Electric wires escape into the dusty distance, mountains obscured by misty heat, roadside eateries offering lard laden beans and rice, shrub land of Arizona, expansive skies, dull land, dry land, cacti waiting for rain in a pose of “Don’t shoot!” Diverse people on the bus, baseball hats pulled low, ear-buds pumping personal jams, driver yelled at the thugs in the front for cursing. Sharing space with strangers.
24 hour tires. Massive trucks pass containing commerce. Tiny lizards and birds hide in bushes waiting for sunset. Waffle House. Lazy communities set in the shadows of random hills. Fast food and petrol stations. Little green signs pass offering a route to little towns with Spanish names. The southwest desert, adult shops, crappy hotels, truck stops, miles in every direction, Saguaros keeping guard over their little patch of dirt, brown stucco houses.
Phoenix arrives like a concrete bomb, the desert is replaced by billboards and landscaped roadways. IMAX, water parks, skyscrapers, office complexes, and a little rain begins to fall as we have caught up to the dark clouds. Those billboards advertising help for victims of domestic violence and diet coke, heat advisory warnings and triple cheeseburgers at McDonald’s. The small one story houses with dirty yards and spotless pickup trucks within view of the glimmering downtown showing financial segregation is alive and well. Whataburger makes its first appearance to my eyes since I last saw it in Austin, Texas almost 4 years ago, proclaiming its bottom flavored burgers as top notch. Palm trees. SUVs. Tattoo parlors. Tiny frontage road businesses await some action.
Now the cacti glazed hills have been replaced by the rocky cliffs dotted with pine and white oaks. The soft brown dirt is getting darker as we move into the red rocks approaching that monument of antiquity, the Grand Canyon. Rough terrain, straggly creeks, and the poorly named city of Montezuma Well. I’m not interested in how that water tastes. The fluffy white clouds seem to all resemble bunny heads and float by at low altitude, pockmarking that infinite blue sky.
The girl next to me, traveling three generations deep, grandma just a cute little shriveled raisin of age, mom wearing all pink with wiry hands–veins, tendons and muscles all visible under the mocha skin. This young girl next to me, with tanned leather skin that hasn’t taken on the rougher edges of her older generation relatives, looks like 14 but probably 24, she’s been holding a 4-6 item Burger King bag on her lap carefully with two folded hands since we left. She’s skinny and short and her feet barely touch the floor. The smell of her food bag has created a palpable urge to eat at BK, but I will resist. Her skin is mysteriously dark and deep brown. Her fingers have the clean manicured lines of Latina pride with an eternal dirt underneath where flesh meets nail from a lifetime of work in her young life.
Almost like crossing a finish line, suddenly there is snow on the ground and tall lean pine trees that understand winter weather well. Their bark is mottled brown and charcoal black. It looks like ski country now. Flurries fall as I exit the bus.