I stared out the window, five miles from the Hoover Dam, and it hit me. This was one of the worst traffic jams I had ever been in.
It was Spring Break, and while the rest of my friends were staying at home, I had taken a plane from Portland to San Jose. The purpose of the trip was a college tour, but that had been hours ago. I had been in a car nearly the whole trip; from the airport to Cicero’s Pizza, to my Uncle Don’s house in Hollister. My Uncle, Aunt, and I had gone through grassy hills straight out of a fantasy film, to the sandy Mohave Desert where the winds were strong enough to tear giant metal signs away from the gas station.
Our original goal was to tour the Northern Arizona University, my first college tour –and, I might add, a successful one. With the tour finished, we had more driving to do, since my plane was departing the next day…from Las Vegas.
That was my Spring Break. Driving, and nothing but driving. But five miles away from Hoover Dam, the traffic came to a halt, and as we sat in a line of cars, I realized that we weren’t moving. I had forgotten how much time had already passed, but it was enough for a family stuck in two separate cars –one behind us and one in front- to run back and forth between cars, stretch their legs, and share dinner before we even made it a mile.
For our part, we tried to make due with what we could. My California relatives and I made small talk, and drowned out the droning engines of other cars with the fiftieth play through of our travel CD. It was already getting old, so I found myself staring out the window.
I was struck by beauty.
My hometown of Oregon was full of rain, mountains, trees, and more rain. Arizona was a drought in comparison, but it made the small amount of flowers all the more impressive. Plateaus of reds, browns, and oranges rose from the desert scene, revealing new mountains and hidden crevices every time we managed to move a few feet.
Awestruck and inspired, I pulled out the digital camera Mom let me borrow. It was intended for taking pictures at NAU, but I couldn’t let such scenery go to waste. I leaned out the open window, taking pictures in the light of a setting sun. I kept at it as the line slowly moved on, and I waved to the cars behind us as I took a shot of a passing helicopter overhead. Once we finally made it to Hoover Dam, pictures of a bridge under construction became the focus of my camera’s eye, and even though hours had passed instead of what should have been five minutes, I felt that it was worth it.
People sometimes ask to see my photos from the trip. They usually expect to see shots of the University, or the glorious nightlife of the Las Vegas strip. Instead, they see the natural architecture of Arizona, flowers and stone giving life to a landscape I never even imagined.
All of it was thanks to a traffic jam.
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