Seventy days without rain in Phoenix but it’s on its way now:
Glass in the garden – sculpture eclipsing the plants. Hordes of people months into the exhibition sold tickets in time slots to avoid overcrowding. The Desert Botanical Garden is displaying Dale Chihuly’s phenomenal glass works set amongst the desert plants. Chihuly is the maestro of of avant-garde glass art. Always fascinated with glasshouses he displays within botanical gardens as well as 200 museums world-wide. The following photographs were taken from late afternoon starting at the garden entrance until after dark and finishing at the garden entrance.
Which is your favorite?
If you’re interested, we got lost in Oakland California. After Jimmy had said, “I’m not towing through any more big cities,” my bad angel made me say, “Well you’re going to tomorrow!”
With our last fiasco in mind we were trying so hard to avoid the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge leading into central San Francisco to the west of us, that we turned east and became embroiled in Oakland Good Friday traffic.
I’d studied the road atlas for several days leading up to the journey. We’d studied it together the night before. I’d memorized every route and bridge leading out of Alameda County and planned for every eventuality except the one that transpired.
After we left the campsite south of San Francisco I sat with the atlas on my lap and plotted our course inch worming my finger up the page, not daring to read a book or magazine, play on the laptop or daydream.
On the outskirts of Oakland I began to chant directives. “We stay on 880 North. We don’t want 80 West. We don’t want 80 East. We do want 580 West,” and repeated it several times to plant it in my brain, and hopefully Jimmy’s.
When I’d chanted myself into a trance and was staring fiercely at the map Jimmy said, “The sign says take I980 for 580 West.”
I looked up too late to see the sign. “980? We don’t want 980. We do want 580 West, though.”
“Should I turn off?”
“I don’t think we should go that way.”
“Should I stay on this road?”
“I don’t know now.”
“The exit is coming up. Should I turn off?”
“Y-y-y-y-ye . . . Um-m-m-m . . . N-n-n-n-n . . .”
“YES!” And Jimmy wrenched the wheel to the right with our trailer snapping smartly round to follow us. “Oh no, this isn’t right. We’re going east. According to the map we should be going north.”
“Oh great. Now look,” he said with that Dammit! look on his face. Six lanes of traffic was coming to a standstill ahead of us.
“We should have stayed on the road we were on,” I whined, wanting but not daring to blame Jimmy for making me say yes when I knew I should have said no.
Oakland drivers have a bit of southern California driving mania about them and they were changing lanes in a wild free-for-all across our bows.
Other road users don’t account for the fact that we have 7,500 pounds of rolling stock slamming into our rear end every time Jimmy brakes. If Jimmy tailgates, he’s on edge. If he leaves a safe braking distance between us and the car in front someone nips into it in their bid to gain 50 feet and he’s still tailgating. He was now displaying his don’t-mess-with-me rigid posture behind the wheel but trying to remain cool.
“There’s a sign for 80 West,” he said helpfully. “Should I go that way?”
“DO NOT TAKE 80 WEST!” I shouted. “Don’t take 80 West,” I repeated a tad more calmly. We didn’t want 80 West. That much I knew. That was all I knew. That was the way to the Golden Gate Bridge via central San Francisco. The traffic jam gave me a chance to study the map. “I think I can see what we’ve done.”
“I’d like to see you navigate through this mess.”
“I can’t. I have to drive.”
“Well that’s lucky for you. I always get to take the blame,” and fumed for a moment until I saw the sign I‘d been praying for, “580 West! Keep to the right. If we can get on 580 West we’ll be okay.” Gleeful now, I informed Jimmy, “I know where we are now. We‘re on Eastshore Freeway.”
“Brilliant.” How can he infuse so much sarcasm into a single word?
Once we were on 580 West I relaxed a little and attempted to lighten the mood.
“Right! That’s got rid of the 80 West specter. At least we’re not going to get snarled up in San Francisco today.” Silence. Not even acknowledgement that I have spoken.
So I tried again. “We just need to avoid 80 East or we’ll end up in New York! Hahaha.” Jimmy didn’t join in.
“There’s the Golden Gate Bridge across the bay. You can have a last look.” Jimmy turned his head. At least his hearing was still functioning.
We’d towed the trailer over the Golden Gate on a previous trip. We’d “sailed” under it on a bay cruise. That day we’d given it a slightly wider berth than planned.
Once ensconced on the picturesque route 101 going north I knew my map reading expertise (questionable that day, granted) wouldn’t be needed for another 100 miles or so, so traced our route back to study my booboo.
Where my wits had deserted me was at the confluence of five – that’s FIVE – interstate highways in a city of nearly half million people on a holiday weekend.
I think we’re lucky to still be married. Lucky probably isn’t the word Jimmy would use.
Can you see where he’s taking me?
Click on the picture and all will become clear!
“You said we need gas. Turn here!”
“Do you think the pumps are still working?” Standard Oil was broken up under the antitrust laws in 1911 some of which eventually became Exxon, Mobil and Chevron. As you can see we were in Cow Springs which is on Route 160 in Arizona on the way to Monument Valley not to be confused with Wild Cow Springs Recreation Area in western Arizona not to be confused with mad cows. Speaking of which himself may have brought them to mind when I entreated him to “Turn here!”:
It seemed a reputable tourist destination from the look of the sign. Don’t you think so? Though I am the designated navigator himself picks and chooses when to listen to me. He didn’t turn so I cannot confirm if they were real dinosaur tracks.
The good news is that we made it to Monument Valley despite my misdirection:
On the one hand it’s a wonder we can find our way out of a cardboard box. On the other hand our navigational skills strangely complement each other so we get by, through or around most obstacles to our destinations.
Jimmy navigates by cities, towns, pubs (sadly few in the U.S.) landmarks and an innate sense of direction. The last being something that eludes me as I can get turned around in a gas station as though I have been spun blindfolded. I can, however, read a map, use a compass, orientate myself (most days) with directions given in north, south, east and west and navigate by route numbers and road names on a town plan. “Turn left here, take the second right, go half a mile and the campsite will be on your left.” And there it is.
“How do you do that?” Jimmy is convinced a type of sorcery is at work when I find my way around an unfamiliar town merely by consulting a map. But he is quicker to read and interpret road signs, judge appropriateness of road conditions and take decisions. “I’m not turning there!”
“But the map says . . . . oh, no, you don’t want to turn there.” I’ve directed him to turn, trailer in tow, into a junkyard, a muddy farm track, dead end streets, supermarket parking lots and non-existent roads.
So between us and with a big dollop of tolerance for each other’s foibles we have found our way throughout Europe and the U.S.
Navigating in the U.S. comes easy to me as the road system – interstates and in towns – makes sense to me. I know my east from my west even if do very occasionally fumble my left and my right. Odd numbers on roads generally indicate north and south and evens east and west. In town, if we’re at 4400 Main Street then 5400 Main is ten more blocks. If we’re just passing First Street then Sixth will be five blocks away. Watch out for those pesky Streets vs. Avenues! Fifth Street is an entirely different notion to Fifth Avenue. Add Fifth Street SW and Fifth Avenue NE to the mix and then you really have to think it through before striking out across town but it’s all logical if you’re paying attention.
The grid work of a town plan is a just mathematical puzzle – up two, across three and down one block and voilà, there is the restaurant. There must be a bit of spatial awareness attached to this thinking that Jimmy doesn’t apply to the problem. But truthfully, I think he just doesn’t try. He doesn’t have to. No more than I have to get out of the car when it is raining (and even when it isn’t) and pump gas. By and large the U.S. road system is instinctive to me. I grew up on it. I don’t have to figure it out. It just makes sense to me like speaking English makes sense. Lubbock, Texas is the exception to this where even the locals can’t give you directions.
Generally I can follow squiggly routes on the map and end up where I intended except when under pressure, especially time pressure calling for quick thinking and spot-on decision making. Those are the times I give Jimmy as much information as I can and then let him make the mistake, I mean decision. He seems to think I don’t know is not an acceptable answer when asking me which way do I go here? and insists I say something specific even if when I have no idea.
Perhaps the issue of blame is important when we are lost.
The road system in Europe still baffles me. Their ancient roads have evolved over centuries, not been planned and laid out coherently like in the United States. Modern motorway systems are logical to someone who likes numbers but cities are often rabbit warrens of narrow lanes. Many streets have origins long before America was a twinkle in C. Columbus’ eye. The Jewish Quarter in Cordoba is one of many places to get lost on claustrophobic winding streets that even a Mini Cooper couldn’t maneuver. And I can’t apply any logic to European country roads.
How we ever made our way through France to the south of Spain and back again – new to RVing – is beyond me.
We even got lost in the Channel Tunnel Terminal and ended up on an empty platform – our departure time imminent and no possibility of a U-turn with a 26 foot trailer behind us. After a panicked phone call a Terminal Land Rover took us on a tour of the platforms, up one and down another, to lead us onto our train.
Now wasn’t that an omen of things to come?