Tuesday, December 26, 2006

More on the Road Trip

We made the long drive today from the Grand Canyon to Santa Fe. I think the largeness, openness, bleakness and emptiness of America is something that I'm really going to take away from this trip and appreciate a lot more. Out here, there are counties the size of Pennsylvania and they have the total population of my neighborhood growing up.

We stopped in Gallup, NM to grab a quick snack/bathroom break. After doing some research on Gallup tonight, it's apparently one of the crummier towns in the entire SW of America. I didn't get that vibe going through the place -- downtown Gallup didn't have much to it, but it wasn't petrifying to drive through like America's inner city neighborhoods are. Crap, I've been through at least 15 small towns a lot more frightening than Gallup. I don't know if I've ever actually have met any true blue Native Americans in my life. But in Gallup, we were the only caucasoids.

We ended up getting a snack at a Sonic Drive-In. I pooped there. My phone ran out of gas, so I couldn't call my brother from a Sonic, which is a tradition he started a few years back when he was driving back east from LA.

The only things breaking up the New Mexico moonscape is an occassional Indian casino. Then, about 10 miles outside of town, a sign on I-40 reads "Albuquerque: Next 17 Exits" and in the shadow of a large mountain is non-stop sprawl as far as the eye can see. Just everywhere you turn, there are houses and buildings dotting the landscape.

We went to ABQ to see their Old City. Old City is a few blocks of a couple of tourist trap shops and restaurants. The type of place my mom and mother-in-law would love to go to. I didn't just poop here, but had a major IBS outbreak which caused me to get to experience a tourist trap bathroom better than I had planned. From there, we drove to downtown at around 7 p.m. A complete and total ghost town and then eventually found the University of New Mexico neighborhood. This was your typical college neighborhood, except it was lined up along the side of one main strip of road in a series of strip malls.

By all accounts, the entire city of Albuquerque -- the 62nd biggest in America, and one of the fastest growing cities and metropolitan areas in the country, by all accounts I read online -- is just a never ending series of hodgepodge development without much thought being given as to what goes where. But then it hit me... a decent (and possible majority) of American residents live in places like this. The Sun Belt has grown exponentially over the past few decades and all kinds of cities -- from Jacksonville, Florida to Phoenix -- are all built in this same kind of pattern, where things just exploded onto an area which became a city overnight. Mesa, Arizona has more residents than a place like St. Louis or Atlanta and three decades ago it had less residents than my high school. Things like planning and zoning, we really don't appreciate or think about those things and how they shape the lives of where we chose to live. (I only say that from having covered planning board meetings. Especially when I was reporting for the paper in Plymouth, Mass., which despite being one of the oldest established towns on this continent has the growth patterns of a place like Glendale, AZ.)

After Ilana ate a burrito, we made the drive up to Santa Fe, which is where we are now. Downtown Santa Fe is really nice with a lot of high-end shops and restaurants. This is apparently the rich asshole capital of the American Southwest. One of the in-room magazines in our hotel is dedicated to houses for sale in Santa Fe, all of which sell for a few million. But it's still a really walkable place. Didn't get to see too much of anything yet, but it seems like a really nice town, although one that seems a bit pretentious.

See ya'll later.


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