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Category Archives: Southwest

Viva Las Vegas

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I planned to camp at Mead Lake before entering Las Vegas. Along the road I was distracted by the little Route 66 town of Seligman, Arizona. I had to stop for a float and to walk the streets filled with antique cars and vintage storefronts.

Seligman put me about an hour off of my estimated arrival time and I pulled into the Lake Mead area to witness a sunset over that strange landscape and the locked doors of the visitor’s center. After determining that it would be impossible to find a camping spot in the dark, I headed to the little town of Boulder City, NV. While the town looked quite cozy and cute, even after dark it was ridiculously expensive. My jaw dropped at the price of the absolute seediest cheap motel in town.

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I decided to call a hostel in Las Vegas and head into the city a little early. They asked if I was a student. I told them I was. They asked if I had a student ID. I said I did. Las Vegas isn’t really known for being the sort of place where people are very honest anyway. I’m not a very good liar. The guy behind the front desk asked me about my trip and I went on and on. Lies tend to lead to more lies – “So, how are you doing all this traveling while in school?””Online classes.””Oh, Cool. What are you planning on doing when you finish this trip?””Well, other than school, I have this little side graphic design/website business… it would be great to do it full-time.”

Obviously a converted old hotel, I checked into my room at the USA Hostel. I opened the door on three college girls from the U.K. spraying perfume and dry shampoo. They were trying on their fancy dresses and heels about to go out for some “posh” nightlife at one of those “posh” casinos. I asked if I could go along and I tried not to look like the hipster road bum I had become. We waited for forever for a cab, so long that we about gave up on going out. It finally showed up around 12:30 a.m.

Time doesn’t matter in Vegas. Read the rest of this entry

Four Corners and the Grand Canyon

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I left Durango not sure whether to feel assured or concerned about my brand new tires. I drove through desert listening to Navajo Nation Public Radio. I stopped to get a map of Arizona, after my gps lost signal and then again at the Four Corners Monument. It was there that I stood on the Colorado, Utah, Arizona and Nevada line and shopped for turquoise souvenirs.

I later got to experience the very tall Elephant Ear and continue the long drive to the Grand Canyon.

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Durango, Colorado

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2013-03-30_12-52-20_66I decided to head up to Durango, Colorado to spend my birthday and Easter with my cousin Mary’s family. It was a little out-of-the-way, but I wanted to visit with Mary and I thought I would enjoy spending the holidays with family instead of with strangers.  I had the best time. Mary had a very large and comfortable guest bedroom for me to stay in, which was very conducive to working. It was good to be on a family schedule. The next door neighbor’s kid had the same birthday as me. I found out about this as he entered the minivan and yelled, “Who’s the hottie!” over and over again. I’m not really sure if it is cute or creepy to be called a hottie by a six-year-old. Though he was perfectly happy to yell to the entire car load about my physical attractiveness, he turned all shy and wouldn’t say a thing when I addressed him directly and asked him what he was doing for this birthday. On my birthday, I was surprised with a vase of flowers from the family. They had a piano recital to attend mid-day, so I took myself to Mesa Verde National Park. It was so fascinating to see all the ancient cliff dwellings. It was hard to imagine how people got to the side of the cliffs at all and even harder to imagine how they made them into such vibrant and large communities. The scenery was breath-taking. Read the rest of this entry

Santa Fe

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I pulled around to the workshop behind a hotel for the maintenance man to help me fill my tires with air. The weather in the desert really takes a toll on tire pressure. He said, “You’re travelin’ by yourself? Go get yourself  a little somethin’ to eat in Roswell and fill up for gas. After you get through town there won’t be nothin’.” I didn’t think he literally meant “nothin'”. I thought there would certainly be a tree or two, maybe an abandoned building, maybe a lone gas station…. nope. There was nothing after Roswell for three hours. Not even a tree. I couldn’t pick up a radio station.

I drove and drove listening to the three CD’s I had in the car over and over again. I was so happy when I finally came to this little town where I could fill up for gas and grab a hamburger at a diner. I reached Santa Fe in the dark relieved that I was no longer on the road!

The Diner

The Diner

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Carlsbad Caverns

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2013-03-24_14-31-29_689I pulled in right around sunset and drove up the mountain to check it out. You can backcountry camp in Carlsbad for up to two weeks for free. There are no trees. The place looks beautiful, but harsh. I’m not sure how many people take the park service up on it.

I ended up parked in a private campground right before the camp entrance. There were a few tents near me. I didn’t bother to bring a tent. The more I watch tent campers the more I think I made the right decision. I was very annoyed by the bright lights of the camp. I’m a light-sensitive sleeper. I wanted to park up in the National Park, but they didn’t allow that and I would’ve been pretty obvious unfortunately. Read the rest of this entry

Way out West Texas

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My car parked by the Marfa Lights viewing area.

In the morning I left Manor with a cooler my Couchsurfing host, Bill filled with left-over pizza we made from scratch the night before, a bottle of salad dressing, and lettuce. I prepared the best I could for this drive by filling up two water bottles and my Platypus with that wonderful Texas rain water. Bill let me know, “You’ll be happy to have that rain water when you get to west Texas, all their water is so hard and filled with sulfur.” I packed the car, Bill gave me a c.d. for the trip and I said my goodbyes.

I must admit, I really didn’t know what I was going to experience over the next six and a half hours. I didn’t expect much. When you look at the map west Texas just looks like this long stretch of NOTHING and it looks hot and flat. Even from the map, I could imagine hours of heat reflecting off concrete and driving cowboy riding into the sunset style.

Once you get on the road, you realize that while the world (and even those who live in the east side of the state) imagine this to be true, it is the furthest thing from the truth.

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San Antonio Day

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2013-03-19_13-23-29_450I woke up to a flat tire the day after SXSW had ended. I was relieved that I made it back to Manor the night before and didn’t end up on the side of the road at a ridiculous hour. I decided it was best to rest for the weekend anyway. The only place I went for a few days was with Bill to the park. Rural Texas was starting to look festive with wild flowers starting to span the grass. Every other picnic pavilion had kids out hitting a piñata and there were several games of competitive soccer. We walked for a while and took in the scenery of the Colorado River.

Tuesday after my restful weekend, I pumped up my tire and went to the repair shop to patch my wheel before heading to San Antonio. Over the weekend I had also discovered Roadtrippers.com and had found some suggestions of things to see – the first of which was Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum. Read the rest of this entry

Music and Austin Manor

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I really miss Bill and Morgan, but especially Bill. After my first week in Austin, I drove out to the country to Couchsurf with Bill in Manor, TX (pronounced Mainer) I really didn’t know what to expect as I drove out of the city and across wide-open fields divided by barb-wire and giant rural electric towers. Bill said he had two Couchsurfers stay with him for over a year and I wouldn’t want to leave. I turned down one cracked country road to another, until I ended up on the dirt.

In a gravel drive I walk up among trees and weeds to what looks like a very tall mix between a house and a sculpture. I am greeted by a short, round man with white hair and I follow along the warped pavers. We enter an antique door into a formal dining room. Hanging on the walls and propped up on the floor are oil paintings, mostly nudes. Bill is quite the artist and gourmet chief. “Is this house historic?” I ask. “Oh, no I built it myself about fifteen years ago. I was going for 1890s.” “Oh, you seemed to achieved that well.” Yes, I was very throughout in keeping to the time period.” “Did you use reclaimed wood?” “Let me show you around.”

I walk upstairs to gaze out of the bathroom windows. Windows wrap around half of the bathroom. A claw-foot tub shines brightly as the sun streaks over it onto the wood floors. My room is up the third set of stairs. An air mattress has been set up in the middle of the room. Windows and unfinished art work surrounds me. I an eagle in a nest also known as the artist studio.

I spent two happy weeks walking around the 25 acre land co-op in Manor, cooking dinner with Bill and Morgan, a girl who lives in his guest house. Bill makes everything from scratch. I got to learn how to make pizza and Shrimp Diablo. It was so cozy, our family eating around the dining room table when Morgan came home from work. No wonder his guest don’t want to leave.

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HI Austin

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SXSW

SXSW

My first week in Austin, I stayed at the Hostel International. It was jammed packed for SXSW. I think I reserved the last spot available 3 months earlier. The place was filled with developers from all over for interactive and Australians for film. The hostel is located right on the Colorado River and you can sit outside on picnic tables and hang out by this dock. The weather was perfect!

My first day in Austin, I offered a ride to this Chinese-American user-interface developer from San Francisco (Robin), who was also staying at the hostel. He needed to stop by the Car-To-Go rental place to get his key and I was having a ridiculous taco craving. We ended up meandering through this very hilly neighborhood with adorable houses and I tried to figure out with all the one-way streets how to get to the car rental store. I ended up just parking on a side street and walking to this place Tacos and Tequila. He wanted to treat me since I drove him and I’m not really one to turn down being treated. The tacos were amazing. They had three different ones offered for happy hour with a toppings bar. The brisket was the best. We sat at the bar sampling tacos and mixed drinks. After the restaurant we

Don's Depot

Don’s Depot

decided to catch a bus and check out downtown. For some reason Robin decided to start treating me all girlfriendy, but I didn’t really care. He was a sweet guy to escort me around with his hand on the small of my back and lend me his jacket.  When we walked back to my car, we were surprised to find a happening neighborhood bar right next to where I parked. We hung out in Donn’s Depot for a while for a bit of authentic Texas entertainment. Located inside an old train car, it was filled with older people two-stepping to the band… and the band played a mean harmonica. Read the rest of this entry

Steer Shows and Pot Holes

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Chuck Wagon Race

Chuck Wagon Race

The beginning of March, I stayed in Houston with my sorority sister, Amandine. She is a graduate student at a university there. On Thursday night I arrived just in time for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Three other girls were at the apartment waiting on me. A car and then a train later, we were scouting out fair food. Between the four of us there were giant baked potatoes, a foot-long corn dog, a turkey leg, over a dozen fried Oreos and… fancy metal flasks.

I never realized that a rodeo contained so many different events. We played a ridiculous game of telephone in the bleachers as cowboys and a few barrel racing cowgirls roped, wrangled and rode in the dirt far below. The highlight of the night was the Mutton Bustin’ competition, where five year-olds are padded up and sent off riding lambs. A little guy named Brody won. They presented him with a man-sized belt buckle and asked him what was the secret to winning. He responded with a southern twang, “You just gotta keep you’re head down and hold on.” Read the rest of this entry