Walking in a Desert Wonderland

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Sunset at the Grand Canyon, AZ

Well, I suppose mid-February is a good a time as any to post my holiday (yes, those holidays) guest blog post.  After months of subtle reminders from Marla dropped over texts, calls, emails, cards, e-cards, in-person reminders, and carrier pigeons (well, almost)… here it goes! Commence guest blog now!  

Over the holidays I joined my oldest friend Kristin and her family on a trip to Las Vegas. We had just celebrated our 20-year friendaversary, a friendship that has survived and been built on adventures spanning far and farther.  We’ve traveled three continents together, so it seemed perfect timing to join her for this vacation to what turned out to be one of the most “bizarre” places either of us had ever visited.

There was just one problem.  Neither I nor my friend really cared all that much about gambling.  And if tv, movies, magazines, books, music, the internet, and word-of-mouth is to believed, that’s kinda the thing to do in Vegas.  I mean yes, there are also shows, and food, people watching of course, but would that fill up a whole week?  We weren’t convinced.

So, what could we do?  Why, get outta Dodgy City, of course!  And get out we did.

This was both our first times in the Desert Southwest, so we decided to make the most of it.  We rented a car, plotted a general route, booked some hotels, and decided to spend four days road-tripping around the Southwest.

During our “tour of as many National Parks as you can possibly fit into 4 days”, we saw Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Cathedral Canyon (Antelope Canyon’s lesser known sister site), Zion National Park, and Red Rock Park in NV, AZ, and UT.  I’m no poet, so I won’t even attempt to describe the amazing things we saw.  Instead, let me show you…

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As you see, there were a LOT of amazing things that we saw and did in those four days. But one of my favorite moments of the entire trip was our brief visit to a gas station on the road back from Zion Park in Utah.

(Yes, you read that right. A gas station.)

It was a small gas station in the middle of nowhere. True nowhere, hours from the next town nowhere. The gas station owner had lost their dog, so he asked that we help him look for it.

It was such a random moment. Being in that place, looking out at the great expanse of fields and mountains and snow, with no other cars in sight. Someplace so out of my everyday, yet doing something I had done so many times before. This act, this process of helping that man look for his dog on an empty road in Utah, was simultaneously quotidian and spectacular, beautiful in both it’s replicability and in it’s singularity. It was another adventure. Just like getting on that plane from Chicago was, or hopping that fence in Zion to take an icy trail.

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Driving in UT

That moment made me think of a couple I had met last summer and their wonderfully adventurous lifestyle. One weekend a month, they wake up early in the morning and pack up their car with supplies. They pull out a map, close their eyes, and point. Anywhere they land within a three hour radius of their home is their destination for the day. Maybe it’s a park, or a bowling alley: it doesn’t matter. They’d get in their car and go.

Now not all of us can be as adventurous as these two, whether for lack of resources, time, or obligations. But I think their spirit of unadulterated adventure is universally attainable.

I thought of this while standing there at the gas station, helping the attendant look for his mischievous pet. I could easily have said “sorry” and returned to the car, driven away, gone home. But where’s the adventure in that? Instead, my friend and I stuck around, chatted with him, learned a little bit about this life, soaked in the Utah backdrop a little longer, and eventually found and played with his adorable, scrappy dog. Was this experience life-changing in and of itself? Not really. Did I make any sort of difference on that station attendant or his dog? Probably not. Was this experience special, important to me, and something I’ll always remember? Absolutely.

As Susan Sontag once said, “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” I think this is the theme to leave with. Whether it’s trekking out to the Desert Southwest, or taking a spontaneous journey to a new corner of your neighborhood, there’s a lot of adventures out there to have. All you need to do is open a map, point a finger, and then walk out the door. Go. See. Explore.

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Sunset at the Grand Canyon, AZ

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