Sedona Sister Trip

It’s Spring Break in my life, and my sister and I are on our fourth Sister Trip hence the two day lag in my regular posting schedule.  We haven’t taken a trip together in a few years, so we were looking forward to this one.  We met in a destination both of us have wanted to visit for quite some time, Sedona, Arizona.  It’s a beautiful area in the high desert of northern-ish Arizona.  Towers and spires of red rocks cover the area.

We both love to hike and went on one short hike to Bell Rock before we even checked into the hotel.  If you walk around to the back side of the rock, you can get almost up to the top. We got about half way up before stopping, sitting for a while, and then heading down. It was lovely but pretty crowded with people.

Bell Rock

The area is covered with “vortexes,” and Bell Rock is one of the stronger vortexes.  So far, I’ve been to three vortexes that I’m aware of. According to our hiking trails guidebook, a vortex is described as “subtle energy . . . it is very real, and those with a stronger sensitivity to intuition, energy and emotion are able to feel it” (Andres, Denis, Sedona’s Top Ten Hikes, 10).  Entire books are devoted to the Sedona vortexes, and I was pretty excited to “feel” them, but apparently I’m not too sensitive to intuition, energy or emotion because I didn’t feel much different in the vortexes than I do anywhere else.  The hikes, however, have all been beautiful.

On Thursday, we hiked to “Devil’s Bridge.” Generally, I am not a fan of walking near tall scary cliffs as I don’t like heights, but perhaps the energy in the area helped with this fear because I traipsed out onto the bridge without giving it a second thought.

Megan on Devil's Bridge

Today, we hiked to Cathedral Rock, another vortex site. We hiked up around the left side of it, went off the trail a ways, and sat quietly meditating for a bit. Despite the heat of the sun, the rocks stay incredibly cool.

Cathedral Rock

On our way down from Cathedral Rock we came across Buddha Beach on Oak Creek where people have built cairns all over. I love rocks and cairns so the entire beach made me happy.

Buddha Beach

On the flight to Phoenix, I was reading Kurt Vonnegut’s novel The Siren’s of Titan and read the following passage which is a description of Miss Fenstermaker, who teaches in the school on Mars.  “Her office was crammed with ungraded school papers, some of them dating back five years. She was far behind in her work – so far behind that she had declared a moratorium on school work until she could catch up on her grading. Some of the stacks of papers had tumbled, forming glaciers that sent fingers under desk, into the hallway, and into her private lavatory.  There was an open, two-drawer filing cabinet filled with her rock collection” (145). It made me laugh out loud as I can so relate to the poor Miss Fenstermaker.

Tomorrow is our last day here before heading back to the real world and responsibilities. Like Miss Fenstermaker, I have stacks of papers waiting for me on Monday morning, and my suitcase is full of rocks that I’ve picked up on my hikes.  But my spirit is definitely feeling refreshed and relaxed.  If only I could, like her, declare a moratium on school work, life would be perfect!

What’s the story behind this trailer trash?

Last weekend, on yet another road trip across the lovely state of Nevada, we saw one of the more interesting sites I’ve seen in the desert.  It was a fence (maybe), but not just any fence, a fence made out of old single wide trailers and dying RV’s, literal trailer trash.  There is a story behind this fence, though I’m not sure what it is.

If fences are built to either keep unwanted people or animals out, or if they’re built to keep wanted animals or people in, what, exactly, is the purpose of this one?

Or is it not a fence at all? Did somebody just decide to line up their old trailers to keep their trailer trash orderly?  It’s not really surrounding anything, functioning as a fence might, so is it even a fence? I’m not sure.

When we first saw it, my husband and I started laughing and I asked him stop to photograph it.  He kept saying, “What? Stop? Why?” By the time he understood that I wasn’t kidding, we were too far past it to photograph, so we had to stop on our way home.

I’ve been thinking about this fence all week.  Generally a fence is built serve some sort of purpose. If you’d like to read a funny tale about gates and fences, check out the short fable titled “The Vigilant Rabbit” in David Sedaris’ compilation of modern tales, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary.  The entire book is funny and entertaining, but in this particular tale, the gate represents power and the gate keeper’s ability to control the movements of the other forest animals.  The problem occurs when the power hungry rabbit forgets to build the fence around the gate, and the gate does nothing to keep out the riff-raff.  This trailer fence reminded me of the gate in the David Sedaris story, a valiant attempt to serve some sort of purpose but one that doesn’t make it, by a long shot.

Visually, this fence is fascinating too as it sort of meanders across the mountain’s base.  Perhaps its actually a giant sculpture.  I’ve been considering what this would look like in a quilt.  But I’d have to figure out the story behind the fence for that quilt.  I wonder how could I tell it through fabric?

One happy, or possibly annoying, result of writing or any creative endeavor for that matter is continually thinking about stories and possibilities. What is the story here? Any ideas?

Road Trip in 1847, 1982, or 2011? I’ll take 2011.

In 1982, my parents decided to take a road trip to tour our beautiful home state of . . . Nevada.  We headed east from Carson City in our 1978 Scout II. It was a spectacular vehicle – orange with simulated wood paneling on the side.  The interior was an army green color with plaid brown and green seats.  It was the kind of vehicle that, by the time I drove it in 1986, built character.

My sister and I, at the ages of 12 and 14, could think of nothing we wanted to do more than drive across the desert for six hours with our German Shepard, Fearsome, sitting on the seat between us.  All the windows were open as the dog stank, and we had no air conditioning.  We also had no music, as the eight track in the Scout worked for maybe six months after we got it.  And, obviously, we had no DVD’s, Ipods, or laptops.  My kids have no idea what a road trip used to be like, but I digress.

One of the highlights of the trip was my mom’s valiant effort to add an educational component.  The highways in Nevada were seemingly littered with metal signs shaped like the state.  These are located wherever somebody decided there might be something of historical interest.  My mom, somehow, located a book that had the text of all of these signs.  She spent the entire trip with this book in her lap, yelling historical tidbits about the great state of Nevada at us over the roar of the Scout and the open windows.

She would holler, “Here comes another sign.  Do you want to stop?”

“Nooooo,” we’d yell back.  My sister and I would roll our eyes before returning to staring out the window in misery, and my Dad would either stop at the sign to please my mom, or blow by the rest stop or viewing area or whatever it was.

“Isn’t the subtle beauty of the desert lovely?” My mom would try again.

“Nooooo, it’s boring!” we’d yell back.  Finally she gave up though she did keep the book in her lap the entire time, reading the information for herself.

The inside of a wagon - not a lot of room!

I hit the road with my kids yesterday.  I now live on the Eastern side of the state, and we were heading west, backtracking on I-80 in the opposite direction from my first trip across.  I have since made this 300 mile drive hundreds of times, and I did something I swore I’d never do.  I turned into my mother and stopped at a place of historical interest.

The supplies for the trek west.

Two years ago, just outside of Elko, Nevada, the state opened a California Trail Interpretive Center to share the history of all those “road trippers” in the 1840’s-1860’s.  Part of my novel project takes place on the Oregon Trail, so I wanted to see the exhibits; it was research.  My kids, both teenagers, humored me and went in without complaint.  Their only somewhat negative comment was that everyone there was older than us by at least 30 years, but they were right.  It was definitely an older crowd.

The center sits right where the Hasting’s Cutoff rejoined the main California Trail.  The Hasting’s Cutoff is the “shortcut” that actually added 130 miles to the Donner party’s journey and caused them to get caught in the Sierra’s, resort to cannibalism and freeze to death.

The most interesting exhibits to me were the wagons.  I had no idea they were so small.  They were narrow, only three feet wide by ten feet long.  The wagon beds were also at least three feet deep which surprised me, and full to the brim with supplies for the journey.

I’ve driven across the state hundreds of times, and it is not a journey I would want to take in a covered wagon.  They made 10-20 miles a day across the hot desert.

My "Wagon"

As I drove my “wagon” today, I decided to enjoy the four hours it took to cross the entire state.  I especially enjoyed the dry segment between the Truckee River and the Humboldt Sink, where the water just disappears and sinks into the desert.  This part of the journey took the emigrants 24+ hours of non-stop walking.  They usually did it through the night to avoid the heat of the day.  Sometimes the animals would stampede when they finally reached the Truckee River they were so thirsty.

We blew through it in about 20 minutes with the air conditioning on and the satellite radio going.  And, if something had happened, my “wagon” has enough supplies to keep us alive for weeks.

The journey has changed immensely over the past 160 years.  I’ll be interested to see what it entails in thirty more years, when my kids drag their kids out for a “road trip.”  Hopefully they do hit the road, and maybe they’ll even hit a point of historical interest or two.  It would make my mom proud.