Gaining Perspective: A Desert Trip

On August 23, 2009, in News, by squirt


This coming September will mark the first year of the Firehouse-Goldenvoice Poster Series; it looks like the Firehouse Kustom Rockart Company will reach 60 posters by then! (I’ll post a full breakdown on the first year of The Firehouse Goldenvoice Series in September.)

If you break that down, it’s more than one poster a week. That’s just for Goldenvoice shows at The Warfield and Regency Theaters in San Francisco.

Also this year there were two large editions of Eric Clapton posters to add to Firehouse’s Eric Clapton Series.

Add to that designs I make for other events (that I print too), designs for books, illustrations and comics, and I won’t leave out movie posters, like American Artifact; you’re talking about a lot of work!

It’s been a spectacular year. But where does that fit into The Grand Scheme of Things

… After all that it was time to bug out for the open desert and gain a little perspective (see – that’s me – below).


So my girlfriend Nancy and I headed out for a week-long roadtrip to the American Southwest. The idea was to take the road-less-travelled, keep to the two-lane roads and see some big wide open desert. Destination: Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in Southwest Utah with an excursion to Antelope Canyon in North Central Arizona in the Navajo Nation where we would take a Navajo Guided tour of the canyon.

First day, we stopped in Gold Country 4 hours east of San Francisco in the Sierra Nevada foothills, where we stayed in Sonora, California at the Sonora Inn. The Sonora Inn was built at the main intersection of Sonora in the 1890’s by Italian entrepreneurs, and boasts the oldest elevator in California, which Nancy and I rode because we’re thrill-seekers. We dropped our bags and ate at the Diamondback Grill, which was so good we ate there on the way back too! The Sonora Inn also has a brilliant second-story pool with a beautiful view of Sonora’s old city center.


Second day, headed out of Sonora to go to Yosemite. On the way, we stopped in Groveland, California where Chris Shaw, the brilliant Fillmore poster artist, has painted the whole downtown – he’s decorated the entire outside of the Iron Door the Oldest Saloon in California – the trading post, general store, ice cream shop, and on and on. It’s like Chris Shaw World, and I love Chris’ work!, so we stopped and took a lot of pictures. Here’s some Wild West Chris Shaw work:



Yosemite was packed with people. We found a few private spots to stop and wade in the Merced River. We left pretty quick, but snapped this on the way out.


Picked up speed as we headed out over the Nevada desert to Tonopah, Nevada …


… where we climbed over the fence of the Mining Museum at midnight, and star gazed.

Tonopah Test Range is just to the south of the city and lord knows what goes on in there.

But here’s a few shots of the area.


Also Nancy and I started to collect sage and cedar from the desert which makes for some excellent incense and has a purifying scent!


Stopped in Rachel, Nevada at The Little A’Le’Inn on the edge of the Nellis Military Reserve, gateway to infamous Area 51. Ordered a coffee and an excellent homemade apple pie made by the owners of the A’Le’Inn, Pat and Connie; the pie was delish!


Nancy and I met Pat and her husband 14 years ago, when we went out to Area 51, and camped in the adjacent Tickapoo Valley and hiked to the frontier of Area 51 to see the “non-existent” base.  Nancy and I later wrote an article for San Francisco’s Filth Magazine about the secret base where it was rumored there were tests of incredibly advanced alien technology. We scooped Larry King, who arrived the day we left, to do one of the first ever network television reports on Area 51. At any rate, we had a great two-and-a-half hour visit with Connie (Pat’s daughter), Connie’s son, and a new resident to Rachel, Kurt, who told us a lot of great stories, including one story, where, he said, he has seen several drone-like crafts flying out of Area 51 at supersonic speed and negotiating right angled turns without slowing down. Nancy and I snapped this shot at the Black Mail box which marks the personnel entrance, a 50 mile long “dirt super-highway,” to Area 51.

meblackmailbox1 nancyblackmailbox

Stopped for gas in Caliente, Nevada – temperature 112 degrees – and snapped a quickie.


Made it to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Utah by 3:30pm: to set up camp and take a hike into the pink sand dunes and make sand angels.




The night sky here was absolutely pitch black and amazing! The Milky Way was very clear and distinct, because this region of the United States has the very least light pollution in the whole country. Bottle of California wine and lots of shooting stars. Heaven.


Drove to Zion National Park the next day where even the road is pink, and Nancy dressed to match. We hiked down a dry riverbed. We stopped after for some delicious bumbleberry pie. Don’t ask, it’s just good.



That day, I had managed to get up at dawn at Coral Pink Sand Dunes and made a tolerably good pot of strong coffee with my rocket-fuel brewer from home.

So I was revved to drive to Hurricane, Utah where we checked in at noon at the Motel 6 which had an excellent pool, and only three other guests in the whole place.

We swam in the 120 degree heat, and after I called ahead to Page, Arizona in the Navajo Nation to reserve a spot on the Antelope Canyon Tour we planned to take the next day. Then Nancy and I took in “District 9” at the Hurricane movie theater. Next day we bee-lined to Page to meet our Navajo Guide, Tyra, who was a really cool Arizona State University student working her way through school with a bitchin’ summer job, a great sense of humor and a steady grip on the wheel.

Tyra drove us out to Upper Antelope Canyon in one of these jalopies while we sat in back catching air about once every 30 seconds.


We drove 20 minutes up a dry river bed to the entrance of Antelope Canyon, which has been formed over millenia by rushing washouts that flood through the sandstone there. It’s under Navajo Tribal protection because it’s holy ground. The atmosphere inside is indescribable. Here’s some pictures (Tyra took some of these – there I told you I’d credit you Tyra!):

The entrance and inside


Navajo Tears


The Bear


Many thanks to Antelope Canyon Tours for a great memory, your open hearts and for the lovely white sage smudge stick which will remind me of you and the great time you showed me.


We drove to Las Vegas, home of Charles Bock author of Beautiful Children (which I did the cover for), and all the beautiful children were rompin’ that evening! All I remember is winning about $500, and getting out early in the morning. Vegas, we’ll be back! This trip was about the great outdoors, sorry. Love ya, Vegas, babe.

Back to California, over Hwy. 108 and some of the most rugged terrain in all of the Western US. Even bumped into some Federales; seems the US Marines are doing some training for the next wave of the War in Afghanistan. ‘Nuff said. US 108, the road is rough, weaving, windy, without guardrails, and narrows in several places to one lane, so you gotta love that! My little Toyota Yaris had “had it” by the time we rolled back down into Sonora by dusk. It was dinner time, the Diamondback Grill has the one of the best caramel apple pies west of the Mississippi, a big selection of wine, and – what-the-hey, the Sonora Inn has a great big cool swimming pool. We stayed another night, ate, swam and headed back home to San Francisco in the morning.

Ready for the next batch of posters? YES!