Vegas to Rio Rico

We dub Maggie’s two guitars Tess (standard tuning) and D’Urberville (Big open C chord).

Tuesday morning we worked in the hotel room on a few harmonies  before saddling up Rogue again, under the high vaulted portico of the South Point Hotel

Enjoyed our large hotel room and grand view but are  happy to leave the aroma of tobacco and the tingdingaling of the casino.   Half an hour down the road we decide to take in Hoover Dam. Built in just five years in the early 30s, it came in not only under budget but two years early! Its construction and technology and the hydro-electricity it produces are all admirable, although the resultant Lake Mead did drown a lot of Anasazi ruins.

A few hours later we pull off to change drivers,  pausing near a row of mailboxes. The addresses painted and stenciled on their sides include at least a dozen different road names—all of which much be miles from here.

Mailboxes, Interstate 10, Arizona

It makes me think of the miracle that a letter IS.  Somehow finding its way to a recipient, no matter how distant, no matter how slim the address.

As we push ever further south, construction slows us a bit, but we enjoy the huge saquaros, which seem to be raising their cactus arms in welcome. We hit Phoenix at rush hour, alas, but then we’re flying past Tucson, with just an hour to go.

As we near Rio Rico the dry and severe landscape begins to soften. The sun, lowering to our right, settles on the horizon, an enormous golden orb that pauses for a huge breath before slipping from sight. The remaining light creates a wonder of reds on the mountains to our left.

For most of the day the heat has hovered at about 100 outside our air-conditioned pony’s windows, but now it drops, 96, 91, 87, 83, and as we exit the highway on to Rio Rico Drive we roll down our windows, gulping in deep breaths of air that is fragrant and—after all the sage-gray we’ve been passing through—seems to not only smell but to taste green.

Tracy’s directions, jotted on a piece of notebook paper (we’ve informed Mrs. Snow that for now we prefer to use the old fashioned kind of GPS), tells us to cross some fields—dotted with grazing cows, and a bridge.

Old fashioned Global Positioning System

We rattle over a riverbed that looks completely dry, but, Tracy tells us later, the “rico” rio runs underground except during monsoon seasons, when it fills that wide bed and beyond. We head “up a hill” as her directions tell us to do; it’s unexpectedly steep and curved. The dusk falls swiftly now, but as we make the last few turns, we can see Tracy, waving at us from the side of the street.  Her house is lit with a string of gaily-colored bulbs and the door is open, yellow streaming out in welcome.

We unload and exclaim over Tracy’s beautiful house—every wall, every corner, every shelf, every room offers something charming, whimsical, tasteful, lovely, useful.  Opening a bottle of wine, we clink our glasses and take a look at the spacious, screened-in Arizona room where we will perform the next night.  (“In Florida that have Florida rooms,” Tracy explains.) It’s perfect. Big enough to hold a sizable audience, and the mesh on the screens is so fine that it’s like glass—those who choose to sit outside will be able to hear and see just fine.

On the patio, under an enormous umbrella laced with strings of lights, Tracy serves us delicious tamales and a salad. As we eat and laugh a lovely coolness descends, and Tracy shows us where a hummingbird has made a nest around one of the lights. As she was readying the area outside the house for the truck that came earlier this spring to pour the cement for the patio, he moved the structure that is the umbrella-plus-lights just three feet a day so the hummingbird would always know where to come to find her fledglings.

Hummingbird nest.

After the cement dried, she took four days to move the umbrella back into place, again nudging it just three feet a day so the hummingbird wouldn’t abandon her nest. It worked. The birds all emerged a few days ago, and have flown away, leaving the dry nest in place.

Tracy makes up a bed for me in the Arizona Room; Maggie’s in the guest room. But intrepid Maggie, after our hermetically sealed hotel room and hours in air-conditioned Rogue, prefers to breathe in even more of the delicious desert air; she carries her bedding outside to the hammock.

I intend to lie there running through the lyrics to Robbie Robertson’s “Evangeline,” which we’ve just added to our set list, but we are all asleep in minutes.

About Sands

Writer, musician, teacher, theater artist. Books include the novel CATCHING HEAVEN, a book of essays and exercises, TOOLS OF THE WRITERS CRAFT, and, forthcoming, FLUNK.START: Reclaiming my Decade Lost in Scientology. A CD of my songs is called RUSTLER'S MOON.
This entry was posted in The Great Water Dragons Southwest Tour, words words words. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Vegas to Rio Rico

  1. Randy McKean says:

    Sands, I love how you capture every detail, all these moments on the road–it can be a long haul between destinations, but you are taking it all in, and bringing us all along with you. We’re all thinking about you back here at home. Can’t wait to hear about the concerts…knock ’em dead!

    • Sands says:

      Thanks for this wonderful comment, Randy — you’d be gratified by how much Maggie and I refer to you and your essential contributions — to Beaucoup Chapeaux, as well as your help in creating some of my favorite arrangements — Red Red Rose, Dancing Through the Heavens, The Stars Fell Down. I hope your piece for Music in the Mountains is finished and that you feel great about it. Love to all, thanks for reading!

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