Friday, April 09, 2004


The trip - which at times has threatened to swallow us whole - is winding down faster than we thought. We are on this last leg through Texas, Utah, and Colorado, and with a couple of days off we found ourselves in southern Utah near two gigantic national parks, Canyonland and Arches.

Like normal tourists, we loaded up the sandwiches and cameras and went for another of a seemingly endless sight-seeing obligation. You know what I mean? You end up in Yuma and someone says, "You gotta see the old jail." So you go. You shoot nine pictures of it. You touch it. You buy a postcard and a t-shirt, then start looking for a Taco Bell.

But as we roll into Arches, we are greeted with towering sandstone spires that reach to the sky, gigantic slabs of red rock, some razor thin, that all crowd the snaking road that leads through the park. It's stunning and humbling, and nothing at all like a normal tourist stop.

We spend most of two full days seeing what we can, hiking across sandy canyons, which sometimes lead right to sudden and beautiful grassy pastures, to see sandstone arches. In the northern section of Canyonlands, we stand on sheer cliffs that fall hundreds of feet and look over hundred mile views. I don't even notice if it's a pepperoni or salami sandwich, if that tells you anything about how the place gets my attention.

As yesterday was winding down, we found a rock outcropping over the Green River valley and sat on the stone, cross legged in complete silence. I thought a lot about the journey, the places we'd seen. I looked for deep reverential meaning it all. Why here now? What's this place about? Why do I get to see it?

I thought about the tremendous toll that the trip has taken on me, the long hours of writing, interviewing. The travel which just blurs towns and states and people together. I think about the maps and the directions. I think about my poor wife - who gets to hear the long version of this paragraph daily - who has stood by me since the nutty idea was born almost a year ago.

Why doesn't she just push my fat ass off this ledge?