Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bluelining: My Explorations of North America

One of my quirky habits is to document my travels.  No, I don't mean a journal...I mean a line on a map.  On almost every road map I own is highlighted, always in blue, every highway, bi-way and backroad I've ever driven on.  This has led me on an endless journey to find new roads to drive to me, anyway.  When I'm exploring a new road, I call it "bluelining," and I can't imagine how many thousands of miles I've covered.  Last week I picked up another 15 miles of blue just an hour from seems there is always a new scenic route to explore.

With the advent of GPS and topographic software many years ago, I was able to put my travels in more of a master file, as it were.  I certainly have gotten around:

These are my travels in the southwestern USA since I was 20 years old, when I moved to Arizona.  It must include a year's worth of camping days as well.

The four lines off the top of the map all make their way to Calgary with a cluster of exploration in the southern Alberta-B.C.-Montana area.  The stomping grounds of my youth with our annual summer round-robin of camping trips:  Banff, Jasper, Waterton, and Glacier National Parks; then toss in Dinosaur Provincial Park with our notorious expeditions into the Restricted Area (I'll have to blog about that), and a remote outpost on Bitteroot Lake in northwestern Montana (where I caught my first fish).  From Victoria Day to Labor Day.  Six weekends, done every other.  Every summer.  Thanks, Dad...that was one of the cool things about growing up.

Every August also included a two-week vacation, usually a tour somewhere in the western US.  I'd been to Arizona a half dozen times before I moved here.  The two exceptions were a trip up the Alaska Highway in 1969 and out to Cape Cod in 1972.  I was five years old on our trip to Alaska...I remember seeing Mount McKinley.  Also in that memory log is camping at Wonder Lake; I woke up needing to pee, then went about playing in the rocks since the sun was up.  Dad laughed and said it was 3:00 in the morning.  I was so confused.  Cape Cod was the only trip my Dad took us to see his family. (They did come to visit us a few times.)  We spent a few days in Jamestown, New York in the house where my Dad grew up.  I remember my Grandmother "Ganga" going on about Leif Ericson being an ancestor of the family, along with ties to the Mayflower.  Both claims have proven mythical at best, though we have a potential cousin relationship with Mayflower descendants in Salem.  Later in the trip, we toured New England and finally spent a few days in a cabin on the beach in Cape Cod.  The tide would go out for hundreds of yards there and we had a great time playing with hermit crabs.

In later years, my Dad became enamored with Mexico and made several springtime trips (driving from Calgary).  I missed a couple of weeks of grade nine for our trip down the west coast. there's a memory!!  We're camped right next to the beach in Manzanillo and I'm sitting on the sand looking at the stars and watching the surf when I kinda figure out...hey, how can I be watching the surf?  There's nothing around to light it up.  Whut?  So I run back to get my Dad...across some wet sand and...YOWZA!!  The sand sparkles under my feet!!  WTF??  Comes Dad with the answer...phosphorescent algae!  Ah...very cool.  So we sparkle-stomp on the wet sand for a while and watch them light up the crashing surf.  We also stayed in Guadalajara for a few days; easily my favorite city in Mexico...despite this incident which occured outside our rather well-fortified trailer park. (It was like a little rich-Gringo enclave with high walls, broken-bottle capstones, barbed wire above that, all grown over by very dense hedge.)  So we come out one morning and there's a small puddle of blood on the sidewalk, really more like a big collection drops.  Somebody got cut pretty badly (from the bottles?).  From that point, a trail of blood drops goes along the sidewalk and around the corner.  We know from a stroll the previous day that there is a medical clinic down that street.

The next year was Dad's most ambitious trip ever.  Five weeks...ten thousand miles.  We made it as far as Belize City (Tikal, in Guatemala, had been the goal).  Toured the whole of the Mayan ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula and we sweated a whole lot.  Oh yeah, me and Malcolm played Spin the Bottle with some cute local girls in Veracruz.  None of us spoke the other language well, but we still had fun.  Isabel, Nieva and her boyfriend Gustavo...which didn't stop her from making out with me when he was out of sight.  (And damn Dad that he wouldn't take the time to visit their home village the next day!)  The best part?  I missed FOUR WEEKS of grade ten for that trip!  Not that my teachers didn't give me all the necessary assignments to complete as homework.  My social studies teacher said go as far as you the end of the trip I was a month ahead of the class.  Even better, that year the teachers went on strike a month before the end of the school year...and didn't go back until October!  That resulted in only a single math test (in trigonometry) counting for the quarter, and I got 100%!  Woohoo, the only time I ever saw that on my report card!  (Though first quarter English I got 16%...whoops!)

I'm digressing again.

Outside of Arizona, my densest concentrations of activity are in southern California, the Denver area, and southern Utah.  The former two are a direct result of marriage, as my in-laws are in San Diego, L.A., and Santa Barbara.  However, Kirsteen grew up in Boulder and has a lot of family that area.  All of them are close enough to drive to in a day, or to take a week with some four-wheeling in the San Juan mountains of Southwest Colorado.  As for southern Utah, well, do I really need an excuse to be such a fan of that incredible landscape?

And then there's Arizona.  There must be people that have seen more of it than I have, but I've never met them.  There isn't a time of year that you can't explore some part of this dynamic state.  From the western deserts in winter, to the mile-high chaparrels of spring and fall, to the summer sky islands of the southeast and the rim country, spanning central and eastern Arizona with America's largest stand of ponderosa pine.  Just pick your elevation and drive...there's always someplace to explore.

Alas, I have only been to four countries in this great world and have only one off-continent jaunt to Hawaii.  But I haven't done too bad...four of the Canadian provinces and the Yukon Territory.  36 of the US states, and 28 of the 33 Mexican states.  Dad used to count counties...I haven't got quite that anal about it.

Topping my off-continent bucket list would be Florence, Italy and New Zealand...though I'm still partial to an Alaskan cruise/train/Denali Lodge adventure thingy or a thorough tour of the Hawaiian Islands.  I promised Kirsteen Hawaii, but Alaska is the honeymoon we should have taken.  Alas, any of them would require a loan on my life insurance.

1 comment:

  1. "I certainly have gotten around:"
    Quite the understatement you've got there...