Other than an occasional rental car in California, I don’t recall ever driving much west of the Mississippi river. For a variety of reasons my driving has been done almost entirely in the eastern half of the U.S.

That is why, for me, this particular stretch of driving was so dramatic and powerful. While I have seen the mountains of New Mexico and Arizona on television, and in books, it can’t compare to seeing the huge expanse of landscape stretching out to the horizon. I travelled miles at times without seeing any sign of civilization—only the natural beauty of the red soil and the layered colors that makes up many of the surrounding mountains and cliffs.

I have spent my entire life basically living in three cities: Detroit, Philadelphia, and Indianapolis. Certainly the eastern U.S., and even the Midwest, has a relatively high population density. This means that it is rare to go more than a mile or so anywhere and not see some sign of humankind (a house, a gas station, something). On this leg of the trip there were so many times where there were no towns, no houses, and no signs. Just the pristine, stark beauty of the western landscape.

Because of my frequent stops on this section of the trip I wound up getting into Flagstaff after dark.

Wide open spaces indeed!

--Larry Spears [Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010]