The Open Road: a collection of moments

The open road : I carve out a week, maybe more and gather a rough plan of where I'm headed. One thing is certain. I'm going north to escape the incessant southern Arizona heat. I tuck my Delorme maps under the front seat of my car and head down the open road. The moments between where I've been and where I'm going begin to stretch out like a low frequency hum. My body soaks in the open space all around me. Time slows down and possibilities are endless. My mind is free to wander and roam. 

 Northern Arizona highway ( photo by Gabrielle Pietrangelo)

Northern Arizona highway (photo by Gabrielle Pietrangelo)

My body feels the vibration of the road: The days and hours behind me dissolve. I am a wanderer. Taking in the many shades of New Mexico blue ~turquoise, azure, sky blue, the blue I saw as a kid. Weight of adulthood lifts. The wind, the open sky, my sense of direction moves me forward from center. I'm not in a hurry. That city self, the to-do-list, the sense of obligation to resolve and become, softens.

 On Highway 4 near Jemez, New Mexico  (photo by Gabrielle Pietrangelo)

On Highway 4 near Jemez, New Mexico (photo by Gabrielle Pietrangelo)

On a dirt road: The odometer reads 16 miles in. My dog Daisy, eager to get closer to the good smells of the earth and what's left of the day, leads the way to Chaco Canyon. I've never been before. But maybe it's my spirit that remembers this place because the way the waning light touches the open desert feels like I'm returning. The nostalgic sense of it all is mixed up in thinking about how I need to find a campsite before we lose light. 

 Back road to Chaco Canyon, New Mexico  (photo by Gabrielle Pietrangelo)

Back road to Chaco Canyon, New Mexico (photo by Gabrielle Pietrangelo)

The ocotillo are blooming: It's mid-spring and just before this place becomes inhospitable with temperatures reaching over 100 degrees. I find myself many miles into the deepest solitude of earth & sky I've known. I'm riding on the top of my friend's truck, holding on to the spare tire mounted on his roof. The ancient desert rolls out like mythical poetry. I'm a Sonoran native but I've never seen desert like this. The stretch of creosote in all directions feels like a hug. Grandma desert loving me up. 

 Pinacate Wilderness, Mexico Sonora  (photo by Gabrielle Pietrangelo)

Pinacate Wilderness, Mexico Sonora (photo by Gabrielle Pietrangelo)

Waking up down a forest service road: I'm somewhere in the San Juan Mountains, many days into a camping trip with my dog Daisy. I haven't showered in over a week. But in Southern Colorado you can find endless streams, rivers and lakes to jump in, with cold snow-melt water even in late July. The sun has just inched over the mountain ridge, creating a soft purple light on everything. It's quiet except for the sound of the creek that runs along the road and Daisy sniffing in some greenery. 

 Forest Service Road, San Juan Mountains, Southern Colorado  (photo by Gabrielle Pietrangelo)

Forest Service Road, San Juan Mountains, Southern Colorado (photo by Gabrielle Pietrangelo)

In the land of Georgia O'Keeffe: 10 miles from Ghost Ranch and down a dusty road that leads to the Chama River.  I'm foot planted in a living painting. I'm standing on the red-dirt padded ground. I'm taking refuge in the earth & sky of Northern New Mexico. 

 Forest Service road near Abiquiu, New Mexico  (photo by Gabrielle Pietrangelo)

Forest Service road near Abiquiu, New Mexico (photo by Gabrielle Pietrangelo)

Into the unknown: The open space of this majestic high desert speaks to my soul. It feels like coming home. My body takes in the smell of sage and the earth opening up to the promise of rain. The monsoons are rolling in dark and heavy. I'm headed towards the unknown. This sweet, vulnerable, human life stretches out like an open road.  I find myself in the expanse between where I've been and where I'm going. And it's enough. 

 Tune Drive near the Manby Hotsprings, New Mexico  (photo by Gabrielle Pietrangelo)

Tune Drive near the Manby Hotsprings, New Mexico (photo by Gabrielle Pietrangelo)