On the Road Again

24 April 2013 in Memories, Traveling

From Santa Fe we resumed our place among the masses headed west. The pioneer spirit seemed alive and well along these well trodden trails. Like those who came before us we all were in search of greener pastures. License plates from almost every state made their way past us. Cars packed window to window and floor to ceiling with gear for camping or seemingly all of one’s meager and assorted possessions. Following them were U-Haul trucks and trailers and then RVs and travel trailers some as long as semis others smaller than the average bathroom.

We were all headed west as people have for hundreds of years, but our pace has increased along with our comforts. No longer were we beholden to the slow strides of horses, donkeys or mules. Or the multitude of dangers be it lack of water or of food, attack or illness. Now we have mechanical steeds with cruise control and smooth trails to race down at 75 mph. We have convenient stores and fast food chains set short distances apart should our stomachs show the slightest urge for giant sugary drinks, big bags of potato chips, hot dogs, burgers or ice cream. Just about anything one might ever desire. And forget sleeping on the ground, in the cold. Most people seem to have reconfigured their home somehow to fit on a few axles and roll right on down the road with every convenience they had while sitting in their stationary home.

I don’t say this curmudgeonly. I myself am towing a home, albeit a considerably smaller one, but a home just the same. And I travel well beyond any equine driven pace – stopping at gas stations to fuel up my tank and my tummy. But barreling down the interstate I had to question our amazing ability to put faith in our new modes of transport and their operators. Were we able to place a pioneer from the 1800s in a 40 ft RV going 80 mph I think he or she might be in need of some clean britches. To trust that every vehicle and all it’s intricate and requisite parts are operating properly, not to mention the ability and state of the person in control of the two ton pile of metal flying just two dozen feet ahead of us is truly a leap of faith one prefers not to spend too much time thinking about unless you wish to become a true homebody.

But by chance or luck we made it all the way to Holbrook, Arizona. What’s the significance of this stop most might ask – it’s the closest city in proximity to Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert. After dropping the trailer and the furry children off at a campground we headed south and into the park. With daylight dwindling fast we made a quick stop at the visitors center and entered the park.

Like other parks we’ve visited Petrified Forest National Park was a car friendly, drive thru park meaning there was very little in the way of hiking and most of the stops required the visitor to do very little to see the sights other than pull over, jump out, take a picture and jump back in. I’ve found these parks tend to devalue the experience and the scenery – even for me. Some of the most beautiful places I’ve seen required a long hike in. Part of the experience is the struggle to get there and the reward of arriving. You’ve fully immersed yourself in the landscape and your tired legs beg you to sit and enjoy it. In drive through parks you almost feel foolish taking ten steps from the car and then sitting there for an hour.

Despite my feelings, it was very windy and fairly cold so our stops were brief. The painted desert pull offs reminded me of the Badlands in South Dakota, the painted rock of northern Arizona and similar formations in Death Valley – in my opinion Death Valley and Arizona have the best, but it was stunning none the less. But the petrified wood stole the show. We’ve seen some in Arizona, but it was nowhere near the quantity or the scale. There were areas that literally appeared to be an entire fallen forest of petrified wood. Massive trunks up to 10 feet in diameter, long fallen rows over 100 feet long. One even spanned a small wash creating a sizable bridge. It was overwhelming to say the least – the age of these fossils and the specific circumstances that created them as well as the fact that they’ve been sitting here for millions of years. According to the park’s literature the theory is a volcanic blast similar to Mount St. Helens leveled the forest and events and factors that followed allowed for this pristine preservation.

We had just enough time to sample a small tasting of this park’s offerings, but I could see us returning for a second go at it.

24 April 2013 Memories, Traveling

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