quinta-feira, 19 de outubro de 2017

Day 10: The Navajo Twins, a Mexican Hat and a supercharger

We are on our way to Blanding. Monument Valley is behind us but Beauty remains all around. Without much choice of hotels in the area of Monument Valley, we find ourselves going the literal extra mile to get lodging for the night. It is going to be Blanding and all that because... there's a supercharger there. Needless to say that, whilst we were considering the nearby accomodation options, the Tesla-aficionado settled for Blanding and thus choice was no longer an option.
Boy, what beautiful road. Red rock formations, the loneliness of the empty, immense space, millenia of erosion sculpting the landscape: a dream for the road traveller.
One almost feels out of the planet. In Mars, perhaps. With eyes wide open we marvel at the Mexican Hat many miles outside Monument Valley or the Navajo Twins, mid-way between Monument Valley and Blanding. How small we feel in the presence of the forces which have thus chiseled the rock.
After a long day journeying across the marvellous wonders of this ancient region of strange rocks, Blanding and its supercharger in the visitor's centre. A speck of civilization in the middle of the all-encompassing vasteness. What a day...

terça-feira, 17 de outubro de 2017

Day 10: In-between Arizona and Utah

Monument Valley is at a crossroads between Arizona and Utah. I somehow have the feeling that I'm in the heart of the continent, a sanctum sanctorum of sorts. One can almost hear the heartbeat of the earth here. Looking at the state signs, we feel welcome and within ourselves we feel foreigners in communion with the vast land.
We leave Arizona where we have just entered coming from new Mexico and enter Utah. Excitement is an apt description for how we feel.


domingo, 15 de outubro de 2017

Day 10: Monument Valley

Grandiose. Majestic. Every bit as monumental as its name implies. We were eagerly looking forward to the day when our trip would lead us to Monument Valley. The day was upon us. From afar we could already discern the familiar contours of the eroded mountains that make up part of the imagery we associate with the Far, untammed, West. There are days of wonder and this was one of them.
There is hardly any need for words when in the presence of breath-taking awesomeness. Again we are overcome by gratitude to what has taken us to this Here and Now. Beauty is all around and what our eyes want to do is just gaze at it in amazement...

quarta-feira, 11 de outubro de 2017

Day 9: Heading back to civilization and a supercharger

Infinite skies, solitude and the arid prairie accompany our way back to the present after our incursion in the ancient time of Chaco. Storms circle us menacingly.
It takes two hours to hit the tarmac. We are set on spending the night in Bloomfield but we take a slight detour to go to the supercharger in Farmington. Who would say that there's a supercharger in this nowhere? There is. Farmington, of its grace.
The EV-geek is on cloud nine. After a day of incredible landscapes and trips back in time, to meet the future is the cherry on top of the cake. If he's happy, I'm happy and so I play along as the merry Tesla-wife.

Cheers to a superb day!

segunda-feira, 9 de outubro de 2017

Day 9: Discovering Chaco

"Oh, you're my first Portugals!", we hear as we purchase the admittance tickets. In twenty-five years working for the Chaco Historical Park, the lady who welcomes us has never met any Portuguese tourists hence her ignorance of the demonym. We know we are far as far can get.
The ruins of the Chacoan villages are a good five-minute drive away from the ticket office. We could trek to the sites but the stifling heat is enough to have us choosing the comforts of air-conditioning.
All visits are guided and we have to wait for our guide. All around us the desert and its scorching presence. The remoteness, the aridity and the solicitude of the place trigger thoughts of how a civilization was able to flourish here. Not much is known about the Chacoans. Who were they, why did their culture vanish are still open questions. We're wondering about all this when the guide arrives, a red-haired, pierced MA student doing research on Chacoan basket weaving. Tops!
For over an hour she tours us through the maze of buildings and passage ways that compose the Great House of Pueblo Bonito. We're a small group (no wonder, given Chaco's remoteness) and I find it consoling that the reason why I'm finding it awesome to be here is the lack of crowds and the silence which allow for the site to keep its soul and its integrity.
There's something Andean in these buildings, something inextricably American, as in of the whole of the Americas. The mystery is alluring. Chaco does not give out its secrets and it gladdens me that, in the midst of this want to know it all society of over-information, there are things that are still left to our imagination.
The weather is changing. The south road is already submerged and closed. Here the skies are still blue but we have to go before the storm hits us. I anticipate the dangerous road leading us back to civilization and the modern times and I bid farewell to Chaco where I leave a piece of my soul. What a great experience and so worth the literal getting out of the beaten track. Chaco has a place in my memory.

sexta-feira, 6 de outubro de 2017

Day 9: Getting to Chaco

Chaco's sheer remoteness has (so far) been enough to keep it relatively unperturbed from the prying eyes of tourists and archaelogists alike. Its mysteries haven't yet been cracked by the science of History and its alluring aura is still, and thus, overpowering.
In search of ancient human presence in these vast expanses, we were greeted by its dwellers of the natural world. Suddenly it was as if I was a by-stander in some David Attenborough episode on the wonders of the deserts.
Well-adapted to the blistering heat, gekos, sparrow-like birds and crows (I know they're also birds) compose the surprising assorted band of characters that shapes the fauna in this wilderness. After miles of a perilous journey, getting to Chaco was like finding an oasis. Suffice to say I was not even near the ruins of Chaco and I was already in love with the place...

quarta-feira, 4 de outubro de 2017

Day 9: On the way to Chaco

O, how I wanted to go to the Chaco Culture Historical Park. Having a penchant for all things archaelogical and the mysteries of the Ancient World, a visit to the Chaco culture site was, of course, a must. The problem is... getting there.
Chaco is, fortunately for the world and unfortunately for the tourist specimen that wants to go there, as remote from civilization as remote can be. There are no easy-access roads and the 21 miles that separate it from the nearest tarmac road take no less than two (grueling) hours of dangerous, insanely stressful driving. It's not just the cows...
 It's the crater-like potholes, the flasflood river beds, the absolute absence of even a speck of a safety net for the lone traveller. God forbids we have a flat tyre in this desolate nowhere. I confess I worried a bit and mid-way on that road, I was just wishing we got to our destination safe and sound and by destination I was not implying the Chaco site but our destination after the return from Chaco. You see, as there is no other road in, there's also no other road out...

segunda-feira, 2 de outubro de 2017

Day 8: Ojo Caliente

It was in Fort Davis in the heart of western Texas that we got to know about Ojo Caliente, the thermal hot springs in New Mexico. To the question: Where you guys heading next?", we answered New Mexico. We were at the information desk in Fort Davis and immediately another visitor said the "Ah, you gotta go to Ojo Caliente". We duly took note of that and to New Mexico we headed.
We arrived in Ojo Caliente late in the afternoon after a day of plenty sightseeing and eyes and mind filled with the diversity of the immense landscapes of the West. We were not exactly sure what we were going to find in Ojo Caliente. Turns out, Ojo Caliente is a spa resort. Gone are the days when it must have been a free for all mineral springs site imbued with the ancient spirit of the land. Now it's a zen resort where we can take the stress of our modern lives and try to get detoxed. Mud masks, relaxing oils, organic scrubs, aroma therapy soaps and lotions and all kinds of potions promise to cure all our physical and spiritual ailments. Swimming-pools of mineral waters for this and that allure us with healing powers. I do not succumb and let temptation pass. On to the next stop.

sexta-feira, 29 de setembro de 2017

Day 8: Beyond Thunder Dome

After the impressive Rio Grande Grande Gorge, the road (always the road) holds more surprises for the insatiable traveller. Scattered around the landscape as far as the eye can see, houses that seem out of a Mad Max, post-apocalyptic scenario. I wonder who lives in such remoteness, what alternative lifestyles find refuge out in these desolate prairies. I imagine self-sufficient, off-the-grid communities of new-agers and zen-lovers.
Maybe I could live like this, away from it all, I don't know. I've always been attracted by landscapes of grandeur and desolation. Yet, I also know that I'm always there on a return ticket. We drive through the landscape and my mind is filled with thoughts of utopia.

quarta-feira, 27 de setembro de 2017

Day 8: Rio Grande Gorge

We were still exchanging our views on the impression Taos Pueblo had made on us when, out of the blue, there's something mighty on the road. Nothing in the landscape gives warning that there's this colossal canyon, a gorge, ripping the vast plain in two. Now I realise how true is that epic scene of the cowboy whose horse halts on the brink of the cliff. So majestic and so scary. So absolutely awe-inspiring.
No words, no 2-D pictures can render the horrible beauty of the abyss below our feet. To think that this is the same Rio Grande we saw in southern Texas, the same Rio Grande meandering through gentle slopes. This is a Rio Grande sculpting an abrupt landscape. My insane, ever-present fear of heights dizzies me. I cannot look down. I cannot think I'm on a bridge. Fear almost maddens me but the beauty of the place wages battle against it. Antitheses fill my mind: beauty and terror, fear and awe, longing for terra firma while walking over the abyss. Exhilaration.
I cling to the rails of the bridge and you can see my fear as I pose holding on to my Tesla-bloke of a husband. But there's joy. Joy as immense as the imposing landscape around and beneath me. In my mind, the constant thought of gratitude for the things I've been granted the privile of seeing.
I feel gratitude the aptest feeling to have when in the presence of majesty...

segunda-feira, 25 de setembro de 2017

EV Mobility in Arruda dos Vinhos

This post could look like one of John Oliver's Last Week Tonight episodes. It isn't but, just like in Oliver's case, it's about a last week event: the Tesla-Aficionado's performance at the beautiful Garden Room (Sala Jardim) at the Morgado Cultural Center in Arruda dos Vinhos. In celebration of the European Mobility Week, the Aficionado was invited to give a talk on the advantages of going electric and about his/our experience while transitioning from one mobility paradigm to a new one. From the screen the electric-mobility-Geek showed (based on our TV moment, you can check it here), you can see I played no mean part in the whole scenario (and scenario is quite the apt word).
It was a really great evening and I was positively surprised at the interest this subject seems to be raising. Lots of questions from the audience left us in convivial discussion and, before we knew it, it was well past midnight.
I would like to thank Arruda's Municipality for organizing this get-together and for the warm welcome: our Mayor André Rijo, the City Council Representative Mário Anágua, the Cultural Planning Coordinator Ana Correia and all those involved in the organization and promotion of this event. Last but not least, our thank you to all the people who gave their time and shared their interest by joining us on a fine September evening.

sexta-feira, 22 de setembro de 2017

Day 8: Taos Pueblo

One of the reasons to set up camp in Santa Fe was to discover the Pueblo Culture. Not far from Santa Fe (consider "not far" as in American standards), there's Taos Pueblo, an iconic village ("pueblo" in Spanish) home to the Red Willow People. Taos is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and so our curiosity and enthusiasm were great.
Taos Pueblo is famed for its storeyed-adobe houses and said to be one of the best preserved sites of Pueblo culture. Moreover, we tend to associate UNESCO sites with fine preservation. I should know better by now... Anyway and anyhow, our hopes were high.
There's always something disheartening when you get to a place and you see famished stray dogs, open-air sewage and potholes. Before I even bought the admission tickets, I already had a feeling I had been anticipating a bit too much. Sure the adobe houses are there but it's hard to reconcile corrugated iron roofs with typical pueblo architecture. There's an ancient atmosphere in the air, something that speaks from within the earth and echoes quietly in the infinite skies but it's been smothered. Taos is tourist-staged, not natural and not genuine. Soulless. I am a tourist but Taos should be out of the reach of tourists (not that there are many tourists there). It should be left alone to resume its links to nature and its ancient past. You know what's to feel sorry for ssomething? I felt sorry for Taos. We took the mandatory pictures that tell us we were there and we are tourists and hastened to get out of there. We craved for the wide open, untamed spaces. We wanted the genuine experiences not this fake, run-down, forlorn place.
We put on a happy face and took one last picture then we left not in the least bit sorry for leaving and not in the least sorry for having come. I don't think we stayed for a whole hour. Goodbye Taos, Goodbye spirit of the Red Willow, we leave you alone and wish voyeurism leaves you alone as well.

quarta-feira, 20 de setembro de 2017

Tomorrow in Arruda dos Vinhos

While I'm posting about our US coast-to-coast roadtrip, we're just back from a trip to Germany. Yes, the Tesla aficionado I call husband drove his EV all the way to Germany and, after some 11,000kms of a marvellous roadtrip, I'm happy to report that long roadtrips are possible with an EV.
The Mayor of our town has invited yours truly Tesla aficionado to give a keynote address about said trip. It's tomorrow at the Sala Jardim do Centro Cultural do Morgado in Arruda dos Vinhos at 21:00 and you're all invited.
See you there!

segunda-feira, 18 de setembro de 2017

Day 8: Rio Grande

What happened to the placid rio Grande I saw gently meandering through the arid, wide open landscape of southern Texas? Here in New Mexico, the river runs singing a song of lively waters flowing fast. There are rafters and they laughter and chatting fills the air. There are no plains and the river looks entrenched between steep slopes.
I go on being amazed and awed with every corner on the road and with how this immense country is so capable of having us blown away by the constant changes in scenery. This is the Rio Grande, I keep remindind myself, the same Rio Grande I saw bordering Mexico in Big Bend and yet this seems a totally different river. Even the Tesla bloke is amazed.

quinta-feira, 14 de setembro de 2017

Day 7: Santa Fe, New Mexico

It has been raining when we get to Santa Fe, late in the afternoon. It has also cooled a lot when we go out for a stroll in the art district of a town famed for its artists and galleries. And, indeed, art is everywhere. As are the reminders that we are deep in Native-American Territory.
Santa Fe is proud, as it should be, of its pueblo heritage. You can feel it the air. There's something lingering all around of an ancient presence, a force attached to Nature. It's both inexplicable and unavoidable that there's something special, somewhat mystical, about the capital of New Mexico. Land of Enchantment they write on the plates of New Mexico. Quite appropriate.
I scour the galleries in search of turquoises and Native-American jewellery. In one, I'm asked if I'd like to sell the earrings I'm wearing. I smile at the proposition but have to decline the offer. Looking for original jewellery, I find out I'm the one wearing original jewellery. It's not common, I realise, that someone should be wearing typical Portuguese filigree earrings in Santa Fe. I chat a bit with the gallery owner and imagine I could set up a profitable import-export business: Portuguese filigree for New Mexico, turquoise stones for Portugal. Somebody better not steal this idea...
On another gallery I get invited for the opening of an exhibition. I'd gladly accept but we're tired of all the miles we've driven to get her to this beautiful, "enchanted" place. Maybe next time because if there's anything I'm sure is that Santa Fe is one of those places totally worth a second visit. Maybe next time we'll get back to fully appreciate the traditional adobe houses, be inspired by the town's unique soul or, who knows, set up a crazy import-export business.


segunda-feira, 11 de setembro de 2017

Day 7: Sandia Peak

Since we were in New Mexico, somebody said, why wouldn't we go to Sandia Peak? Sandia Peak?, never heard of it. And so we determined to go no matter how dead scared of heights I might be (which I am).
We took the tram (not as wobbly as I had anticipated) and up the vertical limit we went. On my mind: catastrophe, cables breaking, impossible salvation, terrible images fueled by a tram "driver" boasting about the number of tourists who fainted and threw up everyday on that dismal ride. I behaved, though. Bravely, I might add.
At the top of the mountain, a sense of exhilaration and accomplishment. New Mexico at our feet. They say we can see 11% of New Mexico from the top of Sandia, whose Spanish meaning is watermelon probably on account of the reddish colour the mountain gets at sunset.
We counted our blessings as we contemplated the majestic scenery and, in our minds, thanked for the fab suggestion we were given (an email also did as well). I also thought I could be in Switzerland such was the alpine setting with its pinetrees, the cool temperature and the ski slopes closed for summer. But down we must and down we went to continue our roadtrip.