Road Trip 107: Petrified Forest

I woke up in the mountains and went across the street for breakfast, which was rather bland. Everyone here seems so nice, so corny and so white. So many white people. I overheard the use of “eh” from a trio of bikers at a table behind me. Canadians.

I did some writing and updating and planned my day. I would go to the Petrified Forest then on to Flagstaff to spend the night.

At the beginning of the forest I was greeted with a large tourist shop offering slices of crystal wood, minerals and the requisite stock of regional arts and crafts; fare I would see many more times in the area. The forest itself was weird and beautiful. Like much of the landscape I was entering, it was like being on another planet. Geology is weird. If only Kristie Cornell were here to explain it all to me.

It reminded me of one of the quotes I came across when researching the Apollo program. When they were designing the LEM, they had to figure out what the lunar landscape would be like. “It’s just gotta be like Arizona,” someone supposedly said. Something like that anyway.

I did some exploring and photographing, reminding myself that I was going to see the Grand Canyon and not to get to engrossed in what was probably inferior views in comparison. At the time I was there, I didn’t know how these crystal logs came to be. So I looked it up:

Over 200 million years ago, the logs washed into an ancient river system and were buried quick enough and deep enough by massive amounts of sediment and debris also carried in the water, that oxygen was cut off and decay slowed to a process that would now take centuries.

Minerals, including silica dissolved from volcanic ash, absorbed into the porous wood over hundreds and thousands of years crystallized within the cellular structure, replacing the organic material as it broke down over time. Sometimes crushing or decay left cracks in the logs. Here large jewel-like crystals of clear quartz, purple amethyst, yellow citrine, and smoky quartz formed.

You’re welcome.

There was a place to see petroglyphs from above a small canyon. I thought it was pretty cool, but apparently a group of young men thought it was just an old rock with graffiti on it. Losers. I saw a hat lying in a nook of the canyon. It looked like a man’s straw fedora. There was a couple with a young girl there who thought that the petroglyphs were as cool as I did. I showed her the fedora. She thought it was funny, too.

I stopped at the Visitor’s Center, got my magnet and sticker and had a Navajo taco, which consisted of fry bread with cheap taco toppings.

Then it was on to Flagstaff. I was making pretty good time so when I saw a sign advertising a meteor crater, I took the exit. It was about 5 miles from the interstate, going through more strange, red and rocky landscape with cattle crossings. I finally reached a large building built on an embankment, presumably the edge of the crater. There was fencing along the property with razor wire on top. I parked and climbed up the stairs and entered in time to hear a guide tell a group of tourists that the center was closing in 30 minutes but if they wanted to pay $18, they could go see the crater, skipping the educational part of the tour.

“Excuse me,” I said to the guide, “so to see the crater you have to pay $18? A person can’t just walk up and look at it?”

“No,” he replied. “It’s on private land.”

Yeah, I’m outa here, I thought and probably said out loud.

I drove into Flagstaff, exhausted and beginning to feel the signs of having traveled for… many days…..I don’t even know. I’ll have to look at my credit card statement to piece it all together.

I found a cheap motel and ran through my nightly routine of lugging too much stuff upstairs (Why do they put the no smoking rooms upstairs?), having a hot shower and something to eat and catching up with Mr. Canada, which involved some combination of story-telling, flirting, laughing at stupid jokes, defending all of womanhood after being baited and/or listening to him plan my next day’s route while ignoring his advice because I’m going to do whatever the hell I want.

Wait…that’s not true. That was Wednesday. That night I actually went out to eat at a restaurant. The little motel I found was downtown. I found a sushi place and had a nice bowl of sashimi and a glass of white wine and wondered if my friends were at Pamplona. I thought about taking a picture of my food and drink and texting them but I didn’t want to be that douchebag that does that. I’m sure I talked to Mr. C at some point.

Tomorrow was the big one.

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