Goodbye, Arizona.

Today, we said goodbye to Arizona, but we did it in the best way I could imagine.

I woke up in the chintzy, partially-haunted, historic RV park on Route 66, watched the sun glaze the tips of the distant mountain in soft light, and curled back under the blankets in an attempt to do a body scan meditation — which immediately put me back to sleep. Eventually, I stumbled out of bed, showered, threw on some clothes, and we made an early trip to nearby Bearizona.

Bearizona is a drive-thru wildlife park, and — honestly — I wasn’t looking forward to it. I just imagined it would be an overblown tourist trap, with a few animals you could barely see. I am happy to say that my assumptions were completely wrong about this. For the first part of the experience, you drive through these open areas where goats, sheep, wolves, buffalo, and bears wandered about very close to the RV. We took amazing pictures of all of the animals, and I got to see White Buffalo, which was an amazing, spiritual experience for me since they are regarded as such sacred animals. After the drive-thru section, we were able to go through a walk-in zoo area where we could see different types of small animals (porcupines, beavers, foxes) and also baby animals — specifically, the baby bears! There were about eight 4-month-old bear cubs in this open, wooded area, romping about, climbing trees, chewing on each other’s ears, and being bundles of overall cuteness. We also spent some time in a petting zoo where I had a weirdly spiritual experience petting a goat (Look — it’s okay) and a peacock escaped and started running amok around the zoo, eventually hopping into the porcupine’s pen to share lunch with him.

After our awesome experience at Bearizona, we started in our Route 66 adventure. We got off on Route 66 a few miles before Seligman, AZ, and drove into the city on the Mother Road, stopping on the edge of town to do some tourist shopping and take some crazy pictures of the historical landmarks. We had a really delicious lunch at The Roadkill Cafe (Thomas and I shared a Buffalo Burger — and, no, I’m not sure how a Buffalo got on the roadkill menu; I thought it better not to ask.) I also sampled the Mother Road beer while I was there, which was very passable. After we finished at the Roadkill Cafe, we backtracked slightly to get chocolate malts at Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In, and then we continued on Route 66 to The Hackberry General Store where we admired their restroom decor and the collection of bizarre signs and kitschy memorabilia that littered the property outside. We continued on to the Route 66 Outpost Saloon for just a little minute to admire the dilapidated windmill before finishing up our Route 66 adventure at a travel center in Kingman which, despite having a reputation of being very RV-friendly, didn’t really seem RV-friendly at all. There was only one RV lane, there wasn’t any clearly-defined RV parking area, and the restrooms were not nearly up to standard. Still, we got some snacks and moved on.

After our stop in Kingman, we began our travel up US-93, and we started trying to hunt for ghost towns. We tried to stop by Cerbat, but the historical markers stated that none of the buildings remained. We stopped at the next historical marker, which told us about the ghost town of Mineral Springs, which we tried to get to but were thwarted by the mining company, who had apparently taken ownership of all roads going up the mountain. We went further on down the road to the town of Chloride, where we finally had a little success. 

We drove up into Chloride, having no idea what we were looking for. We found a couple of old buildings, and a little make-shift play area full of imitation ghost-town buildings. After wandering around for a while, looking at various hippie-inspired homes and quirky shops that had already closed for the day, we decided to take the RV up the mountain a bit to see if we could find any buildings. Instead, we found signs leading us to the “murals,” and we decided to follow them. And we followed them up winding, rocky, unpacked roads, for over a mile, and while the rest of us were saying, “We think this might be a bad idea,” James was adamant: “We’re on an adventure, damnit!” and we continued to climb the mountain. 

When we got to the murals, I was honestly awestruck. I had expected to see some ridiculous things painted by teenagers on rocks above the ghost town. Instead, there was this beautiful, intricate spiritual painting on the rocks of this cliff — about life and death, about love and fertility, about a snake eating his own tail, about different perspectives of astrology, about labyrinths and journeys and discovery. After I stood in awe of the murals for a while, I followed the boys up the rocks and actually climbed about halfway up the remainder of the mountain to a flat rock where I could view the amazing landscape all around us. It was especially significant since, just a few days ago, I would have never even attempted such a thing, and here I was, climbing up the rocks, standing up and surveying the landscape beneath me, feeling as if I had finally mastered my inner honeybadger.

I’ve been traveling around Arizona for days in search of this amazing spiritual experience, and it seemed as if it kept eluding me. Finally, in this isolated town of Chloride, I was able to finally have this experience — to feel at peace with myself, to find my courage, to come to terms with my place in the universe. The murals had a profound effect in me. Climbing the rocks had a profound effect on me. Even creating a completely new space on Foursquare for the murals had a profound effect on me. I felt brave, and full of courage, and like I was trailblazing a path — doing something that few humans had ever done before. 

The rest of the day, we finished our trek up US-93, watching the sun set behind the mountains, and being very fortunate that someone at our RV rental place was willing to assist us in getting settled in for the night. Now, beer and company and friends, and looking over the pictures from the day, and reflecting on the events while writing in my online notebook. In the meantime, I feel good and whole and at peace.

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