On the Road with Americus
Our trip began on Monday, August 25. Americus and I left Atlanta in the morning and had lunch with my college roommate, Keith Waller, just outside of Nashville. That was great. Keith and I were able to catch up for about an hour and a half before it was time to get back on the road. Our original plan was to stay with a friend in St. Louis, but Americus and I were making such good time we decided to push on through to Kansas City. We arrived at our hotel around 11:00pm. I think Americus stayed awake virtually all night, barking at times as someone passed by our door. It's nice to know that she's a good guard dog, but it didn't make for a very good night's sleep! We woke up the next morning and had to have my car jump started. A quick stop to buy a new battery and we were back on the road.
We passed the Topeka skyline mid-afternoon. That was the most exciting thing we saw for quite a while. I love photography, but I had not taken the first picture until we came upon these windmills. Instinctively, I pulled over, took out my digital Rebel and my Nikon 35mm and began taking pictures. It was great. I had not felt the thrill of photograhy for a while. It was good to get back into that rhythm. I ended up taking around 13 rolls of 35mm images and a good number of digital images as well. Interestingly, I enjoyed taking pictures with my 35mm more than with my digital Rebel. It just felt more natural in my hands and, currently, the lenses are better. My 35mm is a Nikon 6006. It was a college graduation gift. It's been a great, reliable camera.
We finally made it to Colorado that evening in time to have a hot meal at my sister Elizabeth's house in Colorado Springs. The next day she and I hiked part of a trail at the Air Force Academy before picking up her girls from school. We also walked around at "Garden of the Gods." That was really cool.
Americus and I left Colorado on Thursday and began the leg of our trip that I had been waiting to see since college. We drove south to Albuquerque and then west to Flagstaff. I had long wanted to see the desert landscape of the Southwest. It was great! My GPS actually took me off the interstate and, providentially, I was able to see some landscapes that I would have missed otherwise. At times I felt like I was right in the middle of a Clint Eastwood western. New Mexico and Arizona have a unique beauty. I had never seen landscapes like this. We passed the sign for "Winslow, AZ" and pulled into Flagstaff late Thursday evening. We stayed at the historic Hotel Monte Vista. Americus and I slept in the "Anthony Hopkins Suite." I'll admit, it was a bit creep, but a cool place.
On Friday I dropped Americus off at an animal hospital where she stayed over night. That allowed me to take in the Grand Canyon without having to worry about my dog. It was awe-inspiring. That's the only way I can describe it. And pictures don't even come close to capturing the size and grandeur of the canyon. I spent about 2 hours just taking pictures and getting some video footage. I actually walked out on a ledge that didn't have any railing. That was a bit scary, but a great thrill. My goal was to "photograph" the canyon and "experience" the canyon. The way I experienced it was by hiking 4.5 miles into it on the Bright Angel Trail. In one of the books that I had read in preparing for the canyon, the author said to note the coutenances of the hikers "ascending" the trail. It is much more grueling coming back up than it is going down!
I actually made it down to what is called "Indian Garden." When you see it from the 1.5-mile and 3-mile rest stops it looks like it is much further away than it is. By the time I made it back to the top it was about 6:00pm. I was exhausted and hungry. It sounds pretty gross now, but when I made it back to the hotel in Flagstaff I ate a hamburger, a chicken sandwich, fries, and a couple of tacos from a Jack-in-the-Box!
Throughout the trip I was very safe and smart - making sure I had plenty of gas, putting destinations into the GPS, etc. The only scare was when I realized I was in the middle of the Mojave desert, and I only had about a quarter of a tank of gas! Barstow was about 60 miles away, but I didn't know for sure if I could make it. Luckily, I came across some little town and was able to fill up. I had to buy Americus some bottled water though because the water from the sink in the restroom was too hot! We made it to Anaheim that evening. On Sunday I worshipped at the Anaheim Vineyard, a church I had wanted to visit for about ten years. A lot of great worship leaders and songwriters have come out of that church. That afternoon I took in some tourist attractions - Hollywood Boulevard, the Sunset Strip, Whiskey-a-Go-Go, and Mulholland Drive. At 8:00pm on Sunday night I put my feet in the Pacific Ocean at Venice Beach. Having driven over 2,500 miles I finally reached the other side of the country!
On Monday I left L.A. and drove up I-5 towards Sacramento. This was the last leg of an incredible journey. Americus did great and my guitars held up fine. We made it to Roseville safe and sound early that evening. I enjoyed a fabulous steak dinner and a good night's sleep. In one sense it was the end of a long trip; in another sense, it was just the beginning of an exciting new chapter of our lives.