Saturday, November 29, 2008

An Edward Abbey loop

I left Phoenix Thanksgiving morning, heading north. I passed by Southwestern Academy and Sedona then climbed up the Mogollon Rim to the Colorado Plateau--the elevated, magical, almost mythical geophysical province that sprawls across northern Arizona, southern Utah, and spills over into Colorado and New Mexico. I continued through Flagstaff, across the "painted desert," over the Little Colorado (just east of the Grand Canyon), and paused at the infamous Glenn Canyon Dam before arriving in Kanab, Utah--where I spent 1.5 days with some friends, and their family.

This morning I began the loop back to Phoenix, heading through polygamist country (at Fredonia and Colorado City), St. George, the Virgin River Gorge (along I-15) and then Vegas where I am currently parked in a Starbucks. The next stop will be Quartzsite, and I'll probably press on to Phoenix tonight.

This is a stunning and unique part of the world. My route until I left Utah was made famous by Edward Abbey (among others), along with his fictional characters George Hayduke, Bella Abbzug, Seldom Seen Smith, and Doc Jarvis. If you haven't read it yet, and you're an American with an interest in the West--I encourage you to read The Monkey Wrench Gang, at your earliest convenience.

Frank Sinatra, hosted by Judy Collins on Sirius Satellite Radio provided the soundtrack this morning.

It was a good Thanksgiving and even with the gloomy economy I am thankful for so much. I'll mention two things briefly. First, I am thankful for my very good friend Kellie Forbes, and her family who took me in for 1.5 days in Kanab. I've always been a tourist or traveler passing through that beautiful and remote town--but this time I got a taste of the local culture which is as colorful and interesting as the culture anywhere. Kanab is American Jesus Country--Latter Day Saints style. The LDS people have become pretty unpopular with many of my friends, but my personal ties to Kellie and her family far outweigh any political opinions of mine. These are very good people.

The second thing I am thankful for is something a little more abstract perhaps. I am thankful to live in times when I can see so much of the world. Traveling is an important part of my life and it's so easy and relatively cheap to do right now. The current crash in fuel prices, while not good for our fuel consumption habits, allowed me to relish (with little financial pain) the open road of the American West--a place where I am very much at home. On this trip I paid my all time low price for diesel fuel, $2.11 per gallon (down from $5 this summer).

In his lifetime, Edward Abbey lamented the loss of the open spaces of the West--and what he percieved as the mindless "Americanization" of some of the last great wild places in the continental United States. While I share some of Abbey's sentiments (please note the word "some" I am no anarchist, for example), even two decades after his death, vast and wide open spaces still exist along the Colorado Plateau. They will likely be there for a long, long time given the scarcity of water in the region--though the inevitiable march of "progress" changes the landscape bit by bit, year by year.

Hopefully, as Americans, we'll follow the advice of contemporary thinkers like Thomas Friedman, and many others, and make American Progress more progressive.

Las Vegas, Nevada