A desert trip 2004 – Grand Canyon, Page, Arizona, Lake Powell, Monument valley, and Canyon De Chelly.

(This is part one of several entries about this trip.)

One thing i have to say about this trip? I could’ve planned a whole lot better, done more research before i ever hit the road.
But WTF, I don’t like to plan too much, and being spontaneous is important. And I don’t like to always go to the attractions that are very well known and instantly recognizable in a photo. Since I’m interested in making montage images, the ‘recognition’ takes away from the montage part. A place I missed on this trip that i should have taken in? The Vermillion Cliffs National Monument:

((But remember to be careful out there! This is one of two incidents in the last few months at this same place, “The Wave”, where people have died.
http://www.sfgate.com/news/us/article/Anniversary-hike-ends-in-tragedy-near-scenic-spot-4683166.php ))

Rather than take in the well known spots, sometimes I’m much happier finding something like this:

EdgeOfTownCNTCT.TN…that generated a number of montages, including one of my all time greats:
ûThe first day –  the 23rd December, Thursday – was just driving flat out, pedal to the metal, from the SF Bay area to Needles, Ca., on the border w/ Arizona. No photography – just ‘drive’, for 12 straight hours.

But it’s a drive that I always enjoy, I am reminded of just how much variety in landscapes there is California. I leave Marin County ( just north of SF) on a freeway that clings to the side of steep hills overlooking Sausalito, where the streets are just wide enough for cars to pass each other and the houses cost a small fortune. Then across the Golden Gate bridge with an unbeatable view of the city.

GGBridgeContinuing south I pass thru silicon valley, past San Jose towards Gilroy, garlic capital of the country. At this point, suburbia fades away, and the land gets rough again going over the mountains to the valley. The valley is a very different enviroment, miles and miles and miles of agriculture, crop rows and fruit trees as far as the eye can see, many of the towns are a stark contrast to the Bay area, ain’t nobody here makin’ any money, except big agribusiness companies.
CropRowsFurther along you can smell the town of Coalinga, where cows ( millions of them?) become burgers and steaks, long before you pass it. Finally, you approach Bakersfield, and have to choose to go thru the ‘grapevine’ to LA, or hang a left and ascend past Mt. Tehechapi, at 3700 ft.
Then you’re in high desert, no more big trees, just short squat desert plants, and joshua trees. The towns are small and there ain’t no one makin’ any money here either. Mojave has had a bit of a renaissance, thanks to the aerospace industry, but it’s the exception.

The rest of the drive is just lots and lots of desert, I am a long way from redwoods and ocean.

713DesertVwFinally… Needles, Ca…. I stay at the ‘Relax Inn’, 24$/nite. Fortunately, there is a good burrito to be had in this town …it’s at the ‘funky/ family style place’ on the main drag, on the right side of the street, if you’re traveling east, as I was – you can’t miss it, especially if you’re hungry.

Next day (24th, Friday) – the shooting starts here, but just barely. Pick up Rte 66, go thru Oatman AZ….A really a crazy/tourist trap/slap-dash looking place (Some people might find it amusing, i do not), no photos, this kind of place isn’t worth any.
Except one:
The drive thru the mountains is better, but nothing that’s “get your kicks on route 66” scenic or inspiring.

Just a lonely two lane road. Which i kinda like… but not for too long. I get back on Rte. 40 south of Kingman for the long drive to Page, AZ., End up at the Quality Inn. Good burrito to be had here, too – once again, it’s a funky/family style Mexican place… on Lake Powell Blvd.

Finally the next day (25th, X-mas day) the shooting really begins, and the landscape is awesome… so tune in to the next post for more.