A Travellerspoint blog

Finding Joe

While I was leaving White Sands I get a phone call:

"Liberate your mind..." Disturbed starts blaring from my cell. "Joe?" He always complains that he is speed dial #7, but I just don't like changing around my speed dials. So since Joe really was one of the last friends I made in Kung Fu, my family, high school friends, and earlier Kung Fu friends would get the prime speed dial numbers. But to get to my point, Joe is the only one with a special ring tone (well, and Claire, but that's just because she is a snobby private number). So that should make up for the speed dial #7.

I pick up, (pronounced Moe-shi) "Mushi Mushi" (which is hello on the phone in Japanese, and yes, you only say mushi mushi on the phone, so please god don't let me have a brain fart in Japan and walk up to someone and say that thinking I'm all cool and immersed in their culture).

He is ready to leave the wild. I'll let him fill in the details, but we basically agree to find a motel somewhere past Flagstaff, but before Los Vegas. I tell him I'm in El Paso Texas, but I'd do my best to get there by late afternoon the next day.

As I was driving back to Flagstaff (past the check point), I decide to try to make it as far as I can in the night so I don't have to rush to meet Joe the next afternoon. Then, just as I'm about to drive into Arizona I pass a sign that says that the Very Large Array is in the direction I'm heading! You might wonder about the exclamation mark, well, let me tell you. After leaving Albuquerque (I am so tired of trying to spell that, I never get it right) I called my mom and asked her where the VLA was (knowing it was in New Mexico, but forgetting to make it a destination until right then). She looked it up, and by the time I had cell reception again I was in Roswell, and the VLA was back near... do I have to? ... Albuquerque (spelled it right! But I cheated and just typed it while looking at the word earlier in the paragraph).

Oh well, I think, I guess seeing it in Contact was probably more spectacular than in real life. (Unfortunately, I've found that most things you have to see for yourself to really experience their wonder, but some things I've found a bit disappointing b/c of things like IMAX or even the Discover channel. After seeing the most amazing videos of these places, being there in real life can be sort of a let down. I haven't found this very often, but the Grand Canyon comes to mind as the big example. After flying through it, over it, and white water rafting along it on the screen, just seeing it from the rim in real life doesn't measure up. To experience some of these places, you kinda need to throw money at them. But then there is Vegas, where you would assume you would have to waist a bunch of money to really enjoy, and we had a complete blast just doing all the free stuff. And yes, Las Vegas is one of those places you can't just see in Ocean 11, you really have to be there.)

But now I'm almost at the VLA, but its only 7 o'clock or so, but I decide to stop anyways figuring that Joe can wait for me this time. Driving up to it at night past all the signs that said the roads were closed after dark, was both thrilling and terrifying. When I made it to the point where the signs told me to turn my cell off b/c it would disrupt the radio telescopes, I decided to turn around. As I turned one of the telescopes was just barely lit by the parking overhead lights, and I got chills. "Awesome!" I said to myself as I paused in mid turn. Then I drove back up to a parking area that said "No overnight parking!" I turned in and pulled a full circle turn trying to find a spot to park, and I wanted to kick myself. If anyone was at the VLA they saw me turn around at the satellites, and then saw me driving circles around the visitors parking lot. So I watched intently at a light that seemed to be a car for about 5 min. before I decided that if it were a car, it would have moved by now. Then I tried to sleep.

I can say right now, I'm not very smart. I didn't realize how high up I was b/c the area was so flat. But of course they would pick a flat area of lad high above sea level b/c visual telescopes aren't the only things that need to get as close to the sky as possible to minimalize the disruption from the earth's atmosphere and from us. End result: I just couldn't take it anymore! It was so incredibly cold! I couldn't sleep the whole night, and I finally gave up and left. As the car warmed up and I made it to the main road however, I passed a sign that said "VLA Rest Area 2 miles" and I just had to stop. Now I was cold, but it was only 4:30am, so the sun would be up soon, and I was perfectly legal to park there overnight.

The next morning I woke to the VLA, and 19 degrees Fahrenheit:


All there was to do there was watch an informational video, look around one small room that looked like a room at the science center, then a walking tour around the place. I had to wait until it opened at 8am, and I was done by 10am. Then I was off to Flagstaff (back down I-40/ Rt. 66).

On the way I stop on Rt. 66 to get some gas, and then as I head further down Rt. 66 to pick up the next enterance on I-40 (I wanted to say I at least drove some on Rt. 66) and I finally passed a decently priced gas station ($2.79). There were no credit card machines outside, so I went inside to pay. While I paid I was amazed at all the sand paintings on the wall. Excited, I searched through every painting, never quite finding the one I wanted. While I searched I talked to the owner (around 70 or so, white hair and skin) who discovered how interested I was in Native American culture, and loved Arizona for all of its pueblos and ruins; yet he found it interesting that he, being from Arizona, had seen the Great Serpent Mound in Ohio, and I had not. I said it was strange as well, and then I found the perfect sand art. It was framed in a crummy wooden frame, and it was $15 more than other arts of its size. Together we managed to get the art out of the frame, and while it was the only painting with a sand filled background rather than the usual plywood, he still gave it to me for the same price. I explained to him how I liked the flow of the art in this painting, and that it spoke to me when the others didn't, and he had a bit of a shine in his eye come to life as we talked art and attempted to decipher what the artist had written on the back of the sand art. "This guy I don't know as well... I have the most sand paintings in all of northern Arizona, so its hard to remember every artist I work with. But I always have them write the meaning of their art on the back, so that's whats under his signature..." We used the context clues in the sand art along with the messy cursive on the back to get the full description down. Then I returned from my car after I wrapped the gift to use the restroom, and his face lit up as he saw me mention embarrassedly (I know, I made the word up on purpose) that I had to use the restroom. Leaving, and coming back in, I had lost my keys. I've never done this before, but now with my green convertible, it seems to be a daily occurrence (a bit of Joe I picked up I suppose... from the proximity). I search the store, and the owner mentioned that I was wrapping the present in my trunk for a good while, so it might be in there. Nervous, I went back out to my car, checked inside the windows, and attempted to search through my purse one last time. My purse accidentally rotated upside down as I opened zippers, and my keys dropped out of some unknown pocket. I picked them up and was about to run inside to assure him and the other customers that I was good to go, but he was already outside and heading for me. Surprised I told him that I found my keys. He came over and was genuinely interested in where my keys were, and I had to admit that I'm still not quite sure where I hid them. Then he told me that I was a very personable person, and that I should never let anyone tell me different or discourage me from being who I was, because who I am is a wonderful person. He used some very interesting words to tell me this, and I can't quite rephrase him correctly, but I can't get over the rush of pride (the good kind) he filled my soul with by saying such things about me when he only knew me long enough to sell some gas and art to me. I won't forget him anytime soon, and I'll remember to be Rain.

I guess its about time I come clean since we are letting all of our relationship details out in the open. The day before the badlands I changed my name. Joe asked me why I wanted to change my name, and I told him about my nicknames thought my life. In elementary school my best friend Leia named me Ness (not to be confused with Nessy which was the awful name my older sister Jessica tried to get to catch on out of spite since she knew I hated it... Ica!) Then in junior high my name became Quan (named by my friend Pooh (after Pooh Bear) in honor of my hero Michel Quan). In high school I became Van, and in college I became V. After college I remained V with my Kung Fu friends, Van with my high school friends, and Vanessa with my fellow Lockheed Martin employees. So I felt like I didn't move on, and I agreed with that notion. But now on this trip, I felt it was time for a change. Joe asked me what my favorite name was, and I told him Jozalin. I liked it because you can be Joz, Lin, Oz, so many choices that are unique (kinda like my name). But I didn't see myself as a Jozalin. He asked for some parameters, and I told him to think noun. Places or things, like Sahara or June. He came up with Autumn, which I would have liked had my little sister Brittany not just picked that name (and he knew it) for her character in our story. I also told him that I didn't want to be Reivan, b/c that was my character in the story, and I'm not quite her either. Finally he said just Rei, and I felt like I could be Rei b/c Ciani and Jenna sometimes call me Rei (by accident occasionally). But I didn't just want a nick name, and I still wanted that noun, so I tacked on a "n" at the end, and became Rain. Hence the subtitle of Zen and the Art of... Nothing being WAITING WITH RAIN NEAR THE BADLANDS. You thought it was just interesting phrasing, but what it really was is that Joe was waiting with me near the Badlands. The all caps also helps guise the fact that Rain was capitalized. Nice? You can find a few of these in our earlier bogs where we left hints for ourselves in our phrasing so you wouldn't know what happened in our relationship, but we would. Kinda like Wears Waldo, but rather, where's Joe and Vanessa's relationship gossip?

Sometimes in videos you can hear Joe calling me rain, so we don't upload those ones b/c with thought it might be strange for everyone at home to know that I changed my name. Just like I hope if I ever see Denice again, that she walks right up to me and calls me Quan. So don't think that you have to call me Rain when you talk to us, b/c until this trip w/o Joe, I still didn't refer to myself as Rain. But now w/o him, I started telling people when they would ask me "Whats your name?" I would finally answer "Rain." I did this at the Starbucks in El Paso, and she looked at me inquisitively "How do you spell that?" I hadn't thought about that yet exactly, but the first thing that popped out of my mouth was, "You know, like rain comin' down from the mountains." I also added the hand gesture like the dream sequence motion in Wain's World "Dewly-dew Dewly-dew." (I didn't make the noises) "Ok" she nodded and shook her head b/c she should have known. Then the other time it came up was in Albuquerque (damn it I had to spell it again!) around midnight. I was pulling off the highway to turn around (missed by exit with the hotels and Ihop I planned to sleep and eat at) when I saw a woman wave me down. She had run out of gas and needed some help, and I told her to hop in. "I-I-I" (Don't know how to spell that, so just say the letters, she was Mexican I believe.) "Me madre is in my car, I cannot leave her all alone!" "She can come to." I told her, and she ran back to her car to get her mom. The mom sat in the back, and we drove to the nearest gas station. There they were going to charge us 10 bucks for a 2 gallon gas can. So she decided to buy a gallon of water instead, and she pored the water down the toilet (telling this to Joe he almost cried, he was still a little dehydrated at the time). Then I told her it was a good idea, but she was going to spill gas all over the place w/o the nozzle. Then I saw a 99 cent funnel, and we had a plan. We headed out back on the interstate going the wrong way b/c I didn't want to drive the wrong way on the off ramp, and then on the next exit there was a concrete median forever, but we eventually turned around, and when we got to the interstate again, I was going West, and she screamed "No! East!" and so I quickly turned right to hit the east lane. Then we realized I was right, and we should have headed west, and her mother started freaking out on her in Spanish from the backseat. Impressibility, she continued a conversation with me in English and calmed her mother down in Spanish all without missing a beat. Eventually we made it back to her car, and I told her that I was going to wait for her to see if she can make it to a gas station all right on just one gallon, and she told me "No!" and that she had already taken up enough of my time. I told her it was alright, and I wasn't really going anywhere I need to be at 1am, but she was so suborn that she wouldn't fill her tank until I drove off. But first she shook my hand and asked me my name, and that was the first time I answered "Rain" and it felt good.

So from then on I signed in trail books as Rain, at the free Roswell museums as Rain, and told everyone I wasn't handing my credit card to (b/c that might cause problems) that my name was Rain. Joe likes the spelling too b/c I was thinking about Rein (like how they would spell it in Japanese), but he liked that when he saw my name it reminded him of a fresh spring rain rather than a ruling tyrant (reign) which he also saw me as on the occasion, but would rather see me as the first. He also likes to sing to me songs about rain, but the most unfortunate example is "I can see clearly now the rain is gone."

Anyways... So Joe calls me as I'm heading into Flagstaff.
"I'll be in Flagstaff in about 2 hours, can you meet me there and give me my helmet?"
"Sure, I'll probably be hitting Flagstaff at about the same time."
I hang up, and then I see them.

San Francisco Peaks:

Damn, I'm almost in Flagstaff! Then I passed a sign for Walnut Canyon. My grandma told me to visit that, but we were so busy we decided to skip it. Well, here was my chance. When I get to the visitors center I discover that its not just another canyon like I'd thought, but a canyon with pueblo ruins! (We need to look this stuff up before we make decisions, but when we did that with Canyon of the Crescent Moon, I mean, Creators of the Moon, well, you know how that went, or if not, you can probably deduce the situation.) The woman ranger also tells me that its going to be at best a 45 min. hike one way, and a 25 min. hike the other, and that's skipping all the reading and power walking around the canyon and up and down stairs. By this time I really should only spend an hour for the whole place so I can meet Joe, and so I take on the challenge.


Then Joe calls me as I'm power walking back to my car "Where are you? I'm at the Ihop."
"I'm not..." (huph-puff)
"Are you hiking?"
"Dude, I've been hiking for like an hour! When I talked to you I was only like 10 min. outside of Flagstaff!"
"Ok, so when can you be here?"
"Well, give me 5 min. to get to my car, then another 10 to get to Flagstaff."
"Are you sure your only 10 min. outside of Flagstaff?!"
"No, but I'm pretty sure."
"I need you to be sure, its getting dark."

We discussed our options, and we decided to have Joe to go ahead and drive while it was still light out, and I would meet him 2 towns west of Flagstaff. I drove a little faster than normal, but still not speeding since I have no car insurance (hey, I tried, but Ohio won't insure me b/c I have an Arizona title, and Arizona won't insure me b/c I have an Ohio address), and I made it to the Ihop exit in 12 min. Yeah, we should have had him wait. 2 towns later we had a fiasco of a time trying to find each other b/c his phone was almost out of batteries from using it as a flashlight all week in the wild, and my GPS didn't have the grocery store on it that he was at. Eventually we met on Rt. 66 and it was interesting seeing him again. Walking into the Safeway I picked up my phone to call him and find out where he was, but then I saw him passing the express lane down the main isle, and I called "Joe Witkin!" and his head turned and looked behind and to the left, right at me though the light up numbers above the registers. I smiled, and he smiled back, and we walked to one another and held us together in an embrace.

I noticed his face didn't have the big bushy beard I thought he would have, and he reminded me that he was only gone a week, but I guess it was the feeling of kissing him again that made me think it was longer.

(I know, "awwww" and "I knew you guys..." and blablabla, you guys get the pretend vomit from me for thinking what your thinking "blaaaaaa!")

I gave Joe the GPS and I used written directions to get to the motel about an hour and a half away from where we were. I drove there around 70mph, and Joe around 60mph. When I got there I checked out a few other motels, but the one my mom got was the best deal. So I drive to that one, and then in pulled Joe. We signed in together at the Travel lodge on Rt. 66.

Posted by - Rain 08:30

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yay, a blog from Vanessa! (sorry Joe, love yours, but I am her mom!) love the VLA stuff. bittersweet about the name change, Rain is cool, but do you know how long it took me to come up with a name as beautiful as Vanessa Blair - yeah, nine months! I remember in middle school when you wished it was Vanessa Clair, so your initials could be VCR, (what's a VCR? kids will soon ask), but, i think you've thought this one through a little more (why do all my kids hate their names? hi brittany :) she was born on the autumnal equinox, so autumn would have been obvious, except i was oblivious to the fact it was the autumnal equinox) anyway, i digress. still gonna call you Vanessa, sorry. *p.s. Jessica didn't call you Nessy, she called you Nessa, cuz she was 2 and couldn't pronounce Vanessa* oh yea, and about the ending of this blog - awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!

by georgi r

Oh, one more thing, I like the spelling you chose, as 'rein' also could refer the ropes that you tie to horses, Joe might also think that might be appropriate for you :) but I like Rain, second to Vanessa;)

by georgi r

ok, last one, i promise. what about a last name change for you? i like Phoenix for two reasons. You figure out my reasons. :)

by georgi r

I like the name. and it makes me think of Raine Maida from Our Lady Peace. who is awesome as well.

by laurr

Yeah, I thought of that too, and I looked him up after I picked the name, and cool thing is... that its not his real name either.

by - Rain

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