The First Trip in New Baleau- Autumn of 1981 A Leave of Absence Leads to a Most Memorable Trip Part V

I found Taliesin West still in a remote desert setting, in spite of the encroaching suburban sprawl. Fortunately, the school’s foundation had purchased an ample amount of acreage surrounding F. L. Wright’s masterpiece in order to preserve the pristine grounds. Wright’s passion for the use of indigenous materials so as to harmonize both building and landscape was never more evident than at Taliesin….”Falling Water” near Pittsburgh should be a close second. The stone, wood, and steel seemed to erupt from the Arizona turf. It was built to last, like a desert perennial.

On the way back through town, I purposely went by way of Van Buren Street, just to give a few facetious farewell waves to the “street ladies”. Old Buckeye Road took me west parallel to an uncompleted link of I-10. I thought that rather strange, since the proposed right-of-way had been cleared of all obstructions for some time (weeds and grass were quite evident). And it wasn’t as if the road gang had to negotiate any natural barriers, such as I-70 faced through Glenwood Canyon in Colorado. The terrain was as flat as Indian feet. As the skyline of Phoenix finally disappeared in the shimmering heat (yes, even in October), I was thinking how miraculous it was for all that to have “risen from the ashes”. I made a left turn at Buckeye, then headed due south to Gila Bend where I hooked a right onto I-8.

The milepost read: San Diego – 289. I. was really getting into desert country – land that, at first sight, appeared void of any animal or plant life. But there were plenty of desert denizens out there all right….creatures, critters, and reptiles …a plethora of wildflowers and miniature cacti. Life was small and delicate, but extremely durable to the hot, harsh climate. I thought of the contrasting similarities between the desert life and that which survived above the timber line (12,000 feet elev.) in the Colorado Rockies. It all made me realize that everything put on God’s earth had its purpose, no matter how infinitesimal they seemed to be. A truck pulling a refrigerated trailer, with “Haagen-Dazs” inscribed on the side, passed me. The though of cold, moist ice cream in that arid afternoon made me conjure up ways to hijack a forty-ton 18-wheeler. Another milepost read: Yuma-16. I checked my watch, it read 2:54. I fantasized rolling in to town as the “3:10 to Yuma”. The only thing that saved Yuma from extinction was that it sat on the edge of the great Colorado River – or what little there was left of it.

About 300 miles upriver, wedged in between the canyon walls like an inverted concrete shim, was that incredible engineering feat called Hoover Dam, backing up a wall of water 500 feet in depth. The amount of electricity generated there was astronomical. Every marquee light, casino slot, and hotel commode on “The Strip” depended on rhe Colorado, not to mention, potable and irrigation water for parts of four different states (Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California). I was recalling that I had crossed two other rivers while still in Colorado – the Arkansas and the Rio Grande, both of which supplied water for yet four more states downriver (New Mexico, Texas, Kansas, and Arkansas). And probably about 90% of all that water came from the Great Annual Spring Thaw on both sides of Colorado’s Continental Divide. Well, that’s enough chest-pounding about my favorite state’s efficacious resources. After two weeks on the road, I was in California.

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