For instance, I was going to do a post on my love of Trader Joe’s, the funky grocery store outlet in the Southwest (and rapidly expanding elsewhere) full of cheaply-priced organic gourmet food (peanut-butter-stuffed pretzels, yummy three-dollar organic wine, peach-chipotle salsa, Thai cilantro pizza, chocolate-covered cranberries, chocolate-covered mangoes, chocolate-covered potato chips, chocolate-covered roasted cashews…you get the chocoholic idea.) The place has a cult following—it was started in the 60s by a Californian who noticed his friends returning from backpacking trips abroad with an appreciation for Europe’s shopping habits of buying fresh and local. Although Trader Joe’s has expanded massively from his hippie days, whenever I arrive in a town with one, I head there immediately for a fix. I run from the parking lot and down the aisles, grabbing golden cheery tomatoes and perhaps, chilli-lemon pistachio nuts, until I find the most mind-blowing aisle of all—the eclectic-chocolate-snack aisle. Once there I float my way down with my fellow crazed disciples choosing Trader Joe’s latest offerings. Then I buy a bunch of stuff and eat it in the parking lot.
So that was one blog post.
Another was my new impression of Sedona, Arizona. Several years ago I wrote an article for the L.A. Times and other papers making fun of Sedona’s New Agey people and their vortexes (spots where creative energy supposedly seeps out of the earth). I also made fun of their crystal-tarot-angels shops and their gurus on every street corner who promise to open up your third eye. That part hasn’t changed. It’s still a New Age Disneyworld on the main drag. However, they’ve toned down the vortex idea considerably since it was revealed it was all invented as a publicity hoax. But New Agey people aside, Sedona is as stunning and red-rock-gorgeous as ever, full of more hiking trails per square mile than anywhere else in the U.S. We spent most of our days there hiking and trying not to spend money. Sedona is also one of the most expensive small towns in the country. So bask in the red rock hiking trails and eat a picnic lunch at Cathedral Rock.
The post I really wanted to write was how I was trying on our road trip to create some kind of educational experience for my nine-year-old son Quinn. Although he was reading books and I was reading aloud a lot, I still felt vaguely guilty about taking him out of school for so long and was forever searching for ways to enhance his knowledge about our experience. When we hiked through Arizona’s Walnut Canyon full of ancient cliff dwellings I kept asking him what he thought life was like for the cliff dwellers 1000 years ago, what the kids might have done there. Quinn seemed more interested in jumping from one rock to the next, also in collecting rocks off the trail. At the Grand Canyon, my feeble geology lesson on how the canyon was carved met with a glazed look. Quinn was more intent on watching the other hikers on the trail as we made our way down, finding a walking stick growing out of a cactus, and examining the vehicles in the parking lot. In the continent’s tallest sand dunes, he couldn’t care less about how they were formed but had a blast running down them. At the Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado, I decided to shut up and let him do his own thing: leap with glee from rock to rock, and collect cool sparkly stones. I realized you can’t force a kid to learn something. As long as they’re out in the world, they’re learning stuff themselves all the time in ways adults could never imagine—picking up on every passing conversation of strangers, watching their parents read those boring historical markers—wonderment creates wonderment!—and devising ways to get hold of that one shiny rock embedded in a cliff.
It all beats sitting in a classroom any day.