Road: What is an Energy Vortex Anyway?

Art Journal, The Road

It is Sunday and about fifty degrees. The air is crisp and the skies are full of fluffy clouds hanging over mountain ranges in every direction. The day is good. I wish the dog would stop barking at the intrepid travelers that go by every few hours. In the mornings I am confused about where I am. Takes me a moment after opening my eyes to recalculate my reality.

We are camped outside of St. George. Straddling the Arizona-Utah state line. St. George was once just a small town cooked by radiation drifting on the wind from the Nevada Proving Grounds, today it is a growing bubble of ticky tacky middle-class houses.

How do I explain this in an orderly narrative? I ask myself. Try from the beginning self, with Sedona. My Internal compass is vastly confused. I couldn’t tell you which direction we approached Sedona from or the direction we left. We entered through a dispersed camping area. First impressions were of a beautiful area stuffed with happy campers barely concealed among the low growing evergreens. We only stayed the one night. A different idea sprouted.

About that energy vortex. I never heard of Sedona prior to a few months ago. It was hours after arriving I decided to open my browser to learn more. I closed my browser. Grab your favorite crystal (there were a few cute shops in Sedona) and meditate on a rock formation, because some years ago a disenfranchised Native American made some cash selling the idea of energy vortices to people. That’s what I gathered from the web. Certain locations are supposed to make you feel good just being there… isn’t that all of Arizona? The Southwest?

Kurt drove us through the city of Sedona on our way north, passing miles of parked cars lined up near hiking paths. The tourist area of town was busy, bustling even. Beautiful Sedona, the last place I wanted to be during a pandemic. Herds of tourists. Some masking, some not. Bouncing around busy sidewalks like electrons.

The drive from Sedona to Marble Canyon was uneventful with one unavoidable night outside of Flagstaff. We managed some responsible sight seeing. (Next to no one there). First stop Sunset Crater Volcan, to put the fear of Mother Earth into your bones. A thousand years later and the scars still ravage the earth. Second stop the Wukoki Pueblo ruins. To feel time the way I imagine it would feel for people in the old world.

We camped on BLM land alongside a canyon within a canyon. Watched a perfect sunset. The next day we traveled to Crazy Jug Point. Not before stopping at a strange configuration on the roadside peculiarly labeled “cliff dwellers.” Was this created by outlaws or some poor soul from the dust bowl era? No. This was born into the world by a broke down Ziegfeld Follies’ girl on her way through.

To get to Crazy Jug Point pulling a camper in January you have to trust the road and the truck. I did not trust the road. Kurt did. It was long, unpaved and mostly snow covered. But worth it. We spent two cold nights for the sake of experiencing winter weather at the Grand Canyon. Sat on the edge of the world during perfect silence. The air still. No people noises, no engines. Every so often a bird. An epic gaping void in the soundscape. This is the consciousness cleansing experience people seek in nature.
In the evening the Canyon glowed subtly with deep reds and violets. In the morning it was filled with clouds. An impossible sea of cotton candy.

Where to go next?

Utah. Kurt sussed out an area that looked easy enough to find dispersed camping and was near a few big name landmarks. Thats not what we ended up doing. We found an empty campground. Happily paid for a night stay at Coral Pink Sand Dune State Park and for the first time in months had a shower without rationing water. For the first time in weeks filled the water tank with a hose instead of hauling jugs. It is the little things.

Kurt worked out a sight seeing plan on our way to the next thought. He unhooked the camper at a trailhead and we rattled our way down a sandy trail to see dinosaur tracks. I won’t lie. I expected epic big tracks. Not little ones my dog could leave.

It was the drive back to the road. The truck didn’t make it up one particularly big sandy hill and the tires started skipping. As Kurt went into reverse I saw something in the rear camera. Turns out the shaking shook out a few water jugs, rugs, chairs and we ran them over.

But something else happened.

We broke Baby Grey Whale. Wait? I didn’t tell you the truck had a name? Yes. Baby Grey Whale, BGW for short. BGW was throwing serious codes. No speedometer and it dropped out of 4-wd .

We camped in a dispersed area for the night. Woke up to snow. Kurt couldn’t identify an easy fix on the truck. The short of it is that BGW worked, but had to be fixed. With the cold hitting the area we started heading for Las Vegas and stopped in St. George. A town with dispersed camping, warmer weather and big enough to get the truck fixed. And best of all, it wasn’t Las Vegas the true energy vortex. You can triangulate your position to calculate the odds of being sucked into that city by one disaster or another.


There was nothing wrong with Baby Grey Whale. It took hours for a mechanic to check out the truck. Merely needed the codes reset by fancy tool after having its brains scrambled.

The Road: Part 5.2

Art Journal, The Road, Thoughts


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After Tucson we headed closer to the border with Mexico, again, staying in the small town of Arivaca, Arizona. When visiting the town center, I noticed immediately a small building with hand-painted signs: Humanitarian Aid Office. Being the curious human I am I had to ask them about their mission. I was informed that migrants come across asking for water and there was a legal case brought against someone for giving them water (since dismissed). But there was a bigger mission. They assist local ranchers dealing with the newly “militarized border.” The person I spoke with mentioned ranchers dealing with the Border Patrol landing helicopters on their land. Of course I asked about the wall and if the crime rate justified it. This person didn’t blink, they 100% wanted a wall, but added that was just their opinion and the local people were just getting swept up into the politics.

One has to recognize the prism of local issues at play. As we were exploring the area we discovered ranches that allowed the public onto their land. One asked us to sign in and use a tag another asked people only walk in. One posted no Border Patrol ORVs and no militia. The restaurant we ate at posted a sign saying vigilante and border militia groups not welcome. The website I found for the Tohono O’ddham Nation reservation made it very clear they were against a border wall on their land. And not so far away is the area reportedly being cleared of ancient cactus to make way for border wall.

Please go to the Humanitarian Aid Web Site for a far better explanation of the situation in the borderlands.

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Humanitarian Aid Office, Arivaca, Arizona
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Jake local celebrity, of Arivaca

Kitt Peak Observatory

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Observatory Structure at Kitt Peak

Setting ourselves out on a different pace, we had a place to be and a time to be there. We drove the nearly desolate two hours from the small town we were staying at to visit the Kitt Peak Observatory for a four hour nighttime star gazing program. Up the switchback mountain road we drove into the crisp air of the sky island. Upon our arrival the staff directed us to park in a specific spot, everyone lining up facing the same direction.

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Tour Group watching Sunset

We were informed, fed, toured, given red flashlights. Warned to point them down, to protect the science. First we watched the sunset while the observatories opened unexpectedly to the sky by scientists working remotely. As the dark descended went up the stairs into an open top observatory with a 16″ telescope and looked into the past. I saw with my eyes another galaxy (The Andromeda Galaxy), star clusters, and other wonders. (You can see and read the blogs from the night of our visit. Lorelie, Robert (our Guide) and Fred. ).

They prepared our vehicles for departure by covering our headlights with red plastic and then signaled us to start our vehicles together and descend the mountain in a caravan lead by the Observatory staff. All to protect the science. No phones. No errant lights. No photography after dark. Nearly fifty people working together to respect the delicate work of the scientists.

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Sunset on Kitt Peak

Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge

It is all about the Masked Bobwhite Quail at the Buenos Aires Refuge. They have them penned up, but good luck seeing the quick little… Anyway. The visitor center is in a beautiful old ranch house looking out over golden grasses and mountain horizons, with opportunities to bird watch and a nice display of cacti.

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Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge

Tohono O’odham Nation

While visiting the Kitt Peak Observatory I read about the Tohono O’dham Nation, which the Observatory sits on their land. There were these beautiful baskets made from traditional materials and then there were tiny little baskets made from horse hair and other materials. Repeating throughout the artworks on display was the Man in the Maze.

So moved was I by the the craftsmanship of the basketmakers and the symbolism of the Man in the Maze I wanted to know more about the people. We visited the Tohono O’odham Nation Cultural Center and Museum. 10,000 years their people lived on this land with the desert. I learned a little more about how they lived prior to western influence and their involvement in the conflicts since. There were also on display some fantastic artists: painter Delia Velasco, block print artist Keith Norris and weaver Arlene Thomas were the three that really stood out to me. Sorry no photos! And I respected that. So I will describe them for you.

Delia Velasco:

Her piece was a large mixed media painting in earthy tones of rust red and yellow dripping at times like a wild watercolor, layered around the symbolic elements. In the upper left hand corner the suggestion of a saguaro silhouette is visible. The most striking element is the repeated Man in the Maze in the composition. A 1/4 circle of the Maze fills almost half the canvas, it’s epicenter the lower left corner.

Keith Norris:

Norris’s work was a block print of four figures walking the land titled: “Getting Home.” One female figure in a skirt carrying a pot on her head, a smaller male figure carrying sticks, a smaller figure in a skirt, a male figure with something strapped to his back, and all using walking sticks. The bottom third of the print are the figures, two hills and vegetation detail. The top 3/4 is filled with a radiating sun patten that feels like hope, heat, and sunshine.

Arlene Thomas:

Thomas crafted a miniature Man-in-the-Maze basket out of horsehair. It is slightly bigger than a coin, the label is bigger and it is completely dwarfed by its companions. Each line of the Maze is balanced to the scale and elegantly executed. If you cannot tell, I am absolutely thunderstruck by the craftsmanship.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

The good, the bad, and the ugly. We were trying for Phoenix and didn’t make it. This beautiful spectacular failure went from we’ll stay one night to three. The drive in on 85 was spectacular. The sun set on a magestic jagged red mountain backdrop with the teaming desert landscape in the foreground. The first morning after our arrival I met the resident Raven lovebirds who posed for me on the campground saguaros. Thank you ravens!

We drove a loop through the park on one end enjoying the day and viewing the cholla, saguaro, and organ pipe cacti in all their various forms. Met a couple people plein air painting.

On the last day we drove the loop that went alongside the border wall where reports in the media were made of the saguaro’s being destroyed to make way for the new border wall. What I saw were some brush piles of willow and cacti marked. I did come across one saguaro that was in the process of being cut down. Access to some roads are blocked because of the border wall construction.

Saguaro Landscape


Costa’s Hummingbird

I just wanted to stop to see one exhibit… my husband signed us up for nine days? ten days? Two different campgrounds. The thing is we didn’t do much during this time. We took two drives. One on a back road that went through a hot-springs business with palm trees in the middle of nowhere and another on a quest to find a business that might sell cow skulls in Yarnell, which did not end up existing anymore. I was delighted by the wild donkeys, hated the suburban sprawl of Phoenix, baffled by a lake lined with saguaros, and beyond irked with the airplanes circling our second campground choice. We went into a grocery store that sold luxury spirits and cigars. In this high rent area all the brands were mercifully subdued, I wish the whole world could throttle consumer culture this way. And we made it to the Phoenix Museum of Art to see the Ansel Adams exhibit. Mostly we just enjoyed the subtle warmth of the January desert and caught up on the things that have been tickling our brains.

Sunset McDowell Regional Park
Black Throated Sparrow
Curve Billed Thrasher
Donkeys at Lake Pleasant Regional Park
Harsh Light on a back road.
Dying Saguaro.

Escaping Flagstaff

Snow. Cold. Bailed on our plans for north Arizona. Knew it was going wrong when we started climbing in elevation and never went back down. After a night in a Cracker Barrel parking lot we drove west on the old Route 66 towards Oatman. Now if you haven’t experienced the Oatman highway… prepare yourself. I mean, maybe a lot of people are used to mountain roads. But this one makes worldwide lists. Once you cram your stomach back where it belongs and unclench every muscle in your body you’ll be treated to wild donkeys hanging out in the streets of Oatman. Really. And so many people all of a sudden. We camped well outside of the town. And would you believe you don’t have to set an alarm? Donkeys will come by at six in the morning and take care of that.

Goodbye for now Arizona…

Scenic and terrifying Oatman Rd.
Cholla chunk