I have always been a fan of road trips. As someone who prefers to be unsettled, road trips are a welcome way to spend a vacation. I have driven around the majority of Iceland and England. I have driven from Rome to Calabria and back. I have driven from Las Vegas to Philly. I have driven from Philly to Iowa. I have driven, alone, from Philly to Nashville and back.
I wanted to go somewhere for winter break. While a few options were considered, we chose a road trip through national parks in the southwest.
Starting in Los Angeles, we drove clockwise through Las Vegas, Utah, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Flagstaff, Phoenix, and back to Los Angeles. We visited seven national parks: Joshua Tree, Zion, Bryce, Canyonlands, Arches, Petrified Forest, and the Grand Canyon.
We also made stops at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House, Seven Magic Mountains, took a tour in Antelope Canyon, stayed overnight on a Navajo reservation in Monument Valley, took pictures at Four Corners, experienced the weird wonders of Meow Wolf, visited the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the Museum of International Folk Art, stayed overnight at Paolo Soleri’s Arcosanti, and saw a show at the Comedy Club in LA. The trip was 3070 miles over eleven days. One might say that I avoid relaxing vacations.
I relish the kind of in-depth planning required for this trip. Google spreadsheets and maps were involved – hours of research and planning. I worried about weather and checked the national snow cover map on a daily basis. While there was the chance of snow and closures, I like to visit sights in the off season. I’d been to the Grand Canyon twice before, both in the winter. I had visited Zion in March. I prefer to be where people aren’t. The shuttle busses don’t run throughout the parks in the winter, so you can drive through at your own pace and make stops.
While I’d been to various parts of the trip before, in its depth and breadth, the trip was the road trip I wanted. I took twenty 4x5 large-format photos, ten rolls of color film, and three rolls of black and white film. We were up for nearly every sunrise, saw the World Famous Crochet Museum, ate ramen noodles on New Year’s Eve in a tiny home at the edge of Bryce Canyon, relaxed in ceramic teacups at a Japanese-style spa in Santa Fe, ate Animal Style burgers and fries at In-N-Out Burger, drove through Sedona to the Chapel of the Holy Cross, discovered the joys of Blake’s Lotaburger, stood on the corner in Winslow, AZ, and ate (high) expectation-meeting food in L.A. at Guisados, Pizzeria Mozza, and Sqirl. The only disappointment was Marc Maron’s last-minute cancellation of his spot at the Comedy Store. One day I’ll see him there.
The trip may sound like a list, but it never felt that way. The days melted into one another. The rental car became familiar. And, to keep going felt more natural than standing still.