Sunburn and Bugs 2016: Escape From Santa Fe

 I slept poorly my last night in Santa Fe, tossing and turning fitfully, sweating and waking up in what seemed like twenty minute intervals. I’m going to go ahead and blame the room’s air conditioner, which ran constantly but never kicked out anything that could be remotely called cold. I believe it had two settings: “Devil’s Buttcrack” (aka off) and “Mouthbreathing Stranger”, in which air is moving but resembles nothing so much as a stranger standing close enough to breathe hot breath down your neck. I mean, sure, all of the alcoholic drinks and the rich food and the multitude of chiles I ate probably played a role in my discomfort, but the air conditioner won’t mind if I point a finger in its general direction, and I do enjoy divesting myself of any culpability.

Emily wanted a cinnamon roll for the road from the French Pastry Shop, and since Rachel and I were all packed and ready to go, we walked over there to get her one. Not having learned my lesson about rich food one bit, I bought myself a pastry with fully half a peach inside and a cookie stuffed with raspberry jam. What?! We were going to be covering a lot of terrain with not many food options, so at the very least I’d have two food items just packed full of fruit-y, healthy vitamins.

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sunburn and bugs day 6 (2 of 64)Healthful. And so tasty, too!

sunburn and bugs day 6 (5 of 64)Feminist Killjoy, ready to hit the road

Our original plan called for driving to Albuquerque and heading west from there into Arizona, and I had a really solid list of things I wanted to do in Albuquerque, but if we were going to get back in three days, there just wasn’t time to spend an afternoon in Albuquerque. Not if we were going to hit two big targets that day: Antelope Canyon and the Grand Canyon.

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sunburn and bugs day 6 (11 of 64)Even if that rock already has a name, I’m renaming it to zombie face rock. You see it, right?

Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon (well, two of them) in northeastern Arizona, on Navajo land just outside of Page. The canyons are known as Upper Antelope and Lower Antelope, and they each come with their own advantages and drawbacks–Upper Antelope is much more expensive but requires no climbing. It’s also wider at the base, gets those pretty and photogenic light shafts more frequently, and draws larger crowds of people. Lower Antelope is narrower and twice as long as Upper Antelope, significantly less expensive, requires a lot of stair climbing, and tends to draw fewer people. I suppose if we really wanted to get our fill of slot canyons, we could have done both, but with another, grander canyon on the horizon and hotel reservations in Utah, we had to choose one or the other, so I chose Lower Antelope.

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When we arrived, I had to pee. They had a huge row of port-a-potties, and as I walked across the parking lot toward them, I saw a woman walk down the row, open each door, shake her head, and close it. Every single door, all down the line. I immediately judged this woman as unbearably prissy. Oh, sorry these portable crappers don’t live up to Your Majesty’s standards–there isn’t even an attendant to pat Your Majesty’s royal hands dry after being sprinkled with perfumed water from a diamond faucet. Unbelievable.

Then, of course, I reached the first door, opened it, saw what she saw, and regretted my harsh inner monologue. Peeping out the top of that toilet was a veritable mountain of shit, a filthy human Everest that continues to rise as one brave soul after another says “fuck it,” climbs up on the seat, hovers above it, and unleashes an avalanche*. And it wasn’t just one toilet like this, but one after another, after another. Add to that the oppressive heat, blazing sun, and the stench of raw sewage, and I decided I could hold it for a while longer. I went back to the group and told them I no longer fear hell, because there’s no way it could be worse than those portable toilets. Rachel, who was judging me for my prissiness, went to go use them herself and came back with a similar conclusion.

We didn’t have to wait long for our tour to start. All visitors to Antelope Canyon (upper or lower), must be accompanied by a tour guide for safety reasons. During monsoon season, flash floods can whip through the canyon, and it’s important to have someone who can guide you to the nearest exit in case of trouble. A tour guide can also monitor the people in the group for signs of heat sickness, which isn’t terribly uncommon. Our tour guide also told us a bit about the geology of the canyon and posed each person (or group of people) in front of the most photogenic spots.

sunburn and bugs day 6 (13 of 64)The walk to the first staircase descending into the canyon. No photography is allowed on the stairs for safety reasons, and frankly, I’m glad. The stairs are scary enough without someone whapping you with a selfie stick.

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Once I got down the stairs and took a look around, I was astounded. It was astonishingly beautiful. Every single step in the canyon is gorgeous. Every angle was something that I wanted to capture with my camera, to hold on to forever.

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I happily snapped photos all the way through the canyon, and reluctantly climbed the stairs when it was time to leave. I hung out on a rock near the exit for the tour guide to finish taking some final photos so I could give him a tip and also let him know that Emily had gone to get some water in case he needed to make sure he’d left with the same number of heads he went in with. I offhandedly mentioned to Rachel that I wasn’t even that hot, more comfortable, really, and she told me that was a sign of heat exhaustion. Whoops. But hey, if I was going to keel over and die, at least I felt fine right up until the end, right? Still, I chugged an extra bottle of water on the way out. I’d rather have to pee in a gross bathroom than die just yet. Also, I couldn’t trust those other Harpies not to strap my corpse to the roof of the car and keep driving until they found a canyon grand enough into which to dump my windblown, dessicated ass.

*This analogy** got completely out of hand, sorry about that.

**Heh, anal.

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Sunburn and Bugs 2016: The Harpies Take Santa Fe

After the House of Eternal Return, we set what time we were aiming to leave the following morning and then split up to do what each of us needed to do to recharge our batteries for the trip back home, whether that was art galleries or shopping or eating or making sex eyes at bartenders. I had only a few hours before everything would start to close for the day, which meant I had to make some hard decisions, like crossing the O’Keeffe museum off my list. Not forever, though, I would go back to Santa Fe in a heartbeat.

I took a meandering path around the plaza, keeping an eye open for an ATM as I’d used the last of my cash that morning buying a croissant, and I don’t like being on a road trip without cash on hand. My stroll first took me through the historic burro alley where firewood used to be sold after being carted in on the backs of burros. Now it’s mostly empty, save for a couple of statues, a mural, and the patio for a Mexican restaurant.

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I spotted this mural on the back of a building on Sheridan Street.

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At the intersection of Sheridan and Marcy, there’s a piece of public art called “Santa Fe Current” that was installed in 2009, with 27 Rio Grande cutthroat trout rendered in granite and arranged in an arc to symbolize how Santa Fe’s community is moving forward together.

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And then there’s a statue of St Francis with a prairie dog, because why not?

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After I located an ATM, I made my way to The French Pastry Shop & Creperie to buy an iced coffee and a biscochito, the official New Mexico state cookie. It’s a variation on the traditional Mexican wedding cookie, made with lard and flavored with anise and cinnamon. I’d tried making these cookies at home a couple of years ago and wasn’t thrilled with the result, so I wanted to try a proper one, one made in a state that prides itself on biscochitos. It sat in my purse all day and was still super freaking delicious when I remembered to eat it just before I went to bed that night. I’m not normally one to forget about a cookie, it’s just that I was on the move, going in and out of shops, and while I had no problem being seen on the street drinking coffee, somehow I have a problem with the idea of someone watching me eat a cookie as I walk down the street.

I popped into Mama’s Minerals with my coffee and browsed a bit–it was a really nice rock shop, and the girls who were working there were truly personable. We chatted a bit and they gave me some excellent recommendations for places to eat, one of which I ended up going to for dinner. I ended up appreciating the employees here even more later, because most of the shops I went into were very aggressive about selling you things in a fashion I’m simply unused to. Like, I’m sorry, dude, but no matter how much you flatter me and try to get me to try this opal and diamond necklace on and treat myself, I’m not going to spend $2,600 on it. There’s an amount of flattery and guilt for timewasting that could get me to the hundred dollar range, but I don’t think there’s any amount of flattery and guilt that could get me to splash out more money on a necklace than I spent on my last three trips combined. Possibly four.

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Afterward, I made my way further up the street toward the Loretto Chapel and its “miraculous stairway”, supposedly built with a type of wood that doesn’t exist and in a way that should be impossible for it to remain standing or support weight. This was tentatively on my list but it was too damn hot outside to give up my death grip on my iced coffee for any staircase, Jesus-built or otherwise.

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meow wolf (120 of 129)The mighty Santa Fe river.

Around the corner, I bumped into Emily, who was on the phone. We hung out for a few minutes, and then I told her I was on my way to find one of the Art*o*mat vending machines now that I had cash. I’d spotted one outside the gift shop at The House of Eternal Return but I didn’t have any cash at the time, and I knew there were at least two more within walking distance. Art*o*mats are retired cigarette machines that have been given new life as art dispensers, working with some 400 artists from over 17 different countries. For $5, you get to pull a knob and walk away with a cigarette box sized piece of original art, the contents of which are dependent on the artist you choose: it could be a painting, a drawing, a sculpture, photography, jewelry, glass, mixed media, or whatever they decide. It’s such a creative reuse of machines that would otherwise be discarded, and I had no idea that these machines actually exist all over the US. Before I go somewhere, I’m going to try and remember to check the map to see if there’s a machine nearby–what a cool way to collect little pieces of original art and support artists! For my $5, I got a neat acrylic painting of a sugar skull by street artist Lark, who according to their short bio, has never been caught and hates pickles.

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After I collected my piece of art, I bumped into Emily again and helped her shop for earrings. She says I’m good luck for finding pairs she likes, but I think I’m probably just really good at talking people into buying things after years in retail. Shopped out (for a little while, at least), we had dinner at The Shed,  winner of a James Beard award in 2003 and which also came highly recommended by the employees at Mama’s Minerals. We basically fell upon them like starving dogs and ordered one of every food and drink item on the menu and were not disappointed by any of them. Overheated as I was, I was immediately attracted to the cold red raspberry soup, which is made with pureed raspberries, rose wine, lime, and a hint of sour cream. It was so delicious, as was the green chile stew, the green chile chicken quesadilla, the steak smothered in red chile sauce, the blood orange margaritas, and the frozen mocha cake. I don’t know why entrees came with a side of garlic bread, but that was delicious, too.

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Stuffed to the damn gills, we did some more shopping and tried to find the most ostentatious piece of silver and turquoise jewelry we could find–I think I won when I found a turquoise bolo tie longer (and almost as wide as) my hand. We stopped in at Chocolate and Cashmere where I touched a lot of cashmere but didn’t buy any of it (hey, at least I know I can’t be trusted with the care of nice things), Emily bought a ring, and I bought a number of truffles that I didn’t end up eating until days after I got home. The poblano goat cheese truffle is why I laid down my money, but my ultimate favorite was the lavender caramel, and I was sad when it was gone.

Our next stop was Maverick’s, where the dude working there really laid on the sauce to try to get me to buy the aforementioned $2600 necklace, but the female employee was (again) super awesome. When she expressed shock that we’d driven all the way from Seattle for the sole purpose of The House of Eternal Return, I responded with “well, then you must not know how incredible it is,” and she replied that as an art major, not only had she been, but she’d purchased a year pass and been back three times already. She just didn’t know if it was worth days of driving to see, and I suppose if we weren’t having such a rich trip on all fronts, I could understand her point. If you drove straight, sleeping in the car, driving through the night in shifts for 36 hours, and only saw The House of Eternal Return, to leave the next morning and do the same thing on the way back, it would be a much more difficult trip with a significantly smaller return. When I expressed sorrow that we had so little time in Santa Fe and that I hadn’t even made it to the Jean Cocteau cinema to pick up a signed Song of Ice and Fire book, she snorted, whipped out a map, and showed me that it wasn’t all that far away if I was willing to do some walking. She then marked out a “must visit” gelato place, Ecco Gelato, on the other side of the map, funnily enough on the back side of the block where we’d just had dinner, but told us that if we wanted to go there, we’d have to make sure we got there before they closed at 9pm. I’m pretty sure Emily bought a pair of earrings just to thank her for her time.

We booked it the nine or so blocks to the Jean Cocteau where I bought my book, spotting an adorable little bunny on the way, and then hustled the eleven or so blocks back to Ecco Gelato, getting in just before they closed. It was totally worth it, even though I only had room in my stomach for their teeniest tiniest cup, which I split with roasted pineapple gelato and basil gelato–so refreshing in the heat and after a not-insignificant walk.

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Afterward, we met up with Rachel at the Secreto bar in our hotel and had a couple of drinks to toast a successful (so far) trip, talk about our days, and have one last hurrah before we called it a night to get ready to hit the road again. We all knew it was going to be a harder push–we’d gotten there in four days, but were going to attempt to get home in three. Rachel and I noted that the Power of Positive Mechanics logo on the business card she swiped (“Don’t look at me that way, they had thousands of them!“) would make an ideal friendship tattoo to commemorate the trip, but Emily, not being a tattoo person, could not be convinced. Frankly, I don’t understand why she wouldn’t want an art cult logo on her body forever. What a weirdo.

And then I ate the cookie. SEE? You forgot about it, too.

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Sunburn and Bugs 2016: The House of Eternal Return

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The big day was finally here. Finally. Four days and around 1,500 miles had passed since we started this fool’s errand epic adventure, all for the express purpose of being right here: Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return. But first, a quick stop at Angel’s Bakery & Cafe for a ham, cheese, and green chile croissant, because I’ll be damned if I was only going to get one full day in Santa Fe and not stuff myself with as much chile as humanly possible.

If you haven’t heard about it (in the months before the trip, it seemed like I was reading/hearing about this place everywhere, in the way that only the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon can explain), Meow Wolf is an art production company that creates immersive experiences. With some funding from notable Santa Fe resident George R.R. Martin, they were able to buy and convert an old bowling alley into a permanent interactive art space they’ve named The House of Eternal Return. The building also contains a nonprofit education center for children and a makerspace  For my part, knowing I intended to visit someday, I tried to know and read about it as little as possible before visiting. I believe I initially heard about it on NPR, and when Emily linked an article about it on my facebook wall (which kicked off this entire journey), I didn’t even read it, not wanting to feel familiarity instead of awe when I stood before it. If you intend to visit someday, I encourage you to do the same and actually not click the “more” link where I go into the house in depth so you can see it with fresh eyes. If you’d rather visit vicariously or you think the concept of spoilers is bullshit, by all means, read on past the cut.

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meow wolf (5 of 129)They wanted to fondle the mandibles for some reason.

We were some of the first people through the door that morning, and were so amped up we could probably collectively take down 50 toddlers who had been turned loose in a sugar factory. When we told the ticket seller that we’d road tripped from Washington to be there, he grinned from ear to ear, gave us the resident’s discount, and told us about another group he’d seen that had come, spent the entire day, went back to their hotel that night, thought about what they’d seen, and then come back the next day to further work out the mysteries of the house. There would be none of that for us: in order to keep to our schedule, we had to see and absorb what we could in one day. The first half an hour, we moved around in hushed awe, with only one other group present, sticking to the first couple of rooms of the house and eventually deciding to split up so that we could each experience it on our own terms. Because it’s the nature of art that different pieces and themes would appeal to us differently individually and very little is a joy-killer so much as looking at something that speaks to you on a primal level and having someone huff over your shoulder because they’re ready to move on.

 

I would have paid anything to have the space solely to ourselves, and that’s not bougie selfish misanthropic Mellzah talking. I don’t have “shut the place down for my selfish pleasures” kind of money–if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know this. And yes, while I have been known to utter “I hate people” in a crowd more than once, it isn’t about my urge to go hide in a cave for three days after attending some massive event. There is so much going on in the house to learn and discover, some of which can really only be experienced by one person at a time, and it is unbelievably distracting and frustrating to have crowds elbowing around you, children screaming, and one group stymieing an area key to the mysteries for hours at a freaking time. I think the overall experience would be immensely improved with the addition of adult-only hours, timed entry, and potentially a limit to the amount of people who can be in the exhibit at once (that is significantly lower than the max set by the fire department). I would pay significantly more for a ticket to have significantly fewer people there. Had I known then what I know now, I still don’t think I would have immediately rushed to the depths of the house to experience them alone, because there is important context at the start, but there are some areas I would have tried to get to earlier so that I could be the one monopolizing it.  THAT is selfish Mellzah talking.

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meow wolf (7 of 129)Beyond here there be spoilers as well. And about a bullion pictures which will eat up your entire data plan if you’re browsing on mobile. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

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Sunburn and Bugs 2016: Even More Dinosaurs

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I second-guessed myself more often than normal on this trip. I mean, sure, I pretty much constantly live in my head anyway, but as the person who picked out all of the stuff we were going to see and do along the way, I was feeling some pressure. If I picked a bunch of stuff that made me and no one else happy, I ruined two thirds of the trip, wasted two people’s money and vacation time, and that would probably do a sizeable blow to our friendship. I knew that The Dinosaur Musem in Blanding, UT, would be approximately the jillionth dinosaur thing we’d done on the trip, but I felt pretty passionately about it when I put it on the list, though I couldn’t remember exactly why as we rolled up to this warehouse-y building in the middle of nowhere. I tried to tell myself that if it was terrible, at least we could leave, though that probably wouldn’t make up for me telling Emily she couldn’t browse the Moab shops for earrings.

Dudes and dudettes, this museum was awesome. It was possibly the best dinosaur exhibit I’ve ever seen, and you know I’ve been to many a dinosaur museum. The admission is dirt cheap (possibly cheaper than dirt) at $3.50, and the AAA discount cut it down to three bucks even. But this inexpensive entrance was really just a bonus. The collection here was top-freaking-notch, and there’s good reason for it. The museum was founded and the exhibits were done by one Stephen Czerkas, paleontologist and preeminent paleo artist, who devoted his later years to correcting our misconceptions about dinosaurs–namely concerning their appearance. The feathered dinosaurs I saw here were unlike anything I’d ever seen before. They have one of only four pre-Cambrian logs in the world. And they have a full Edmontonsaurus complete with some areas of fossilized skin! AND the world’s largest collection of dinosaur movie posters and other dinosaur movie memorabilia! The woman working there was awesome as well–within a minute of entering the building, she’d already told me a new-to-me fact about the T. Rex, and while we shopped around in the gift shop, she told us about how she used to fossil hunt in the area before it became illegal. We all loved her and wanted to take her with us, but since she had museum duties and we would be traveling home on a different route, we sadly parted ways, but not before buying a dinosaur mascot and naming her Feminist Killjoy.

sunburn and bugs day four (27 of 76)The aforementioned log, found in San Juan county.

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sunburn and bugs day four (40 of 76)Dinosaur or skeksis?

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sunburn and bugs day four (42 of 76)I so hoped they’d sell these in the gift shop.

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sunburn and bugs day four (54 of 76)Obvs my favorite poster.

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Our last stop before we hit Santa Fe was Four Corners, because even though it’s totally cheeseball and everyone and their brother has already done it, I wanted to do it. I also wanted to do it because it’s totally cheeseball and everyone and their brother has already done it. I mean, come on: if you’re passing on a road thisclose to Four Corners, how could you not stop?

sunburn and bugs day four (75 of 76)You should probably also stop for horse crossings.

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Four Corners is pretty much exactly what you’d expect it to be: an almost unreasonably hot tourist attraction with a long line of people waiting to take photographic proof that they were in four states at once, sweating and squinting, and looking miserable. But since there’s a three photo limit and a limited number of poses that could array all one’s limbs into even state distribution (at least for your average tourist, I have no doubt a contortionist could manage a few more), the line moves quickly. Also, any part of your body that comes in contact with the ground that’s not covered in a protective shoe will probably immediately regret it as it starts to cook, so that doesn’t encourage tarrying. Afterward, you’re free, freeee to browse the almost 60 kiosks spread among the four states, selling jewelry, magnets, knives, and again, pretty much what you’d expect. So browse we did, and buy we did, and I think the afternoon’s jewelry shopping possibly made up for the morning hustle. Possibly.

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sunburn and bugs day four (63 of 76)These cacti were attracting dozens of hummingbirds, zipping and divebombing and generally making people wonder what it would be like to be impaled with a teeny tiny hypodermic beak.

sunburn and bugs day four (76 of 76)Also a fair number of hummingbird size bees.

sunburn and bugs day four (64 of 76)Rachel, Feminist Killjoy, and me in four states! Ok, Feminist Killjoy is in four, anyway.

sunburn and bugs day four (65 of 76)Yo blogger’s butt’s so big! How big is it? It’s so big it can be in four states at once!

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The ride from Four Corners to Santa Fe was dismal. The most direct route is through these tiny backroads with nothing to look at but prairie dogs. There was no place for food (it may in fact be the longest stretch of road in the United States without a Starbucks, but that’s just a wild guess), there was approximately one place to gas up, and we arrived at the hotel late, after pretty much every restaurant had closed, starving and miserable. But I had my own room while we were there (the rooms were too small for three unless someone was up for sleeping on the floor, which, surprise, was not something any of us was enthusiastic about) so I was able to eat a protein bar in bed, totally pantsless, while finally watching the previous week’s episode of Game of Thrones, so it wasn’t all bad. And the following day was the big day, the entire reason for our trip: Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return. Now that it was so close, I could hardly wait.

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Sunburn and Bugs 2016: Various Noteworthy Rocks

Moab turned out to be a super cute town by the light of day, full of shops and restaurants and even a rock shop that gives away a free dinosaur bone to every customer and we couldn’t do any of it. Because as I said to Emily, “WE NEED TO STOP FUCKING AROUND.” Which isn’t really fair, considering I was the one who plotted all these meandering stops that pulled us off the more direct route and caused us to roll in to every evening’s stop at 10pm, and now I was saying “NO, we don’t have time to shop” like I was a trip dictator and was bringing two hostages along with me who were responsible for paying their own way?  Yeah, that’s basically how it went down. We had time for breakfast on the beautiful hotel patio, sneakily stuff some second breakfast into our pockets, and grab coffee before we rolled out of town…

…and stopped a mere fifteen miles down the road at Hole N’ The Rock. This is something that I knew about but actually hadn’t added to my list, because I figured it was the sort of tourist trap that only I would be interested in. But I’m glad we did stop, because now I’ve toured the House on the Rock and the Hole N’ The Rock and all I need to complete the trifecta is to tour a house UNDER a rock or The Rock’s house (my email address is on my about page, Dwayne. Just saying.). sunburn and bugs day four (1 of 76)

Hole N’ The Rock is a home that was carefully dynamited out of a sandstone rock half a mile high. While we waited for our home tour to begin, we browsed through the shop, trying on hats, joking about buying one of the swords on the wall to wave out the window at cars that wouldn’t let us pass…and one of the employees overheard us. It turns out she was our tour guide and this is how I got labeled “the troublemaker” on our tour. OK, sure, sometimes I cause trouble (mostly on the internet), but this time I was just innocently grabbing two gun shaped belt buckles in order to make a really gross joke which isn’t troublemaking so much as it is cheap prop comedy.  However, for the entirety of the tour, she made sure to let me know she had eyes on me–no touching (I mean you, troublemaker), no climbing on anything (I’m looking at you, troublemaker) which incidentally made it really difficult to get into trouble.

There were no photos allowed on the tour (I mean it, troublemaker), so I will do my best to paint you a photo through the use of evocative language. It was basically a cave that someone turned into a house.

Not evocative enough? Sheesh. There were a lot of odd juxtapositions in the house in the Hole N’ The Rock. Yes, it’s essentially a cave house–with the portion of the cave that was turned into a commercial kitchen painted a thick shiny mint green to prevent sandstone from crumbling into the food, decked out with 50s era appliances. The rest of the cave walls and ceilings are natural stone, with supports left up all over to prevent the half mile of stone above them from falling down and smashing them at the molecular level, like scientists searching for the Higgs boson. Granted, I have not been in many cave homes, but I would have expected the furnishings to look a little more rustic. Instead, they had some ornate Victorian style antiques which looked very out of place in a cave. Propped up on the bed were lots and lots of creepy porcelain dolls, the kind that one could easily believe come to life when you aren’t looking and kill people, their tiny white porcelain hands rinsing perfectly clean to remove all evidence of their heinous crimes. There were also some monstrous pieces of taxidermy–a mustang and her foal forever posed in the hideous curl the amateur taxidermist found them frozen in. A decaying burro with horrendously misshapen hooves. And all around, paintings of Jesus, watching the dolls watch the tour guide watching you.

The rest of the grounds you were free to photograph to your heart’s content, save in the gift shops, because they don’t want the world at large to have photographic evidence of what they charge for a bag of Doritos, lest they plan ahead and frugally pack their own.

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sunburn and bugs day four (5 of 76)Dude, what is it with Utah and Cars?

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sunburn and bugs day four (11 of 76)I’m not certain what they do with this jail but I’m glad I didn’t sass the tour guide.

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sunburn and bugs day four (14 of 76)I thought it was funny that the sign had both our destination and a place from our home state on it.

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After we’d hassled Hole N’ The Rock’s many lizards and plumbed the depths of their gift shops, we headed to our next destination (and subsequently drove past it and had to backtrack to the (barely marked? Let’s say unmarked.) offshoot road that led to it): Newspaper Rock. Newspaper Rock is a petroglyph site with art that dates from 1500 years ago to this century. And when I say “this century” I mean up to and including the current week because people can be real pieces of shit. Here’s this thing with historical significance! It won’t be complete until I carve my name into it, being a person of significance!  The markings themselves have not been deciphered, but it was still very cool to see something that old in person.

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sunburn and bugs day four (21 of 76)This looks like the discovery of one Dr. Richard Stinkbeard. (NSFW)

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On our way back to the main road, we saw this…thing off in the distance, so Rachel and I went to check it out. It was certainly…a thing all right. Weather station? Alien detector? A new pyramid-based roadside attraction? I have no idea.

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And with that assessment, we were off to check out more of a different sort of rock, blasting rock music and eating rock candy. Rock on.

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Sunburn and Bugs 2016: How Can I Have Moab If I Haven’t Had Any Ab Yet?

On the morning of my departure from Salt Lake City, I took one of those showers that leaves one still feeling dirty. Not because I was taking a shower in the middle of a giant jetted tub in a carpeted room, or because of all of the french fries I’d consumed hours prior in that same tub, or even because of the drinks that got me to the point of consuming fries in a tub like a bargain Hasselhoff. No, I still felt dirty because Salt Lake City has the hardest water of anywhere I’ve ever visited, the kind of water that leaves you feeling like your skin has been airbrushed with grime, leaving nary a single nook nor cranny unscathed. I probably would have been better off just slathering on more deodorant and hanging my greasy head out of the window to be blowdried by the salty wind. Perhaps the other people who had to share an enclosed car with me and my various odors wouldn’t have been better off, but that’s a hypothetical for the next road trip that runs through Garbage Water USA.

Before we met up with Emily’s brother for breakfast, I wanted to get a couple of snaps of the stuff I’d seen the night previous in the daylight, namely the astronaut and Brother Zack the alien. Although they were just a few blocks away, it took a bit longer than I thought it would, because SLC has long blocks, which are made all the longer for the relative lack of anything worth looking at on them. Granted, I didn’t see the entire city, but what I saw felt dull, empty, and oddly sterile. Few people out and about, primarily chain establishments, empty business spaces for lease everywhere, and none of the small stuff that makes a city feel vital and thriving.

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After breakfast, we swung by the Gilgal Gardens, which are so set back from the street and unobtrusive that I never would have found them if I wasn’t specifically looking for them. The gardens’ sculptures are all intended to be physical expressions of the creator Thomas Child’s internal philosophies, primarily focusing on religious belief. If you’re interested in the intended meaning of the sculptures, you can learn more about them here. I was primarily interested in the Sphinx with the face of LDS founder Joseph Smith, because that was the weird thing that put this place on my radar to begin with. Aside from the photo opportunity, the gardens didn’t really resonate with me. It’s not impossible for me to be moved by religious artwork, there just needs to be something more to it than an obscure bible verse carved into a rock.

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After the Gilgal, we were ready for some fresh, salty air in our faces, at the Great Saltair. I definitely half-assed my research, because when we arrived, I expected to see something that looked a lot more like this instead of the discount Wal-Mart version we got. If only I had scrolled down even a little further on the Wikipedia page. Just a little, eensy bit. Regardless, this was our first time getting a real glimpse (and smell of) the Great Salt Lake. It was, uh, not good. The lake has receded quite a bit since this Saltair was built, shimmering in the distance across a vast expanse of salt-crusted sand, while the wind whips its pungent odor up into the nostrils. It’s not the fresh salt air of the ocean, it’s a malodorous crusty decaying shoreline that assaults your nose. That’s some great salt air! Still, Rachel and I decided to venture out to the water’s edge, with me boldly declaring that I was going to taste the water to find out how truly salty it was.  The entire walk to  the shore was littered with bird corpses, and I began to instantly regret my earlier announcement. Bugs swirled around us in disgusting tornadoes. Bones crunched underfoot. And still there were people out wearing swimsuits and carrying beach towels, either because they were optimists or they were bound and determined to use the things they’d lugged along with them. As we reached the shoreline, the water lapped at thousands (millions? I wasn’t going to count) of dead insects and I really hoped Rachel wouldn’t remind me that I was letting her, nay, the world down for not putting some of that salty bug water in my mouth. Thankfully, she is far more humane than I would have been if the situation was reversed (I would have at least teased her about it), and the water remained ungargled. At least by me.

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sunburn and bugs day three (28 of 67)Look at how far away the Saltair is from the shore!

Our next stop was the “Up” house in Herriman. This Disney dream house was built in a relatively normal Utahan suburb, and the new owners are kind of prickly about people taking photos of and with it, which doesn’t really make sense to me as long as people aren’t actually trespassing. If privacy was paramount to me, I don’t know that I would buy a house that was built for the express purpose of marvel and amazement in a populated area and then get angry when people marvel and are amazed. When I emailed to ask for permission to take photos of the house, they said a couple of photos were fine so long as we didn’t have any balloons or wear costumes of any kind. FINE. That’s what Photoshop is for.

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Our next architectural marvel was Krishna’s Lotus Temple in Spanish Fork, which was built as a replica of a temple in India. It was beautiful and they even let us feed their koi. I can’t speak to the quality of their $5 all you can eat vegetarian buffet as I was still full from breakfast, but had I more time, I could have definitely done some reading there in the sunshine while peacocks strutted around. Alas, we had to pack back into the car relatively quickly as we had at least three more hours to drive–and that’s without stops.

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Speaking of stops, we tried to take a short detour to see the World’s Largest Miner but after pulling off at three different (wrong) exits, finally getting off at the right one and being forced on a detour due to construction, and still not seeing it, I (as the driver and also the person most interested in seeing the world’s largest anythings) declared “Fuck it, we’re going to keep driving”.  And so we did.

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Until we saw the world’s largest watermelon. The world’s largest driveable watermelon. I don’t know how the fuck the driver sees anything from inside this seedy behemoth, the important thing(s) is (are) that: it was completely unguarded, I was able to go inside, and they wisely did not leave the keys in the vehicle so I couldn’t attempt to take it on a test drive. It’s like they knew I was coming.

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sunburn and bugs day three (49 of 67)Once we were done trespassing in Green River’s giant watermelon, we made our way to Ray’s Tavern for a quick bite, and then it was back on the road, with a minor stop-off at another Pixar-happy location, Papa Joe’s, where the cars from Cars went to retire, grow decrepit, and die. It also appears that the Scooby Doo gang met with an unfortunate end here. The real mystery is where their bodies are buried.

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At this point, we were about thirty miles from our destination. Rachel and Emily passed time by competing to see who could find the most prairie dogs, and I began to feel a little left out because as the driver, I couldn’t see any of them except the road-flattened ones which I was informed don’t count. So while they tallied up real prairie dogs, I began pointing out all of the ones they didn’t see, like a hitchhiking one on the side of the road wearing a tiny metal bikini with dreams of going to Comic Con. Apparently those don’t count, either.

We were passing Arches national park just as the sun was starting to set, and I asked the group if they wanted to swing in–knowing that we couldn’t possibly see all of it (including the most famous part of it, Delicate Arch, which I already knew was off the table as it requires a fairly strenuous hike from which the unprepared often have to be rescued) but that we could at least see some of this beautiful scenery that we may otherwise never visit. Everyone agreed, so I pulled in, racing against the sun, careening around hairpin turns while Rachel and Emily photographed out of the car windows. We made some pretty good progress before we lost the sun, stopping a few times to better take in the area. As the driver, I don’t have many photos, but what I saw was unforgettable, from the startlingly red rocks towering above us as we began our ascent into the park to the first twinkling stars peeking out over the formations.

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We stopped at balanced rock and had just enough light to eke out the short hike around it. At the back half, Emily elected to go back the (more paved) way we came, and I decided to press forward, telling Rachel which way I was going. I got back to the car and pulled on the handle, expecting that everyone had beaten me there and were anxious to get to the hotel while I fiddled with camera settings. The car was empty. I walked back to the path. Full darkness had set in and there was no cell signal. “Emily? Rachel?” I called out, getting louder with each repetition. “EMILY?! RACHEL?!?” I found Emily back on the path, using her phone’s light to look at the various insects that had wandered out in the absence of the heat of day and told her that I’d gone back to the car but Rachel wasn’t there, had she seen her? “That’s not funny,” she replied. “I’m not trying to be funny,” I hissed back. Rachel joined us almost immediately thereafter, saying she’d been calling for me and some other hiker told her which way I’d gone. It’s not that he knew my name, he just figured that the two ladies stumbling around in the dark without any equipment must have been together. At least we didn’t have to be rescued.

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Sunburn and Bugs 2016: Medium Roar, Lightly Salted

There’s no drive as long or as tense as the one to a gas station of indeterminate distance when your gas light has just ticked on. Even though you know in your heart that you have at least a gallon left, every song on the radio might as well be the score to an action movie. The worst action movie ever, mind you, because the only action is scanning the horizon for any sign of an upcoming pump, which probably still makes it better than Fantastic Four. As you’re probably biting your nails right now from empathetic anxiety, I’ll save your manicure and let you know we made it to a station with gas to spare, which unfortunately takes this from a potentially interesting story to a boring one. So sorry for that, but not all of my stories can end with being towed illegally on the top of a flat bed truck, and if I didn’t resolve the (non) cliffhanger from the last post that’d be poor storytelling. Yes, there is a lot of poor storytelling around here, but I didn’t want to engage in poor storytelling this time. Shut up.

Our next stop was the George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park in Ogden, because while my motto is not “If there’s a dinosaur I want to see it”, it may as well be*. The drive there was filled with a lot of conversation about the effect of the great salt lake on the surrounding environment. Does it make the rain salty? Do they have to salt the roads in winter? Do local vegetables have to be seasoned when they’re cooked or do they come pre-seasoned? Is the salt the reason the landscape and all the vegetation looks a little frosted or is that just the way it looks? Does dead stuff naturally mummify here rather than decompose? If you just went out and licked the grass, would it be salty? Can you pull over so I can get out and lick the grass?

Aside from the last question, the answers were all “I don’t know”. The answer to the last one was “No, Mellzah, and stop asking.”

Once we were at the park, I strode up to the admissions desk, whipped out my credit card, and informed them that I’d like three tickets for adults who act like children, and is there any discount for the young at heart? Again, the answer was no. I was getting shut down left and right that day. Evidently no one finds me as charming as I’d like to think.

The indoor portion of the park closes earlier than the outside, so we made our way through the inside first, starting with the animatronic dinosaurs upstairs. I feel like the quality of these sorts of dinosaurs has improved drastically, and if I saw one out of the museum context, say, if I was just walking down the street and happened to catch a glimpse of one moving in the bushes, I would absolutely poop my pants.

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Outside of the animatronics section (is it a section if there are only two of them?) is a room of fossils and minerals. My favorites were the minerals that looked like foods. The vast majority were labeled with what they actually were in addition to the item they were masquerading as, with the exception of the snickers bar, which may well mean it’s simply a petrified snickers bar, possibly due to the aforementioned salt mummification process. I do know that if they weren’t behind glass, I would have definitely tried to put one of those jelly beans in my mouth as I have a weakness for chewy candy or rocks that look like chewy candy, which is a fact to which my dentist will attest.

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Downstairs were the larger, showier fossils, as well as an area where you can see paleontologists at work. Or could, if they weren’t already done for the day. Lazy scientists.

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Before going outside to check out their large, exciting dinosaur displays, I popped into their gift shop before it closed for the day and was sorely disappointed. I never would have guessed that a park with this many large displays would have such a crappy gift shop–I’ve seen better wares on offer at gas stations. Did you know that some of those have thong underwear that folds up into a rose, for a charming gift? And that the tube they come in can be turned into a charming crack pipe?  Most of this gift shop was empty, with a few sad magnets and posters hanging around to let you know you weren’t in the wrong place. Blech.

The outdoor portion of the park was wonderful, though. Everywhere I turned, there was another huge dinosaur making a menacing pose or engaging in deathsports, and I couldn’t help but think that as a teenager, this would be the absolute coolest place to hang out after they closed for the day. And I definitely wasn’t even that kind of teenager–I opted for the annoying, goody-two-shoes end of the spectrum. In case the teens who hang out behind my house are reading this, I definitely encourage you** to drop everything and drive to Utah and hang out there.

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sunburn and bugs day two (79 of 94)The orthodontiasaurus

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sunburn and bugs day two (72 of 94)“Look at that sad, gross thing.” “It’s not very nice to talk about our ancestor that way, Emily.”

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sunburn and bugs day two (54 of 94)The spirit of the 80s is alive in this dinosaur.

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sunburn and bugs day two (77 of 94)Mandatory.

sunburn and bugs day two (64 of 94)And then there was this guy.

 

It had been threatening to rain the whole time we were at the park, and just as we were getting ready to leave, it started to sprinkle. I stopped to snap a few more pics, turned around, and saw that Rachel and Emily were already out of the gate and heading toward the car. Given my behavior of the past few hours (the loud singing and the incessant questions and the rocket dong and the gas thing which may or may not have been my fault for not speaking up when I saw a “last services for ___ miles” sign), I decided that I’d better book it to the car so as not to be left behind, shambling and crying out “Don’t leave me, I’ll be better!” in the manner of the truly unathletic and uncool. After all, I didn’t want to have to try to take shelter in the cave of a fake cave bear.

We dropped off Rachel at a friend’s house for the night and then made our way to our hotel in Salt Lake City. Finally, I’d know if the rumors were true: if this really was the greatest city in the country in which to dress immodestly and get crunk. Emily was pretty tired from the day’s drive and was definitely looking forward to having a cocktail and meeting up with her brother, who lives in the area. I was excited, too. We had been using the Hotel Tonight app each morning to prebook that night’s hotel–this made it so we didn’t have to plan where we were going to be every single night in advance and allowed for some spontaneity while making sure we didn’t end up sleeping in the car (because you know, summertime, peak travel season, etc). Another advantage to going that route was that since it’s last minute, the rates can be lower, unless there’s really low availability everywhere. For our night in Salt Lake City, we were staying at the Hotel Monaco, which is a flipping nice hotel, for a pretty damn low price.  Since Rachel was going to be with her friends and Emily was going to be with her brother, I was going soak in some hotel alone time–maybe have a bath, eat some pizza, finally watch that week’s episode of Game of Thrones, feed the loaner goldfish some pizza crust, and just generally relax.

We pulled into the hotel, gave the valet the keys, and hauled all of our stuff to the front desk to check in. Emily gave the hotel clerk her name, and he tapped and looked a bit perplexed and then said he regretted to inform us that we didn’t have a reservation and that the hotel was fully booked. Noooooooo! Emily checked the app, and sure as shit, she had accidentally booked us at a different hotel a few blocks away. So everything got hauled back out to the car, where the confused valet helped load us up and got a pretty sizeable tip for not laughing at us.

We checked in at this new hotel, and I asked the desk clerk about my options for food delivery that wouldn’t also fill me with regret, and according to the clerk, delivery regret is one of the few Salt Lake City specialties, so my hopes for the evening dropped by a few notches. Emily was distraught about this change of venue and kept apologizing to me about the turn of events, and I kept telling her it was fine (because it was fine, I’m not fancy).

Not as distraught as she was, however, when she saw the room, which I promptly dubbed “The Love Bunker” when I saw the enormous jetted hot tub in the middle of the living room. Hot tub shower combo, I should say, as there was no shower in the bathroom proper, which meant we’d have to be a lot more careful in the morning to not accidentally ogle one another’s goodies, because we haven’t reached that full nudity state of comfort with one another yet. Yet.

Also in the bathroom? A giant mirror that took up the entire wall facing the toilet that affords you the opportunity to become way more familiar with your own goodies whether you wanted to or not. Complete with a phone, in case you needed to order some delivery-based regret while on the can.

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When we saw the room and I saw Emily contemplating throwing herself over the balcony***, I knew my plans for the evening had to be set aside, and I went into Full Clown Mode. Basically, when someone is feeling badly but there’s not really anything I can do about it, I just act like a bigger and bigger jackass in the hopes of jollying them out of it. Because what’s a lack of self respect for if I can’t make it useful once in a while? I popped into the bathroom, called Emily from the vagina phone, and told her we were going out and getting her the largest drink Salt Lake City had to offer. Or rather, a number of small ones because Salt Lake City doesn’t allow large ones. And a vodka penne. And a boozy salad. I then popped into the shower while she was taking photos of the room to show her husband just how ridiculous it was, because that’s what friends do.

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oh my goodness

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On our way out of the hotel, we spotted this astronaut, who looked as if he had flung himself from our hotel room and was totally fine with that.

Because we’re gluttons for punishment, we had dinner at Bambara, one of the restaurants inside the Hotel Monaco. I breezed past the same confused valet and informed him that since I’d seen our real room, I needed a drink, and then made my way to the restaurant, where we met up with Emily’s brother. Although it wasn’t what I had planned for my evening, I ended up having a really good time. After we finished eating and boxed up our leftovers, we went next door to The Red Door to have another drink. I tried to abstain as one drink gets me plenty tipsy these days, but first I got peer pressured by Emily and her brother to just order one and let it sit there and then I got drink shamed by the bartender for not drinking it because I was “talking too much to drink” so two it was. I may not have dressed immodestly but I definitely got a little bit crunk that night.

sunburn and bugs day two (91 of 94)“What’s the deal with that monkey?” I asked. Evidently the owner of the bar has a friend who works on animatronics for Disney and asked him to make something for the bar, and one day this showed up, tiny skull staff and all.

I knew that the Mormon UFO I wanted to see was in the general area, so I asked Emily’s brother if he’d seen it. He hadn’t heard of it, so they had me ask the bartender. He hadn’t heard about it, either, and when I pulled up a picture to show that it exists, they both immediately said that the bar it was in front of was right down the street and the UFO was definitely not there or if it was, it was so tiny as to be unnoticeable.

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IT WAS NEITHER. I may talk too much and drink too little, but I was vindicated, and that’s what was important. To me, anyway.

Also important: I got to ask Emily’s brother all of the questions I’d had about the area’s general saltiness and was able to get some answers, namely that nothing but the lake is salty and that they do need to salt the roads in winter, which made me feel a little salty. I also informed Emily that I’d be eating the rest of my steak and fries in the giant tub, just because I could. She didn’t believe me.

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It was medium rare and lightly salted and just what I needed.

 

*Depending on which day you ask me, my motto is “Eh, why not?”, “Can I get extra cheese on that?”, or a string of curse words. So I don’t really have a motto exactly, I just say some predictable things.

**I do NOT assume any of the legal consequences for this or any other act you may do.

***If you’re looking at the Love Bunker and saying “that’s really not so bad,” you’re right, it was more a combination of factors that I’m not going to get into. Let’s just say the room was the icing on the cake, or the salt on the steak, as it were.

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Sunburn and Bugs 2016: Idaho? No, You Da Ho

Anxious to hit the road again, we had just enough time to grab some hotel breakfast and coffee next door, where I learned that while Virginia may be for lovers, Boise is for gangsters.

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I should have known. Forget about the potatoes. Boise, Idaho has a longstanding reputation for being home to some of the hardest people on Earth. For instance, a quick visit to the idahogangs.com website shows that the area is routinely terrorized by members of the so-called “Insane Clown Posse,” a group which is well known for guzzling large (dare I say insane?) amounts of Faygo brand soda, smearing themselves with paint, and talking about how they’d kill people with hatchets if they weren’t so stoned they can’t get off the couch. The moose gang isn’t mentioned, but I have to assume they’re relatively new if they have to make up swag stickers to get people interested and build up their rep as true badasses and terrors in the night.

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Owing to all that coffee consumption, we stopped at nearly every rest stop along the way, and I marveled at how much the scenery had changed over the course of our trip so far–from green mountains with dazzling blue lakes to desert hills to scrubby plains with silver bushes dotting the landscape like pills on your favorite sweater. One rest stop we visited was full of nesting swallows who scolded us as we tried to get a peep of their young. When we were able to tear ourselves away from the birds and convenient restrooms, we hit the road and continued to Twin Falls, home of “Niagara Falls of the West”–though not as wide and also taller, so not really like Niagara Falls at all. I’ve never understood that naming trend. Is it for people who can’t go and see the original? Is it for people who want to take a trip but want the familiar comforts of something they’ve already seen? Is it for the namers, who have an inferiority complex about the actual goodness of the thing they’re naming? My house is at the Everglades of Washington state, only with mostly ducks and frogs and way fewer (no) alligators and 0.00001% of the size! Come meet my dog, he’s the Lassie of jack russell terriers, except if you’re on the floor weeping in pain instead of going for help he tries to cram his tongue down your throat! I’m the Jennifer Lawrence of untalented regular people!

On our way there, we passed the spot where Evel Knievel attempted his Snake River Canyon jump in 1974, which had me pondering: in a post Evel Knievel world, who is our flamboyant daredevil? Must our canyons remain unjumped? Our gorges’ airspaces undisturbed? Our predators with slightly fewer chances to grab and eat a passing man off of a motorcycle? Our leather jumpsuit and cape artisans’ workload remain empty? The answer is no: Eddie Braun is making another attempt at the Snake River Canyon this September.

A mere three miles down the road is Twin Falls, aka Shoshone Falls, aka Niagara West, aka America’s Icelandic Toilet (no doubt as the popularity of this blog surges, that last one will catch on).   Again, it’s 29 feet taller than Niagara and significantly less wide. It also can dry up over the summer, but we hit it around peak season and were suitably impressed. As is usual with the Harpies, we quickly made friends with other people in the viewing area, one of which was on another ladies’ trip to Kentucky–theirs probably involved fewer filthy jokes, but that’s just a wild guess. I tried to go a bit further down the path to see if I could find a better, quieter viewpoint, but it got extremely narrow and overgrown almost immediately with just a bare chain link fence preventing me from falling off the cliff should a snake or some other critter appear while I’m tramping down in an area with no other people, so I quickly reconsidered my plan and turned back, not wanting this excursion to turn into one of those “Mellzah stories” wherein I do something foolish and am surprised by consequences. (Somewhere out there a reader is whispering “She can learn!”)

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sunburn and bugs day two (8 of 94)

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 After lunch and some more coffee (#jitteringdowntheroad #secretbackseatnaptime) we crossed over into Utah, and the landscape turned into some shit from the Sound of Music, which I helpfully sang from the backseat to make sure everyone else was feeling the vibe. For some reason, the music in the front kept getting cranked up, but luckily, I know a thing or two about singing from the diaphragm.

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Our destination was Promontory Summit, which is where the USA’s first transcontinental railroad met, with the hammering of a golden spike. On the way there, though, there were signs indicating there was a “rocket display” of sorts coming up. While I appreciate that they had a sign to let me know about its existence, it was somewhat superfluous as there was absolutely no way we could have accidentally driven past this rocket display without seeing it. And even though there was a sign letting us know the rocket display was there, and there were informational signs in front of each piece, it still felt like we were walking around somewhere we probably shouldn’t be. Emily wouldn’t let me climb aboard one to do my best impression of Major Kong, so you have her to blame for that. And also all of those “don’t climb on the rockets” signs. Killjoys.

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One thing is for certain: they definitely didn’t dumb their signs down for your average rocket-viewer. Some sample text: “The integral booster chamber then becomes the ramburner for the ducted rocket, and the end-burning, fuel-rich grain completes combustion in the ramburner.” Hmmm. You don’t say.

no follow up

As employees started to leave the building, we stopped snapping photos of me posing with a rocket as if it were a giant dong which is a wholly unique thing that I’m sure no one has ever done before but I still wasn’t keen on the idea of having rocket scientists see me do it for some reason. Maybe because then they’d be less inclined to believe that I understood their signage and also because we were now in Modest Utah and I wasn’t certain if that was the sort of thing you could be arrested for, like wearing leggings that show your butt and drinking boozy coffee.

We started running low on gas as we approached Promontory Summit, which is always pretty exciting–would we make it to a gas station in time or would we be making use of the car’s exciting roadside assistance button and get to explain to a dispatcher that we were too busy making dick jokes to notice the gas gauge? But since there were no stations between us and the summit, we pushed on to the summit first.

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Would you believe that I dinked up my camera settings and all the photos I took inside of the building are completely black, including the golden spike? Believe it.  They don’t even have the real golden spike there, it’s just a replica–the real one is at Stanford University. The golden spike wasn’t the last spike driven, regardless–it was wholly for ceremony and immediately pulled up, along with the final tie, to thwart treasure hunters and souvenir seekers, who would have torn it apart within seconds of being laid. It was replaced with a normal tie and a regular iron spike. I don’t know when that tie was replaced with the varnished tie they have in place now. The tag on it says 1869 but frankly, I think that’s a load of hot steamy railroad smoke. Even so, it was cool to be standing at the spot that changed the way America traveled while in the middle of an excursion across a sizeable swath of it.

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sunburn and bugs day two (20 of 94)No, car, you’re doing it wrong.

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sunburn and bugs day two (23 of 94)

Will our intrepid explorers make it to a gas station? Or am I blogging this from a Utahan jail after being mistaken for a prostitute? FIND OUT NEXT TIME on Sunburn and Bugs: No Really None Of Us Are Hos!

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Sunburn and Bugs 2016: IT BEGINS

It all started as an offhand remark in a facebook post. “Perhaps of interest?” attached to a link about the Meow Wolf art collective’s newest project, The House of Eternal Return.  “I totally want to go!” I replied. Another friend chimed in that she, too, would like to go, and we started tentatively, jokingly, talking about taking a group road trip.

Only I wasn’t joking.

A few weeks later I sent a text message, saying I was serious about taking this trip and asking when we could embark, and then we began planning in earnest. Because you see, taking a road trip with three adult women is nothing like the easy-breezy depictions of road trips you see in movies about teenagers setting across America to discover themselves and their burgeoning sexuality. It’s not just a matter of deciding to go, hopping in the car, and going, perhaps flipping off your parents as a trail of dust kicks up in the wake of your passage. For instance,  who would have thought that among three people, we would have three different preferences for the types of establishments we’d sleep in each night, running the gamut from camping to your finer hotels? To avoid potential conflict on the road, we had to discuss it all in advance. This meant figuring out work and school schedules, finding a range of dates when we were all available*, hammering out a budget, making sure our insurance covered all of the stuff we assumed it did, actually deciding whose car we were taking, packing and repacking and repacking again, looking at potential routes and things to do along the way, and then just flipping someone off randomly as we peeled out of the neighborhood because we ran out of time to properly research who most deserved a righteous flipping-off.

We decided on an eight day road trip from Seattle to Santa Fe and back with the option for a ninth day if one of the long drive days we had planned on the way back proved to be unbearable and we needed to take a break from the road. Collectively, we determined the most awkward and unwieldy name for the trip would be: Sunburn and Bugs 2016: The Harpies Take Santa Fe (#harpiestakesantafe #feminism) . The  brand new car with all the bells and whistles remained unnamed for the time being. Even with all the planning, up until the day we left, I still wasn’t 100 percent convinced we were actually going. I kept waiting for someone to call the whole thing off, saying it was a joke that got out of hand, and I got the sense that everyone else felt similarly and we were all waiting for someone else to call off the dare, and when no one did, we were bound and determined to go through with it. The darker doubt lingering at the back of everyone’s brain remained: could a powerlifting animal rights activist, a driven psychology student, and a loudmouthed fart machine** spend eight days and nights together in close quarters and remain friends? Or at least not intentionally drive off a cliff to end all of the farting and inappropriate jokes?

We set off around noon on a Sunday with high spirits and music blasting. We made it three miles before we stopped for coffee.

Properly caffeinated, we started putting some solid mileage between  ourselves and home, tentatively starting to play my two favorite road trip games:  (Anal) RV names and Name That Landmark***.  It always feels a little strange playing road trip games when you’re still in spitting distance of home, but the sooner you get started, the more enthusiastically everyone plays eventually.

I ended up being behind the wheel as we approached the town of Granger, and since I’d been there before, I knew of the delights that lay within, so I suggested we take a short detour. I also knew that it would likely be our only stop of interest between home and Boise since we’d gotten a late start, and I was anxious to get off on the right foot while we were still in “let’s call the whole thing off and turn around” distance.

My plan worked.

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sunburn and bugs day one (11 of 11)

We stayed in high spirits the rest of the way to Boise, stopping at a scenic overlook in, uh Somewhere****, Oregon, though road fatigue began to hit around the time we hit the Idaho border and we suddenly started clucking along to the songs on Road Trip Radio like chickens.

We may in fact have been a bit overtired on the road to Bawk-sie.

A video posted by @mellzah on

To this day, I cannot hear Collective Soul’s “Shine” without clucking to it. I live in fear of the day that it plays on the overhead speakers at the grocery store.

 

 

*This is much harder than you’d think, considering none of us have children and two of us don’t have jobs. In any given period of time, at least one of us would have one or more other obligation that would preclude galavanting about the country like howling wine-chugging banshees, and we basically had to sacrifice a goat to the moon gods to temporally align our schedules to make this trip happen. I also had to postpone a dental appointment for a crown and promptly chipped that same tooth, because evidently the goat wasn’t all the moon gods wanted in repayment.

**Guess which one I am.  

***Essentially, if someone asks about a landmark and you don’t know what it is, you get to rename it whatever you’d like. The faster and more authoritatively you Name That Landmark, the more likely it is that someone in the car will believe you. Alternately, if you think of something that tickles your funny bone, it will make that landmark more memorable and you’ll have a better idea of where you are the next time you see, say, Bitch Tit Mountain rising over the horizon.

****I knew not writing ACTUAL place names down would come back to bite me.

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The Murals of North Park, San Diego

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Near my dad’s place in North Park, they had been having a lot of issues with tagging on buildings, so they decided to implement a program that’s been successful in other cities: murals. It’s intended to channel artistic impulses in positive ways, increase pride and ownership in the neighborhood, and decrease the sort of vandalism that makes an area appear run down and tends to encourage other crimes. So far, it’s been successful, and once a mural has been implemented, it’s rarely tagged over. And if it is, there’s a task force to remove it as soon as possible–there was one right next to my dad’s place that had been tagged overnight, and the next day, it was like it was never there. Plus, so much cool art for everyone to enjoy! Now if only I could get someone to remove the tags on my street…

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