Howdy Road Trip Fans!
You might notice this update is a little late. In addition to running across the country, we've been celebrating the election of our new president and joined in protests over passage of California's Proposition 8.
Way back in 2004, we Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence celebrated our 25th Anniversary. The Catholics had a tantrum when we suggested closing Castro Street for our party. Their frenzied attempt to thwart the celebration created significant media interest. Instead of shutting us down, the Catholic seizure brought out supporters in droves - making it one of the largest events in Castro history.
Proposition 8 feels a lot like that. It's certainly a setback, but shutting the closet door on so many active, creative, and pissed off folks is already creating an energetic movement that won't stop until the nation provides equal rights for every citizen. Hold on to your sacred undergarments Joseph Smith, you're in for a rough ride.
(By the way, Sister Betty is cooking up a special protest - make sure you're on the email list or check this link for a future announcement.)
Okay, now where were we. Oh yes, Burqa Boy and I had just left Palm Springs...
A Warmer Climate
Burqa Boy, a native of New Hampshire, is campaigning for a permanent home in a warmer climate. Although impressed with Palm Springs he seemed enchanted with the idea of Arizona and so we drove east to Phoenix.
I grew up in Arizona and have memories of Phoenix as a warm city of manageable size best known for the saw-dust covered floors of Bill Johnson's Big Apple and annual gang fights at the state fair. Those memories are long outdated. The Big Apple still has sawdust but the charm is looking a bit warn and the city sprawls across the desert like a drunk bull dyke on a waterbed.
Burqa Boy loved our hotel which featured two hours of free cocktails. The line for the bar snaked around the pool as retirees from Minneapolis grabbed the "two drinks at a time" maximum and headed to their reserved-with-towel seats by the pool.
The following day we ventured to the Phoenix Zoo, which announced itself as "One of the Top 5 Zoos for Children!" only after we purchased our tickets. Fortunately most of Arizona's children were in school or too tightly strapped in their strollers to be much of a nuisance. We wandered past the "Endangered Animal Carousel" which features dolphins, leopards, sea horses and a triceratops; through the mock Columbian drug kingpin's village; and ended up in an exhibit of free range monkeys where zoo employees note that it's likely you'll be pissed upon by the territorial little creatures. I admit, its fun to see monkeys without the usual protective enclosures to ensure they don't bite you. ("If they do, you'll likely need stitches!" coos an employee.)
Sister Betty Meets Big Bird
On our way to south to Tucson, we stumbled across the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch. We've seen lots of places to feed deer on our journey, but this was the first place that offered the chance to feed birds that will later feed humans. Now that's the circle of life.
If you ever watched Sesame Street and wondered how big bird ate, it's like this: You pay $8 to for a cup of Big Bird Food. Then, standing far enough away that the birds can't peck your eyes, you extend your hand with a few pellets of food. If you're lucky - like me - the bird gets your entire hand in it's mouth and you feel the inside of an ostrich throat. If you're unlucky - like Burqa Boy - the ostrich mistakes your hand for food an bites you - hard. The same $8 buys you two small vials of Lorikeet crack which drives the tiny birds insane as they land on you and fight for their fix. In the world of road trips, it's a lot of entertainment for eight bucks.
Tucson is a smaller version of Phoenix with fewer gangs because retirees rarely wear solid colors and it's hard to do a drive-by from a walker. In addition to having the highest number of hip replacements per capita, Tucson is home to nation's repository of used military aircraft. The billions of dollars we spend on planes and helicopters eventually ends up in the Arizona desert as parked scrap. The desert is covered with hundreds of acres of flying machines dating back to the Korean war.
I dragged Burqa Boy to the Pima Air Museum to wander through the hulks of old aircraft fading in the desert sun. The museum sports a Super Guppy (used to carry Saturn rocket parts), a giant Globemaster troop transport, and a retired Air Force One. Although the interior is covered in plastic to prevent common citizens from touching the fabric that once supported the bottoms of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, it's possible to stand on the gangway and pretend to be the leader of the free world on your way to being assassinated or ordering the bombing of Vietnam.
New Mexico, Round 2
We headed next to Carlsbad, New Mexico and the Carlsbad Caverns. Knowing the world was created in seven days, Carlsbad Caverns were created on the last day when god said "Lo, now I decoratith the world with fabulous bling". Or maybe they were created 600,000 years ago by sulfuric acid if you belief in questionable geology stuff. Either way, the caverns are movie-set stunning. Things hang from the ceilings, pop out of the floor, trickle down walls, drip and echo. There is even a bat that has become encased in a stalagmite.
Burqa Boy and I wanted to stay in Carlsbad longer, but alas, we had to keep moving. We were headed next to Amarillo, Texas, but along the way we had to visit Roswell, New Mexico.
Roswell has a reputation as a landing area. But the landing area you find is probably not what you expect. Tucson is home to military aircraft - Roswell is home to an enormous fleet of retired commercial airplanes. The airport is covered with them (just go to the intersection of Yo! and Old Yo! for the best view). Little planes, big planes, old planes, somewhat less old planes. It's a whose-who of failed airlines.
We weren't after commercial airplanes. We wanted to see little green men. This was Roswell after all and the city should be alien crazy. Alas, it is not. In fact, if you didn't know Roswell's reputation, you might not guess this was the place where little green men landed and began catheterizing cattle.
The alien craze is limited to a single block of downtown Roswell and a nearby Arby's. That single block hosts street lamps with alien eyes and the International UFO Museum and Research Center.
The curator of the museum greeted us with a "Howdy friends, what planet are you from?" as we entered and paid our fee. After producing ID and putting stickers, as directed, on the upper right side of our shirts, we were ushered into museum. Encased in plastic cases were important pieces of evidence such as "replica of UFO debris" made from aluminum foil; the kneepads and gloves used by a Sci-Fi channel documentarian; and a movie set used to film an alien autopsy; and an alien message transcribed by an alien abductee.
To entice the aliens to return, New Mexicans covered the entire eastern edge of their state in giant feedlots. Lots of cows for experiments = lots of alien visits. Imagine driving for three hours through a pile of shit that moos. Eventually you stop smelling anything and struggle just to keep from vomiting. Beef. It's what's for dinner. That's eastern New Mexico.
Our stop for the night was the Big Texan Steakhouse. In addition to offering a old-western themed hotel complete with swinging saloon doors on the bathroom and western wallpaper, the Big Texan offers a free 72 ounce steak for anyone who can eat it in under an hour. I thought about trying to complete the challenge while wearing my habit, but the sight of all the cattle standing in their own shit earlier that day made eating beef slightly less appetizing. Even so, the moderate 12 ounce filet was fantastic, especially wrapped when in bacon.
If you're keeping track, you may have noticed we've turned eastward, missing both Oregon and Washington. Alas, that little economic downturn has impacted our Road Trip 2008 budget and we've had to shave a few weeks off the schedule. Even so, there is more to come as we head next across Texas to Arkansas....
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