Roadside attractions cling to a simple request, please stop and look around. Undaunted by Interstate highways, freeways or GPS assertiveness, roadside attractions thrive along paths less traveled. Secondary highways, rural routes and country roads are peppered with roadside treasures capable of tickling curious minds.Rarely a destination, roadside attractions are discovered by those willing to stop and look around.
It never occurred to me roadside attractions could be anything other than serendipitous. Something discovered along the way, chance encounters, emotional tugs, split second acceptance of hopeful invitation to stop and look around. Never a destination until this image entered my life. One unshakeable glimpse at Hand of the Desert catapulted roadside attraction atop life’s bucket list.
The Atacama Desert covers 1,000 kilometers of Chilean coastline. A barren plateau situated in a rain shadow courtesy the Andes and Chilean Coast Range mountains. The driest place on Earth receives less than a millimeter of annual rainfall, weather stations in some regions record decades without a single drop of rain. Cloudless skies, absence of light pollution and high altitude explain why Atacama is home to ALMA, the largest ground telescope observatory in the world.
The coastal city of Antofagasta approached sculptor Mario Irrarazabal to create a work of art in the emptiness of Atacama. In 1992, Hand of the Desert invited travelers to venture an hour south from Antofagasta on Hwy. 5, keep right at a fork in the road to stay on 5, watch sharply for a sign saying Escultura then follow a path to the right. Admission is free, don’t expect ice cream or souvenirs.
Four outstretched fingers and a thumb rising 11 meters above parched landscape in one Earth’s remotest places redefines roadside attraction. Hand of the Desert can’t be stumbled upon, finding it requires purpose. I like that. Nothing could make me happier than an opportunity to stop and look around the Atacama at Hand of the Desert.
Another Mexico City gallery from my husband’s lens –
Stunning Mexico City images from my husband’s lens –
My daughter’s camera found Notes quietly dreaming on a Mexico City bench –
Left Mexico City last night, need time to process before penning thoughts. Meanwhile, a gallery of my husband’s images –
If unable to enlarge images, view at https://www.flickr.com/photos/15574096@N00/
Tonight I allowed myself to step back from work long enough to exclaim “holy crap, you’re flying to Mexico City on Thursday”. In my world booking time off work is mechanical formality, idle vacation chit chat abstract, dedicated planning elusive until holy crap screams “smarten up, stop working long enough to pack a suitcase!”. I’m looking at an empty suitcase, found my passport, tossed a load of laundry in the washing machine and realize packing can wait until after work tomorrow. Not bothered by lack of conventional planning, I’ll be on a plane to Mexico City Thursday evening with or without meticulous preparation. Truth is, I wouldn’t have it any other way. See you when I get home. :
Late August 2017 Lethbridge, Alberta, a perfect morning to watch the Whoop Up Days parade. We settled curbside, seated among families, senior care home residents and a smattering of tourists.Very much a regional celebration, sprinkled with local politicians,dance academies, beauty schools, financial institutions and community services. Local children came prepared for handfuls of candy along the route, loot bag bulges rivaled Halloween.
Along came a multicultural community group – dark skinned children carrying baskets of wrapped candy, beaming generous delight at outstretched hands. The family seated next to us let their children accept multicultural candy, then it got weird. The rising voice of Mom sent chills through an otherwise perfect morning. She meant business, Mom didn’t have to snarl twice – “get over here right now!” – plucked her children from innocence to realities of hand sanitizer brandished with alarming urgency. Rabid purpose dispatched healthy dollops into outstretched hands.
Caught in my stare, Mom blithered half hearted platitudes – “the street is dirty, don’t want them to get sick”. Speechless, I turned away. Refusing to look back when snippets of insane jibber-jabber revealed Mom’s overwhelming need to explain hand sanitizer for strangers on the other side.
This Canadian is grateful for hand sanitizer parade morning. As Canadians we possess an infinite capacity to finger Trump’s America, oblivious or politely indifferent to reality of racism in our back yard. I saw beautiful children full of hope and promise, hand sanitizer Mom saw dirty, inferior children who posed a risk to her family. As Canadians, regardless of faith, demographic or political affiliation, we have to stop hand sanitizing Moms. Next time I won’t look away.
Last Friday sparked seven restorative days on the road with my husband. Seven days isn’t much time, 1,000 miles out, 1,000 miles back, another 1,000 meandering miles in between. Visiting family in Penticton, B.C. and Lethbridge, Alberta lent direction and purpose, far from burden or obligation we embraced structure, but for predetermined structure we might have driven to Kenora, Ontario.
Road trips are a state of mind, for us unspoken understanding of travel without tidy edges. We don’t care if it takes 6 or 14 hours to get from A to B, the road dictates absolutely no rules (correction – no fast food is a steadfast, unbreakable rule). Hitting the road without urgency is the essence of travel, an expedition of discovery beholden to no one.
For those who know me, a photo of ice cream Notes in Summerland B.C. Taken on road trip day three, when was the last time I looked this relaxed?
Below – road trip gallery starting with a cell phone shot of my pinhole eclipse view in Greenwood B.C., followed by random unstructured glimpses of road trip majesty extracted from my phone, and husband’s camera –
Powerful and wise, the road delivered a better person home. Notes is back, all it took was a road trip to put things right.