Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Perfect Day

Yesterday was a perfect day. We drove back from Scottsdale, where we'd gone on Friday. Why would someone who lives in Las Vegas go to Scottsdale? For a haircut - there is now a Ouidad salon in Scottsdale, which saves me the trouble of going all the way to Florida to get my hair cut. (If you have curly hair, and maybe even if you don't, you understand the critical importance of a good haircut.) Driving trips are easy and fun, and it continues to amaze us that a 4-5-hour drive now takes us to Phoenix or the Grand Canyon or L.A. or Salt Lake City rather than to Ann Arbor or Door County or Minneapolis.

You can drive from Las Vegas to Phoenix and back via Hoover Dam, which really is a modern marvel, or you can avoid the Dam traffic by heading west to Bullhead City, which takes you parallel to the California border and features some of the best high desert landscapes and mountain vistas imaginable.
The drive is incredible pretty much all the way - no cities, very little in the way of signs of human habitation, kind of what the moon might look like if it were warm and red instead of cold and silver. There are mountain ranges of varying sizes and shapes everywhere, including a stretch of weird and beautiful mountains-in-formation (I'm guessing) composed of what look like stuck-together piles of huge rocks, some of their boulder-y edges cantilevered improbably in seeming defiance of gravity. These look as if they couldn't possibly be natural, as if instead some crazed giant child stacked them up for his or our amusement. They cluster around the southern Mojave County line, about 75 miles south of Kingman, AZ. They're also warmly lunar, but very strange; you wouldn't be surprised if they suddenly stood up and started lumbering in a science-fiction rock monster sort of way.

The drive is also full of lush desert landscapes. I used to think the desert in bloom was too subtle to call lush, but two and a half years of living in a desert have evidently trained my eye to see differently. Forests in the desert are nothing like forests in Alaska or the Midwest. Here, there is plenty of space between trees, all of which are in a constant battle for their share of what little water there is. And everything is dwarfed by the surrounding mountains and enormous sky; desert forests don't even begin to block out the sunlight. Their density is a whole different thing. But along the Joshua Forest Parkway, there are thousands of Joshua trees, their shape stunted, even tortured, but still arching and graceful, their bursts of whitish leaves looking like a frost of flowers on the tips of their many crooked branches. Further south, there are forests of saguaro cacti - surely the coolest plant in the world. Some just stalks, others with multiple arms, all pinstriped with prickles, the saguaro stand like beacons waving hello or goodbye as we drive by. I love knowing that they swell up when it rains, hoarding the water for months to come and slowly deflating as they use it up. Unlike our part of Nevada, where the mountains are mostly bare rock, Arizona's mountains and hills are covered in shrubs and cacti and flowering clumps of plants. This looks messy to me after the peaceful, pristine rock that I love, but it's also beautiful and it puts me in mind of how weird plant life is: plants accomplish nothing but survival and growth. Beauty, too, I suppose, but that's of no import to them.

As we drove, it was easy to avoid any preview of what was happening in the Michigan game being TiVo'd at home. The chances of running into a TV along the way were virtually nil and I'd warned the kids that I wanted no relevant texts. Our eyes full of nature's beauty and my hair springing in perfectly cut curls around my face, we arrived home unsullied by any news, football or other. I had a good feeling about the game - the day was so perfect it just didn't seem that old Blue would ruin it. Sure enough, the Wolverines came through.

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