“Winnemucca is a heavy Trump area,” Michael warned. In the Nevada’s Great Basin Desert, it’s like a low-budget Las Vegas in the middle of nowhere.
The tattooed young woman who checked us into the Econolodge was surprised that anybody wanted to go there. She had a lot of complaints and wanted to start her own “Hicksvile Wi-Fi.” I wish her luck.
Meanwhile, the trash containers were overflowing.
Soon we were heading down Highway 305, where a large cricket lurked near the sharp-edged, metal urinals in a rest stop.
Michael got a call about how the worldwide superball shortage is affecting his business
Emily explained, “Nevada is the land of basins and ranges.”
Then there were crickets all over the highway.
We had arrived in time for a mass migration.
In another rest stop with *UNISEX* graffiti’d inside the door, they were invading.
Later, a lost cowdog passed by.
We were in the wide open spaces, what they once called the Great American Desert. Hope it doesn’t get all filled up with post-suburban sprawl, WalMarts, and corporate franchises.
Along Route 50 the cell service was good. I wonder why that’s so? Guess only the migrating crickets know.
The graveyard in Austin was so impressive we had to stop.
From marble statues to weather-worn wooden markers, going back into Wild West days.
Nearby was an abandoned building with a DON’T BLAME ME, I VOTED FOR TRUMP sign. Were they following the January 6 hearings?
I wondered if anybody still lived there. Like a lot of towns in the West these days, it seemed to be undergoing the transformation into a ghost town.
The Hickson recreation area had fantastic rock formations and petroglyphs.
There was a casino and murals in Ely.
A skeleton sat in an ancient car with an OK THEN NOW WHAT? sign on its rib cage, in a yard in Baker.
We searched for bristlecone pines in Great Basin National Park, and found a display telling of how the area once had giant vultures, saber tooth tigers, and camels.
Then we were back in Utah, and caught an incredible sunset.
The young woman who checked us into our Utah motel wore a rainbow pendant.
Gas was $5.06 a gallon in Salinas, Utah.
Michael found a self-serve car wash where he washed the bugs off the Prius’s nose. It was next to Lotsa Motsa Pizza. I wonder what they mean by Motsa?
Then it was I-70 with its Barsoomian vistas.
Finally, we were back in Colorado, Grand Junction, the motel where Michael’s van was parked for a couple of days exploring the area.
The nearby town of Delta had a lot to offer.
There were antiques.
Orval’s Used cars had some real classics.
And art. A sign calls it “City of Murals.”
Though some folks don’t like tourists coming around blocking traffic as they take pictures of it all.
In a Habitat for Humanity Restore, a young woman with decked out in Wild West Style open-carried an antique pistol in a suitable holster. I couldn’t tell if it was the real thing or a prop/fashion accessory. I wonder what Jimmy Carter would think.
On the way back to the hotel we passed Lauren “AOC, Warren, and the rest of the Genocide Squad will not rest until every baby in America is at risk” Boebert’s headquarters.
The next morning Michael announced that “The weirdometer is operating at full capacity.” He had witnessed a coffee machine disaster in the breakfast room. Then a guy walking two poodles got tangled up with a column. Not to mention the shark-faced car.
To make things even weirder, when asked about the tents with about a hundred flags in the parking lot, it turned out to be evangelist Ray Cordova selling fireworks for Jesus.
And next door, Walmart was selling patriotic paraphernalia.
Before we set out for more exploring, I tried an Einstein Bros Jalapeño Bacon Bagel, and it’s a yum!
Didn’t investigate the place selling yak meat.
In the town of Hotchkiss, there was a Bernie Sanders sign.
Down the road was an interesting looking farm with a sign saying they sold Elevation Tea. We investigated. The woman who owned it was working in the fields and gave us a tour. Michael bought some tea. There are some interesting people there.
Hotchkiss also had a yard sale with an interesting mural inside a garage.
And then, Paoina . . .
First there’s an abandoned truck and piece of rusty farm equipment, then it gets arty with a rocketship-type thing parked in front of some murals.
But it’s more than murals. The whole town sprouts art.
The shops are like galleries.
While searching for a restroom, we found one in a colorful post-modern taco shop. It didn’t smell like a taco shop. That bothered me.
And the cell service was lousy.
In Sommerset, flags were painted on a train.
Gray coal mine buildings loomed over the road.
And a wooden Indian guards a store.
For lunch/dinner, we had excellent brisket sandwiches at the Slow Groovin’ BBQ in Marble.
Marble also has a marble quarry.
In Carbondale, someone felt they needed to let us know that they don't rent pigs.
The Cattle Creek ReStore was all decked out for Fourth of July.
We saw a LET’S GO BRANDON flag, faded and backwards.
After days of spectacular clouds, wind and rain hit as we left a thrift store.
The next morning we checked out of the Red Roof Inn in Grand Junction. We were also parting ways with Michael. He would be taking the van to another craft show, we would be heading to New Mexico in the Prius, but following him for a while.
We passed a billboard, one that was all over Colorado: Lauren Boebert standing in front of the word FREEDOM, with her usual shark-toothed, shit-eating grin.
Then there was another faded Trump sign past the correctional facility on Highway 50.
And finally, there was a Trump/Pence sign with pence obliterated. I was wondering if they were paying attention to current events.
We passed a driver with an army cap, sunglasses, a long beard and a camouflage shirt.
After a while, we needed a pit stop, that we took in a trading post in Ouray, I spotted a goth gal in full regalia walking along the main street.
We went through the mountains and forest along the 550. Rain and mud made the river orange.
Not many flags or Trump signs in New Mexico.
Then a typical aging New Mexico scalliwag staggered, drunk, holding up a thumb to hitchhike.
Time, space, and other things are warped here.
In the morning, I woke from confusing, colorful dreams in another room bigger than our house in the Inn at the Delta, in good old Española.
We took the High Road to Taos. The Paseo de Pueblo Sur was a crowded, torn-up mess. We couldn’t find a coffee place–the few that were open were packed.
I had to shoot the murals around a construction site from across the street.
Finally, we had to get coffee and pastries from a gas station.
Even though a lot places we liked had gone out of business, our favorite bookstore was open. We found some good ones.
An occasional flag hung limp in New Mexico. I saw a car in Michael’s Kitchen’s parking lot that had a Trump bumper sticker with Pence carefully razored off. Otherwise there was not much political tension.
After a quick side trip to Nambé to pick up something for Michael, we went to Santa Fe, where some people still wear masks on the streets. There were more masks in general here.
Gas was $4.59 a gallon.
Then we checked into the Silver Saddle Motel that was under new management. El Moises’ decorations were fading. No more Billy the Kid, Jesse James, and Cowgirl rooms. Wild West kitsch was being replaced by highs-style minimalism with touches of western surrealism: There were eyes on the pillowcases.
Billy the Kid has been kicked out of the demolished mural on the Paseo and the Silver Saddle. Now his homeless ghost wanders the streets of Santa Fe.
Again, not much luck in the thrift stores, but we both found books.
Drivers in traffic were in a bad mood.
The tacos at Los Potrillos were great.
New Mexico, already crumbling, was hit hard by Covid, and though lots of construction is going on, is not recovering well. Tourism and history have an uneasy relationship. There’s a lot of ugly, bloody truths to deal with. The tendency is to create customer-friendly constructs, like the myth of the peaceful Navajos, blotting out a proud warrior tradition. I hope we can find a way to acknowledge the truth while encouraging the dreams.
Next day brought us into the Fourth of July weekend. Is anybody celebrating? What are they celebrating?
We took the I-25 to Albuquerque.
There was a sign for something called Budagers. I thought it must be for vegi-burgers for Buddhists, and got an idea for a cartoon: “Buddhagers” with Buddha holding a burger with an eye and a flaming halo. My imagination was going. Or maybe I just need new glasses.
Then Emily said, “I could swear that sign said, ‘Watch for asteroids.” We had just passed a digital freeway sign near the infamous GUSTY WINDS MAY EXIST and ZERO VISIBILITY POSSIBLE signs.
Gas was $4.40 a gallon in Albuquerque.
While Staying in Grants, we visited El Malpais. The fire hazard was high. Black and Brown people filled the visitor’s center, speaking Spanish and other languages.
Malpais would be a good title for some kind of western.
Then again, what about Planet Malpais?
It looked like all of Grants came to El Cafecito for lunch. Their huevos rancheros with enchilada sauce are great. So are their prices.
We then visited El Morro. Magnificent as usual. We heard thunder, got rained on. It was wonderful!
More businesses were abandoned in Grants. Another town going ghosty . . .
Later, we enjoyed tacos at El Rancho Cafe, and watched lightning out our motel window
In the morning we woke up to a view of NO PUBLIC TRASH and the mystic road.
I took a picture. I like to take pictures of the things that most keep out of their photos and art. Could it be that the human race and all that it creates are part of nature? Jackson Pollock said, “I am nature.” Could art, civilization, garbage, and pollution, all be natural phenomena?
Then, in odyssey mode, we took a long, slow way home. What are we going back to?
In New Mexico, the sky is always beautiful. What is beauty? Do we see it? Or do we create it in our minds?
I thought these things as we crisscrossed the Continental Divide, seeing more Native Americans working and running things, making America great again, amid the new ghost town and lost cities of the future . . .
“I really feel that seeing different places stimulates your brain,” Emily said.
Then we entered the Rez, where a billboard advertised: LAMB’S RIBS, TAMALES, ROOT BEER FLOATS.