Subaru Mission - A Driving Adventure

in TravelFeed4 months ago (edited)

This past week I have hardly been active on Hive, and not without a good reason either: I was gone on a longer road trip. A friend of mine asked me to pick up a car for her in Taos, New Mexico, and drive it down to Los Angeles. Now most people who know me would immediately say: "But David, you don't even drive!" And sure, while it may be true that I've never owned a car, and hence my practice of operating a motor vehicle is rather minimal, it doesn't mean that I can't drive, or that I'm not allowed to. My German driver's license is still valid.

Getting out to Taos - Riding the American Railroad

Instead of flying, an option that is as stressful as it is wasteful, not to mention uncertain in this time of Covid, the most obvious choice was taking the train. As soon as I boarded the Amtrak at Union Station in Los Angeles, I remembered the undeniable upsides to riding a train: it's much quieter than a plane, has steadier movement and better views than a bus, and more legroom than any other option, plus the freedom to walk around, buy a drink at the snack bar, or relax in the panorama car, looking out at the landscape of the Great American West gliding past.

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We pulled out of L.A. at six p.m. and reached the edge of California by sundown. Sleeping on the train was quite comfortable, with luxurious reclining seats, and additional room due to generously spaced passengers according to the Covid restrictions. As usual, I spent my time reading, listening to music, or talking to other passengers. The only thing missing from a perfect ride was the WiFi, which I had assumed would be an obvious complement, especially of the Los Angeles - Chicago connection. Come on, Amtrak, join the rest of us in the 21st century!

Long Delay in Albuquerque

As we got into Albuquerque, the conductor announced a bit of a delay to do some locomotive issues: just a routine maintenance, we were told, and we would be rolling again in no time. When after an hour we were still standing still, another passenger told me he had talked to the engineers working on the locomotive, and they said that they needed a spare part - the one they were given was the wrong size - so it seemed like we'd have to wait for another few hours. Oh no!

I didn't have much further to go by train, and then cover the last stretch to Taos on a couple of buses. So instead of waiting around for the rest of the afternoon, I decided to look for an alternative. Not an easy thing during the Covid contingency, which still had most alternative shuttle services crippled. Renting a car also deemed impossible, as this gentleman did not have a major credit card (F*ckin' A!) So after a few hours of futile turns in Albuquerque I returned to the train, which incidentally was about to be fixed. The overall delay was four hours, for which the train company tried to make up by handing out tiny snacks and a small bottle of water to every passenger. Wow, how generous of you, Amtrak!

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Back in Earthship Country

Thanks to an Uber ride provided by the owner of the car I was going to retrieve, I managed to arrive in Taos before sundown. The friends who were taking care of the vehicle received me warmly with a delicious dinner, a pleasant conversation, and a guest cabin to sleep in. The next morning I was ready to get rolling in the beautiful Subaru Outback. I was so excited!

Before leaving Taos I had to gather a number of odds and ends, pick up a bicycle and a harmonium, empty a mailbox, and get some items from a storage unit. Once I was done with all this, I could not resist visiting the Greater World community to check out the Earthships I had been working on when I attended the Academy six years ago. I was in for a bit of a letdown.

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Approaching the site I could see from far away that the most impressive building called Eve was still in an unfinished state. The guy at the visitors' center informed me that the permit for this building had not been renewed, so the front facade still had plastic sheets in its gigantic windows instead of glass. Such a shame! On the upside, they had developped a new Earthship model, named Encounter. It is a cheaper and more efficient version of the already successful Global model.

Driving Across the Southwest

It was about midday when I finally left Taos. Following Google's instructions on my phone, I drove down to Santa Fe, then on to Albuquerque, from where I got on the Interstate going West towards Flagstaff, Arizona. At first the roads were small and curvy with sporadic traffic, along the Rio Grande. Gradually the highways became wider, multi-laned, and by the time I reached Albuquerque they were busy with vehicles. It didn't take me long to get used to the car. The Subaru ran beautifully, picking up speed nicely when necessary, in spite of its automatic transmission. This was actually the aspect I really appreciated about it, as it gave me one less thing to pay attention to.

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When I got into Flagstaff, I had proudly completed five hundred miles. The last hour was the most painful one, as I had to drive straight into the setting sun. Towards the end even my sunglasses and the visors of the car were useless for blocking the glare. Eventually the red ball in the sky descended beyond the San Francisco Peaks, and I arrived to my destination of the night: a simple motel in one of the most picturesque towns of the West.

I've always loved Flagstaff. The cool mountain air meeting the warm sun created a lovely mix of clear freshness and cozy heat. Other than the beautiful mountainous landscape, Flagstaff offers a bit of an outdoorsy hipster flare, with lots of camping stores, organic coffee and craft beer. I felt I fit right in driving a Subaru station wagon. I couldn't enjoy this beautiful place as much as I wanted to, as I still had quite a way to go that day: I wanted to reach California, preferably before sunset.

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Taking one Interstate after the other, I developed a sense for following the flow of traffic without going too far past the speed limit. Meanwhile the landscape changed from coniferous forests to deserty brushland. Once I reached the I-8 in Southern Arizona, I found myself on a flat, straight, and empty road going West. All I needed to do was hold the wheel, keep a steady foot on the gas, and skip through radio stations playing country, rock, and norteña music.

Back in Familiar Country

Towards the end of the day I finally made it to my friend's property, where I was going to spend the night. I had been there a few years before, so it filled me with a bit of nostalgia seeing the place again. It was the same, yet so much different. The caretaker of the land had been at hospital, and even now he doesn't seem likely to get better to return to the property. Consequently, the infrastructure on the land has started on a road to decay. A sad development in a way, though at the same time it is a potential opportunity to make great things happen. And yes, there are some amazing plans in development.

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I spent the night sleeping in the car, stretching out in the back of the station wagon. I didn't have much further to go. San Diego was only a couple of hours away, where I met up with my friend, and we went to visit the elderly caretaker, being taken care of by his niece. Then we headed up to Los Angeles, arriving once again around nightfall. By the time I parked the car, it was 1,160 miles older, and my driving experience that much richer. But this is just the beginning... let's see what adventures this car, and the property are going to take us on!

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Awesome trip! I haven't been on one in quite some time and miss the adventure. Looking forward to reading about more adventures in the car. BTW I am with you about train travel. It is the best!

Well, when it comes to the bestest way to travel I still think nothing can beat a bicycle, but to cover long distances fast, a train is probably the most ideal option.

I like to drive and enjoy a good road trip. I've done the Colorado to east coast round trip 3 times. I'm still thinking about an eventual western trip through Montana and into California.

I thought that you are based in Mexico... I recently saw your posts about the modified Earthship in Mazunte. I'm currently working with a group to create a place for community at a ranch in the mountains an hour or so from the Huatulco area.

Ideally, I'd like to participate in several communities around the world and am interested in finding something that fits in the US as well. The mountains are my natural environment and I do love the southwest. After 6 months in the Mexico jungle I'm pretty sure that I can adapt to anything :).

If/when you return to Oaxaca it would be great to meet you in person and have you up to the ranch for a visit.

Yes, indeed I am based in Mexico. Mexico City to be exact. Not the most ideal place to live, which is why I would like to find a better one to move to. I've been looking at properties around Mazunte, where I have been involved in the construction of the Earthship theater. It's beautiful down there, though being right on the coast has its drawbacks. I don't like it if it's TOO touristy, and also a bit higher up in the mountains the climate is better for my own taste, as well as for growing things. San José del Pacifico is a place I have heard good things about, and San Mateo even more so. But I still haven't checked them out for myself. Of course one of the most important factor is having good neighbors, that is, people who have things in common with you. So I just love reading that you are creating a community with like minded folks. I would be excited to meet up with you when I return, probably around October.

I've lived in Colorado for 20 years and so like the elevation and drier climate but there's a really short growing season. The ranch is at about 1000ft (300m) so it has a different climate than the beach areas with a lot more rain. Also, there is a beautiful river that runs along one of the property borders. Our website is just coming online if you'd like to check it out: https://www.ranchomukuna.org/

I'm thinking about building a proper earthship here but I'm not sure if I need the full earth berm tire wall since the climate here is warm/hot all year round. Of course the thermal mass may be a good way to keep things cool...

We passed through San José del Pacifico on our road trip from Oaxaca City. Definitely a cooler climate and a cute little town nestled in the pine trees.

You can message me directly if you are on @eco-alex's commuity website: https://www.ecovillages.io/communitynetwork/

I am making plans to travel this fall, but either way the ranch would love to have you for a visit!

Ooooh, talking about the growing season! My friend's friends in Taos, at whose place I picked up the Subaru, told me the same thing: Their last frost this year was just a few weeks ago in June!!! And then on the other end,things start falling apart in October, but sometimes even by late September. So yeah, that climate is just begging for an insulated thermal mass, with a big greenhouse on the southern front. In Mazunte it's a whole different ball game. There constant ventilation and cooling is the objective, so no south-facing windows there, and also no greenhouse, but the big berm with cooling tubes does the trick. What could also work, I think, is an open, indoor cistern, even though our building is going to have a regular curried one.

I just checked out the Mukuna site. I'm so excited to visit. Actually I was about to write them an e-mail, but thought that I really would like to mention you, except for... Are you known there as dmwh too? --- Ah, just checked, and saw your message. Awesome! I'm so happy about connecting. :-)

That indoor cistern is an interesting idea. It would create a micro climate inside the building... Thumbs up on the cooling tubes. I may try using something similar in a casita that is being built now using adobe bricks. It would be more of a geothermal system with buried piping in the ground rather than in a berm.

You are welcome to send your Mazunte friends the website link. I'll DM you my email address and you can copy me in if you'd like.

I'm down in Crucecita right now and enjoyed 2 visits to the beach today. I love it.

Exciting things are happening all over!

At the Earthships Academy in Taos our classroom had an open indoor cistern, and it was considered a "failure" because it made the place uncomfortably cold. But in tropical climates it's exactly what you want. In fact you could have a well designed system of open canals trickling through the living area. Combine cooling, aesthetics, and irrigation, plus the relaxing sound of flowing water.

Cool write up. I love roadtrips, especially when there is time to take breaks and visit the area 🙂
Thanks for sharing.

For sure... But if I had all the time I wanted, I would probably never arrive, hehehe!

I don't even remember when was the last time I was on the road trip. (Wait I think it was back in 2018 with my brother). And the stupid virus certainly did ruin my plans.
But thanks for the post. As it revived my missing sense of adventure. Maybe after the crisis is over I would go for Goa.

I have no idea of the places you've talked about and the only reference is the Breaking Bad show. So... I am imagining the places from the show.

Source

Hehehe, yeah Braking Bad certainly put Albuquerque on the map! The region has some wonderful nature, by the way, and many many interesting things. Certainly worth a visit. And yeah, I feel the same way about India: no idea! Goa? The only thing that comes to mind is electronic music, but I'm sure there way more than that. Would love to visit it sometime.

Goa is a party place in India.
Even I would love to visit it someday. Haven't been able to visit goa yet. XD
I almost got off from work to get there but thanks to Corona, I am now in a Red Zone.
:-) But nothing lasts forever that the good thing in this situation.

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What a fab trip - made me hungry for the open road! Looks like a smooth ride (contrasting the Series 3 Landie we are working on haha). I love a train journey - by all accounts trains are pretty empty these corona days...