Crystal Forest Gift Shop Parking Lot Outside Petrified Forest National Park
I finally made it out of New Mexico. I left Silver City this morning – after getting the plug that connects Moby to Amelia and not so incidentally thus provides Amelia with turn signals, brake lights, running lights AND actual brakes replaced AGAIN. The first place I went to wouldn’t or couldn’t do it but they sent me to a place which did it handily and well and charged me half what I paid in Albuquerque. More and more I suspect I was badly ripped off in Albuquerque, goddamnit. Two days in Silver City was enough to tell me that Silver City is expensive – dude, $5 for a coffee and a stale muffin so I can use the internet for two hours? That’s worse than Battle Cat in Asheville – and so if a repair there is cheaper than Albuquerque, which is a real city and a major hub, etc., then I was ripped off. Sometimes I think I will never learn. I should have demanded an estimate up front.
Oh well! I am learning a lot, actually and as I go along, even though I make horrific and stupid mistakes on the regular, I am sort of starting to feel rather competent at a variety of things. I managed to get the other propane tank working yesterday morning at 6 am armed with nothing but the world’s most horrible antique pair of what the hell are those things called. I had a small disaster with the black tank at Rose Valley but I fixed it. And, again at Rose Valley, the trailer tried to escape (and I tried to catch it with my left hand which was super dumb and now my old left shoulder injury is back with interest) and I fixed it. I can do a lot. I can drive across the country and find places to stay and back up a trailer and as I do it, talking to myself all the while, I find I’m getting stronger in a lot of ways. I do not think I will be taking much shit in the future, from anyone. And that feels good.
Rose Valley RV Ranch irritated me for no good reason. I think it was all the carefully semi tasteful rusted farm equipment decoratively scattered about. I mean, it was a nice place. The laundry room was wonderful and the shower, ah, the shower was HOT and you got a whole bathroom to yourself. But it sort of put on airs. And I’m at a point now where if it costs more than $20 I disapprove of it on general principles. Also, their wifi sucked and I’m getting really tired of expensive RV parks with shit wifi. Bottomless Lakes State Park in Roswell charges $14 a night and has banging free wifi. It is a doable thing. But the wifi at Rose Valley sent me fleeing into an internet cafe in Silver City downtown, which is a cute, if deserted, little town.
What is it with these towns? Are they all summer tourist havens that are deserted by mid
November? Do the summer residents go back to wherever they came from in the first place? Where IS that? Do the winter people then take their tourist dollars and go to where the summer people live in the winter, turn and turn around? Are they ghost towns? Are they full of ghosts? They’re definitely full of closed old motels with fabulous mid century signs that I should be photographing and am not. The West is empty. It is silent and empty and the only things around are cows. I must have driven through half a dozen little towns today and saw not a single human being. I saw a cow today when I stopped to take pictures. Well, as I said to myself, edging towards the truck, it was either a HUGE black bear or a normal sized black cow. This was an individual cow, I mean, as opposed to the many many MANY cows in groups I see all day long from the truck window as I drive by. I have seen so many cows on my journey. So many. I am now an expert on seeing cows from the truck.
That lonely black cow, though, made me jump because I was already spooked. I had stopped earlier at a small roadside picnic area to
admire the view, pee and, of course, picnic. There were two ravens hanging out on the picnic table when I got there, which I took to be a good sign. They gronked irritably at me and flew off. I sat down to have an apple and some cheese and then, I thought, perhaps shoot a panorama with the phone and read the infographic. It was deserted and beautiful and I was quite happy until GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR THERE WAS A LOUD GROWL FROM SOMEWHERE MUCH TOO CLOSE. It sounded almost mechanical and I thought perhaps it was the truck, which suddenly seemed way too far away. But the truck had been turned off for at least 20 minutes. I gathered up my keys, camera, phone, cheese, crackers, apple and water bottle (of course I had barely any pockets and no bag) in record time while talking very loudly about, I think, cheese. YAY CHEESE SO GLAD I HAVE THIS CHEESE MMMM YEAH I said, sidling rapidly yet nonchalantly towards the truck. DAMN I LOVE ME SOME CHEESE. I was thinking perhaps I could throw cheese at it, whatever it was, mountain lion, javalina, bear, yeti, ET: everything likes cheese and it might distract it long enough for me to get away. I got into the passenger side of the truck in a sudden display of remarkable agility and alacrity (my hip still hurts) and slammed the door closed. There was still nothing around. Nothing. I managed to clamber over to the driver’s side, which wasn’t as easy as it should have been, and laughed weakly and tried to calm down. There was still nothing, nobody, and silence all around but, you know, I decided against getting back out of the truck. Instead, I drove back to the main road and I never will know just what the HELL I heard.
The road from Silver City to Petrified Forest State Park is long and winding and very mountainous. It’s kind of like WNC, actually, but the mountains are bigger and rockier and more abrupt and there are no waterfalls or deciduous trees or, as mentioned, human beings except for one damn red truck (it’s always red) that appears out of nowhere and then makes a big to do out of passing me, gunning the engine contemptuously. There are lots of pine trees and then suddenly it’s Arizona: the terrain changes to golden grasslands and the roads get better. There are still no people, except at this one Shell station where there are too many and they are all grumpy.
And tonight I am sleeping in the parking lot of the Crystal Forest Gift Shop at the gate of Petrified Forest! I am excited. There are concrete tipis and concrete dinosaurs so you know it’s a quality roadside giftshop and I saw a bunny rabbit! It is very pleasant indeed and, best of all, free. Well, tomorrow I will probably buy something useless at the gift shop* so as not to seem ungrateful, but still, more or less free! And tomorrow when I leave the gift shop (shoppes, really, there are two) I will go to Petrified Forest, which is somewhere I have oddly enough always, my whole life, wanted to visit.
* fill up my suitcase with unnecessary plastic objects, as Nanci Griffith says in the intro to a version of Love at the Five and Dime I have on a CD somewhere.