Horses, Graveyards and Flagstaff, Arizona.
We chased trains all day through the painted desert… It’s truly a beautiful place.
Before we get to the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest, and Flagstaff AZ, I think I should reveal how Dan and I spent most of our long hours driving in Clementine. We played a game called Horses & Graveyards. I know - sounds riveting, right!? Dan taught me this game when we first hit the road in October 2013. We played it across Canada and through most of the states we ventured, honing our competitive spirits on each other.
It’s really simple… All you are looking for is horses and graveyards. The point system is this: for every horse you see, you say ‘HORSE’. That gets you one point. If you see a white horse, you say ‘WHITE HORSE’. That gets you three points. Points will start to add up the more miles you drive. We devised a great system using our white board markers and the windshield to keep score.
Tight competition in Horses & Graveyards.
Ok… I am getting to the good part… how to win! Well, actually the game never really ends… it can go on forever and ever. Let me start again… NOW I am getting to the good part… How to bury the other person’s horses! ‘GRAVEYARD’. When you see a graveyard, you say ‘GRAVEYARD’ and then the other person loses all their horses, and you get to keep one of them.
Now that I have typed that out, the game sounds kinda boring, but if you are competitive like I am, you will love it. It takes some time to train your brain to notice horses and graveyards on the fly without constantly focusing on searching for them, but let me tell you… If you are playing for keeps, your eyes will be glued to the landscapes as they go by. My favourite part of the game is the fist pump I get to do when I make Dan bury his horses.
Anyways, we had over 7,000 miles behind us and yet we continued to forge on. It hadn’t been easy. The desert is big and not a lot happened for us after Austin, except Carlsbad Caverns (which was an amazing experience) and probably the closest Dan will ever get me to spelunking.
We drove into Gallup, NM while the sun was setting. It was a magical experience. The colour of the mountains was changing with every minute and every mile. They would change from the rich reds and browns of the day, to smooth blues, purples and even greens as the sunlight faded.
The Painted Desert, New Mexico & Arizona.
We found a Walmart and settled in for the night. The plan for the next day was to do a quick drive through the Petrified Forest and onto Las Vegas to see some friends from home.
It was a really cold night in Gallup, but we snuggled up close and put the cozy socks on that my sister had sent us for Christmas. We awoke to a really cold morning, but the sun felt warm and we were hopeful that it would heat up as the day went on.
We had a long day of driving ahead of us, so we got an early start and continued our adventure west. We reached the Petrified Forest National Park on Route 66 in the late morning… I don’t have many words for it. It was hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that the desert used to be a lush jungle-like forest with giant trees. When I looked around there were no trees, just sand and rock, but tucked in with the rock were great big logs… They resembled old tree stumps and giant tree limbs, but had fallen, shattered and broken apart just like rocks would. They were cold to the touch, and very hard – uncharacteristic of regular wood. It was amazing!!
One of the Petrified Forest’s logs… Check out the colour of this wood. You can see how it resembles the end of a log, but after hundreds of thousands of years of transformation - and very little decomposition - it has turned into rock.
Even Route 66 runs through the Petrified Forest. The old highway has since been replaced by a fancy multi-lane interstate, but there was a portion untouched, with an oldschool car parked along it.
What remains of this short strip of Route 66.
We also decided to record a video blog as we drove through the park.
We were over 350 miles away from Vegas and had some major ground to cover. (We are always so hopeful in the mornings that we are going to get as far as we intend to… It never turns out that way.) We hit Flagstaff, AZ and decided to stay for the night.
Flagstaff, the quaint little mountain town in Arizona.
We stopped at a Starbucks to use the free WiFi and figure out where we were going to park when a lady walked up to us and asked if we were the owners of the bus (Clem) outside.
*SIDE NOTE: I am not sure what makes us look like Westy owners, but that is not the first time it has happened.*
We nodded, always wary of why people are asking… She said that she owned the KOA Campground up the road and that she and her husband always try to let Westy owner’s rest up for a night for free (!!) when they are on the road. We were thrilled!! It was going to be a cold night and we just couldn’t handle another one without heat. We instantly packed up the computers, grabbed some groceries from the store and headed to the KOA. We cooked a delicious dinner of Chicken Caesar salad and played a couple games of crib.
Gourmet chicken caesar salad in the van - See Mom? We’re eating okay.
The next morning we ventured into town. I have to admit, I was really happy to be there. It reminded me of Kelowna. They had a small downtown and yet it was bustling with people out shopping. We found a little coffee shop called Firecreek Coffee Company. It had a sweet, modest sign hanging above the old wooden door. When we walked in we could smell the fresh coffee. It was a little more expensive than our pockets could afford but we had a good feeling about it, and we needed a good coffee. We ordered and asked Dylan the barista if they ever had live music (Duh! They had a giant stage in the back area. We knew the answer, but wanted to pry a little more…).
“Yes, we do. Normally. Except we don’t have any live music tonight”.
Perfect, we thought. We explained that we were musicians on tour, and without listening to us or asking us what type of music we played he agreed to let us have the stage that night. It was surreal – they didn’t ask to hear a recording, didn’t look us up online or didn’t even discuss what we sound like. They took us at our word as a pair of Canadian musicians, and booked us immediately. This was another sign of amazing hospitality in Flagstaff. Excited about a gig indoors we headed to a busy downtown square and started busking. It was freezing cold, but we needed to make a couple dollars so we could have dinner. This is where we met our new counterpart, Wells. Wells was a happy dude living in Flag who looked a lot like Dan’s cousin George, and he asked if he could drum with us – and to our pleasant surprise, he was super talented. We told him to come play with us while we busked, and to join us on stage if he wanted to.
It was our first few hours in Flagstaff, and it had already been good to us. We got a gig, met a few new friends, made some money, and had some good coffee. (Finding good coffee in the USA takes a lot more work than we were willing to invest on the road… It’s been Gas Station swill for most of this trip. Ugh.)
Despite a few technical difficulties, the gig went off without a hitch. Matt helped us set up, and between he and Mikey, we worked our way to sounding like a proper folk band. (It had been awhile since we played plugged in, okay? Give us a break!) We played to a very chill crowd in a very cool room – and met some more new friends. It was a mix of originals new & old, and some of our favourite covers. We topped the night off with a couple brews from Funkwerks Brewery (Bourbon Barrel Aged Quad… 11.5%. Yum!) and some great conversation. We returned to our van to this beautiful sign…
Tate, whoever you are… Thank you.
It was a great start to our stay in Flagstaff, and it was what caused us to extend our stay into the following week. Huge shoutouts of thank yous and one love to the following people that made our first day so rockin; Wells, Dylan, Matt, Chris & Devon, Mikey, Jimmy, Janyel and the ever-present Moon. You guys are the best.
Next Issue: We Ain’t Goin Nowhere, Flagstaff!
-DT & KG