January 1st, cold early night.
The sliding door to my right, on the west wall of this three-bedroom two-bathroom apartment, is open. The crisp winter air comes in and embraces everything in it. I have my cup of hot mint tea, fluffy socks, and quite a few layers of clothing. For the very first time in my life, I am wearing thermal underwear. As the true Floridian I have become, 58° F is quite cold for me –in my defense, however, it does get down to low 40’s and 30’s –. But I’d be lying if I said I am not enjoying the break of the overwhelming stick-to-everything-humidity.
There is a gray carpet that covers the floor of most of it, with the exception of the entryway, the bathrooms, and the kitchen. It’s a very spacious apartment. It’s on the second floor of a building that is in the parking lot of one of the plazas of the small town in Arizona. It’s a very friendly plaza, family restaurants, an old thrift shop, a vet clinic; there is even a tattoo shop. The structure of the buildings on the plaza –of the entire town, really – is designed to blend in with the surroundings. The buildings match the spread out, peacefully vibrant desert. The warm and solid colors, within the reddish-brown scheme, match the Tundra of the desert.
At the edge of the town, pass the buildings and houses, the rocky-reddish-mountains stand over the town. Reaching toward the sky. The mountain covered in patches of green rocks, bushes, and trees, has a set of three streaks of white extend along all the mountains.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
December 26th, 2017 – feels so long ago, joder – we started an adventure towards the west. Destination: Sedona, Arizona –with several stops, of course –.
We started at 4:56 a.m., and reached Gainesville by 9:00 in the morning. We wanted to get as far out of Florida as we could, our plan was to arrive at our final destination by the 31st.
That very first night, we made it all the way to Jackson, Mississippi. We stayed at a cute guest house that we found on Airbnb. Because we were just passing by, we didn’t get to explore more of the southern city. I loved the architecture of the houses. Each with a unique characteristic, it’s quite a challenge to choose the one you like best. With the Christmas lights and other arrangements, it looked magical by the time we arrived –postcard houses –.
Our room was so very cozy, and we were lucky to find a great book collection. The one I snuggled up in bed with was a copy of Dante’s work compilation in Italian.
There’s just something comforting about: “Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita, mi ritrovai per una selva oscura, che la dirrita via era smarrita.”
December 27th, early morning.
We headed to Starbucks for some breakfast and got back on the road. Having made our next Airbnb reservation Texas, we had a tight deadline to meet. So, our second day of travel was spent mainly on the road. We stopped every now and then for bathroom and stretching breaks, but we spent most of the day on the road. We even bought stuff to have lunch and some snacks as we drove on to a small Texan town called Midland. It was a good introduction to the cold, the temperature actually dropped below 32 F°.
As we were driving down I-20 W –we had an hour left on our trip –there happen to be an unfortunate accident, involving six cars and a trailer-truck. It ended up closing the highway for over an hour. It was my first time experiencing something of the, people were walking along the highway; some even went to see what had happened at the front of the line.
At first, I was too stuck on how cold it was, but after the helicopter came to take people away, I decided it was time to get down. We were 20, maybe 25, cars down from the accident. But the distance was enough to see the cars racked up, people moving and walking around, lights going off; the cold was the last thing on my mind. I walked around for a bit, checking out the curious, slow-moving cars, but you can only walk around for so long before the novelty of being in the middle of still road runs out. So, I did a quick workout –yes, that’s just how much time we had to ourselves waiting for the road to re-open–.We arrived in the cold town –I’d even say freezing, but for some, it may be an exaggeration –of Midland at 11:30 pm. It was close to 32° F, I snuggled up under the covers and passed out.
December 28th, the alarm didn’t go off. Our next stop was Carlsbad, New Mexico.
Though we had a late start, we reached the caverns before midday –luckily we were only a couple of hours away –. There is a small gift shop/convenient store/ gas stop before getting to the visiting center at Carlsbad National park. We got some water bottles, gas, and pictures with some aliens.
The beauty of the caverns was misleading, the website pictures really don’t do it justice. We got our tickets from the visitor center, I’m not much of a gift shop person, but the one at the visitors’ center seemed rather interesting and informative –not that we stayed to find out –. Eager to see the insides of Mother Earth –that sounds sort of creepy – we made our way out of the gift shop and towards the back.
The temperature dropped noticeably once we were a few feet into the cavern. The Natural entrance to the first part of the self-guided tour –yes, walking around without a guide –is about a mile and a quarter long. You snake your way through the dimly lit cavern, made up of the different shapes and sizes of stalagmites, stalactites, and soda straws. The latter is basically a form of hollow stalactite due to the water dripping through it, which is how they are formed.
It took us 30 minutes, a fast pace, and passing the slow groups of people, to get from the Natural entrance, to the Big Room. As you transition from the entryway of the cavern into the Big room, the path splits into a ‘y’, and it loops all the way around; covering another mile and a quarter. It’s incredible to see the different rock formations spread out throughout the really big and spacious room. The cold air carries the echo all around, you can even hear the water as it drips down into the small pools of water throughout the cavern. As you make your way around the room, the different rock formations take your breath away. These formations are imposingly present, having formed over hundreds and thousands of years, drop by drop, calcium carbonate (CaCO3) deposit, by CaCO3 deposit.
Such a long period of time is rather difficult to grasp, but once you see how large these formations get it makes sense. Ci vuole tempo per fare grandi cose. It makes you realize how impatient we are as humans, we have become accustomed to the immediate, and right-away rewards. We’d fail at the simplicity of becoming a great stalactite. Perhaps that’s why many of us desist from projects we want to accomplish. It’s not necessarily a lack of talent or desire. Perhaps it’s a lack of patience towards the time we must invest in achieving it.
We made our way around the Big Room, I could imagine it full of water, as it once was. Perhaps it was a doorway to another world.
As breathtaking as the rock formations were, once we completed the loop of the Big room, we made our way back up the meandering trail. Our next stop was three hours away: Las Cruces, New Mexico. Our drive was pretty smooth, we made it to our Airbnb stop just in time for dinner.
December 29th, early morning. I woke up to the smell of my favorite Starbucks coffee –coconut milk mocha macchiato – and a warm smiling face. My boyfriend had woken up rather early and got us some breakfast –I’m a lucky girl – we sat on the front porch of the small studio we were staying at.
There is something cozy about sitting all bundled up in the sun lights while drinking coffee. The crisp morning greeted us with a sunny day.
After lunch, we made our way to White Sands to catch the sunset. Never in my life had I seen white sand. The beaches in Ecuador are from the Pacific, the sand is of a dark-gray. Those in Florida, have a much lighter –I’d say brownish – colored sand. That sand is sort of thick, somehow clunky.
To say that white sand is was breathtaking is not enough. It’s so finite and delicate, almost dusty. The vast mounds of white sands could pass for fields covered with snow. When it’s still –as in no wind blowing it over itself –the sand looks solid. You can see individual grains of sand shimmer when the sunlight hits them.
Besides being dumb-struck as you gawk around, there are other activities for tourists. The most common one is sand-sledding. Conveniently enough, they sell sleds at the gift shop for about $16.00, and the wax for about $3.00 –I don’t remember the exact prices –. If you don’t sled down a sand dune often, you can always sell the sled back to the gift shop for $5.00; as long as it is in good conditions, of course.
We got our sleds and headed toward the dunes, most people –mainly families with small kids –stay within the first few miles from the entrance. We were trying to avoid the crowds, so we drove further in.
There are different parking areas, most of them have latrines. It was my first time using one, not my favorite first so far, but it wasn’t as bad as it could be. Jajaja
Once we were as far into the park as we could get, we parked and made our way to a sand dune. I stood at the edge of the dune and waxed my sled –after watching my boyfriend how he did it – I sat on it and leaned forward. I was sliding faster than I thought I would –but still not fast enough –, and the damn sled would not stay facing forward, but I made it to the bottom save enough. It was actually fun. After our sledding fun –and photo session, the downside to being with a photographer – we just waited for the sun to set. A 360° view of how the night takes over the skies. It was unbelievably beautiful.
Neither words nor pictures do it justice. Along the line where the sun rays reached out, the sky started going through a gamma of warm colors. From buttery-yellow to pinkish-orange. Opposite to the sun setting was the moon. She stood high in the dim sky, not full, but almost there. She brought with her cool colors. A gamma of violet-blue, leading to a dark starry night. The temperature dropped down to the low 30’s, I was shivering underneath all the layers I was wearing, so we couldn’t really stay to witness the beauty of the night reflected on the white sand. Plus, unless you are camping, the park rangers kick you out right after sunset.
We headed back to Las Cruces, got dinner at Andelé restaurant, and buried ourselves under blankets and tons of layers of clothing –not tons, but definitely more than I am used to –. Our stay at a small studio in Las Cruces was so comfy, that we decided to stay an extra night.
December 30th, late morning. We spent most of the morning bundled up –I was bundled up, he was fine somehow – on the front porch. I got lost taking in the crisp morning sky, with the sun shining strong. In the afternoon, we made our way back to the glimmering sands. We just couldn’t get enough of them.
December 31st, early morning. We got up with the sun, got ready, and hit the road.
We headed towards Tucson first, to have brunch with Brad’s dad. We found this cute little rustic-looking café, Milli’s Pancake Hause. It was really cozy and Christmasy-looking. And the food was delicious. Just what you expect as soon as you cross their doorway. After a couple of hours filled with laughter, we got on the road once again. Our final destination was three more hours away: Sedona –well, Oak Creek, a village 5 miles away from Sedona–.
We made it just in time for sunset. It’s fun to chase the sun, and weird to drive with the sun by your side at all times. In Florida, I mainly drive North to South, so the sun is not always in my eyes.
We had lunch with Brad’s uncle, known to the good people of Oak Creek as the Vortex Jumper. He’s taking us in for the remainder of our trip, and we get our own private tour guide.
We’ve been here two weeks already–apologies for the late blog– and it has been incredible. I have faced myself while clinging to the face of a mountain as I climb my way up to Bell Rock. Many more adventures to come, more mountains to climb, more opportunities to conquer the mind.
On the road Adventures on the road Airbnb Arizona Carlsbad National Park Cross-country adventures Dante Inferno Canto I Milli's pancake haus Mississippi New Mexico Texas Travel Travel partner White Sands National Park
An incurable passion for writing; a poet and storyteller at heart. I am a writer on the road.