Wild Young Minds: Roadtrip part 3: Arriving in Arizona and a touch of Texas

Friday, February 12, 2016

Roadtrip part 3: Arriving in Arizona and a touch of Texas

Two days after I was supposed to leave California, I finally did. Having said that, can you blame me? Leaving the Golden State behind, with her beautiful sunsets, relaxed people (especially in San Diego!) and mindblowing palm trees. No, it wasn't easy. When I was finally back in the Greyhound, I couldn't help playing one of John Hiatt's best songs. Not ''Have a Little Faith in Me'' no, but ''Adios to California''.  ''Adios to California/Nothing to do but turn around/I always thought there's someone coming for you/Only way you'd leave this town''. Listen to this song, especially for the lyrics. Goddamn beautiful.
Anyway, enough music to listen to, during those 12 (or 14, hard to recall after so many Greyhound trips) hours to Arizona. I'd booked a night ride, and I've found out that I'm not the best sleeper in a bus. So sleeping I didn't do, but in the end, the ride was pretty fast. We made several stops, I read a book or two and before I knew it, we'd arrived in Phoenix. ''What's happening in Phoenix?'' many people in San Diego had asked me. ''I have absolutely no idea'', I'd answered. The main reason I'd planned a stop there, was that my ride from California to Texas would take ages. Better to explore another city in between, I thought. And another thing I was looking forward to, was my stay with the Wells family.
For those of you who follow my page Humans on the Road on Facebook - if not, do so NOW - I've recently featured a short story on the Wells family. The Wells family consists of Jeff, Kate and their two daughters Phoebe and Tessa. Five years ago, Jeff and Kate took leaves from their jobs, sold their car, rented their house and got ready to travel the world. Not just the two of them, but Phoebe and Tessa as well. They were gone for over a year and visited 22 countries: from India to China and from Morocco to Australia. When I came across Kate on Couchsurfing, all I thought was: I have to stay here! Why? Because they did not just travel the world with children, they did almost everything through Couchsurfing. How cool is that?? 
So on Monday morning I arrived in Phoenix and went straight to the Wells' house - which is stunningly beautiful. A pool in the garden, a white interior and a supersonic kitchen. I didn't go in yet, though, since Kate and Jeff were working and Phoebe was at school. So I dropped my stuff in the garden and got ready to explore Phoenix. Kate had emailed me some recommendations, something I'm very thankful for! I first went to her favourite coffee spot, ordered the biggest coffee there was (if I was to survive the day without any sleep, caffeine was necessary, very necessary) and asked the hipster waiters for advices. They wrote down at least six record stores, a few thrift stores and places to see music. 
With the little note in my pocket, I went to explore the city. My first stop was still one of Kate's recommendations: the Phoenix Art Museum. Currently, they were showing a Frida Kahlo exhibition and since I am - together with almost every single young person in the world - a huge fan of her work, I had to see it. It turned out, there was more to the Phoenix Art Museum than just Frida Kahlo. The fixed collection was devoted to the Native Americans that used to live in Arizona. I'd already learned a lot about the Native Americans in my American History class, but this was the first time I could see their influence with my own eyes. 
If you enter Arizona, you are blown away by the artificialness of the city. At least, I was. It's basically a city that's thrown down in a desert area. Kinda like Vegas, but less outrageous, which made it even more surreal to me, in a way. There are rocks everywhere - big rocks - and cactuses and other desert plants. Everything has a dark red colour, and then there there are some buildings randomly placed on a bit of land. The collection showed in a very profound way how the Native Americans were treated, how their faith has changed and how they are abandoned to reservations. Heartbreaking. 

After about an hour, I was up for a more positive story. Frida Kahlo's isn't necessarily, of course, but her art is definitely inspiring. This exhibition wasn't really about her art, though, it was more about her personal life. Interesting too! I saw many photos of her family, her parents, Diego Riviera and all her other lovers. Frida Kahlo was such a free spirit. A second exhibition was about her favourite things, such as her favourite meals, jewellery and clothing. Definitely an educational and culturally engaging morning!

Next up was a walk around the artsy area of Phoenix, which is in the district Roosevelt Row. I hadn't expected Phoenix to be so cool, there were record stores, art galleries and thrift shops everywhere, so I had no problem spending an afternoon there. Typically enough it was raining that afternoon, which is extremely odd, since it supposedly only rains 10 days a year in Arizona. Damn, it has rained at least twice as much in the Netherlands ever since I got back. Dear Dutch readers, imagine living in a place like Arizona...

Anyways, that night I stayed at the Wells family's place and we talked about travelling, couchsurfing and all the plans we had for the future. I've never met a 15-year-old girl as ambitious and world-wise as Phoebe. That's why I honestly think all parents should consider going on a big trip with their children. It makes them more open minded, flexible and, in Phoebe and Emma's case, learn a lot about the position of women in the world and the impact we, as human beings, have on the environment.

The next day I thought my bus was supposed to leave at 10 am, but it turned out to be 10 pm. My parents once made that same mistake, but that time it concerned flight tickets to Portugal, so I was happy my mistake was only minor. Another day to spend in Phoenix! I went to a cool art exhibition and walked around some more, but I soon realized spending two days on your own is more boring than I thought, and Phoenix was not the most exciting place on my trip. I did enjoy a great meal at the Wells' house again, after which Kate made me an amazing lunch package (so sweet!) for the next day, that included granola bars, fruit, nuts and even a package with powder to make chocolate milk.
I definitely needed that survival kit, since my bus ride to San Antonio lasted 22 (22!) hours. I had had such a long bus ride - six hours longer actually - before, but that time Lavi was sitting next to me, which meant more entertainment. This time, I was on my own, and surrounded by crazy Greyhound people. It was a very exhausting ride, but I was excited to finally enter Texas. Texas, the state I thought I'd never experience, because for me, Texas meant Bush, guns and ignorant people. I was told Austin was one of the coolest city in the States, though, with a lively music scene. Besides, I was eager to see another side of America, since I'd been to so many liberal cities (San Francisco on top) already, and I wanted to know what the country side would look like.
The country side in Texas is pretty boring, I can tell you. We were driving for ages, until I finally saw some houses. It's all kinda flat and the western rodeo's I expected to see, were nowhere to be found. When I arrived in San Antonio, there was just a bit more life. I have no idea why I decided to spend a night in San Antonio, but I guess it sounded exotic. So I'd arranged to stay at a young couple, who had done a huge motorcycle trip through South-America. The guy, Justin, picked me up in a cool Cadillac, which he drove because he was a sales agent at Cadillac. Could it get more American? :) Lana, his wife, was a yoga teacher, who was teaching a lesson when I got to their place. We made a veggie pizza afterwards, I took a shower and slept like a lil' baby that night.

The next morning I took a walk along the Riverside, which is magnificent, I strolled around in the Mexican style old town and enjoyed the super hot sun on my face. The shop owners were excited to meet a solo traveller - a girl even! - from Europe and all wished me the best in Texas. These people definitely had never left their state. I was surprised by their kindness, but realized later on, that it probably had lots to do with the fact that I was a young, white girl. If I'd looked any different... Well, I guess I shouldn't have too many prejudices, since not all people from Texas vote Trump. Something I was to find out the same evening in Austin... To be continued!

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