I'm sure Arches National Park has been in National Geographic a bit. Maybe you've seen postcards of it. Certainly you've seen images of the incredible red sandstone cliffs and towering arches (probably with a mountain biker in silhouette) on an office wall motivational poster pushing you toward what must be inevitable success.
It is an incredible, beautiful, nearly alien landscape.
No mid-afternoon photograph I could take after nearly three days on the road can do it justice. All I want is a hot shower, a cold beer, and to never drive all of our belongings (with my car attached to them) halfway across the country ever again.
Austin is still two days away.
Our intended route was to drive across Wyoming, drop down into Colorado through Cheyenne, skirt Denver and head east through Kansas.
Four feet of snow in eastern Wyoming changed that pretty quickly. We learned when we stopped for gas at Point of Rock, that I-80 had been shut down from Rawlins to Cheyenne – roughly 150 miles of highway – with no detour routes available. We thought about waiting out the storm until a stranded trucker told us about the thousands of semi trucks lining the highway, 20+ miles deep, patiently queued up for the interstate to reopen. To make matters worse, the highway from the Wyoming border to Denver was closed, and so was I-70 heading west from the Kansas border into Colorado. Forward progress was impossible.
We turned around and stopped for the night in Rock Springs.
There's nothing like sneaking four yowling, wary, road-weary, freaked-out cats into a motel room after driving for a kazillion hours. I've got to hand it to J for establishing protocol early in the trip and keeping the kids on the down low.
"Local band Spanish for 100 is celebrating the release of their third record, Jezebel, tonight at the High Dive. Don't be fooled by the Merle Haggard, Fugazi and Uriah Heap references peppering their MySpace page; this is celestial-minded, agit-pop with an Americana undercurrent...not that this is a bad thing (though if anyone could sound like Fugazi, Uriah Heap and Haggard all at the same time, I'd be hella impressed). Reliably rambunctious classic rockers Shim are also on the bill, and cover charge will set you back a mere $7.
Strangely enough, the primary reason this show is on my radar is because of my current obsession with photographer Ryan Schierling's visual documentation of the band's 2007 and 2008 summer tours. Go Away, Come Home is quite possibly the most uniquely moving collection of photographs I've ever seen of a band on the road. Schierling's eye is extraordinary in its affection for seemingly mundane details (how he makes a pickle on a truck stop diner plate utterly compelling is far beyond the grasp of my corpus callosum). The images, like the one above of Spanish For 100 guitarist Aaron Starkey and vocalist Corey Passons sitting outside a Wichita, Kansas laundry mat, are terribly romantic without feeling contrived. Sadly, Schierling is leaving Seattle for the sunnier pastures of Austin, Texas, but he's making Spanish For 100's record release his final Seattle rock show before he ditches us. Come down and tell him how awesome he is – or at least pick up your own copy of Go Away over here."
– by Hannah Levin, from Seattle Weekly, October 23, 2009
We've had the tiniest garden in downtown Seattle for a few years now. A four-foot by eight-foot patch of dirt has provided us with little tomatoes, little peppers, little cucumbers and little herbs. Surrounding the wee plot have been gargantuan sunflowers, originally seeds planted from D. Landreth Seed Company and followed up in subsequent years by volunteers and intentionally-sown next-gen seeds from the dinner-plate-sized heads of the 10-foot-tall beasts that pushed themselves out of the ground, imitating the Space Needle a few blocks over.
Our growing season is historically short. Plants that have survived have done so because they had to, there was no other choice. There have been disappointments, withered runts, plants twisted and dying in the limited two months of summer heat that Seattle offers. But the sunflowers have always thrived, from April to September, which never fails to surprise me.
(L) Sunflower head, 16" across. (R) Harvesting seeds to plant next year in Austin. © Ryan Schierling
In less than a month, we move across the country to Austin, Texas. In my pocket are keys to a little house with a big yard, big enough for a proper garden and a tall row of sunflowers along the fenceline. The long, sere summers are hotter and certainly less forgiving.
But I have no doubt these seeds from Seattle – from the Ghetto Melrose garden – will thrive, thrusting out of the ground with their leaves, and eventually, their giant faces toward the bright light and summer heat, producing seeds and propagating for years to come.