Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Big Empty

Those of you who've followed CircleThrice long-term know that I make an annual trip home to the desert in order to see my family. And as challenging as these visits can be, there's usually some useful lesson or perspective that I get from going that end up here. For example:

2015: In the Wilderness
2016: Stars in the Desert
2017: On Age and Time

Canyon Lands Park, UT

This year the visit was a little different. Usually, the budding psychonaut and I fly in and out for a week and take some time to have a day-trip adventure. This year we flew in, rented a car, and after our visit drove 2500 miles through AZ, UT, ID, and home again.

I grew up in the desert, but have lived on the West Coast for 11 years now. It's easy to forget just how empty the landscape in the Southwest really is. This is Trump country (for the most part) sparsely populated and with low economic mobility and high independence. Tourism is the primary industry and in this way the area does better than the true fly over states, but not much.

This is the country that's ignored by Washington and Silicon Valley alike and whatever tech there is is military tech. I forgot how odd the proliferation of military equipment and attitudes is to someone who never came from the area. Where I'm from they close the highway for hours during missile tests and you just don't get to go to the next town over until they are done. Border checkpoints are also common and I grew up stopping and answering the question "are you all American citizens?" One time my dad looked at my mom and said "she isn't" and she was so pissed at him for making her dig out her Green Card to show the guard -- who really didn't care about her German immigration status. There's a certain amount of blatant racial profiling that goes on here, but hey you don't fuck with the border patrol or they will take the opportunity to search your car to pieces.

NM to OR is a LONG drive -- real power road trip distances, even as we stopped at some of the most beautiful landscapes I've seen in the world (rivaling the Swiss Alps for sheer stunning vistas, though it's like comparing snow apples and dried oranges). I wouldn't have been able to manage by myself, but the kid is permitted now and got his driving time in.

In this country you have to get gas (and pee) where you can, as you don't know when the next stop will be. You see these exit signs that say "No Services." And you see glimpses still of a world that no longer exists, but that you sometimes wish did.

This was our room at the Wigwam Hotel

The emptiness and stillness had the effect of making me feel fuller.

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