Sunday, September 03, 2006

Albuquerque, NM to Los Angeles, CA

The last day of our journey to start our new lives in Southern California!

As we were packing up the car Thursday morning for the final leg of our journey, we were treated to the sight of 3 or 4 hot air balloons in the air over Albuquerque.

We got on 40 West around 8 am, and decided to revisit our “East vs. West” mixed CDs.
One CD features the Kingston Trio doing “The M.T.A.”, which readers of my blog might remember is the song that the new MBTA “Charlie Card” is named after. It was fun to actually hear the song. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I still can’t believe the MBTA would name their new system after a character in a song written in protest of fare hikes!

With the speed limit at 75, we cruised through beautiful New Mexico, passing through many Indian reservations, including the Laguna and Cononcito.

As we passed the Continental Divide, I thought to myself that Karl and I are like the rivers – now flowing to the Pacific instead of the Atlantic. Even when I was a teenager, New York City was my true north. For a few years, at least, I guess my inner magnet will be pulled southwest instead of northeast.

Karl commented that the mountains look like “ships on a sea of green.” New Mexico’s drought is finally over, with a full-on monsoon season, so things are greener than usual.

As we passed into Arizona, we drove through the Navajo reservation, and just north of the Zuni reservation.

We made a spur of the moment decision to visit the Petrified Forest National Park, since 40 goes right through the park. We took advantage of the visit to buy an annual pass to the National Parks, as we anticipate visiting many more in the coming year here in the west. When you enter the park, you first come to the Painted Desert, which took our breath away. It’s so stunning, and so vast. We had seen colors like this at the “Artist’s Palette” in Death Valley, but the size of the Painted Desert makes a much bigger impression. A sign answered my question of the other day – we were able to spot a mountain range 120 miles away! We stopped at the Painted Desert Inn at the recommendation of the Ranger in the visitor center. The Inn was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps of the Works Progress Administration. What is somewhat unusual about the project, was that the CCC also created some beautiful things beyond the building itself, including a gorgeous painted glass ceiling which references local petroglyphs, pounded tin chandeliers, and furniture. Later, I believe in the 40s, the lodge was decorated further to include paintings by a Native America artist, John(?) Kabotie. His son Michael was the artist in residence when we visited. We chatted with him about his beautiful silver work, which he saws to make the patterns. We continued through the park, stopping at the Teepees and the Blue Mesa. Since we were limited on time, we did not get to see the Petroglyphs or take any of the trails. As you near the Teepees, you can start to see petrified wood from the car. We saw some beautiful examples up close in the Giant Logs trail just behind the Rainbow Forest Museum.

Delayed a few hours in our trip, but happy with our stop, we continued on. We soon passed through Flagstaff, where we saw our first mileage sign for LA! Flagstaff is not far from the Grand Canyon, and as if on cue, the landscape changed from desert to forest. In fact, we drove through the Kaibob National Forest. At some point in Arizona, we watched our odometer roll over to 90,000 miles!

Some random things we saw on the way:
• Refineries
• Billboard: “If NAFTA hasn’t crushed you yet, the FTAA will”
• The Wigwam Motel
• The Twin Arrows Trading Post, with old school giant arrows
• Replicas of famous bridges
• Rain falling in spots over the mountains
• On the back of a semi: “Upstairs his name is Jesus”

After the East vs. West CDs were over, we listened to The Rapture. Then I decided it was high time to feature some California bands, given that we were practically there. So we listened to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, System of a Down, Van Halen, the Beach Boys, Beck, and The Coup.

As we entered California, we had to stop at an inspection station. I had a panic that they would confiscate my plants, which would have been horrible for them to make it this far and then get taken away! The inspector did ask to look at the plants, and our cooler. Karl said we were coming from Albuquerque (rather than Boston), and evidently that was the answer that kept our plants and apples safe!

As we entered the Mojave Desert, we could see evidence of a fire. At first we thought it was a brush fire, but then we saw a train right by where the giant flames were leaping into the sky, so our best guess is that a train car or its contents caught on fire. We also saw lightning off in the distance.

If I can impart a bit of hard-earned wisdom, let me pass on the following advice for driving through the Mojave Desert:
1. Don’t do it during the day without air conditioning!
2. Get your gas before you enter the desert, or, like us, you will pay $4.69 per gallon!
3. Don’t do the drive at sunset. It’s beautiful, but let me tell you, riding off into the sunset really hurts your eyes when you’re driving!

Luckily, we did plan ahead and bring plenty of extra water and coolant.

Finally, we left the desert at Barstow, and headed south along 15 towards the Valley. In San Bernardino, we caught “the 10” west towards LA. Even though it was 9pm on a Thursday, we immediately hit traffic – welcome to LA!

For the last stretch, we played Richard’s CD “Found Your Way Home,” which was a beautiful but sad compilation of alt-country and “Americana” songs by Richard’s brother Rod Picott, Lucinda Williams, Eliot Smith and the like. Perfect for the melancholy mood of ending our cross-country journey, and starting our new life in LA.

We arrived at our apartment around 10pm, and got in without too much trouble, considering we were bleary-eyed and faced with 4 keys that looked exactly alike.

We slept on our inflatable mattress the first night, and our “ReloCubes” arrived at 10am on Friday. We unloaded all our stuff (thank goodness we’re on the first floor!) and also did some initial shopping at Target, Trader Joes, and Whole Foods, for things like a trash can, cleaning supplies, a shower curtain, and some food. By the end of the day, we had our bed and the bathroom set up enough to take showers and tumble into bed.

Today (Saturday) we face the challenge of making all of our stuff that fit into a 5 room apartment (with storage space) into a 3 room apartment with no storage. Hopefully we got rid of enough stuff!

The cats are due to arrive on Tuesday, and then we’ll be truly settled!

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