If your car has to break down in the middle of the desert on a summer’s day someplace you don’t get any cell reception, a national park is a good place for it to happen. Instead of dying of dehydration or getting stranded for the weekend, you can get federal employees to make phone calls and bring you ice water. If you’re lucky, a kindly family of Dutch tourists will invite you to share their picnic lunch under the ramada.
After a productive week on retreat (15,000 words, 47 layout thumbnails, 5 blog posts, and 3 book reviews, and 1 workshop plus the side trip to the Grand Canyon), my husband instructed me not to come home too fast, so he could have a chance to clean up the evidence of his bachelor lifestyle before I arrived. I decided to check out the Eldon Pueblo before I left Flagstaff. It’s an extremely accessible site compared to a lot of Sinagua ruins, and fairly extensive, and also more pleasant to visit than many, since it’s in a grassy and wooded area rather than on a barren, treeless hill.
From there, I drove 50 miles to one of my favorite places on earth, Montezuma Well, which houses another lovely set of ruins. This is where my car stopped working. Eventually my car and I were towed to a garage, where I spent a cheerful 4 1/2 hours sitting outside (they didn’t have any AC!). Staying true to the spirit of retreat, the first thing I did was sketch my sad, broken down car, sitting in the parking lot, next to some agaves. You can also see the back end of a horse up on the hill.
Mainly, I just tried to stay hydrated and calm and trust that everything would be OK as I drew, read, and wrote. I was lucky to find a decent mechanic willing to put in the overtime to make sure I got home on a Friday afternoon! I was lucky to get an extra 5 1/2 hour adventure in the American southwest. It could have easily been much longer, and much more expensive.