While I am too old for Spring Break in Daytona or South Padre or Cancun, I am not too old for Spring Break.
Sedona, Arizona is a weird town. It has the same sort of hippies-turned-yuppies-turned rich vibe as Oak Park — expensive folk art and herbal-scented acupuncture and smug leaflets aplenty. The scenery, though, is a lot better. It’s what a tour guide to Mars would look like, if Mars had scrub brush and cactuses. We spent a couple of days there at the front end of the trip. Hiked up something called Devil’s Bridge, which is the sort of terrifying and breathtaking natural rock formation that would have collapsed out from under my hero, Wile E. Coyote, the instant he reached the center. With this indisputable video evidence of disaster lodged firmly in my brain, I was reticent to walk across the bridge after hiking three miles out to it, until it was pointed out to me that dying in the manner of the great Wile E. would be a proud death for me. This being true, I did, and it was worth it.
We also went kayaking. I have done this once or twice, but on a lake or the Gulf of Mexico, not a river. The river is different. There’s no need to steer, really. From the river’s point of view, you’re basically big litter. You have a paddle to make minute adjustments, but mostly it’s a ride. My favorite part of the kayak trip was when the guy who drove us in a van to the launch point explained that the river was “Not that high right now. It’s moving at 363 cubic feet per second. A cubic foot is about the size of a basketball. So just imagine 363 basketballs moving past you every second, and that’s how fast the river is going.”
I have what I would consider a normal amount of experience with basketballs, and I’m not sure he could have given me a less useful measure. A river of basketballs passing at 363 of them per second? Why not just tell me that the trip length is .00000000000850539 light years? I have no idea how fast 363 basketballs a second is. You could tell me that Niagara Falls flows at that rate and I wouldn’t argue. You could also tell me that’s the flow rate of an elementary school drinking fountain. It would have genuinely been more helpful if he had just made up a word. “The river flows at 11 limfrads per zimbu. That’s pretty light.” I’d have focused on “pretty light” and been fine.
I asked about what a normal number of basketballs was. “A month ago it was twelve hundred basketballs per second, and we had to close the tour for a few days.” Valuable context there, pal.
After Sedona, we rolled northeast. I had long wanted to see Meteor Crater, which even I cannot describe justly. I thought it would be cool to see a crater. It was. I was not — am not — able to describe the size of this crater. It would take several billion basketballs to fill it. The visitor center has a very satisfying computer program wherein you can simulate the destruction of Earth with various celestial projectiles; also enjoyable.
We then pointed the rented Santa Fe toward America’s most gloriously pointless tourist attraction: Four Corners Monument. Four Corners is the spot where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona intersect, and it is 250 miles from anywhere significant. The good news is, the 500-mile trip is spectacular. The Arizona side is a Navajo reservation that looks like a cross between a Roadrunner cartoon and Mars. It is completely unearthly and breathtakingly gorgeous. The New Mexico side — Route 64, the “high road” — crosses about 20 different environments: mountain peaks, farmland, rolling hills, desert, vineyards, used-to-be-under-the-sea, quarries, plains, high plains … you get the idea.
A+ Spring Break, even without shots and wet T-shirts.