Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Communication's the thing

Oct. 5, 2008

If I could live forever, I’d learn to speak every language on the planet, then work to bring understanding between peoples which, who knows, might even lead to world peace. Hey, a girl can dream. So I guess it should be no surprise that even the smallest act of communication really warms the cockles of my heart. That’s why I like to travel at night when truckers are on the road.

Truckers have a language of their own. It’s simple to learn and you can become a part of the conversation at 70 mph (or 75 mph in some states). Drivers of these long rigs can use a hand now and again, particularly in heavy traffic, and giving them some space often results in a thank you which you may have seen but never even recognized. Try this next time there’s a big truck looking for a lane change in heavy traffic (or even no traffic): as soon as the truck is safely past the nose of your vehicle, flash your headlights two or three times in quick succession and stay out of the way. Since the trucker really can’t see EXACTLY where his rear bumper is, you’re telling the driver she’s clear to move into your lane. They’ll swing in there, then often respond by giving their taillights a few quick flashes in thanks to you.

That’s how our drive went last night. And as we passed trucks on the uphills, then they swept by on the downhills gaining speed for their next climb, the trucks got used to seeing our little outfit. Then they’d flash me into my lane change as I passed again. (There’s not much slowdown on the uphill with only 1,700 pounds rolling behind our van.)

We found our way to Red Rock State Park without incident, though this was one time the GPSr
actually helped us out. I saw not a single sign indicating the park was hear, and I depended upon my electronic map to provide the details that led me right into camp. The girls were completely knocked out, so I carried them into the trailer (didn’t even bother to pop up the top), climbed in and quickly joined them in peaceful slumber.

Red Rock was a beautiful place to wake up. The red slickrock is, I suspect, quite similar to if not the same formation as that found in southern Utah. At sunrise it was particularly beautiful. There’s a large horse boarding area, related rodeo grounds and conference center, showers and flush toilets. Oddly, while horses can be housed here, there is no horseback riding allowed in the park
The girls (and I) are particularly interested in getting home. V’s birthday is coming up, and now that we know we’re headed home we’re sort of chomping at the bit. So today they asked just to drive west. “Don’t stop, Mom,” they agreed. But I had to make at least ONE interesting stop. A full day driving just isn’t a lot of fun, and since I knew at least one more FULL day drive would follow, I really didn’t want to abuse them (or myself) in that way.

Petrified Forest National Park was our last Big Stop in the parks system. The girls really enjoyed the colorful rocks along a couple of easy trails they had selected for the day’s exploration. I was afraid the petrified forest wouldn’t really look at all like wood, just old rounded rocks, but there are entire fallen trees which have remained in tact despite years of vandalism, gathering and outright theft. Some are broken into segments in such a way it appears a logger cut them into rounds but simply forgot to cart them away.

We also stopped at Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, AZ. I had heard it was no longer in operation, but it turns out that although it had been closed for a short period toward the end of the original owners’ life, his sons revamped and reopened the place after his death in the late 1980s.

The owner was in the front office lounging on the couch and enjoying a bit of classical music when we arrived and informed us the place is booked solid from April well into October every year. “This is not a money-making venture,” he kept saying, unsolicited. I find that hard to believe. Even at only 15 rooms booked solid for only 6 months and a little more each year, the girls and I did the math and figured a tidy sum. In fact, the owner told us so may unsolicited half-truths in such a “couldn’t care less” fashion, I can safely say he was the first person this entire trip who made me want to turn and run. “I wish it wasn’t so popular,” he said. “We’re not a PR firm.” Uh…clearly! “There’s no way you could build another one of these because this is on the National Registry of Historic Places.” Hmmm, that’s odd logic, isn’t it?

Finally he showed us his dad’s collection of desert treasures – mid-19th century firearms, U.S. Calvary issued items, giant cut slabs of petrified wood, photos and items that might be found in homesteaders cabins. (Yes, people homesteaded the desert, too.) With wide eyes and a compliment about the private museum display I asked if his dad had found all these things out in the desert. “Well, he wasn’t going to tell us about that, but I can tell you he wasn’t a grave robber. My sister just got her Cherokee papers. And we never cared to look into it because we don’t want to suck off the teat of government.” I guess it was his air, and fuzzy logic, that really turned me off. Or maybe it was that hand motion he made to illustrating suckling that really got me out the door.


We headed toward a little campground at a lake on a county road outside Williams, AZ. Unfortunately, the road our directions pointed us to was either not clearly marked or doesn’t have an exit, so we pressed on west to Hualapai Mountain where we’ve found a quite, very dark camp spot for the night.

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