Tom Robbins – Still Life With Woodpecker
I walked around Gallup aimlessly. The downtown area is actually quite interesting; all sorts of shops and trading posts selling kachinas and fetishes. It’s all very nice to look at…just to walk around and experience it.
I went into the Rex Museum and was met by an overeager volunteer who gave me several pamphlets about Gallup and the surrounding area. I wanted to look at the exhibits in the front area but he kept talking. He asked me why I was in Gallup.
“I’m on a road trip,” I said.
“Oh, where are you going?” he asked.
“I’m not sure.”
Then, like many other strangers I’ve met, he saw this as an opportunity to go through a litany of things I should do before leaving the Gallup area, none of which I remember. And then he asked another common question.
“Are you with friends? A girlfriend? Family?”
“No, just by myself.”
After Calico and Baker, I decided to go through part of the Mojave National Preserve. The drive is just this magnificent deathscape—the road surrounded on either side by arthritic, winding Joshua trees and sand everywhere. I may have passed three other cars on the entire drive, which, for me, spanned a loop of about 80 miles from Interstate 15 to Kelso to Cima and then back to Interstate 15. You really do get this keen sense of complete human isolation out there. The landscape is dry, rolling, infinite, and you pass through these hills, your car undulating as if on a roller coaster. In the distance, treeless dunes shift with the harsh desert winds, and the black, volcano-tarred hills rise like ashy shoulder blades. And it’s really something to behold.