Edward drives us over 4,500 miles on this trip. We are gone for 8 days. Lena’s favorite place while we drive is sleeping across Edward’s lap, facing me. We stop often to give the dogs water. It storms a lot while we are driving at various points – sometimes our visibility is almost zero from the rain hitting the windshield. The first night we stay at a hotel in Forth Worth, Texas. The second night we stay in a yurt in Madrid, New Mexico. Madrid is a weird little town I hadn’t heard of until this trip – it seems to be populated by hippie artists and largely LGBT, or at least very LGBT-friendly. There are “watch for dogs” signs along Main St instead of the usual “watch for children” or “children at play” signs you typically see. The sunset and sunrise from the yurt are amazing – we see both. We drive up a very rocky and unpaved road to get there – it’s a bit anxiety-provoking for everyone. Edward and I yell “BIMP!” frequently because someone put signs next to some of the bigger bumps in the road to warn people like us who do not have the right car for this situation and we are amusing ourselves and mildly spastic already from all of the time in the car. The next day I fall in love with Santa Fe. I feel more at home in this landscape of mountains, canyons, plateaus, desert and very determined plants than I have anywhere else I’ve ever been – which is a little strange given that I am from Pennsylvania. It scares me and thrills me and makes me feel at peace all at once. I feel safe here for some reason. It inspires me – as cheesy as that is – and I feel like I could live here and make art about this landscape, this little portion of the country, for the rest of my life. I decide Edward and I might need to move here when he does his residency after medical school. Sam “learns” the cactus lesson three times but doesn’t really learn it any of those times. He runs around the yurt like crazy and gets cacti needles in his skin but is like a tank, he doesn’t even seem to notice. He gets a clump of them on top of his head and it is a little funny watching poor Edward try to remove them because Sam thinks it’s the best game in the world to not let Edward pull them out. He’s not at all bothered or hurt, he just thinks everything in the world is a game. He’s 13 or 14 months old but is still very much a puppy sometimes.
We walk Sam and Lena around the main square of Santa Fe where the Native American artists lay out their goods to sell on blankets in the shade and walking with Sam feels like being with a celebrity. Everyone wants to say hello or ask about him or comment on his size or call him a horse or pet him or let their child pet him or take his photo. I am amused by the attention but Edward feels uncomfortable with being a bit of a spectacle. We leave Santa Fe and head towards Utah. The first of my false eyelashes, which will all come off during this trip, does. We drive for a long time and come to Monument Valley. The roads are unpaved and I’m afraid if I put the window down to take pictures the whole car will be filled with dust, so I just do the best I can shooting through the dirty windows. Lena is used to road trips and is super chill about the entire process. Sam, on the other hand, is new to this “road trip” idea. He went with us to Saint Louis when he was much younger but probably doesn’t remember. He’s only used to short car rides to Paty’s house or the dog park. We were going to leave him at a dog kennel but the day before we left he broke my bleeding little liberal heart, so we brought him along. Edward and I were sitting on the couch working on our laptops and Sam was whining up a storm. We couldn’t figure out why he was being so extra because he’d been out and had food and water. We tried to shut him up by offering him different bones and other things he usually likes. This did not work. Eventually we made room for him on the couch and he immediately calmed down, curled up into the smallest ball of dog a Sam can and fell asleep. I kept thinking “All he wants in this entire world is to be where we, his people, are. That’s literally his deepest fucking desire.” So there was obviously no way I could leave him with strangers for 8 days after that, even though I knew they would take good care of him. He’d miss us too much and, admittedly, I would miss him too much too. He was A LOT the first day of the road trip in particular. We had to stuff blankets, sheets and a bag of large breed dog food between our seats and sides of the car to keep him from (good lord can he make himself fit through a space when he wants to) climbing over the sides of our seats and onto our laps. At 140 or so pounds he still thinks he’s a lap dog sometimes – typical.
The third night of the trip we stay in a little converted post office in Cisco, Utah. Edward is absolutely exhausted from a super long day of driving and we arrive much later than we planned. Once there we perk up a little – Edward has a few beers and I try astrophotography in real darkness for the first time. I become giddy from photographing the stars. It is in a ghost town that is being rebuilt by a super cool woman who dropped out of SAIC (she did drawing and painting) to move to a ghost town in the desert with a population of one: her. She is renovating the town with found materials and learning the construction skills as she goes. We hang out with her and her friend the next morning and it is fun to be out of the car and socializing with interesting and new people. She says I can come back and stay for free whenever I want as long as I bring Lena with me. Her and Lena really hit it off. She dreams of hosting artists-in-residence in her little ghost town someday. I find her absolutely fascinating.
We drive by an abandoned school house as we leave Cisco – supposedly it is quite haunted. One day later I will firmly believe that it is.