Raising Arizona - friday 2011-05-20 0446 last modified 2011-05-20 0526
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This was originally written on May 18, 2011 but was unavailable for publication until later.

I awoke in Seligman to rain, a cold windy rain that finds every chink in your armor and sends in a volley of water no matter where you turn. I packed the car trying to keep the damp out of the place I would occupy for the next six hours. The little road side café next door provided hot tea and breakfast and a chance to hear from the nine Nederlanders who parked their motorcycles out front to grab hot chocolate and maybe, just maybe, wait out the storm, slapping their bodies to restore circulation. They were to head east, like me, and the waitress let them know with genuine sorrow that it was going to get much colder than the mid-40s that way.

It hit freezing. At least, the chunks of ice my windshield wipers helped assemble on the sides of my front view seemed to attest to a level of cold I don't think the Dutch were looking for, certainly weren't dressed for when they planned their biker voyage. My thermometer said 33F at its lowest. I had turned off the freeway to find a place to snap some photos of this highly unexpected wintery insanity, but there in those low, low travel volume places, the snow was starting to accumulate. It was no time for picture taking, with no winterizing or snow chains to speak of.

At its worst, the conditions were as bad as any whiteout blizzard or storm I've been in in MN. Nothing to be seen beyond a few feet but a wall of white; only in MN, they have plows for this sort of thing. My heart started to slow to normal past the Arizona Divide as the temperature climbed back up, 35, 36, 39. By the time it got back up to 41 with an attendant elevation drop, the snow turned back to rain and some hints of the sun started to peek through.

I will keep this in mind for future travels. Check the weather at the highest peak, not just the sleeping stops but the sloping steeps. So I took a quick break to celebrate by hiking in a canyon. It was downright warm and dry compared to what came before but not much of a hike. Walnut Canyon. Check it out if you drive by Flagstaff and have an hour.

I saw an unmarked electric utility truck with a crane and bucket from Kansas pulling along a blue Miata from California yesterday. I saw it again today. An independent contractor fulfilling an old dream while trying to save some money? Other interesting co-driver: a semi with two sizable church steeples laying down on his flatbed. I wondered if they were going to the same building or not.

My first taste of New Mexico is enticing. The I-40 corridor puts a sequence of red rock promontories all along the north of the drive. It does not resemble anything else, maybe just a hint of Monument Valley in Navajo land, but stretched out. The approach to Albuquerque had a perfect spotlight of sunset shining on Sandia, standing out like an apparition against the rest of its bulk from afar, growing wildly in scale on closer inspection as its size and uncommon, direct proximity to the city become more clear. Its resemblance was mythical, cinematic, like nothing but hero shots of Minas Tirith in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I regret my lack of time to spend here.

Tomorrow brings a drive to its peak, then on to the middle of nowhere in sparse northwestern Texas. Not yet two days and already the weather has brought wind, rain, sleet, snow, hail, rainbows, and minor dust storms with the sun. What next?

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