Sushu's Travel Journal

June 23, 2008

Road Trip thus far

Filed under: USA — admin @ 10:26 pm

It has been 8 days! In order to be brief, I will only describe 1 location and 1 thought/memory for each day. Photos to follow (hopefully tomorrow?) when I get myself a USB cord.

Monday, June 16  — Driving to LA
Location: Driving along the California coast line — the hills that start deceivingly serene but then end abrupting in the Pacific Ocean. The curves, curves, and more curves as we wend our way at what seemed like the edge of the world.

Hearst Castle is far more impressive than the Winchester Mystery House. Not only did he have far more money, but he also had Taste. It reminded me of ChengDe, the summer retreat of the Qing emperors where they picked their most favorite Chinese landscapes and synthesized them into a private estate. Hearst tried to do that with regards to Europe. Sure, some parts were far to opulent for ordinary living, but that was not the point.  The point was to build a castle filled with objects that pleased you, and then to share this with crazy-famous people which might then percolate downwards.  Maybe I’m just being defensive about it because I want medieval tapestries in my dining room, too.

Tuesday, June 17  — LA
Location:  The La Brea Tar Pits are quite an oddity — Random park in the middle of LA — but oozing with tar.   A part of the parking lot was fenced off because there was tar oozing out of the tarred ground.  Walking on the grass, you can sense the tar oozing just underneath.  There are numerous pits of tar strewn about the park, *bubbling* with tar.  Strange dissonance with the rest of LA, but also a quiet place to picnic or walk the dog.  (I also relish the possibility of falling in and becoming a fossil record for future generations.)

Hollywood is strange.  The industry is massive in the number of people they employ and the amount of money that is thrown around.  But there are also so many grubbers that cling to its peripherals.  I don’t understand the awed silence or the murmur of excitement of being in proximity to a star, but I’m generally more interested in the mechanics of things, anyway.  I get excited seeing people build and take down sets in giant studios.  I enjoy the behind-the-scenes so much more than the glitterati.

Wednesday, June 18  — Driving to Sedona, AZ
Location: Sedona is beautiful, and can be seen from miles away — red, sedimentary rocks rising out of the Arizona landscape.  It was my first view of Arizona’s natural majesty, so of course I was awed.  Only later was I able to appreciate the specialty of Sedona:  not only were there beautiful rocks, but there was also Water, and with it, life.

First night of camping, so I suppose I should address it.  I like it as a cheap alternative to motels.  The Days Inn room I’m sitting in right now costs $67 including tax.  The campground was a $10 reservation, we burned about $10 of firewood, and ate about $5 of canned goods.  Less than half the cost of the inn.  Of course, it means having a lot of accrued assets — tent, sleeping bags, foam padding, cookware, fire-starter, etc.  It also means eating creatively, and appreciating running water.  Camping at Sedona meant no running water.  At the Grand Canyon, there was a pay-shower and a laundry room, which made it seem like civilization.  I like the amenities of civilization — the internet, the water on tap…  but there was a certain simplicity to camping that I also enjoyed.  There is no alienation of labor there.  We have currently left the land of camping for the time being.  Doubtless, we will re-enter National Park territory when we head West again.

Thursday, June 19  — Sedona, and Driving to Grand Canyon
Location: The approach to the Grand Canyon is anti-climatic.  Unlike the Red Rocks of Sedona, which rose into view from 20 miles away, Grand Canyon is something that you sort of stumble upon.  You see signs that say "Grand Canyon, 20 miles", but you look around and it is merely boring mesa landscape — dry with a gentle rolling hills, brush and trees that seem wizened and battle-scarred from their fight to survive in the harsh landscape.   "Grand Canyon, 10 miles" "Grand Canyon, 2 miles".  Still nothing.  "Mather Point".  Still nothing.  It was not until we parked and walked over to the point when the ground suddenly fell away and the Grand Canyon presented itself.  And suddenly it is as if you were transported to a mountain-top 1 mile high and looking down into an expansive valley of slopes and cliffs.  To be honest, the first view was less-than-impressive.  I was surprised by its colors — specifically, its lack of colors, its lack of saturation.  It’s not the brilliant red of photos, or even of Sedona’s rocks, but rather dull reds and yellows and browns.  I was also surprised by its valley-ness.  I expected the canyon to be sheer rock cliffs.  Those exist, yes, but also gentle slopes with Ye Olde Desert Brush that angle into the canyon.

How might the explorers or cowboys have seen this canyon?  "Oh shit, forgot about this giant hole in the ground.  Now I have to go all the way around — 200 miles"

Friday, June 20  — Grand Canyon
Location:  We went on two hikes — one along the rim of the Canyon (from Hopi Point to the Rim Lodges), and one that went down partway into the Canyon (the first leg of the Kaibab Trail).  Unlike my first impression of the Grand Canyon, this day was much better.  Actually walking in the red dirt of the Canyon was pretty cool (the Canyon starts out yellow and then turns red, then brown, etc).  My feet turned the color of the Canyon.  I started a photo collection of dead trees.  The Colorado River was a crystal blue-green (caused by damming of the river).  But just to pick one location: the Mine.  There was apparently a Uranium Mine in the national park.  It took them 18 years (1951-69) to completely mine the high-grade uranium.  What is left is a mining tower and a mineshaft that is off-limits.  But it’s a healthy reminder that National Park or no, we humans love our resources.

All of the rangers and visitors try to impart so much significance to the Grand Canyon — the might of the Colorado River, how it has affected human life in the past millenia, etc.  But really, the Grand Canyon doesn’t give a fuck.  The Colorado River basically dug through layers and layers of time/fossil record.  And the topmost layer is completely eroded away — the layer that includes humans, mammoths, and dinosaurs.  So really, the Grand Canyon is just there, doing its own thing.

Okay, it’s late (12:30am here), and there’s more driving and a Rodeo and The Alamo tomorrow, so I’ll do the next batch tomorrow night.  A preview…

Saturday, June 21  — Driving through Arizona
Sunday, June 22  — Driving through New Mexico, and the Carlsbad Caverns
Monday, June 23  — Driving to Fort Worth

And hopefully I’ll be able to put up some pictures and update this entry, as well.

Oh, BTW: I’ve run out of people to write postcards to, mostly because I don’t know your address.  So you should email me your address.

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