Zips

lying in my tent

listening

imagining

sounds outside

night creatures

rustling

exploring

curious eyes

waiting to pounce

rip me apart

 

turn on my phone

a bright light

comforting

Google logo

my portal

my contacts

web of wonders

safety in numbers

take me anywhere

away from here

 

unzip the door

shine the torch outside

see nothing

zip it closed

rest assured

for a little while

a car drives past

headlights casting

shadows thrown

what are they doing?

 

need a pee

unzip again

step out

behind a tree

and there above

the Milky Way

from left to right

jaw dropping

unexplainable

vast

 

back inside

temperature dropping

zip up

blanket over

try to find comfort

tiredness

shouldn’t be afraid

it’s only nature

doing its thing

turn off phone

 

darkness 

sleep

but what was that?

 

 

 

coyotes?

 

 

dogs?

 

 

 

no

 

 

Advertisements

Zabriskie Point

The approach to Death Valley from the south was a motoring challenge in itself
Unpaved roads and windblown sands tinkled and teased my rental car’s frame
In the neighbouring Searles Valley my attention was grabbed by some painted rocks
Just another piece of Nevada desert graffiti to entertain the travellers
Or so some might have thought.

I rounded the corner, braked and pulled onto the sloping gravel shoulder
Blast furnace heat sucked the air from my lungs, made me gasp
The side of the hill on my right was green and crumbled to the touch
Just another colour in this spilt pallet of a painter’s landscape dream
Or a geologist’s psychedelic field trip.

Beyond the bend in a dried out wash a roadside memorial caught my eye
Superhero figures and a cross of axes amongst beer cans to quench the thirst
Captain Travis Flores-Lee had come to Nevada from Hawaii in 2001
Just another firefighter whose life ended too soon to be remembered
Or so he may have thought.

Later in an overpriced Las Vegas motel I found his story on Google
His car had left the road on his way to work at the Searles Valley Mineral Fire Department
His colleagues must cross themselves in remembrance every time they pass the spot
Just another tragedy in this Dante’s inferno of a lunatic landscape
Or a statistic on a road sign.

Antonioni directed his cult classic which divides opinion to this day
Love or hate it there’s no doubt he left his mark somewhere along the movie time line
The painted plane, the love scene, the exploding house finale
Just another contribution to the existential road movies of late sixties counter culture
Or a work of genius to some.

At Zabriskie Point a couple from Iceland took a picture of me and the view
Perhaps it was sacrilege to take those photographs of Dolores-Lee’s shrine
As the old Navajo woman had shaken her head and frowned at me for asking
Just another tourist buying her trinkets but not allowed to remove her soul
Or perhaps for a few dollars more.

There’s only ever been one thing on my bucket list of things to do before I die
And yes, I have seen the movie several times and own a copy of the soundtrack
I even played it on the way into Death Valley to put me in the mood
Just another of the weird and wonderful things that demand my attention
Or not as the case may be when it wanders.

My mind turns once more to the unfortunate case of Dolores-Lee
I wonder how he would have felt knowing he’d become part of the valley folklore
My bucket list is empty now like his firefighting superhero dreams
Just another reason to turn off the air-con to prevent overheating
Or play the soundtrack one more time.

IMG_20160826_124715

Trailblazers

they were the explorers

pathfinders and land cruisers

range roving defenders

of prairie frontiers

from Colorado

to Silverado

surf to tundra

the rebel wagon rams

on the edge of

Yukon escalades

Comanche commandos

the canyon pilots of

Navara ridgelines

terrain wranglers

titans of the suburban scene

defenders of the Sierras

Tacoma mountain toppers

Dakota rogues

dodging the avalanches

evoking the Cherokees

traversing the highland escapes

with a Sante Fe forester

or a tornado discovery

hummers and forerunners

they were the offroad journeymen

and patriots all.

traces

in buckskin hide

through red rock canyons

he came on stolen mustang

bareback riding mesas, buttes

dried out washes

and in this wilderness silence

he left no lasting trace

but a wake of grasshopper flights

hoofmarks on silver grass plains

hunted buffalo bones

campfire spoken story tales

of creation, birth, human survival

 

now under barbed wire fences

he sneaks a peek at once

his land of riches

mostly under new ownership

largely mismanaged

railroaded and crisscrossed

with interstates, strip malls

gaudy neon diners

crumbling, decaying, sun beaten

worshipped

for all the wrong reasons

preoccupied, never pausing to listen

 

voices call from the past

echoes caught on overlooks

rock strewn escarpments

scanning the distance

his hand shields his eyes

a false new wealth

of reservation compensations

cash dollar tourist casinos

trading post trinkets

a commercialised culture

his voice calls out for the sunset

one last time

 

Ever see a rainbow lit up by a sunset?

Ever see a rainbow lit up by a sunset?

Lightning forking across darkening skies

Neon lights stripteasing the night threats

Thunder truck rolling between your eyes

 

Ever stood waiting in a pool of starlight?

Colours mixing on burning streets of oil

Sirens announcing the coming firefight

Temperatures blistering as eyes recoil

 

Ever felt the heat of a stray arrow’s kiss?

The rose petal splash of crimson fears

Passions cloud over and lovers reminisce

Blindfolding their eyes with lambswool tears

 

Ever wondered how to ignite the new day?

Set gasoline fires on your demon badlands

Lonely back road promises drive them away

Covering your eyes you take both my hands

 

Forever we will journey in this quiet disguise.

 

IMG_20160819_193609

(Just a bit of daily post one word prompting imaginative writing inspired by setting foot outside my motel room tonight in Tucumcari, New Mexico and seeing this amazing sunset rainbow).

Chance Meetings

I was never planning to do the Route 66 pilgrimage but flooded interstates in South Louisiana pushed me north to Memphis and it seemed an opportunity not to miss. Much of the original highway has been lost to time and the creeping sideshoots of  modern day expansionism but there are stretches and towns which still retain some of the flavour of bygone travel.

My point of first contact was northeast of Oklahoma City at the historic Round Barn and POPS angular steel-beamed gas station which displays and offers for sale a mind boggling array of bottled sodas and beers. I bought a Route 66 grape soda and a Dublin Vintage Cola.

In El Reno the 1892 hotel, red barn and museum contained a treasure trove of antiquities. One of my constant beefs is the way larger museums feel the need to minimise their exhibits, picking just a chosen few choice objects for display in interactive isolation. I wanna see the whole collection. Don’t hide it away in the vaults. It’s well worth visiting and supporting these small town museums run by volunteers.

So I planned to make Amarillo by sunset but all my dalliance was running me late and I didn’t want a repeat of yesterday’s long drive. I managed to pick up some decent wi-fi at the Domino’s in Texola before crossing the state line into Texas. Shamrock up the road seemed a good place to stop and the Country Inn had good reviews. I made it there in Texas quick time.

Shamrock turned out to be one of those chance layovers that revealed more than I could ever have hoped. It was a photographer’s dream with its rusty old scrapyard cars and Route 66 memorabilia.

I was taking pictures of the famous Conoco Tower Gas Station and U-Drop Inn when I noticed a guy on the opposite side of the street doing the same. We got chatting and it turns out he’s a photographer who likes documenting back roads US highways.

He’d been to the Cadillac Ranch west of Amarillo and his kids were still covered in paint from adding their mark to that weird roadside installation. As the sun set behind us we snapped away and one by one the neon lights of the old building came on. From the clutter in the trunk of his car he produced a shrink-wrapped copy of his book Garish, a collection of colour Polaroid shots taken on his travels and promptly signed and wrote a message inside for me. Did I say I was glad I’d stopped in Shamrock? His name is Robert Jones btw and the e-book is available on Amazon.

http://www.robertjonesphoto.com/

IMG_20160818_201133

Lorraine Motel

I stood outside

the Lorraine Motel

it was worth the drive

all that way downtown

through Memphis blues

and torrential hell

you see the roads

in South Louisiana

were mostly underwater

and the weight of traffic

was re-routing north

in endless convoys

of eighteen wheelers

queuing to be weighed

at each state border

but anyways

that’s kinda by the by

I’m glad I came here

on this rainy Tuesday

the museum was closed

no need to pay

just insignificant me

and a few curious others

wandering about outside for free

standing, looking

contemplating

this landmark location

in a nation’s history

the murder scene

that’s little altered

since April 1968

when that fatal shot of hate

was fired

from a boarding house window

across the yard

a moment captured

for us future generations

in black and white

a testimony for the world to see

on that famous motel balcony

and right outside room 306

now hangs a wreath

a reminder of the weight

he likely carried

the knowledge that

his days were numbered

and I am truly humbled

not knowing what to think

or feel

but some kind of sadness

I turn to leave

maybe one more witness

to this black guy

a taxi driver

who offers to take my picture

under the motel sign

with a cheery smile

and have a nice day

I’m humbled

once again.

entryimage

4th April 1968

IMG_20160816_113738

16th August 2016

Time Traveler

I navigate my solo course by means of GPS, visitor centre maps and basic intuition. Mostly it works but the dash mounted Garmin likes to take me on the toll roads, especially in Sunpass Florida. So I use my UK smart phone or phablet which can be set to avoid such complications and is happier leaving the interstates for the more scenic and smaller highways.

But this is not without its own issues. When the connection drops out I find myself temporarily flying free and if needs be having to pull over into a gas station or grocery store car park to take stock of my whereabouts. This happened on the way down to Edenton, North Carolina with the added bonus of running out of gas in what was soon becoming a gas station free zone.

I was lucky with the Garmin. Having decided not to pay for one with the rental car it soon became apparent that it would be indispensable on my travels across the States. My couchsurfing hosts in Edenton kindly lent me theirs which they never used. Such kindness from strangers who had already opened their home to me, fed and treated me like their prodigal son returning.

So between the Garmin and the phablet and a dash of intuition I’m now doing okay. I cruise through interstate intersections with comparative ease and wonder at the layers of concrete human construction that curve and pan out in all directions like a child’s spirograph doodle.

Yesterday my Google sat nav lady unexpectedly welcomed me to Alabama. I pulled into the visitor centre for my free map and restroom break. There to the side was my selfie photo opportunity. I shared it to Facebook and my mum commented that I looked like a giant hedgehog. Well thanks mum!

And then it got a little weird. My phone and car started showing a different time to my watch. I was heading to a couchsurfing host in Mobile and texting my ETA. It suddenly occurred to me that there are time zones in the US, something that had completely escaped my attention in all the months of planning.

As a footnote to this traveller’s tale of confusion, I have decided to head north to Memphis Tennessee and the home of Elvis. I have a couchsurf host arranged in Tupelo where the man himself was born. It also means I get to avoid the weather chaos in southern Louisiana which has left the Interstate closed between Baton Rouge and north New Orleans.

And from Memphis I can strike out west to pick up the fabled Route 66. Won’t you come with me, as Billy Connelly might say.

IMG_20160814_154703