Mary Branscombe (marypcb) wrote,
Mary Branscombe

Bookending the days with donuts

I left our detailed report in Arizona.. Having done our detective work at the Microsoft store in Scottsdale we bypassed the sprawl that is Phoenix and headed up to Arcosanti for a complete change of pace, stopping to look out over the buttes and valleys from the height. Simon wanted to go for the SF connections; I wanted to go for the bells. In a way it's heart-breaking: the project has never reached critical mass (irony in the true sense; one stage of the project was called critical mass because of the understanding that you need scale for this) and it's so isolated and self-sufficient that the people it educates are the people who already know about it. In another way, it's a crazy and wonderful place - utterly itself, delightful, thought-provoking. It's more like Le Jardin Secret near Annecy - a villa paradise - or Watts Towers or La Sagrada Familia before the building picked up speed - than the Barbican or a garden city or Findhorn or the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales; it's an intentional community, a secular commune with arcology as the belief structure. The actual design reminds me of Picasso and Cesar Manrique and concrete spaceships of the 1970s - scale it up to 5,000 and Logan's Run could jog through it. It's in utterly the wrong place; although being in or by a city would cause conflicts in the community between those turning inwards (we live here to build this place) and those turning outwards (we live here and work in the world), it would have made it so much more relevant and I think would have attracted people to scale it past the current village (powers of 25). To design an arcology you have to design the employment structure and social structure along with it; is it going to be self-sufficient in production, consumption, employment, education, health or federated with other arcologies or federated to traditional support structures? Because communes do not scale! For what it is today, it's still wonderful - assuming you can manage a lot of stairs at angles - with bold structures filled by a cottage industry producing beautiful pots and bronze bells in the pottery and foundry.

Arizona dusk goes pink on one side of the sky, orange and pink and lemon on the other, then night falls like a curtain; if you can get away from the street lights there's a blanket of sky scattered with stars.

Flagstaff was a shock after southern Arizona; down from 80 to 40 and dropping to 15 overnight. I had to have a coffee at Red Lobster to feel warm enough to enjoy a beer (Sam Adams spiced winter ale; very pleasant) and we hammered away at some Blackberry app reviews for Know Your Mobile then tucked ourselves up warm for the night and checked out downtown in the morning. The Downtown Diner has free wi-fi - handy for testing Internet radio streaming in Nobex (conclusion - excellent) over breakfast of smoked trout omelette and huevos rancheros. Off down route 66, twining beside and around the railway line: at one point we passed the outcrops from Cars and the Wigwam motel that inspired the Kosy Kone...

We diverted through the petrified forest (more likely the petrified logjam, to explain why none of the trunks have bark or branches): the colours of the petrified wood are amazing and the landscape is the big open spaces we love on road trips. That left us in Gallup for the night; after dinner at a local mexican, using fresh chilis in the chili sauce, we went back to reviewing more apps for Know Your Mobile, including Blackstar, a GPS and geocache tool. And the nearest geocache was at the Westend Donut & Diner, which does awesome blueberry donuts with blueberry icing so that was breakfast.

We stopped in Gallup itself for some shopping; I hadn't seen turquoise in the matrix used as a stone before - very subtle - and I picked up a watch to replace the engraved silver bracelet I seem to have left in LA (sob), although the polished spiny lobster stands up to water better than the watch itself... Then we stopped in Albuquerque old town for some wandering around back alleys and buying yarn and having lunch at the Church Street Cafe (Mexican again); with a late lunch, the plain glazed donuts we'd picked up were enough for dinner once we reached Trinidiad (just into Colorado, having, luckily, turned left at Albuquerque).

That took us to Thanksgiving morning; we caught a moment of the parade while we were checking out, hit the only traffic jam of the trip passing through a medium-sized town and turned left again just short of Denver, paused for lunch at the Village Inn (pancakes with everything apart from the scrambles) and drove through the Rockies. When I say through, I love the way the road climbs to 11,000 feet - a personal best - and then gives up and tunnels under a ski resort. The sheep were in hiding but the mountains were beautiful. We stopped the first place we though we'd have luck for dinner - Grand Junction, where the Dennys was open, at least and where the motel did a pretty good breakfast (although I'd have enjoyed it more if I hadn't been on the third of the five phone calls it took to get our flight to CES booked: the credit card we couldn't find and the credit card with an unexpectedly low limit met the Virgin rep who wrote the credit card number down wrong, bounced off the rep who thought she'd got the ticket issued and finally hit the rep who checked the numbers with me - Virgin still scores for honouring the sale price after the end of the sale).

Up to Salt Lake City isn't the most scenic route in Utah; perhaps we should have diverted through Wyoming. We stopped at a very scenic rest area with scramble-paths up the side of a cliff with a view over the whole valley and miles of cliffs that were only a few shades off vermillion; at this point we were mostly driving and looking at the scenery to make time and enjoying music from the Zune. The valley of SLC is Smog Lake City; a brown and white mist as far as the eye can see - we caught sight of the temple in passing and stopped at the marina, just passed a fantastical building that was labelled 'the pleasure palace (closed)'. Parasails over the salt; salt outcroppings in the salt pans we passed, and amazing reflections of the telegraph poles planted in the middle of a canal at the side of the road. Across the Bonneville flat-flat-flat Flats (and the road is straight enough to use for speed tests) and into Nevada at sunset; we knew we'd hit the state line when the casinos started, but pressed on to the quieter Elko for the night. Although the Basque restaurants looked interesting they were also popular enough to have long waits, so we ate at Ruby Station, a diner next to the hotel with prime rib night and all you can eat baby back ribs.

Nevada, says the state map, has the most mountains of any state and I passed the morning trying to work out which was which; some had their initial on, if there was a town with the same name on the slope. Another scenic rest area, surrounded by mountains. And then we passed Thunder Mountain and turned back. This reminded me of Watts Towers in LA, from the ornate rood decoration; it was built by a native American chief out of the trash he found on the land (glass bottles and car windscreens as windows - like the Hundertwasser toilets in NZ, cast iron fireplaces as gateposts, that kind of thing); it was both his home and a monument to the suffering of the tribes. Some of the building was done by hippies who drifted in and stayed; a less formal version of Arcosanti. I found it moving and fascinating - especially the way he'd described this as a place to pass through, both for the tribes and the white man.

Lunch at the Black Bear diner fortified us for the cultural desert of Reno and the drive over the Mount Rose pass down to Tahoe; when it says this is the highest pass over the Sierras open all year, we should have expected ice but the barge made it over the stop and just past Placerville for the night (I was holding out for a motel with a hot tub), into Davis for coffee at Mischkas and burgers at In-N-Out and into Mountain View in time to drop off the books we drive around six states at Bookbuyers, have a nice dinner with mrkurt and saffronrose and breakfast with spikeiowa at the Peninsula Fountain in Palo Alto. She showed us a handy parking lot, I returned the book I bought twice by accident (Donna Leon is good, but not that good!) and we got to the airport in time to have five minutes in the lounge inhaling a glass of water and fly home. It was a *lot* of travelling - we think 2,500 miles or so - and work to do along the way, but a great way to see more of the big empty spaces out there that we love.
Tags: food, travel

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