Pointing the Wheels West

Road trips are mostly a visual experience. They’re actually a lot like watching TV, except you can pause the show and go explore whatever catches your eye. Road trips are cool because at any point you can be like, hey, that looks interesting and I’ve never seen it before, lets check it out.

Road trips are mostly about seizing every possible opportunity to take a picture. Can you imagine how annoying that kind of attitude would be in everyday life? You get home from work, crack open a beer and have to wait to drink it until you take a picture. You’re walking to the store to pick up some milk and you pause to take a picture of the homeless guy sleeping on the bus stop bench — captioned, “Hump Day Vibez”. You’re in the elevator going back up to your apartment and you feel compelled take an extremely un-artsy shot of the floor buttons—captioned, “All the way up!”. That kind of behavior just doesn’t fly in real life, right? What a horrible world that would be.

On a road trip, however, it’s totally fine to see a statue of a moose and scream at your girlfriend to “Pull the fuck over!” immediately so you can snap a picture. You can be driving along the iciest mountain road at nearly 11,000 feet above sea level, but if you see a break in the trees it’s perfectly acceptable to slam on the breaks and swerve into a ditch to get that perfect landscape shot —captioned, “Neature”. People have cameras on them at all times, and they really, truly want to use them at all times. Fortunately, that shit is discouraged in real life so that traffic can move smoothly. On a road trip though, photos are pretty much the whole point.

The American Southwest is incredibly photogenic. I’m not going to pretend that I know all about New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona just because I spent a few hours on highways in each of these states, but I will make some rash judgements.

New Mexico is dirt poor but painfully beautiful. Colorado is stunning from every angle. Utah is like your weird friend who keeps to himself and has some unique religious beliefs, but then one day you go up to get a look inside his apartment and it turns out that he actually creates jaw dropping art, like the kind of art that makes you question what other kind of art is out there that you didn’t know about. Utah is where they’ll acclimate people to life on Mars before we as human migrate planets. Northern Arizona feels a lot like California, and Southern Arizona feels lot like Mexico, if Mexico got invaded by Border Patrol agents.

The worst part of road trips is seeing all the awful little towns and realizing that real people actually spend their lives in these tragic parts of America. You watch dillapitated buildings whiz by from your spot on the highway and assume you’re just going through the bad part of town. Then the buildings turn into farm fields, and you realize that was the whole town and you just didn’t know that your country could look that bad. The worst fifteen minutes of my road trip was spent at a gas station on a Native American reservation near Monument Valley, Arizona. Drunk men approached me and slurred their sales pitch while holding plastic jewelry in their hands, desperately trying to tell me how much my girlfriend would appreciate a handmade necklace. After I shut the door, a women with long stringy hair and a lacy black dress stumbled towards my window, offering jewelry for sale and staring through me with hollow eyes.

Somewhere in Arizona, you realize that parts of this country aren’t so great, and they’re mostly the parts that we gave to the Native Americans. It’s no wonder that the people at this gas station were so poor; there’s no water, in sight, no farmable land, and no vegetation for livestock to eat. The government didn’t even give the land around Monument Valley to Native American until they decided that it was completely useless for oil and farming. This is a depressing thought, but it’s important to see the areas where Native Americans have been forced to live, instead of pretending that everything is fine and dandy.

Nature comes to brighten your mood just north of Flagstaff, Arizona. The earth opens up to reveal one of the seven natural wonders of the world. We are not worthy of the Grand Canyon. Seeing the Grand Canyon is like watching a spaceship crash into a meteor, or waking up to realize you now live on the moon. You’ve always heard about The Grand Canyon, and you’ve always heard that people are stunned when they see it, but you’re still not prepared for it. Your jaw still drops all the way to the floor and your face still melts off your skull like an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon.

Road trips are mostly a visual experience, but those visuals stay with you for a long time afterwards, dancing around in your head, encouraging you to go find more adventure. Road Trips give you the ultimate form of freedom, which is a full tank of gas, cheap sunglasses an open road. Road trips are also a lot easier with Google Maps, and anyone who took a road trip before 2005 must have been insane.