Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Biosphere

Our road to Phoenix began at Biosphere 2. Located just outside of Tuscon, Biosphere 2 is a much-touted and ultimately failed attempt at domed-in self-sufficiency under the guise of inter-planetary manned space travel. (The Earth is Biosphere 1; hence this project is ... ) As such, Biosphere 2 now operates under the auspices of Arizona State University as a research center of ecological study.

Not that we would know. We arrived just as Biosphere 2 was closing. We did however get a chance to watch an inspirational video, get a shake down for donations, and snap a picture of a picture of the Biosphere that we didn't get to see. It was almost like being there.

It was just as well that we didn't gain entrance into The Future's inner sanctum. For we were destined to take our place in a still-nascent traffic jam in Phoenix. Proof positive that we'll do whatever necessary to visit family.

And so it was. Our first stop was at Mike & Maureen's place. Mike is one of Diane's older brothers who we don't get to see very often. Maureen was gracious enough to reconfigure her work schedule to act as our driver and guide, while Mike was cool enough to actually bring us over to his work site and guide us through the chaos. We loved it.

Currently, he works for a company that conducts auto auctions. But not just any sort of auctions.

Twelve lanes of auto-buying action, conducted by twelve auctioneers all jabbering at once, collectively hustling over 3,000 cars and trucks every Thursday--all day long. Some autos have a lot of power under the hood...

While others have a lot of muscle behind the trunk.

Mike assures us that they almost all sell ... eventually. We were fortunate enough to spend a couple of days with Mike & Maureen. After a long days of work for Mike and sightseeing for us (we visited a terrific exhibition that featured artifacts from the Titanic--no photos allowed unfortunately), our evenings were enlivened with tall drinks, long dinners, and bright conversations that covered the gamut from the day's events to travel plans to families past and present. Their home was a welcoming oasis in the Valley of the Sun.

Our second and final overnight stop in Phoenix was a visit to my uncle John and aunt Bea. It was a true pleasure to see them both. It's been years since we've visited, probably too long, but family has the uncanny ability to pick right up where events last left off. Which is to say that we were soon swapping microbus travel stories, lingering over dinner to talk about travel and family, and perusing photos of our Dutch relatives as though no time had passed.

Like all visits with family on this trip, time moves too quickly. We are, all of us, a little slower than we used to be; a little older than we'd like, but we are all still healthy enough, still sharp enough, still engaged enough, to take pleasure in life. If this trip across America is anything for us, it is an opportunity to visit our loved ones, our family and friends, while Biosphere 1 will still have us.

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