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Published: June 26th 2017
Geo: 35.1982, -111.651
I was surprised at how good the music on the radio was during the drive the night before, especially for being in the middle of the Arizona desert and in the middle of the night! The reception was, however, slightly sinusoidal, or perhaps menopausal. Great for 20 seconds, then some fuzz... good for 15 seconds, fuzz... kind of like the thought processes in my tired brain at the time. It reminded me of college. Between classes, I would often go waste some time in the dorm room of some of my good friends, Jon and Bill. They had an old tv - the screen about 12 inches wide, probably 3 inches thick (drop that sucker off a parking garage and it might damage the concrete below), and you could see every pixel if you got close enough. The kind we used to play Duck Hunt and Hogan's Alley on. Rabbit ears, of course, topped with large clumps of aluminum foil. There were very specific places that people had to sit in the room to get proper reception. One on the bed, one at the desk, and another on the guest chair. If anyone so much as raised a hand
in the air - gone. Nothing but an ant race on the tv. The hand goes down - Jerry Springer is back on with his lunatic guests.
But I digress...
Tuba City. Wow. In a town with not much more than a dozen streets, I somehow took the wrong turn, improperly reading the sign pointing me towards highway 160. I drove a few blocks up "Main Street". Well, crawled up main street. A speed limit of 15, behind a school bus going about half that. It gave me plenty of time to observe town: a "7 2 11" store (not 7-11), a humorous street sign (see photo), and old, dilapidated buildings - most of which were deserted and boarded up. I was back on the highway as soon as I could be.
Flagstaff was added to my list of desired destinations thanks to Jen, an old (ok, not that old) high school friend. She lives in Tucson, and for a few years now we have been talking about trying to get together somewhere. A couple months ago, when this crazy vagabond idea first came into my head, I called her up. "Jen! I have good news! After the ski season ends I'm
gonna be homeless and jobless and on the road, and plan to make a stop in Tucson to come see you!" "Awesome! Well, in June I'll be homeless and jobless, as well, but Tucson is too hot then, so let's go do some hiking in Flagstaff!"
An odd blend of rednecks, hippies, and hipsters. I killed some time at Macy's Coffehouse, and reading a new book in the park (The Maze Runner - I highly recommend it, although be warned it's the first part of a trilogy so you may want to wait until all three parts are out). Jen got to town around noon, we found some lunch, wandered, shopped (well, she shopped, I sorta just followed), etc, and found a place to camp in some National Forest land outside of town. While on the road, I've been trying to catch as many breweries and open mics as possible That night was my first open mic (I've missed a couple by just a day or so)! Both of us were exhausted from travel and knew that we had to wake early to hike, so I did not want to play late. Lucky for me, spots 2-8 were already taken, but
spot 1 was still open. Performers hate going first. You essentially become the sound check. Which I was. But I don't care. I try to just enjoy myself, play the best I can, and ignore that anyone else is even paying attention. A lot of time, they're not, so it works out well.
We woke at 6 the next morning to climb Mt Humphrey's. At an elevation of 12,637, it is the highest point in Arizona, towering over Flagstaff like a volcano (see the photo, at the bottom). Both not in as good of hiking shape as we would like and not wanting to kill of injure ourselves, we took it easy, and summitted in about 3.5 hours. Perfect, perfect, perfect weather! A little chilly in the morning, and didn't get hot until the descent. The oddest thing happened upon reaching the summit - thick swarms of little flies. I mean THICK! 50 feet prior to the summit there was no sign of them, but as soon as the summit was in view, we were covered head to toe with the little buggers. After some quick photos, we decided to head down just a little ways to enjoy lunch, which was
enjoyed greatly with shoes and socks off, basking in the sun, backs propped up against a large, smooth rock. And no flies for lunch (other than a few that were accidentally consumed on the summit).
Despite some haze in the distance, the view from the top of Arizona was stunning. You don't notice it too much while driving, but the approach to
Flagstaff from the north is like driving through a giant acne-field (click here, make sure you have terrain turned on).
Like a 14er, the descent was a little rough on the knees, but also pleasant as we passed dozens of people heaving and sweating still pushing or dragging their way up. Except for one guy, who's pace was a slow jog while coming towards us. He was maybe 15 years old, and wore no shirt. Or shoes. You read that right - no shoes. No shoes, no shirt, no water. And practically jogging. I was a little ahead of Jen on the descent. After the young man passed me, I waited. "Was I seeing things?", I asked when she arrived. "Nope. You weren't." I don't know whether the kid is crazy, or brilliant, in a way. Just another example of
For once, I feel tall
...too bad I look like a bug
how there is a fine line between brilliance and insanity (haven't you ever noticed how all of the truly brilliant people in history were also a little nuts?)
<Before we continue, my apologies if this "dear diary" entry is boring you. But if it is, and you are still reading, well... I win.>
I had decided a few days earlier that after sleeping in my truck for two weeks and spending all day on the trail getting my butt kicked by a mountain, I would probably want to sleep in a bed and have a shower. I booked a room at the Hotel Monte Vista - an historic and supposedly haunted hotel right in the middle of historic downtown Flagstaff. A modest room, no AC, some quirks, and a broken elevator (our room was on the third floor, which normally wouldn't matter except that we could hardly move after the climb), but it was reasonably priced, fun, and perfect for the occasion.
After washing off layers of sunscreen, sweat, and Humphrey's (in separate showers - don't get too excited, people), we mustered up enough energy to find some food. Actually, we found some food (sushi!!!), went back and rested, and then went out
for food again a few hours later. Checking the second item off of my list, we visited the Lumberyard Brewing Company. Not bad. Until they started karaoke. Bad, bad, bad. And it's not true karaoke if you stay in your seat and the host brings the mic to you.
We had ventured to the "wrong side of the tracks", and were surprised to find that our route was blocked by the Amtrac train loading passengers. 5 minutes. 10 minutes. 15... To the right, it was only a detour around about three train cars until we could sneak around and head to our destination (sleep). Although clearly illegal, and with no trespassing signs clearly informing of such, we made a break for it with a group of about 15, strategically placing ourselves in the middle of the group should we need to flee. Hoping that the train did not suddenly jump to life, I had to give it a little smack on the ass as we passed by. Down the sidewalk and crawling over a cement wall, we were home free!
Due to the lack of AC, we opened the windows to let the cool, night air in. You would have thought we
were in the middle of a city! The sounds of cars, people laughing and screaming outside of the downstairs bar, some sirens (truly, not just adding this for effect), and the eventual departure of the Amtrac roadblock, which sounded like a pack of rabid Harleys. Despite the noise, sleep came quickly.
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