The Great Quest West: Arizona & New Mexico & Texas

The Great Quest West is a series recounting the two-week road trip my brother and I took this August through eight of the most western states.

August 14, 2015

Utah is something else entirely. The state ranges from red rocks to torrential downpours, forests to flash floods, hot temperatures to rainbows. We begin our drive to Sedona via scenic Route 12, which eventually led us to Bryce Canyon, but we didn’t want to pay another $30 entrance fee so we continued to Page, Arizona for our first pit stop. I almost flipped the car over swerving in to the hidden campground, but we finally found a spot and set up the tent.

August 15, 2015

It was about a two-hour drive south to blazing hot Phoenix where we pick our second rental car, a blue compact Hyundai. We left the Chevy in the parking lot of the only person we know who would live in Phoenix. The temperature was skirting 115 degrees and we shuffled hungrily to a health food cafe with $6 acai bowls. New Mexico has a lot less desert than I expected, but we got to experience our fair share of thunderstorms and torrential downpours while crossing in to the mountain time zone. We compromised our uncertain Santa Fe campgrounds for a motel in Albuquerque after a small taste of Mexican at a hole in the wall restaurant on a desolate residential street.

August 16, 2015

We booked it to Santa Fe’s nearest Starbuck so Jordan could stream the Chelsea game from his cell phone while I explore the quite city. The aesthetic was a monotone array of adobe buildings and a Sunday Farmer’s Market where local craftsman sell their silver and turquoise. After Chelsea lost we drove out to Gabriel’s Mexican restaurant for some of the best Mexican food I’ve ever had. I’ve dreamt of White Sands for months after haphazardly coming across a photo on the Internet. Endless bright white dunes reflected the hundred degree heat, pending radiation poisoning and almost instantly setting on dehydration. I was determined to set foot in Texas so I dragged Jordan to El Paso. We walked around a deserted mall and had a drink at the only open bar in the foreseeable distance, apart from the drive through with vacuum sealed margaritas next door. As the sunset I waved goodbye to the Mexican border.

August 17, 2015

Sometimes I wonder if we really are our own worst critic or if maybe our creations aren’t as great as we think they are. I know that every individual I meet considers me differently than the next, but wouldn’t you love to know in unfiltered honesty. These thoughts string along with others in a forest in the middle of a desolate South West. Currently we set up camp in a little mountain town called Cloudcroft in western New Mexico. I hear a French family play with their dog and children on top of the hill above us in a Cruise America RV. Earlier this morning we left El Paso behind as we traveled the furthest east to Carlsbad Cavern. The cave was a mile below the surface. We were transported to the 56 degrees enclave via elevator shaft that dropped in approximately one minute. The natural architecture looked like wet drops of stone falling to the ground and frozen into honey-like mounds. We wandered the untouchable cavern for half an hour adjusting to the deafening silence and unexpected textures around every corner. We left the chill a mile below and made our way back to Phoenix for our now beloved Chevy. Already dreaming of my next road trip…

August 18, 2015

I can now officially say I’ve experienced an authentic storm. In the middle of the night we were abruptly woken by flashes of lightning and amplified thunder. We counted six miles distance and the rain drenched our thin tent. Slightly terrified and decently delirious I vaguely remembered something I learned in science about the danger of  lightning, metal, and sand. Granted we were in a metal-poled tent on a packed sand camp site threatened by the sky. Eventually the storm began to fade and the small dose of adrenaline faded and so did I. We drove early, nearly six hours plus to arrive in our night stop of Tuscon, Jordan’s short-lived stomping grounds his freshman year of college. We saw a movie for a meek $5 and snuck in to another, in order to escape the triple-digit heat. By six we were on an hour drive north toward Phoenix at a deserted desert campgrounds complete with gravel, cacti, rainbow sunsets, tarantula-sized grasshoppers, scorpions, natural sweat lodges, and freight trains passing on the either side of the highway off the 10. I prefer camping in the mountains that’s for sure. I also take camping over motels. There’s something ironically comforting of being away from home. A free, lively, creative, ambition lies outside the confides of a treacherous city bubble.

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