sexta-feira, 10 de novembro de 2017

Day 12: Seligman, Route 66

The welcome sign a few miles before Seligman says it all (and not exactly as it says...). You're bound for a tourist-staged attraction. The fading letters on the sign tell of a rundown place. The insistence on the "birth place" of Route 66 lets you guess you're being lured into something which is no longer authentic. The modern times seem not to have been kind to Seligman forcing it to live out of the past in the present. At this point, I anticipate we won't need much time in Seligman.
One street of souvenir and memorabilia shops is all there is in Seligman. One street of souvenir and memorabilia shops is enough for me. My husband doesn't even leave the car. Five minutes and we're out.

terça-feira, 7 de novembro de 2017

Day 11: Flagstaff, Arizona, Route 66 and a Supercharger

The change is smooth. You leave the desert and the mighty canyon and slowly pine trees start dotting the land. First, sparsely, then ever more densely until you find yourself in the midst of an alpine pine forest. The heat is replaced by the chill of altitude and mist: two seasons in one day. Then you see it, a brown sign post with "Historic Route 66" written on it.
Route 66... The mythical westward road, the road of dreams and of an era. The road that all roadtrip lovers have to experience. The ultimate bucket list wish.
We start our Route 66 journey in Flagstaff, Arizona, a town that proudly celebrates the myth of the Road and of the 1950s when the Road was bustling with traffic and dreams. We seem to be in a 1950s movie set and quickly immerse ourselves in the surrounding mood.
Alas, for all my sins there's a Tesla supercharger nearby and we are swiftly transported back into the future when my EV-crazy husband pays his visit to the epitome of modern-age driving. Here we go again...

sábado, 4 de novembro de 2017

Day 11: Horseshoe Bend

You walk the walk, endure the sun, the heat, the heat and the sun and then there's glory. Glory before you and your stupified eyes. Suddenly you're inside the pages of National Geographic, the only difference being your National Geographic is real. Life doesn't get much better than this.
An emerald-green river bends the rocky landscape. You become aware of the millions of years before you and can't help but feel insignificant, a speck of dust. Here where the Colorado River has sculpted the Canyon into a colossal horseshoe (hence the name) you are less than a speck of dust.
Horseshoe Bend is actually the Eastern rim of the Grand Canyon, "grand" the befitting adjective to describe its magnificence and majesty. All around, infinite miles of a rust-red, lifeless landscape of solid rock. The desert doesn't prepare you for this unexpected sight. An abrupt abyss cuts through the rock and at the bottom, a peaceful green river meanders slowly. What a paradoxical sight.
It's on moments like these you can say you could die now that you'd die happy. Moments like these are the kind of life treasures you take with you to your resting grave. Yes, when I die, I'll die happier than if I'd die without ever having been here. Difficult idea to convey but a mesmerisingly simple feeling to feel...

terça-feira, 24 de outubro de 2017

Day 11: When the going gets tough...

... the tough get tougher. If I'm not tough, I'm probably a bit off. There are two problems with the circumstances that led me to the predicament of no-compliance with the dress-code (or better: shoe-code) featured on the warning sign I was supposed to respect. First, much as I wished to be a traveller, I'm a just another bloody tourist. Second, reading too much National Geographic and watching too much Discovery Channel makes you want to go places: all places. That and my life-long infatuation with David Attenborough... Anyway, going back to the warning sign. Extreme heat: check (it was 45ºC/113ºF, eat that!). One bottle of water per person: check (see the bag I'm carrying? Packed with bottles of water). Wear hat: check (since when don't I wear a hat in summer?). No sandals: sorry, you won't catch me in trekking shoes anytime soon. No can do.
The warning signs were conspicuous. Threatening. Meant to infuse you with, if not terror, at least apprehension as to what you might be venturing into. I confess a part of me took the warnings seriously. After years of derring-do in this vast world that might have gone terribly wrong (and some that did), I have learnt to be humble in the presence of untamed Nature. The signs were there for a reason.
I assumed there wouldn't be any snakes lurking on the path I was to follow until I reached the Majesty I had come to see, so the sandals wouldn't be much of a problem. The heat and the (lack of) water were the main concerns. Equipped with plenty of water, sun-glasses and water, we ventured into the wilderness and walked the almost two miles that separated us from our goal under the scorching sun. To say it was burning hot is literally an understatement. 
Did we survive to tell the story? I guess we did or I wouldn't be here giving notice of things past. What was at the end of our walk is something my eyes will never forget and neither will I...

sábado, 21 de outubro de 2017

Intermission: New book out

Proudly presenting: my latest novel, "Da Gaveta", literally "From the Drawer".
With thanks to the fantastic editorial team at Coolbooks, my Portuguese publisher within the Porto Editora Group. You guys rock!
You can all take a peak at:

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.