Traveling Cross Country, Learning Unexpected Lessons – Day 1

Broad billed Hummingbird, male

Broad billed Hummingbird © 2014 Bo Mackison

Sunday morning. 10:56 am
49,738 on the odometer.
The car, packed like a 3D puzzle, hums sweetly,
its mechanical issues of the past two weeks fixed,
it’s been pronounced “good as new”.

I say my farewells, a flute song, I believe the hummingbird
sipping its nectar and the green arroyo are appreciative.

The flute is my Arizona gift to myself. It is my good morning, my good night,
and now my goodbye ritual.  Blessings for the upcoming travels,
and farewell…for now. It is an imperfect song, as it should be.

I whisper “traveling mercies, Bo”
and smile at my motto for this year’s trip:
“Bo, WHOA” for Whole-Hearted, Open-Minded Adventure.

As I back away from the casita
a red-tailed hawk circles above, dips then soars to the north.

Homer, the Bald Saguaro, with Buds on his Head

Homer, the Bald Saguaro, with Buds on his Head © 2014 Bo Mackison

Homer, the cactus I’ve nicknamed and wave to every day, has nubbies on his once bald head.
flowers that will bloom long after I am gone.
Quails scuttle across the road; their babies half run, half flutter-fly.

I begin my journey. I’ll cross many bridges searching for flowing waters,
leaving one desert but always, always
entering another.

Soap tree yucca send white spikes of creamy flowers into the air.
The ocotillo, a steady bloomer since January, are nearly spent,
a single bright red cluster lingers on a branch
and the saguaros are thick with white saucer blossoms.

Desert Diamond Casino
Santa Cruz River, and beyond a hill like a porcupine, toothpick cacti on its back.
San Xavier del Bac Mission, the White Dove.
Desert Museum. Old Tucson. Exit Here.

Palo Verde - Green Stick

Palo Verde – Green Stick © 2014 Bo Mackison

The desert is green in May.
Palo verde trees — green stick trees – thick and blooming yellow only last week,
dotting the desert with yellow flares,
now the blossoms lie under the trees, like a drift of yellow snow.

Flashing overhead sign:
Caution High Winds. Blowing Dust.
The sign is correct, the blue sky turns brown, all but obliterates the outlines of the mountains surrounding Tucson.

Gas is 3.31 at the circle K on Miracle Mile.
Blinking lights, road construction.
Three lanes of traffic merge into one.

Prince Street. Rillito Creek
Orange Grove Road.
Mega Wash at the RV Dealer

Tucson to Phoenix, dusty and desert scrub.
Semis sway, cross the yellow lines.
Picacho Peak is a ghost silhouette in a dusty shroud.

Cars double park in the lot at the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch.
It appears the ostriches are a popular Mother’s Day destination.

Saguaro, these ancient many-armed, appear where moments ago,
there were only fields of dust.
Tumbleweed dances across four lanes of traffic. A yellow sedan
swerves onto the narrow shoulder, slides off the road.

Gas Line Road. Maricopa County. The city encroaches.
Snarls of cars, layers of curving merges, speeding cars switching lanes.
Through Phoenix and beyond, relieved to leave metro traffic.

And then rural replaces urban.
New River, dry pebbles and dust.
Elevation 2000. Table Mesa.

What a joy to see the cacti forests abloom
like green tapers with white flames.

Top of a Saguaro Cactus in May

Top of a Saguaro Cactus in May © 2014 Bo Mackison

Little Squaw River, dusty and dry.
Rock Springs. Black Canyon City.
Yavapai County. Bumble Bee and Crown King exit – No Services.

Turn Off A/C Next 5 Miles.Avoid Overheating.
Horsethief Basin.
Fresh Oil Ahead. Reduce Speed.

Every shade of green sings life in the mountains of the high desert.
Elevation 3000 feet.

On top of the Colorado Plateau the land opens,
the skies fill with zillions of clouds.
Agua Fria National Monument.

Boulders scatter the land, scenery of the Flintstones’ Bedrock City
(and a two days’ drive to Rock Vegas)
Cordes Lake Road

Arcosanti Road. Agua Fria River – dry and rocky
The odometer turns 50,000 as I enter Prescott National Forest.

Ash Creek – dry and dusty. Elevation 4000 feet
Sacaton grasses dotted with juniper and cedar.
Cienega Creek – dry. Entering Verde Valley

General Crook Trail.Verde River – dry and dusty
Entering Cocochino National Forest. A hawk soars.
Wild Horse Mesa. Dry Beaver Creek – dry and rocky.

Sedona 17 miles.


Sage brush balls gather in bunches, caught on the guard rail.
Oak Creek Canyon. The red rock rises.
I stop at Tlaquepaque to buy a pea pod necklace,
the pea a tiny pearl. A gift of love for my daughter.

The motel is within sight when the dashboard lights begin their frantic flashing.
Another repeat performance from the last two weeks.
Grateful my lodging is near, fretful of a possible travel interruption.
I stop for the night and consider the challenges of desert and wilderness.

Tomorrow will be soon enough to call a tow truck.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. You manage to make flashing lights on the dashboard sound like it’s a wonderful adventure. Traveling mercies, Bo. 🙂

  2. Gandalf says:

    Agree with Robin. I’d be rather bummed out.

  3. Bummer. Car stuff is always hateful. But then again, there are worse places than the Sedona area to spend a few extra days. Traveling mercies, indeed. I know you will make an adventure out of it.

  4. The beginning sounded so filled with promise and excitement, topped with longing for home. Car troubles in the middle of nowhere totally suck but look at the Unexpected Adventures you are now having. Tlaquepaque is my favorite place to shop in Sedona. My SIL helped me remember how to pronounce it thusly – “to locky pocky.” Keep your dollars safely stored! (…I never did…) Safe travels!

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