Day 26 - Wednesday 10 August 2016

The Long Haul

The Coffee Pot

There was no need to wake up early this morning, as there was no trekking planned or places to be (except a few airports for the long haul flights back home). But of course I was up at 5.30 anyway, as the mind was racing with thoughts, ideas and the prospect of the day ahead. So I got up and started packing. The long haul back to Tasmania commences today. Packing took longer than expected and soon it was 8.30, the scheduled time that I would head over to Charlotte and Hassanís and we would all go out for breakfast together to a classic south-western style diner, called Coffee Pot Restaurant home of 101 omelettes. But first I filled up the car with petrol ($3 was all I needed to get the electronic needle onto full), down the road was Coffee Pot, and a big breakfast built for a champion (or rather a large American). Yes it was big, no huge, it was great, as were the surroundings of the interior of the diner, inclusive of framed portrait photos of film stars who had once eaten there. Americanís know how to do breakfast well and this was a good example of it. Nothing fancy, just quality food, quality service, quality prices in a quality environment. All good.

The Coffee Pot Huge breakfast for the flight ahead The door at Mariposa embedded with jewels A damp Courthouse Butte

The car hire place was next door so it was dropped off next, Hassanís car was waiting out the front, I jumped in after finalizing the paperwork, we made a quick stop at Mariposa Restaurant (which was closed) to look at the building, the view from the building and its amazing front door. Shortly afterwards we were back at the casita and I finished my packing. Charlotte had informed me that Delta Airlines, who I am flying with from Phoenix to LA, were having major computer issues a few days ago and numerous flights had been grounded. Great. And to add to this striking news, Annette told me last night that Australian customs will be on strike on Friday the day I arrive back, double great. Whatever happens happens I guess. Iím in their hands so thereís no point in getting stressed by it. Anyway, I checked the Delta website and it told me that my flights were Ďon timeí.

A wall of film stars at the entrance to Coffee Pot

After packing was completed I wandered down to the arts centre to say farewell to Eric. He was there this time so we chatted for a while, Eric filling the air with ideas for the future, including the potential for collaborations, exhibitions, exchanges, etc., before a final goodbye embrace and the return walk of about 10 minutes back to the casita followed by a wait for the next hour or so for the van to pick me up to take me the 2 hour drive to Phoenix airport, and the commencement of the marathon journey back to Tasmania.

At about 15 minutes before my scheduled pick up time a monsoon hits. And this was a monster monsoon. The van appeared on time, I said a quick goodbye to Hassan (who was under umbrella) whereas Charlotte stayed at the door. The driver put my bag in the back and I hoped in the van, but then realised that I couldnít leave without saying a proper goodbye to Charlotte so I hopped out and ran over to the front door where Charlotte was just getting the umbrella off Hassan. I gave her a hug goodbye as the rain just got heavier. I ran back to the van and was by now drenched. The van pulled out, I waved goodbye and was on the road. The rain continued with force as we drove out of Sedona and I wrote down the following notes on my phone.

I hurt my back this morning and it's been sore all day, Iím not sure how I did this perhaps lifting my heavy bag but I donít recall doing that at any stage. This is a bad day to hurt my back with over 24 hours of travel ahead. I tried to stretch it out but it was too late as the damage was done. Heavy rain started 15 minutes before the van arrived. Down it comes with thunder all around just as my travel commences. What sort of sign is this? Iím leaving at lunchtime. I'm drenched just getting into the van. There are quick wet goodbyes with Charlotte and Hassan rather than long and drawn ones. I prefer it this way as itís less painful. As we drive out of Sedona I look out at where the red rock mountains should be from the van, instead they appear as dark grey silhouettes looming above the roadside with a light grey sky above them. The rain continues to pelt down. What sort of strange farewell is this? Thunder roars. The mountains look threatening and ominous. Angry even. ĎDon't leaveí they seem to be telling me. Sedona disappears behind me in a mid/dark grey tonal mix of torrential rain, cloud and storm. Now this is a monsoon. It slows and the faint red of Courthouse Butte and Bell Rock standing as sentinels guarding the exiting highway into Sedona appears. At the Village of Oak Creek the road is dry. There is only calmness and stillness. Farewell the beautiful wild weird energy of Sedona. Thank for your farewell display of a different kind of power, rawness and might. It has been a journey for me indeed. In some strange twist of fate the driver goes down Verde Valley School Road to pick someone else up. I think back briefly over the past few weeks. The rain comes down again. Bell and Courthouse disappear behind heavy greyness. I think of the experience I had in 2013 when leaving Rocky Cape on the highway in the thick fog that enveloped everything round my car and this experiences mirrors that one to a certain degree. Sedona's final rainy blast of wild energy speaks to me of the erosion that made its mountains and rocks what they are. I think of this water flowing down all of the trails I walked since being here. Eroding slightly deeper lines and curves into the rock from when I was there. Soon we are out onto 89a heading south after picking up 2 others and the rain and weather clears. The red rock mountains disappear and the landscape flattens, the sun is out and we hit highway 17 at speed. What an end to a 4-week blast.

The farewell monsoon, Bell Rock (left) and Courthouse Butte (right)

2 hours later we pull into Phoenix airport but I still have a few hours until my first flight commences. I check my bag in and find out that it is in the too heavy category. I get charged an additional $100 for oversize baggage even though I have a 2-bag allowance, 2 bags not 1. Not happy and I feel violated because of it. What a waste of $100. This puts me in an anxious mood for hours. The flight to LA was easy and was over in less than an hour. At LAX I find something to eat, and get onto the free airport wifi and check my emails and thereís one from Anthony Ross, a tennis dad and sport psychologist, who has an email newsletter about mental tennis for tennis kids, and their parents, with this email being about reflection and anxiety. The email got me thinking about not just sonís tennis but also the practical uses of this in life (and I used it a number of times with success as a way to relieve myself of anxiety whilst trying to get myself to sleep on the long haul flight from LAX to Brisbane). I thought to myself; what anxieties and reflection were there from my being at the Colony? I must write about this at this some stage.

My back throughout the flight ached. Over the past 4 weeks with all of the trekking Iíve done whilst being in Arizona and Utah my back has been good but it had to pick this day of all days to play up. Oh well. On the flight I read about the vortexes in particular a section on visualisation that had an uncanny similarity to the experience I had whilst on Cathedral but the rest of the book was a little too much (and far fetched) for my liking. I also watched a Kurt Cobain documentary ĎMontage of Heckí. I, like many others, was a Nirvana fan in my early 20s seeing them at the first Big Day Out festival in 1992 at the Horden Pavilion in Sydney. Watching this doco had me thinking about Cobainís extremely excellent songwriting abilities but volatile personality. Of his fragility, lies and character and what shapes us into who and what we are. For Cobain it was a misspent youth where it rarely turned out the way he wanted therefore shaping his escapism, anarchic tender and sensitive, punk and drug fuelled existence. Once again I thought of anxiety and reflection.

Anyway, the flight was about 13 hours. I think I managed about 5 hours sleep, which was pretty good for me. I arrived into Australia at 6am, there was a customs strike, which didnít really seem to slow things down even though there was a massive queue but there were plenty of volunteers who were pretty much just waving people through. Another 2-3 hour layover passed before the final flight onto Hobart arriving just after 1 in the afternoon on Friday. As I walked through my front door at home I switched off the stopwatch on my phone that I started as I settled into the van driving out from Charlotte and Hassanís driveway in Sedona. The time said thirty-one hours and ten minutes. I was home; it felt weird.