California was lovely. Admittedly, I like northern California more than southern California.
Arizona was very hot. We're talking 104 degrees. 80 degrees at night. On the way to the Grand Canyon from Tempe, we passed a prairie fire on top of a mesa. Everything in a mile radius of it had been charred black. Traffic was backed up for miles on that side of the highway. Luckily, we were on the other side and it had been taken care of by the time we drove back. There were cacti. I was very excited about this.
The Grand Canyon is indeed grand. Massive. I felt like we were standing in front of a giant oil painting of the Grand Canyon. We decided we were going to hike down the Bright Angel path, which had been listed as "Steep, but popular." "Popular, eh? If it's popular, we should easily take it."
Three of us were having a hard time with it. Andres is fit, and therefore didn't. We got about halfway to the 1 1/2 mile rest stop before seeing it from far away and deciding that we were "not going to make it." What took us about an hour to walk down took us about two hours to climb out of. Still, it was an adventure and I would gladly do it again. And again. And again.
We left Tempe as soon as we woke up and began the 16 hour drive to Austin, TX. We stopped at one tourist trap along the way. It was called "The Thing." It ended up being a strange museum of sorts. I appreciated it for what it was.
Outside of El Paso, I called Sara. I was in her homeland and it seemed appropriate. It was mainly because I wanted to hear her voice. I'd been thinking about her throughout all of my travels, and because she is a proud Texan, it felt appropriate to contact her. I had called her before while walking around in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, and she had apparently been with a friend and driving. But she still talked to me as I yammered about what I was seeing. This time, I talked about the heat and how I disliked it. She told me to imagine that I was a lizard, sunning myself. The conversation was very brief, and I sensed that it wasn't necessarily welcomed. But she didn't cut me off. We got back on the road and I said goodbye.
Deanna drove through gray skies. I would occasionally perk up to watch lightening in the distance before going back to sleep. Before nightfall, we switched off. I drove through the Texas blackness and loved it. Nothing could be seen but the road immediately in front of us and headlights in the distance. Occasionally I would see lightening, though I wished for more. What gas stations we found past midnight were mainly closed, as they were all in small Texas towns built on the highway. I kept thinking of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That made the driving more interesting.
In one such town, the speed limit dropped, as they often do, but I missed the one that suddenly said 30. We were driving the previous speed limit, which was 45. There were lights flashing behind me before I knew what happened. We explained that we hadn't seen the sign, and when I was totally sure that he was going to give me my second ticket of the trip, he returned with a written warning. He showed up about a block past the original sign. The 30 limit lasted for another four blocks before turning back into 45. He took pity on us, as we were about 70 miles away from Austin after driving all day long.
We made it to Austin at about 2am. We checked into a cheap Motel 6, switched rooms because the one we were originally assigned to was full of bugs, then passed out. When we woke up, we went to the Whole Foods headquarters, then split up for a while and went to various stores. Then we drove to the Bat Bridge, which has the largest urban bat population in the world. While we saw none, we could hear them all. The area smelled like a giant rat cage. I was enthralled.
Then we walked around for a little while looking at shops. We meant to go to the nearby Amy's Ice Cream location, but it appeared to be closed. We stopped by the PetsAlive! booths across the street and took a bit to pet kitties and puppies. I met a pup that was obviously meant to come home with me, but that wouldn't have been practical. Then we went to another Amy's location that was open. The dude that was scooping ice cream was extremely charismatic. We each got a couple samples, then it came time to order. Deanna made her decision, and I was being somewhat indecisive, as usual. The dude behind the counter joked with me that I could just get all 16 flavors in one small cup. And so I accepted. And he was surprised and excited, because, apparently, in the seven years he'd worked there, not one person he'd offered that to had ever taken him up on it. And it was delicious.
Then we left right afterward and went to Houston. We stayed with Deanna's sister, brother-in-law, and their two small children. They were very nice to us. In the morning, we went to a bunch of museums. My favorites were the Holocaust Museum (no surprise there) and the Museum of Medical Science (again, not a lot of surprise). The Museum of Contemporary Art had an interesting textiles exhibit going on, but the one going on downstairs felt like filler material to me compared to what was upstairs. At one point, we got caught in a downpour, and had to walk about a mile back to the car. I thought it was funny. Then we went out to dinner with Deanna's family, then went home and slept a couple hours before leaving at 1AM and heading toward Indiana.
Hard rains on the highway. It's hurricane season. I felt like every cop was a shark, and I was surrounded by sharks that had been thrown ashore by the high winds. But I liked driving through Louisiana in the dark. Lots of bridges and whatnot. I always prefer driving at night to driving during the day. Less distraction. More peaceful time to relax and think. It's a kind of ritual, really. That's why I used to go out so often at night around here. Nightswimming deserves a quiet night, and all that jazz.
In Bloomington, I stayed with Gizmo while Deanna stayed with Leigh. Gizmo got me drunk while I was still loopy from driving all day AND helped me do my laundry. Then we went out and saw people and I got lots of hugs. Then we went home and I passed out. Then we went to the Farmer's Market in the morning and I saw even more people and got even more hugs. Then more people wanted to hang out with me. More hugs. Domino invited me to a picnic the next morning with her new girlfriend, so I hung out with them. Domino and I had a long conversation about Sara, and she compared it to how her relationship with her new girlfriend came about. The difference is that this story is not mutual, and that Sara doesn't pursue me in the slightest. Then we "played basketball" with her ex and another friend. Then I played videogames with Cody for the rest of the afternoon. I left the next day. On the way back to Fort Wayne, I called Sara, and she didn't answer. Nor did she call back. As usual, I will take this as a sign of disinterest. No matter what she might say in response to this, it's what I needed. I need to stop thinking about her. I need to move on. I've been too sad for too long.
One thing I came to terms with on this road trip is that my heart really has been broken. It's going to take a mixture of time and someone else.