Road Tripping the American Southwest

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Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world. ~Gustave Flaubert  

Gazing across the vast West Texas desert, obscured by darkness, we wait for the mysterious to happen. After awhile of staring into the night, flickers of light play with my vision. “There’s something out there,” I thought to myself or maybe aloud as other participants on the viewing platform shriek with delight and proclaim, “There it is! That was it! Did you see it?” Somehow, my mother and I in the inky black night communicate our disbelief in silence and continue to stare waiting for something more convincing to appear. Since the late 19th century, early settlers, Apaches, ranchers, locals and visitors alike, have reported accounts of strange and unexplained dancing lights outside of Marfa, Texas.

Admittedly, we did observe a mysterious light after leaving the platform but not while we sat mocking the many souls filled with faith that the waving lights across the desert were unexplainable. As we drove into the night finishing the first day of our Southwest road trip, a star shape halogen backyard light caught my eye. I pointed it out to my mother saying, “that’s exactly what those lights across the desert looked like, someone’s backyard light.” As we neared the property, the light disappeared and as we passed there was neither a house nor a dwelling. We sat in silence driving further into the heart of the American Southwest.

After the appearance of the mysterious light we found every hotel room booked for the night in the artsy small town of Marfa. Our only option in the desolate Chihuahuan Desert was to sleep in the car. The restaurants were closed, so we we decided to drink wine at a funky and eclectic bar known as Planet Marfa. Immediately our spirits soared among a painted bus, a tepee hut, outdoor lights and a mixture of music from Mexicana and Country to Rock N Roll and Hip Hop. Each song wailing from the jukebox summoned a new group of locals to the dance floor as the rest sang along. After a couple glasses, we headed for our cramped car beds. A few hours later, the cold desert air interrupted our dreams long before sunrise. Quickly, we were back on the road following a setting full moon as we continued west into New Mexico.

Moon set over the desert. Moon set over the desert.

Magnificent mountains, red rock canyons, plateaus, painted deserts, and mighty rivers entice sightseers from around the globe to the Southwestern United States. The region comprises 8 U.S. states with New Mexico and Arizona considered the core, while large parts of California, Nevada, Colorado, and Texas are also included. In early autumn, my mother and I traveled through 4 states in 2 weeks. Our trip began in the Chihuahuan Desert of West Texas continuing through New Mexico across Arizona and into California. This was not our first time traveling across the stunning topography. We wanted our current wanderings to explore the ancient civilizations that called these majestic geological wonders home with some old fashion side of the road attractions to boot. What came to be was beyond our expectations.

Over the next six weeks, stay tuned to follow our journey from ancient petroglyphs at Three Rivers and a full moon glowing over White Sands National Monument to the ancient Puebloans sites of Acoma Sky City and Chaco Canyon. Best of all don’t miss the botanical adventures to a pistachio plantation, Huntington’s desert garden and the spectacular Petrified Forest where botany and geology merge into every color of the rainbow. We invite you to join our journey through the American Southwest. 

My road trip companion, Diane Trandell. My road trip companion, Diane Trandell

Adventures American Southwest Chihuahua Desert Marfa New Mexico Road Trip Road Trip with my Mom Road Tripping Southwest Southwestern United States Texas

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