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Today is March 15th, the ides of March, and it is the final day of our adventure across and around America. Of course, in my opinion, the last day of any adventure is also the first day of the next adventure. So today, on my last day, I hopped on a very early morning flight to San Angelo, Texas, where I will participate in a week-long well drilling course with a group called Water For All International (http://waterforallinternational.org). I arrived in the morning, and the course officially began today, though bad weather and flight delays (of other students) has held us back a bit. Lauren spent her last/first day on a solitary fifteen and a half hour drive from Tampa, FL, to Searcy, AR. A great time for her to reflect on the past month as well as anticipate the coming ones.

There’s something Robert Frost never told us about that road less traveled: it’s riddled with potholes. Well, we’ve hit a few of them, which is why we’re so behind on our blog. Issue number one was the death of our camera. That’s right, one of our closest companions on the trip straight-up died right in the middle of it. However, we recovered gracefully and optimistically as Lauren’s Aunt lent us her small digital for the next leg of the trip. But then the bigger blow came: just as I had finished writing a long post bringing the blog nearly entirely up-to-date… our computer quit working. Not permanently dead, just a coma we think; but useless for the rest of this trip nonetheless. Worse, we’re pretty sure it’s the hard drive, which begs the question: will we be able to recover all of the photos we’ve taken on this trip (and the graphic design work Lauren’s done)? Or will we lose it all forever? It hurts to even think of it. Our only remaining pictures would be the ones we’ve already posted on this blog, which is so very few. Oh well, we’re staying optimistic for now since we can’t really do anything about it until we have access to another Mac laptop and a firewire cable (that’s how we‘ll try to tap in and save our files from the hard drive). Hopefully we can swing by an Apple store once we get to Austin, and perhaps they can help us out. Other than saving our files, we’re not too worried about the computer since it’s still under warranty. The main thing is that we’ll be way less accessible for the rest of this trip and won’t be able to work on some important things we needed to be doing over the coming week. Hopefully we’ll still get some blog posts up, but expect a deficit of photos for a stretch of time there.

So, those are a couple of the potholes we’ve hit along this road. I guess that’s what we get for not sticking to the interstate.

P.S. Oh yeah, also, on top of all that, it seems I’ve gotten into a batch of poison ivy. Robert Frost never mentioned all the posion ivy down that road either, now did he?

Day 2  (Tuesday, 2/16/2010)

After a good, well-bundled sleep, we woke early Tuesday morning to find a glittering layer of frost on the inside of our tent and a layer of hard ice on the outside. We packed up camp as the sun rose.

Our first stop was a large rock formation, which we took some time to explore. The view was spectacular as we stood on an escarpment overlooking the shrub-ridden plains, blackened and rocky from the lava flows that filled the valley millennia ago.

We took our time heading out of El Malpais, exploring side roads and taking in the beautiful scenery. We followed one sign leading us to a small snow-covered caldera. Such an interesting place of history; we imagined the lava flow slowly turning into cold black rock.

As much as we hated to leave New Mexico, we had to move on. After passing through several more “Indian Reservations” we entered Arizona and immediately headed into the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest. The desert was beautiful and, in its vast expanses, had an interesting way of deceiving our sense of sight, making the dimensions of the hills below quite difficult to discern. The Petrified Forest was likewise fascinating. The highlight, however, came in the form of… you guessed it: petroglyphs. Travis has always wanted to see petroglyphs, especially up close, and today he finally was able to. As a result much of the conversation for the remainder of the day continued to return to how badly Travis wants a time machine.

From there we quickly headed west across Arizona and toward Las Vegas. Flagstaff area was the most scenic and stood in stark contrast to the rest of the state. Around here was the Kaibab National Forest, a place where the trees mimic those of old Yogi Bear cartoons.

We arrived at Hoover Dam right at sunset. “What’s so cool about a dam?” you might ask. We did. But this, this is more than a dam, this is ridiculous. Enormous in breadth, height, and ambition, a modern marvel shoved between towering red cliffs. It is too huge to describe; too absurd to be imagined. And now to top it all a monstrosity of a bridge is being built high above the dam. Just to look at it caused our knees to knock for fear of heights.

In Las Vegas we immediately headed for our hotel, the Orleans, on Tropicana West. After settling in and getting cleaned up (we hadn’t bathed for several days now), we took the free shuttle to the main Strip. Here we explored Caesar’s Palace, the Mirage, Planet Hollywood, and the Flamingo. We watched the volcano erupt at the Mirage and then headed to the Bellagio where we watched the Fountain show, very likely one of the most spectacular exhibits of this sort we have ever seen. We then rushed to catch the last free shuttle back to the Orleans where we could fall into bed and enjoy our warm room for the night.

Morning at our campsite in El Malpais

Overlooking the dried-up lava fields of El Malpais.

Overlooking El Malpais

Painted Desert, AZ

Petroglyphs!!!

Sunset on the the drive toward Las Vegas

Hoover Dam

Las Vegas

The fountains at the Bellagio

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