The Sand Man

Enjoy the latest story from the blog,
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

We checked in at the Petroglyphs National Monument visitors’ center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to figure out where to go. Down the road, we found ourselves parking and taking in a panoramic view of dusty, sparse, flat, arid surroundings interrupted only by a huge ridge jutting out of nowhere. So we climbed it.

If ever there was a place where we would have a rattlesnake casualty, this was it. The ridge was made of rocks and boulders piled and strewn all about, together forming a hill. It was like a mini mountain range. But there was a pathway zigzagging up, around, to the front – side – back and around to the front again of this earthen formation accumulated by the remnants of volcanic activity, the byproduct – basalt. To the Native Americans, it was their canvas, and they used it for thousands of years, carving approximately 24,000 images into the rocks found everywhere.

At the summit of the volcanic core, we heard thunder and froze! Standing atop the highest elevation anywhere around, we listened for more thunder, nearly jumping off the steep ridge when lightning lit up the sky.

The race down was awkward. We were tripping on each other, wary of a misstep that could send us tumbling head over heels to the nearest hospital. The wind kicked up with a fierce vengeance as if we had just pissed off the spirits of the land. It was a mad dash for the vehicle when we finally hit bottom. Once safely inside, we marveled at the driving rains and high winds blowing viciously against the windows, determined to get us.

Then, nothing. The wind was whipping on and off in the distance.

“What’s that?” I asked.


To locals, it was probably not that big a deal, but to us, we had never seen one, not even a small or moderate one.

So, like any tourist, I rolled down my window to get a better look …and picture.


Just like that, it went from what appeared to be a safe distance away to me spending the next day grinding sand between my teeth and forever finding granules in every crevice of the vehicle we bought brand new only four months earlier.

“What were you thinking?” my wife asked – over and over, shaking sand from her hair.

The kids thought it was awesome. So I had that.

Once we recovered and swept as much sand as possible from the vehicle, we returned to continue exploring the petroglyphs.

The images were mostly rudimentary. They looked like something a first-grader might bring home to hang on the fridge. “Look at my picture of the dog,” and by dog, they mean alien. Some of the rock etchings indeed looked like aliens – no imagination necessary. Others were unmistakably snakes, birds, and other animals. Some were just designs.

When we drove back out to the main road and passed the visitors’ center, fire trucks had just finished extinguishing a blaze caused by a lightning strike.

We all just sort of looked at each other, dumbfounded.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun! 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”