Desert Sun

When we got to Las Vegas, my mom wanted to tan. I felt like a fool, reclining poolside in hats and sarongs and SPF 45, putting as much distance between me and the devil sky as I could.

The image of my mother in her thirties is her on a brown beach towel, draped across an aluminum-framed plastic-laced lawn chair. I, barely five, would chastise her that skin cancer would kill her early, and she’d read in the sun.

The desert sun is not like the saccharine sun of the northeast, to be treasured in its rarity. It is not the daffodil Disney sun of the South. It is a desiccating dust like white gold, that infiltrates every crevice, even inside drawers within the house, irradiating, ultraviolet. It gets inside the mind, swirling like a desert snow globe. It leeches all water, it wrings out trees and earth and skin. It hides in the bottoms of earthenware pots, unused since last season, keeping house with silverfish, familiar and faint like last night’s dream.

When we got to Las Vegas, my mom wanted to tan. I felt like a fool, for even in my first day in the desert, I sensed the utter redundancy of tanning in this place, like reading Sartre in space, like oxygen on a plane.

Leftovers

Ok, ok, ok. I meant to do this forever ago, but time is money. And I am on a budget.

So! I picked up Mum at LAX, we went out to a delicious dinner with Taryn at a Japanese noodle place, and then Mum and I drove to Las Vegas. Long drive, sleepy Jos. We got lost in a Cali town called Victorville, where we drove for about 15 minutes and saw 0 gas stations and 8 liquor stores. If you have any alcoholic friends, send ’em to Victorville. Feed the addiction, remove the drunk driving problem. I think Victorville’s got it pretty well figured out. Vegas was as fake and plastic as you’ve ever heard, but we got a lovely room at a hotel about 6 blocks off the strip. Three pools, verdant green lawns, and signs above every sink and toilet that said, “Please, we’re trying to conserve water.” Hah!

Mom and I opted to spend a day lounging about by the pool, ate lunch at the Bellagio, then spent far too long trudging along the strip in incredible heat. We did, however, split a $0.99 marguerita! Livin’ large! That night we went to “O” by Cirque du Soleil, which was mind-blowing. I had to keep reminding myself to stop trying to analyse it and just be a kid in a theatrical candy store. If you have to sell your first born, if you have to give up your immortal soul, if you have to wear a pair of culottes from the Mickey Mouse Club circa 1986 for the rest of your life, it’s worth it for a Cirque show. Go see one.

The next day, we ate at the Bellagio again, this time for breakfast. Damn, expensive buffet, but damn, great food. Amazing fruit. But I digress. We re-packed the car, left Quixo’s water bowl accidentally at the curb (turns out he preferred to drink from a coffee mug, which my mother obligingly tolerated), and set off for the Grand Canyon.

The drive took forever. This will become a theme. We stopped and got a few groceries, and then realized we had drastically under-shopped, so we got more groceries. We heard the temperature was expected to be in the mid-thirties, with wind gusts of up to 35 mph. Despite fears of the two of us blowing off the rim of the canyon in our tent, we pressed on. We rode busses, walked trails, read signs, bought books and pottery, and marvelled at the massive “camp store” that could feed the pickiest eaters (vegan gluten-free nut-allergy whole food locavores), as well as outfit their entire camp. We couldn’t go into the canyon, because it was more than a day hike but we couldn’t take a dog down past the rim. The second night, we went to a talk about the history of the Hermit Road (given by Mr. Roger’s twin) just to avoid the cold. To make matters worse, Mom’s tent was mildewed, and it turns out I’m allergic to mildew. I woke up in the middle of the night on the first night fighting to breathe, with both eyes swollen almost to shut. After that, I took to sleeping in the car when we camped (until we found mildew-remover at REI in Albuquerque, which solved the problem). We woke up on the morning of our second full day at the Grand Canyon to find it had snowed and hailed the night before. The temperature had dropped to 28 degrees and the winds were gusting up to 50 miles per hour. To top it all off, Mom’s camp stove was being ornery. We had one more night at the south rim and another at the north rim still lined up, but we looked at each other that morning and said, “Bye, Grand Canyon.” So long, and thanks for all the fish.

We drove then to Sedona! GORGEOUS! Sedona, however, is about 3/4 artists and 1/4 mystic healers. Apparently there are 13 “vortexes” where one can pass into another realm. I wanted to ask, Are the vortexes discerning, or can anyone go? If you go, do you have to come back? Has anyone been lost?

We camped that night at Lo Lo Mai Springs Resort (click for pictures from their website), which I can’t recommend highly enough. Mom and I set up camp, changed, and left to go explore Sedona. Well, bright bulb that I am, I left my ID, my debit card, and a Visa Gift Card on top of the car when we drove off. As soon as we stopped in Sedona, I realized what I’d done. I called the campsite, and they told me they’d found two cards. I was hoping that they’d found the debit card and the ID. The gift card had about $150 on it, but I thought, “If they found all three, and they keep the gift card, fair enough – I’ll be glad just to have the two back, and they can keep the extra as a finder’s fee.” But no, they’d found the gift card and my ID – debit card at large. Mom, bless her heart, walked up to the road from the campsite and found a clue! a clue! a clue! I’d had an antiseptic wipe in the stack with the cards, and Mum saw it alongside the road. So, not daring to hope, we hopped in the car again and drove oh so slowly along the back road leading to the campsite. Maybe 200 feet down the road, Mom said, almost in disbelief, “My God, I see it.”

I am having a blessed trip. I’m not sure what I did to deserve it, but wow. Thanks, world.

After Sedona, we went to … ah, to Montezuma Castle! Montezuma was never there, contrary to the assumptions of early explorers. It was gorgeous – these beautiful cliff dwellings overlooking a flood plain with giant sycamore trees and native plants. From the castle, we made as straight a pass as we could to our next destination, the Hopi Reservation.

To be continued!