That evening I made it to Flagstaff, Arizona and pulled in to a Walmart parking lot. As many RV’ers know, most Walmart’s allow for overnight RV and bus parking. As a traveller just passing through, it is a wonderful opportunity to rest safely and inexpensively. And as a humorous juxtaposition, one of my favorite author/musicians, Neil Peart likes to label them as “Chateau Walmart.” So, I will in respectful homage do the same thing. This was my first experience at a one of the asphalt chateau’s and my apprehensions were eased due to a number of other RV’ers settled for the evening. When I awoke, I peeked outside to assess my surroundings and was caught off guard by the sight of tall pine trees. Although I’d been through Arizona before, it was always the southern route and I hadn’t realized that Flagstaff sat at a higher elevation in the middle of The Kaibab National Forrest. There was an encouraging crispness in the air that truly made me feel like I was somewhere else. There was just one problem. The electrical system in the RV was not working. I had no power. So I started up the engine which is supposed to transfer power to the house battery. The engine ran fine but I still had no current inside. This din’t seem like a huge problem to me but it was preventing the refrigerator from working and my food would soon go bad. So I resolved to get to my parents place in Oklahoma as soon as possible and resolve the problem there. But there were two stops along the way that I just had to make.
The first stop, just an hour east of Flagstaff on I40 was made famous in the Eagles song, “Take it Easy.” Winslow, AZ. Now, I’m definitely not much of a gimmicky, touristy kind of person but having so much respect for the Eagles’ music, I couldn’t resist getting a cheesy picture of myself “Standin’ on a corner.” The next stop that interested me was considerably more significant. Petrified Forest National Park. I’d recently become a fan of the National Park Service and set myself a lifetime goal of visiting all 59 parks within the United States and it’s territories. In addition, I had acquired a National Park Passport Book for collecting cancellation stamps at each location. I love the idea of having this long-term goal that I can chip away at slowly over the years. It also gives me a reason to get off the main road from time to time. Driving south on route 180, I entered the park at the south entrance so that I could drive it’s span to the north where I would pick up I40 again. Originally a National Monument established in 1906, Petrified Forest was given National Park status in 1962 preserving the land and it’s contents for as long as the United States exists. The significance of this location lies in it’s geology. Scattered throughout the park are fossils of fallen trees that lived nearly 225 million years ago. Petrified tree trunks. Originating from the Greek root “petro” meaning “stone,” petrified trees are literally wood that has turned to stone. This happens over millions of years as the organic material decays and is replaced by minerals such as quartz. This occurs underground and covered by volcanic ash which prevents oxygen from fueling the decomposition process. It was hard to imagine standing in a deserted scene that it was once filled life and color – long before myself or any of my ancestors came to be. For me, that idea creates and emotional juxtaposition. It makes me feel insignificant in time, space, and matter but special because I am here now.
Heading east again, I had about another thousand miles to drive. After a day of exploring and sightseeing, and with my electrical problem, I was ready to get there as quickly as possible. Crossing in to New Mexico, I was surprised how quickly quickly the terrain changed from flatlands in to bluffs and plateaus. I had never driven this route before and was kept alert and sometimes distracted by the beauty of the scenery. That night I slept at a truck stop in Tucumcari, NM and was up before the sun to push on. In the Texas panhandle, I passed through Amarillo as the sun was rising and cruised steadily in to Oklahoma. Here, the wind began to pick up. Essentially driving a large box with big flat surfaces, heavy winds can easily cause an RV to veer out of a lane. Still relatively inexperienced in driving this thing, fighting the wind took a bit of focused effort. But slowly the sun moved from the foreground to above and then behind me and long tiring day of driving came to a close. Pulling up to the house, my father awaited me with an ice cold beer.
Written by AHWD Cameraman and musician, Michael Edwards. visit: http://www.goodonutah.com