The week was on a strange kick of weirdness by the time I made that left turn at Albuquerque. I was kind of hoping for a little break of normalcy by the time I said my goodbyes to Becky and headed west for the Grand Canyon.

That didn’t happen.

I had to travel along Interstate 40, which took me right through Petrified Forest National Park in the Painted Desert. I had to stop.

Painted Desert, Arizona, 2019

Doesn’t that sky look like something straight out of a René Magritte painting?? It was amazing!

Painted Desert, Arizona, 2019

The first panorama above is composed of eight HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos, each of which is composed of three frames: one underexposed by one stop, one “properly” exposed, and one overexposed by one stop, so 24 frames layered, stitched into two panoramas, and then stitched together top to bottom. It was a lot of work. The second shot is composed of twelve individual frames, similarly layered and stitched.

The Painted Desert is too desolately beautiful to capture in one frame, and I’m afraid I didn’t even do it nearly enough justice as it is.

Besides just being jaw-droppingly beautiful, the Painted Desert is a historic monument. Well into the park is a place called Newspaper Rock, the reason for which should become apparent.

You can’t get too close, to avoid extra wear and tear on the petroglyphs, so I put my long birding lens on them from the observation deck. The one above caught my eye as I squeezed the shutter button. WTF is that in the middle of the frame????

…is that????

Some prehistoric mutherfucker carved the starship Enterprise into the rock thousands of years ago!!!

They did it! They traveled in time and fixed history!

…now if only they would go back and erase The Orange Shitgibbon….

(…but alas, of course they cannot.)

I know that’s (most likely) not really what that is, but that’s some weird shit right there.

I suppose we’ll have to be content with what’s there.

Ready for more weirdness?

While I was shooting these petroglyphs, I got a notification on my phone that I’d gotten a Facebook message from someone with whom I am not Facebook friends. It’s pretty rare that I get one of those, and when I do, it’s either 1) someone from the distant past looking for my Pop, or 2) porn spam.

This was neither, but suspecting it was one or the other, I swiped it off my screen to be addressed later. I was busy shooting (pre-)history.

I was starting to worry about time. I realized I’d been planning to hit the Grand Canyon not only without reservations coming up on a weekend, but I’d been planning to hit the Grand Canyon without reservations coming up on Memorial Day Weekend.

I needed a plan B.

I skimmed around a bit and Google Maps a bit, and decided I’d stay in Walnut Canyon, Arizona (about an hour and a half south of the Grand Canyon) for the weekend, and hit The Big GC Monday or Tuesday.

I grabbed a couple of stickers for Gypsy’s trophy case on her ass, and hit the road.

It was just as I was about to pull out of the park when I remembered that FB notification. I pulled it up real quick just as I was pulling onto the highway.

“Hello I know you do not know me and this may be a long shot. I am looking to find out who my biological family is…”

I was pulling onto the highway, and couldn’t read the text thoroughly, but the skim version I read made this a jaw-dropper.

Two years before I was born, my mother was a pregnant teenager, and was forced to give the baby up for adoption, and then she was sent away to Philadelphia, where she eventually met my father.

I didn’t even know I had an older brother until I was in my twenties, but I’d been looking for him on extremely scant information for nigh on thirty years now. And near as I could tell, my niece had just found me.

I pulled over at the first convenient exit ramp, which happened to be this one:

Now, if you’ve known me for more than about one millisecond, you know this is the sort of thing I’d pull over for all in itself. But I was barely even interested in the dino-sculptures, for obvious reasons. I was too excited about this message, and the dinos barely registered.

My reply to the message was more or less, “This is my phone number, please call me right this goddamned instant.” I hope I wasn’t quite that rude.

The details seemed to match, and when she did call, we talked for several hours. We talked as I drove. We talked as I figured out where I was going to sleep that night. We talked as I set up my tent and my campsite in Walnut Canyon.

Near as we could tell, all the details matched. I’d found my long-lost brother. …or rather, his daughter had found me.

She’d done the Ancestry DNA thing, and so had my mother and my Uncle Robert before my mom died on Christmas morning, 2014. Using that information, she’d tracked down my mother’s obituary, which I wrote myself in great detail specifically in case my older brother ever came looking for his family.

I was proud as a peacock about that, and tickled to (literal) tears.

We hung up the phone, and I had calls to make in the morning.

The week just kept getting weirder. Wonderful each time in every way, yes, but weird.

Weird as fuck.

And it wasn’t done yet.

It got weirder.