Went through Winslow, AZ. Alas, no flatbed Fords, let alone girls, my lord… slowing down to take a look at me. Then again, I'd really rather a cute young cowboy was doing the slowing down. Of course, knowing me, I'd assume he was checking out Dark Star, not me. :)

Traveling through southwest Texas, I pass between two tall buttes. On my left the butte is topped with several monstrously large windmills. On my right, a huge white cross. Interesting symbolic perspective on the local cultural power struggle.

Okay, this is just embarrassing. I haven't sold anything on my amazon.com account for something like six months, so I forgot to set it to vacation. Now I'm out on the road: three sales! My kami are laughing at me, I'm sure. :)

Gasoline prices and speed limits are all over the map, literally. The best I've seen so far is $3.19 in a tiny New Mexico town near the Texas border; the worst was $4.79 just outside of Death Valley — grifters! Speed limits consistently amaze me. I was startled to see in Nevada that I could go up to 70 mph, until New Mexico informed me I could do 75. I decided to stick to just 65 in Nevada, and then 70 in New Mexico, to save gas. Now I feel like a piker for "only" doing 75 in Texas — since you can legally do 80 mph here! Wow.

Important sleeping tip! Before going to bed in Dark Star, I have learned to check either the sunset or the stars to figure out which way is east. Otherwise, it is uncanny how effectively the newly-risen sun can sneak in a ray and blind me upon awakening. Also, amazing how quickly false modesty falls away when traveling cross-country. When you're another 26 miles from the next rest stop, and you have to go! …well, let's say that creativity and having a roll of toilet paper wins out over socially mandated decorum. :)

If previous lives are ever proven true, I shall not be at all surprised to discover that in at least one of them I fell from a great height to my death. I find I rather dislike driving on the "outside" lane on twisty mountain roads with a steep drop off. If there's even two feet of gravel past the barrier, I'm fine… but having the mountainside drop away on my right is unpleasantly disconcerting. In a tall vehicle like Dark Star, there's the further optical-tactile illusion that the van is tipping to the right while going around curves, and I find myself leaning tensely inwards to counter-balance — even though I know rationally that wouldn't make a whit of difference!

It's very much an internal visceral reaction too. I was on the 11th floor in Vegas and opened the curtains to see there was no wall below the window — the entire wall was window. Standing there, I could feel my muscles involuntarily tensing and leaning me back away from the visual drop-off — again, even though I knew rationally that I was perfectly safe. It's not an overwhelming gut reaction — I can make myself walk up to the window and lay a hand on the glass as I look down — but it is a surprisingly strong one.

I'm unfortunately having to skip Hoover Dam, Sedona, Saleri's Arcosanti, N'Awlins, and maybe the Florida State Caverns, to make sure I make Gainesville on time. I'm definitely going to try and make N'Awlins and the Florida State Caverns on the way back, though. The trip would be too utterly dull otherwise!

I thought for sure rural California, Arizona, and Utah would be heavily conservative. However, in Bishop, CA I chatted with a nice girl with green-streaked hair and a Dr. Who T-shirt. In Death Valley I met a nice young man behind the counter of the Visitor's Center who was wearing several leather and metal wristlets, and a button which said: "Hi, my name is GEEK." Heck, they had free wi-fi available there! In Utah the little town of Duck Creek had a clearly christian church, but it also had a sizable contingent of what seemed to me (from their clothing and signage) to be almost California-liberal-like individuals. In Arizona I met a nice couple who were moving in to start new jobs teaching indigenous kids there. The wife was of Danish descent; the husband was of Puerto Riqueño descent, but born and bred in Brooklyn. They mentioned that the town before us in the valley was mostly Mormon, while there was a Buddhist enclave nearby, and the regular Lutherans (IIRC) were a few miles down the road — and they all got along fine.

It wasn't until I got to New Mexico that I was startled by a bumper sticker that read: "The 10 Commandments aren't multiple choice!" I resisted the urge to wait and engage the car's driver in discussion, since I doubt they'd like to know their bumper sticker was technically wrong. After all, Yahweh's supposed commandments appear in three different locations in the Old Testament. Further, not only are they never consistent, but in none of the three cases are there actually strictly ten of them! If we're going to get really technical, we should also note that Jesus' teachings were the much kinder — and requiring more effort-full levels of thoughtfully loving behavior — eight Beatitudes and handful of commandments. However, I suspect bumper stickers that say things like "Love your neighbor as yourself: not multiple choice!" or "Do unto others as you would have done unto you: not multiple choice!" wouldn't go over well with the truly conservative. :)

Curiously, there was another bumper sticker on that same car, with 13 white stars in a circle around a "II" symbol, on a dark blue background. I don't know what that stands for, though I speculate it has something to do with the original 13 colonies? Or maybe… weren't there only 12 tribes of Israel, but Mormonism has something about a missing 13th tribe? Of course, so far Texas has everywhere beat for conservatism. There's something about stark, almost threateningly large crosses on hilltops, while you're listening to someone growl in a country-western song about how everything sucks right now and Jesus is the only answer… to really make you want to lock your doors and keep driving! :)

On a silly final note: every time I've been warned about wind gusts I've had no trouble with them. Every time I've had trouble with wind gusts there were absolutely no warning signs within miles. Every time I've been warned to watch out for cows, none have been close to the road, and the sign is of the silhouette of a fat, contented-looking milk cow. The one time there were cows next to the road, however, they were lean, long-horned, wary-looking range cows. The sole bull — a fat, placid-looking black Angus — was the only dehorned bovine there! Hmm… could the US signage system be playing games with us? :)

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