Tucson Honeymoon: Day 2

This is a multi-part trip report… if you haven’t already, you should start with Day 1.

Start: Lake Fort Smith State Park (AR)
End: Santa Rosa State Park (NM)

Daily Mileage: 642
Total Mileage: 814

It’s cold today, and windy, and the shoppers at the Del City Walmart in Oklahoma City are bundled up like little children sent out to play. We see the cheerful retarded greeter coming on duty, happily shuffling along behind a helpful coworker, carrying his lunchbox. It’s a little Playmate cooler, and he’s carefully written “I Love Star Trek” across the white top with a magic marker. There are some Klingon words, too, but we can’t read Klingon.

We pass some wind farms in the afternoon. Some turbines are very close to the road, closer than we’ve ever seen them, their elegant silvery arms spinning slowly in the blue sky: peace in motion. We see cotton bales the size of truck beds, lined up and waiting after harvest. We pass a field with a pickup parked at the edge, two little boys racing up and down on top of the long rows of last summer’s round bales.

The land starts to look different in Texas, little red dirty canyons and miniature mesas in scrubby brush pastures. Sunset on the plains is prettier than in other places, I think. It’s simpler; we see more light and fewer shapes.

After much discussion we drive past the Big Texan in Amarillo, that icon of great American gastronomic excess, to eat a smaller supper elsewhere. It’s lit up and gaudy and the parking lot is jammed with fat men and pickups packed in for a steak supper. Everything in Texas has a star on it; it’s the state shape.

We arrive in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, in the late evening. We’re sure we’ve traveled back in time; this town must have been a major waypoint on old Route 66, and nothing’s changed since. No one’s painted, or even cleaned the gutters. The hotels and restaurants have names like “The Oasis” and “Bud’s Place”, with awkwardly angled 1950s-style roofs and pink neon lighting. The RV parks have teepees and concrete dinosaurs. The town is seedy and the road to the state park is badly marked.

Our garden gnome standing watch at Santa Rosa State Park.

Day 1 – Day 2 – Day 3

Tucson Honeymoon: Day 1

Start: Home
End: Lake Fort Smith State Park (AR)

Daily Mileage: 172
Total Mileage: 172

Last summer was a busy one: we shopped for our house and bought it, we painted and cleaned and moved two households’ worth of stuff and people and cats, we planned and held a wedding and entertained its attendant houseguests, and by the time it was all over we were too tired for a honeymoon. We decided to wait; we figured we’d enjoy a trip more if we had more time to plan and look forward to it.

So we’ve carefully planned a winter backpacking trip to Canyonlands National park in Utah. We’ve researched the average weather, ordered guidebooks and maps, talked with friends and friends’ friends and even the park’s rangers about winter trail conditions and water availability. We’ve spent the last two months making lists and upgrading gear and reading Edward Abbey and looking forward to a trip to the arches in the desert.

But we’ve watched the extended forecast for Canyonlands with growing concern, and one final check of the forecast this morning confirmed it: it’s too cold and snowy. The trip to Utah is canceled until further notice, and we’ll go somewhere else instead. We’re disappointed but determined to have a good trip, and we’re headed west on Interstate 40 toward Albuquerque and then, hopefully, the Grand Canyon.

On shuffle, the iPod chooses a bagpipe rendition of “Amazing Grace” as the first song of our trip.

Tonight we stay at the newly reopened Lake Fort Smith State Park just north of Alma. Earlier in the week, Bryan’s coworkers had been appalled when they realized we planned to tent camp in state parks. But this place is marvelous, with clean bathrooms and hot showers and well-designed campsites. The visitors center even has a live turtle display. With all this luxury for $8.50, why pay for a hotel?

Aly enjoys geeky podcasts in the tent.

Day 1 – Day 2