05.11.2013 - 05.11.2013 85 °F
The day felt like it went on forever, and it nearly did, as it began at 6:30AM and didn't end until 3:00AM. We made a lot of ground, touching down in four states in one 24 hour period. We hopped in the taxi we ordered the night before that was waiting for us outside of our apartment at 8:00AM. It's a jerky 30 minute drive to JFK Airport and already we're making a list of things we need to pick up once we get to Las Vegas. Rachael needs a hat, Tom needs a fleece. A friend's text comes in with last minute advice to pick up aquaphor. While boarding the Delta 737 my flight phobia kicks in and I sigh with relief, a larger plane means less turbulence and there are 6 seats per row. The in flight movie is a wacky version of the Wizard of Oz from the wicked witches perspective. We snack on multiple packs of peanuts, pretzels & tomato juice (but no wine). Tom looks out the window, “It feels like we’re looking at an alien planet.” We speak in hushed tones while flying over the canyons. As we begin the descent, I squeeze Tom's arm and bury my head in his chest. The plane makes a stomach lurching landing at the McCarren airport and I can finally relax.
It takes 3 bus rides, but we make it to luggage pick up, grab our packs and head off to CVS to pick up a few last minute items. While there, the loudspeaker comes on and a less than pleased sounding cashier says, “Assistance needed in the liquor isle.” Startled by this pronouncement, I look across the store and low and behold there is a wall o’ liquor that runs the entire length of the far wall. Tom notices it the same time as I do and we exchange wide eyed looks, he laughs, “Las Vegas” I respond, “Yeah, apparently.”
We head to Wholefoods for dinner and are tickled to find that they have their own 365 brand wine. The 3 hour time change means I'm not hungry for dinner so I just munch on a snack, T is not pleased, “Peanuts do not a meal make, Rachael.” We sit at picnic tables in the middle of Whole Foods and Tom eats a real meal while a random old man repeatedly asks me if I'm Russian. This wasn't the only case of misidentification that day. When we picked up the rental car from Fox rentals an older guy approached Tom and asked what branch he was in. Paired with Tom's recent, high and tight hair cut, jaunty stance and the tan camo coloring of our vehicle, I could see how people could get confused. I told him he should've said Marine Corps, those guys are hard core.
As soon as we hit the Las Vegas border, the desert’s true nature reveals itself. There are no more imported palm trees, just native cacti and other flora. On the road, T is in awe: “The sea of power lines is so other worldly.” We roll down the windows and let the ethereal atmosphere soak into our bones. The air smells sweet as we drive through 3 states, Nevada to AZ to Utah. We made a quick detour before our ultimate destination to catch the sunset in the Valley of Fire, Nevada.
As Tom takes hair-point turns at 50 MPH our compact car weaves its way down to the Valley of Fire. “This land feels like it was made for giants & gods, not humans, everything is on such a grand scale.” T remarks, and he’s right, for the first time the iconic idea of the road stretching into the horizon becomes tangible to me. Riding into the valley, Tom turned to me and said, “Now this is a good example of a blue highway.” I asked what that was and he said, "small, forgotten, out-of-the-way roads connecting rural America."
We hike up a large rocky outcrop, looking for rock gollums along the way. Climbing here is like exploring the terrain on Mars. We rock scramble up a little peak of rocks amidst the red sandstone and stay there to watch the sunset. It was like watching the sun set the world ablaze as it slowly dipped below the rock formations.
R: “Being here make’s me acutely aware of how precious life is.”
T: “This really is a valley of fire.”
During the long, dark drive to the bed in breakfast room waiting for us in George, UT, Tom & I engulfed long mouthfuls of melted chocolate in the dark, me using my fingers to feed it to T as he drove through the moonlit desert.