We love the desert. Many times today we said to each other “I see why people go into the desert to do drugs.” The colors and the energy are incredible. Especially today; the weather was so psychotic that the sky changed moods like a teen aged girl who just wants to be loved. We LOVE you teen-aged sky! We love you!
Coming out of Santa Fe, the winds were intense. We encountered some impressive dust storms all along Route 66 – downed power lines and power outages were pretty standard from town to town. Then came the rain. Then came the hail. Then came the sleet. Then it got sunny again! We tried to go to the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert, but the parks were closed because of weather. BOOOOOO!
We started to see signs saying the main thoroughfare connecting New Mexico and Arizona was closed between Winslow (AZ) and Flagstaff. No big deal. We’d take Route 66 or another route.
When we crossed the AZ border, we could smell the racism. Ha, I kid, kind of. We could see it though. Signs in windows “American Owned” let “folks” know that they didn’t have to worry about no stinkin’ you know WHOS there.
As we pulled into Winslow, I said “ha, this is the town where the Eagles wrote ‘Take It Easy’” (Standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona/my buddy is a friend of mine or somesuch lyrics.) When we tried to get on I 40, we were stopped by the federales (cops) and told “No one’s getting to Flag until tomorrow afternoon.”
I WILL NOT STAY IN A MOTEL 6. I will get to FLAG AND YOU CAN’T STOP ME! DOESN’T HE KNOW WHO I AM AND WHERE I CAME FROM!?
We asked at a gas station if he could recommend an alternate route, and why the highway was closed. A blizzard. ONLY WE, LES AND HALINA, WOULD LEAVE NYC IN PART TO BE DONE WITH WINTERS ONLY TO DRIVE ACROSS THE COUNTRY DURING WINTER AND ENCOUNTER 80 DEGREE WEATHER EVERYWHERE EXCEPT ARIZONA. Remember the Vermont debacle, when we left NYC to avoid Hurricane Irene and ended up nearly getting washed away in the worst flood in Vermont’s history!?
On our way out, a guy noticed our NY plates, and, rightfully so, was impressed. Anyway, he said he is a local Navajo and would be happy to take us the back way to Flag. HELL YES. His driving partner seemed less enthused, but accepted it when told “these guys are okay by me.”
We would pass through their Pueblo (Leupp, AZ) then take another back road into town. By GPS it was only about 45 miles. The first 20 miles were on dirt road on reservation – definitely invitation-only land. At one point we started to panic, seeing the storm in the mountains ahead, thinking we’d have to pass through that storm, but they laughed at us and said we were almost there.
Sure enough, we pulled into Leupp, found paved road and a gas station. We thanked Nelson and his nephew, making him promise to find us on Facebook.
The road was clear and dry most of the way, but outside Flagstaff there was a good foot of snow. We love our trail-rated jeep. Visibility was horrible, but we finally made it to our hotel.
As an addendum, we told our story to our waiter, a 22 y/o kid. When we got to the part about the Navajo guys helping us out, he freaked out “have you ever encountered any Navajo before that? Because we’ve had a lot of problems with them. Basically, their people aren’t really used to our alcohol, so if they have even a little bit, they get addicted and are a huge problem.”
I said “welllllll, we know a lot of people who struggle with that kind of thing. So that doesn’t bother us.”
But wow. In case I was doubtful about the institutionalized racism in AZ, it’s great to have some confirmation. I have little tolerance for people who grow up SURROUNDED by ethnic groups but still do not have any first hand knowledge of said groups – minority or otherwise. How is it that a 22 year old in 2012 knows ONE THING about the Navajo nation in his backyard; and that one thing is a horrible stereotype? And PS – there was a Native American guy sitting at the TABLE BEHIND HIM eating a cheeseburger and drinking a coke!?