“You set before me a space uncluttered by association. It might be a void or it might be a release. Certainly I want to take the risk.”

~Jeanette Winterson

“The ravings of a madwoman.” That is an insult unless you are like me and aspire to be regarded as mad….not mad in the unstable and manic way, but mad for believing dreams can become real. Mad for seeking out all the possible realities, for creating disturbance and watching the particles settle again. Everyone is just the right shape for defiance.

Between Tucson and Sonoita

Earlier in this series of posts, I mentioned meeting the landscape photographer who led me to Las Cienegas Conservation Area. These are his photos. This is his website.

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bb’s First Bike Tour: Day Eight

The final day! I wake up at 5am to drive back to my Tucson. The drive is shorter although it still rings in at 4 hours with rush hour traffic in Phoenix. I return the F150 25 hours after renting it, with 650 more miles on the odometer. I am famished and hole up for a few hours in a coffee shop where I get some writing done. A lot of stories are bumping around after twelve hours of driving. I write a bit, and get caffeinated, chat with the barista about cactus alcohol.

I start feeling too smelly to be in town, let alone at a bougie coffee place. Eventually I have to bring my bike back to the shop where they’ll pack it and ship it back to New Hampshire, but I have a few hours of daylight left. There’s one more road on my mind: Gate’s Pass.

The locals have recommended it and I’ve been itching to move a little bit more, to see one more epic view before I leave. I head out of town again, pedaling uphill gradually at first, then steeper and steeper. Cacti rise up like gatekeepers of the heat. I stop at a wildlife museum where the attendant tells me to keep going. Three more miles.

Up and up until I can’t go up any more, and suddenly the road kinks in half, flanked by two mountains. This is it! I know it is, and I’m walking my bike now because it’s so steep but I don’t care. I’m pep talking to myself about how lucky I am to be here and how strong my legs are for getting here and how it’s only a little bit further. Chest heaving and tights burning again. I make it to the top and stop talking. At the pass you can look away from Tucson to the west, toward L.A. or whatever’s out there: a whole bunch more sand and javelinas and plants built to defend themselves from foreign objects.

The way down is breezy, sweat cooling me, then drying. Down down into town and laughing, so happy to have escaped the cold east just for a bit, to have one last day of freedom here.

Curious how all this touring business got started? Read from the beginning.

bb’s First Bike Tour: Day Seven

I arrive at the car dealership ready to pack my bike into a compact car like the one I reserved the previous night online. It’s a three hour drive to Sedona from Tucson and I should be able to fit my bike in the back with the seats down, just like I do at home. I pull up in the enterprise lot and see two compact cars and one big truck. The clerk flirts with me, trying to get me to take the truck, a shiny white F150. “It’s going to guzzle gas.” I am pretty bad at flirting back, but I smile anyways and we walk over to the little sedans. I wheel my bike over to it and open up the back seat of the first one.

“Do the seats fold down?”

“No.”

“What about in that one?” I point to the other sedan.

He checks inside the back. “Nope.”

“I guess I’ll take the truck.”

 

With a full cab, my bike (now named Negu after the fluffy gray cat from my Air BnB) can fit inside and  throw my panniers in the back. I planned to have time to ride the red dirt that Sedona’s known for but I get horribly lost somewhere in Cococino National Forest.

It’s a good thing I have the truck because I accidentally turn down a closed dirt road and end up descending into a canyon. I drive in a circle, up and over craggy mountains covered in dark pine trees, back down, through a town where the only thing the gas stations sells besides gas is beer. Eight hours pass in stunning monotony despite the dramatic landscape. My eyes feel tired from moving so quickly through everything. I miss my bike, my back aches, driving is lonely, and the cost of gas guzzling is stressing me out!

I fly by the red rock formations of Sedona at dusk as I pull into town, and resolve to return to Tucson early the next morning after spending the night here. Back to the land of cacti, friendly hipsters, and bikes!

What to do on the final day of the tour??

bb’s First Bike Tour: Day Six

In the morning, my host points out to me that my bike has a flat tire. It’s a good thing I have people around who notice things like this! I have no technical knowledge of the mechanics of anything (bikes included), but I often have an intuitive sense about how machines come apart and fit back together.

I set about to yanking out the leaky tube which I discover has a very small puncture. Then edging in the new tube underneath the tire, squishing everything back into place, and pumping it up. I start pumping madly with my mini road pump. It’s really an emergency thing, not meant for this. At this rate I could be here pumping the rest of the day. Thankfully, my host comes out and offers me a bigger pump.

I like the way everything here is surrounded by mountains. It feels safe. Even when you’re in the matrix of city streets, you can see the craggy brown silhouettes rising into the blue sky. Very few buildings are more than two stories high, and the city sprawls out over 200 square miles. It feels like a small town until I try and bike out of it.

Now that my bike has two functional tires again, I head out for Sabino Canyon, the National Park that my hosts recommended I explore it’s a 13 mile ride there, and I make the mistake of trusting Google maps blindly. It routes me on a “bike friendly” road called Speedway. Unfortunately the thing lived up to it’s name and I am pushed nearly onto the sidewalk as trucks whizz by me. Luckily, my friend recommended some metal music to me before I left New Hampshire and that’s the only playlist that will get me through this shitty traffic situation.

Finally Google releases me from the dreaded speed road, and I’m off ascending a wide curving road, following signs toward the Canyon. I see a Snowbird in front of me and keep pace with him.

Of course at the Canyon, I lose my phone on a bench by the men’s bathroom and some nice ladies pick it up and return it to me when they see me looking for it. The Canyon is completely dry. The land is in a draught which explains the lack of water EVERYWHERE. Where the trails here are often impassable due to high water flow, they are now mere washes, sandy beds where javelinas travel in packs at night.

At this point I’m getting tired of my own inner monologue. This is a very strange thing for an introvert who often tries to escape social interaction nearly all the time. I wonder what happens when I rest in this discomfort a little longer.

I rest in it until dark, then give myself over. I text the boy and he picks me up so we can eat Mexican food and visit some bars together. The bars here are weird because you can pick out a can or bottle from a huge case or get something on tap. I don’t understand the difference because if you choose something from the case, you bring it to the bartender and he pours it into a glass for you.

We get drunk, I fall in love a little bit like I am apt to do. Driving through the night on roads criss-crossing the city, Arianna Grande on the radio, crooning. We end up at a place called the Shelter, an old fallout place that’s nearly empty. The room with the pool table is nearly empty and they play Jack White, exclusively.

“What song is this?”

“I don’t know. Do you?”

“No.”

Only when you’re smitten by alcohol and dreams is a conversation like this revolutionary. I smile and put my arm around him. I’ve made a new friend.

Tomorrow I’m out of Tucson and off to see the dirty trails and red rock of Sedona 😀

 

On Leaving

I am bittersweet. I leave you the hello and goodbye in the same sentence, same kiss, the very same word. Get your cold hands away from me. Please. I want to come and go as I please.

I am most myself when I am traveling which means, yes. I am happy most as my body in transit, floating to or from. Rinse and repeat. I will always be your ex-lover on repeat through the old stereo. The words of a Rory Gallagher song go hhhhmmm mmmmm “I packed my things in an overnight bag, A toothbrush and guitar, got no tail to drag.”

My people and my things are borrowed black t-shirts, postcards and the smell of sage in a brown bottle. My life sets up, becomes something. I become someone in the middle of a somewhere. Then the universe unravels in days. The clock is ticking here. Sweet bitter mortality crashes through the solar plexis sideways.

I like the way my pet rats accepts each moment as one that is whole. Here she is in my bedroom. She’s crawling on my shoulders, down my sweater and onto the floor. A week is more than enough time to decide whether or not to accept destiny.

Broke in Barcelona

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We are smart and broke

sitting side by side

on the steps of a shrine

of a saint who might save us,

we see couples kiss

in the Cathedral’s courtyard.

 

They say we are essentially alone

but you keep showing up to things.

 

The thunderstorm explodes the garden

in galactic sprays of light,

droplets sparking off dark leaves.

 

Lightening bounces

off everything holy and white:

five statues, thirteen geese.

 

I look to you.

 

Sister, some god’s illuminating

the curve of your smile

probably mine too.

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A view of the city from the castle at Montjuic
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We are major graffiti fans

Mikayla and I are walking our way around Barcelona for the week. We’re running on low funds and maximum sight seeing. Here’s a rundown of what’s happened so far:

1. Emormous amounts of street-gawking. Balcony! Epic dreads! Dachshund!

2. Drinking a hot chocolate that was so thick it was hard to move my spoon through it to stir.

3. Getting lost. again. and again.

4. Stumbling upon Gaudi’s strange sand castle architecture of the Sagrada de Familia.

5. Watching a violent pigeon attack on the lawn outside the Castell de Montjuic.

6. Getting caught in the Barcelona Cathedral during a giant thunderstorm. More high class bird watching of the famous 13 geese who live there.

7. Smuggling sandwiches out of the hostel every morning. Upping the sandwich count from 1 to 2.

8. Getting asked to follow promoters to “coffee shops” which don’t sell coffee. They are places where you can buy into a weed-share program and smoke there as much as you want as long as you keep paying.

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major animal nerds

Hiking Connemara

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I may be the only person in Ireland who gets excited about sheep.

The latest NUIG Mountaineering Club adventure was to Connemara, hands down the most beautiful place I’ve been in the past three weeks. The hills roll on carpeted by deep green and furry grasses and dotted with brown and purple heather plants. The mountain summits are rocky outcroppings which rise steeply from the farmland below.

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With a clear 70 degree day (something much lower in celsius….) we could see all the way to the sea

Frequently, while hiking in the grasses, hikers would fall into deep pits of bog where mud would eat up your shoes.

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We decided to take a break on the descent. What I would give to live in this grass forever! **Thanks to a friend who took this picture 🙂
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The apporach to the third and final summit…nearing the edge of the world!
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A friend and I agreed that we were wandering through the landscape of an epic fantasy novel.
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Over the edge!
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Kylemore Abbey, a Benedictine Monastery founded in 1920 on the grounds of Kylemore Castle

Our hike ended at Kylemore Abbey where we were allowed to dip our sore feet in the pond, but go no further. The historic landmark was recently restored and there’s a decent entry fee for those who are willing to pay. We were happy to admire the architecture from the outside, although I read up a bit about the history since leaving and discovered it’s pretty interesting. Nuns fleeing Belgium in World War I founded the monastery as a safe haven for their ministry. Far up on the hill on the edge of a steep cliff, a statue of Jesus presides over the creatures roaming the hills.