Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Driving South

Two days ago, I hopped in my car, pointed it toward Tucson, Arizona, and started driving.

For the geographically uninitiated, imagine the United States as a landscape-oriented rectangle. Seattle is way up in the upper left corner. I drove all the way down the left side of that rectangle for about 1400 miles, through the states of Washington, Oregon, and California. When I got to the bottom left corner of my rectangular USA, just outside Los Angeles, I turned left and began to travel along the bottom edge of the box. I covered another 350 miles, moving from California into Arizona, before finally reaching Tucson.

It's such an odd and interesting thing to observe the world that passes by the windows of a traveling car. Although I was seated in the comfort of my climate-controlled bubble, with music, audiobooks and an assortment of snacks at my fingertips, I was also treated to an astonishing panorama of natural beauty. Unfolding in kaleidoscopic variety, I saw sunrises, sunsets, and every swiftly changing and subtly unique angle of the sun's rays in between. I crossed rolling hills, glacial flood plains, mountain ranges and desert floors. The sun blazed, clouds gathered, lightening bolts struck, and raindrops fell. It's been an extraordinarily beautiful trip, and I did my best to capture at least a reminder of that glory through my camera's lens.

Even in the industrial eyesore of Tacoma, Washington, the setting sun warms the world. 
Last traces of the sunset turn clouds pink over evening traffic near Centralia, Washington.
Portland, Oregon at night is a regal queen. I love to cross her bridges.
After a long night's drive through the challenging terrain of the Siskiyou mountains of southern Oregon and northern California, the rising sun and crescent moon gently welcomed me to the central valley.
The rising sun heats up the day and bleaches the sky pale blue.
Orchards thrive in the dry, still heat..almonds, pistachios, olives, oranges, mandarins.
South of Stockton, the California sun beats down ferociously. Blue skies and brown hills train my eyes to see a different kind of beauty.
High above the parched land, these clouds dazzle the eye but offer no hope of rain.
The wide, smooth, winding road invites me to keep moving, to see what comes next.
Climbing up the mountains east of Bakersfield and into the Mojave Desert.
Purple haze sits on top of the tumbleweed outside Victorville, California. It's beautiful in the fading light of day.
The sun sets over California.
Looking west at the San Bernadino Mountains, as the twilight gathers.
Crossing the Sonoran Desert at midnight. The saguaros are out there, hiding in the darkness. The trucks are much easier to see.

After a quick night's sleep at a friend's house in Phoenix, I arrived in Tucson today, and my drive to the south is complete. But my southern adventures have just begun.

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