in a spectacular canyon. They settled there and named the canyon Zion — a holy place of refuge. Before the Mormons, Native Americans believed Gods inhabited the canyon.
When I was nine, my dad had to attend a convention in Las Vegas and decided to take the rest of us with him. At the time, Las Vegas didn’t have kid-oriented attractions, but it was thrilling for us anyway. We stayed in a real hotel with high ceilings, ate BLTs for the first time, and called room service for ice cream. Since then, I think of Las Vegas as a place to avoid, and I only stopped there this week because it’s on the way (to wherever I am going, not sure actually). During this visit, my hotel was very nice, my Thai take-out was very greasy, and I learned that Las Vegas has some very cool non-casino attractions.
Wow, there is a lot to keep me going on this journey, even without museums, restaurants, or indoor performances. I am especially grateful to have this opportunity to see a few of our incredible national parks. My first on this trip is Joshua Tree. On Sunday, while the rest of America was watching the Super Bowl, I was hiking one of America’s Super Parks.
I left Santa Barbara on Thursday, heading for the places I’d lived as a child, not exactly intentionally but because those places were on my path anyway. My first stop was more of a drive-by. After buying gas in Pasadena, I made a 2-mile detour south to San Marino, where I lived as a teenager. Rich, conservative San Marino was an unlikely place for us, neither rich nor conservative, but we survived the John Birch Society, the cops who trolled the likes of us in Lacey Park, and being the only family without a gardener.
Yesterday, I had a beautiful but uneventful drive from Cambria to Santa Barbara. Sometimes I need to remind myself that travel is mostly not about events. It’s a lot of feeling the moment and the place, which can mean inspiration, wonder, disgust, reverence, fear or omg even boredom. And, like the rest life, travel is trying things that don’t always work out.