Crossing the border into Arizona, we stop on a whim at the Petrified Forest National Park. This is not your average Route 66 stop. It’s a geological goldmine – a sliver of the famous badlands called the Painted Desert, with Triassic-era fossils just littering the ground.
Sal slows Horatio to a crawl and we stare in silence at the bizarre, twisted rocks and black piles of stones. We stop at nearly every pullout – the panoramic views are terribly beautiful and otherworldly, like shots from the Mars rover.
There is a quiet to this land that settles into my chest. My thoughts are snuffed out and I can only stare numbly at the alien land. I feel like a space or time traveler, treading over logic boundaries.
This wood is also rock. It’s incredible. I can’t show you in this photograph; you have to touch it yourself. It’s a freaking rock. I’m touching a 200 million year old tree rock. It glimmers quartz colors and sublime glory.
Deep down in this ravine, there is a stone where our ancestors carved shapes. They mean things, mystic things. One of the symbols is a triangle man with bendy arms – I used to doodle this man in my notebooks in geography class. I am looking at my own triangle man, but it is thousands of years old and carved in a rock.
Hours elapse before we escape the Painted Desert. Miles and miles later, the quiet strangeness lingers.
Our road trip across America is supposed to be a homecoming, but it is feeling more like an expedition. Everything out here – the way people speak, the slope of the hills, the color of the land, even the smell of the wind is strange to me. I curl up in the passenger seat of Horatio, and stare at the red earth and quiet, wind swept sky. London feels very far away, and too, my sense of home.