The Daily(ish) Review: Arizona
I like travel writing. I often wish I were better about relentlessly pursuing my own experiences, but that doesn't mean we can't strike a balance between doing things and taking time to see the world through other people's eyes. Hmm, that sounds a little cheesy. Maybe I should have stopped at "I like travel writing."
One of the reasons I like travel writing is that I'm trying to get better at it. It's not easy to write a succinct piece that invites others along for the ride and that avoids becoming an exercise in record keeping or an endless parade of photos. I think this one did a pretty good job.
On an Arizona Road Trip, Miles of Family Firsts (Joe Drape, 12 June 2018)
"Behind us was Tucson and three days of living like old-time movie stars at the glamorous Arizona Inn, a hideaway in the heart of one of the nation’s funkiest university towns. Ahead of us were the mystical red rocks of Sedona and, as the trip’s headliner, the Grand Canyon."
- I liked the introduction. A little unconventional. It provides the reader with a concise roadmap for where the article is headed, and where it's been. I got the feeling I'd just landed in the car with the author, somewhere along I-10, maybe near Picacho Peak.
"We were in the middle of Arizona, however, when I understood that we were on a family vacation to remember, one that my wife and I would cherish and one that our soon-to-be-teenage son would certainly tell his children about.
What makes for a great family vacation? It’s more than the sights seen or adventures endured. It’s a feeling of cohesion and shared discovery, surprises and simple pleasures."
- Well said.
"I first experienced this in 1976 with a drive east from Kansas City in a Ford LTD to celebrate the country’s bicentennial. I saw our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., for the first time, then was on to Philadelphia where the Declaration of Independence was signed and the Constitution crafted, and finally we pulled into New York City where the tall ships were gathered in the harbor."
- I think I was in NYC at the same time. Almost positive we were there for the bicentennial. I remember seeing the tall ships.
"This was February and the state was in the midst of a cold spell, but we were comfortable in our fleeces, and watching the sun set was ethereal. We had climbed in near silence and remained that way. We were atop the trail for sunset and it was like watching the lights being dimmed on Mars."
- Interesting. It looks like the article was posted in June. If so, it's a nice counterweight to the normal frenzied pace of online articles. This is more reflective, less hurried. Thank goodness there are still publications with the resources for this sort of writing.
"We got more ambitious the following morning, hiking the Courthouse Butte Loop, an invigorating four-mile route with a shifting landscape. There are juniper and agave and desert gardens. Sheer walls give way to spider web crevices. The thin layer of ice on the washes sparkled in the sunshine, and occasionally a covey of birds exploded from beneath the brush, adding cymbals to an otherwise easy listening classical movement."
- That's good writing.
"Their enchiladas were a perfectly blend of cheese and chicken smothered (not soaked) in a savory red sauce."
- Ding ding ding. Found one. No, I'm not gloating. As I always try to point out here, I'm not trying to sharpshoot anyone. Typos happen all the time. I would like to do more freelance editing, though, so I need to build a portfolio of sorts. Full disclosure - I have called out people for typos on Twitter a couple of times, but I have regretted it each time. That platform can be ugly. I've definitely added to the ugliness. When you go for the low-hanging grammar fruit, you've pretty much admitted that you haven't got an actual point or argument.
"The chef and owner Jeff Smedstad’s travels across Oaxaca, Veracruz and Puebla pay off in an assortment of entrees like the chicken chilaquiles (smoked chicken and tortillas simmered in guajillo sauce) and a vegetable relleno with seared vegetables and apples, pecans, pumpkin seeds and pepita crema. (Be ready to stand in line, though, the Elote Café does not accept reservations.)"
- I need to eat.
"There were 10 of us altogether and Mr. Dana was a true pro, with insightful patter on everything, including the history and customs of the Navajos, whose land we were crossing on our 90-minute drive to the star attraction."
- Learn something new every day. I thought the plural of Navajo was Navajo. Here's what Merriam-Webster has to say:
"We were quiet, serene even. This was a sacred place and I was fortunate to be sharing it for the first time with my family. We had been taken out of our worlds. We were discovering that we liked to discover things together."
Verdict: I really liked this article. Obviously, this kind of travel is expensive and, on the whole, out of reach for a lot of people. But I liked its emphasis on fairly simple activities and shared experiences. You could replicate that in a day trip with friends. This also made me want to re-read Edward Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gang.