24 April 2005

The Trip Chalked Up (Part One)

originally written February 21, 2000

7 days, over 2300 miles, 4 state prisons, 1 correctional facility, 9 or 10 trains, at least 6 herds of cattle, 5 tumbling tumbleweeds, 2 yachts, 2 speed boats, 1 Border Patrol stop, a lot of road kill in Texas, and 1 swamp boat.

If I somehow missed you in the past couple of weeks, let me convey my sincerest apologies. The long and short of it is that in the space of two weeks, I decided to leave Los Angeles, packed my stuff, and drove to Tallahassee, FL. On the way, I visited friends in Austin, spent an afternoon in New Orleans, and stuck my toes in the Gulf of Mexico at Ft. Walton Beach, FL.

Overall, I had a great time, but that first day getting out of LA was a disaster. It hadn't rained that hard since the El Niño days over a year before, so packing my car became more challenging and took longer than I'd hoped.

Pressing on with my great desire to leave, I finally hit the road around 4:30 in the afternoon: rush hour with rain. The day before I left, I thought I'd drive to Tucson on my first day. Once I started driving, I thought Phoenix, but when five hours had passed and I'd only made it 150 miles, I gave up. I hadn't even gotten out of California.

I did, however, see a perfect rainbow on my way out of the city, and that seemed like a good sign. Indio (where I spent the night) proved to be a pleasant enough desert town. The motel was well equipped: it had a little fridge, coffee maker, recliner, and the pièce de résistance: a king size bed with a mirror over it. It hadn't seemed like that kind of motel (as compared to the seedy Hollywood fabrication in my head), but I was far too tired to care by then.

The next day, I made the long haul to El Paso, TX hitting four states in one day. The desert was beautiful, so I stopped at a rest area next to my favorite part of I-10 in Arizona. The highway is mostly flat with mountains in the distance, but there's this one short stretch of crazy huge boulders littering the ground that's very cool. By luck I was able to wrangle my camera out without unloading my car, so I took some shots just before the sun set.

While I was there two van loads of boys and girls pulled up. A pack of rambunctious 11/12 year old girls descended on the restroom with a 15 year old in tow. As the younger girls sparred and fenced with rapiers made of straws, I raised an eyebrow at the fifteen year old. "I don't play with them," she quickly assured me and then rolled her eyes at the fencers and sighed in assumed commiseration. Leaning against the wall, she was trying very hard to maintain an air of nonchalance in spite of their roughhousing. Her efforts made me smile. My presence had evoked in her a desire to seem cool: she had found me worthy.

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