Wolverine Traveler: Deep Below Heaven - Chapter 1
As we departed NYC on June 1st, we asked ourselves, when does an adventure actually begin? When you walk out the door? Which door? Onto the plane? Into the car?
As we rolled quickly down to Nashville from NYC for the first show of the tour and then into Florence, AL for the second show, we quickly realized our trip would be full of arbitrary starts and stops, each moment as new as the next one. From Florence, our route was directed to the west, towards the Pacific. We had a week between shows, leaving time to kill as we crossed the states. There were many penciled in marks on our map of places we dreamed of visiting and one bright red circle: White Sands, NM.
On Tuesday we woke up in Elk City, OK – a city we both remembered from reading Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath”. As Elk City disappeared into our rear view mirror, we raced through storms into Tornado Alley, trying to reach Amarillo by the morning, as George Strait’s greatest hits played as we crossed the city line. The further west we drove, the more the terrain changed. On the doorstep of New Mexico, the trees got shorter and scrubbier, the dirt reddened and the sky seemed taller.
We drove into White Sands just before sunset; it was unlike anything we’ve ever seen. White slopes of sand extend as far as the eye can see and it was unbelievably quiet. Small black beetles scurried across the white surface and improbably little pink flowers bloomed on desert plants. Our red circle was truly a magical part of the country.
As we raced straight across Navajo Nation, deeper in to the west, we caught the sunset beyond Shiprock from a dirt road that was littered with broken bottles. The red rock formation truly looks like a ship in the distance, full sails against the flat expanse around it. As the sun went down, we pulled into a gas station to ask directions to the nearest motel. As a black dog wandered the parking lot, peering into the parked cars, we were informed that the nearest lodging was 30 miles behind us. We gave the dog the last of our sandwich meat from the cooler before we began our retrace down 64 and settled into our motel for the evening.
We’ve never traveled America like this before; being lead by one road leading to the next, all the interconnected highways and byways crisscrossing the land. The landscapes slowly changed before our eyes, taking it’s time, then exploding with beauty. We took US 89 right up to Jacob’s Lake in Arizona, near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We checked into our cabin and took inter-state 67 south for a Grand Canyon sunset. Travelers like ourselves sat lawn chairs on a stone ledge and watched the sun as it lowered slowly over the canyon. We took a trail to the left where kids were running around, making their parents nervous climbing on the edges of the cliffs. We found a quiet rock and stared out into the worldly abyss. It was our frist time ever seeing it, and it was so much more than we’d ever imagined.
We traveled north into Utah. Our updated paper map had certain roads that ceased to exist or changed names. We took a wrong turn and saw a sign for Corral Pink Sand Dunes. We followed that road for quite a few miles and started to wonder if it was in fact an outdated sign, or we had made yet another wrong turn. Then, around a bend, we were indeed surrounded by towering sand dunes dusted in a rust color. A park sign explained that the sand came from red Navajo sandstone, funneled over time through a notch in the moquith and Moccasin Mountains. We took our shoes off and climbed in.
After 7 days of wandering in the Southwest we had to finally start making our way towards L.A. and the string of shows that would take us up the coast. We crossed the Mojave Desert in 106 Degree heat, under an unrelenting mid-day sun. We turned off the AC so the car wouldn’t overheat and hot wind poured in through the windows. As the hot wind hit our faces, I tmade us think about how things used to be done, how people must have crossed the desert generations before us, on foot, or on horseback, by sheer will-power. After miles of nothing and brutal heat, we stopped at a 7-11 in Twentynine Palms, CA and enjoyed Klondike bars in the shade.
We arrived at the Joshua Tree Inn, a welcomed oasis after the long days’ drive. A perfect paole gold moon was rising over the hills in a pink sky. We walked up into the desert as the evening cooled, past little houses set back from the road as we experienced a moment of calm before the next week of shows.
View the entire photo gallery HERE!
Stay tuned for the next chapter of #WolverineTraveler!