Tag Archives: Grand Canyon

Four Corners – Into the Valley of Fire

6 Sep

This day started with two people doing something special and two people doing something ordinary. My wife and my stepdaughter’s friend got up before daylight to see the sun rise over the Grand Canyon. My stepdaughter and I stayed in bed.

When they returned to the room, they talked about the spiritual experience, but they also talked about the crazy tourists who climbed over the fencing and walked to the edge of the canyon. They went to pray for the beauty that God created and ended up praying that these people did not fall to their deaths.image-53

Once their nerves were in order, we loaded the car and headed toward Phoenix. This meant doing something that we had not done in over a week – drive on an interstate. This was Interstate 40, which goes through our hometown. I asked if they wanted to drive home, but that suggestion was not well received.

Eventually, we turned south, and I noticed something on the thermometer. For the entire trip, we had comfortable temperatures that rarely climbed out of the 80s. As we got closer to Phoenix, the thermometer kept easing higher. It would eventually reach 112 degrees.

Before the trip, my wife and I decided that we would stop at two places on this day. The first was Montezuma’s Castle, an ancient Native American cliff dwelling. We had visited the site with my parents and thought the girls should see it. Surprisingly, we did not encounter much history on this trip, and we needed to see some.image-55

There is one thing I must say about Montezuma’s Castle. It was named after stupid Europeans who thought the Native Americans in this area could not have built such a thing. It must have been built by the Aztec because everyone knew that they had built a magnificent city. Now, the place is stuck with an inappropriate name.

Our next stop was another place introduced to us by our parents. We had to eat at the Rock Springs Cafe.image-54

This place is known for its pies. They have every imaginable kind, and they are all good. I was going to get something made of berries but ended up getting pecan. It is hard to beat pecan pie.

From there, we drove to our hotel in Scottsdale. It was hot. Really hot. It was dry heat, but it was extreme heat. I love Scottsdale in the winter, but I do not see how people live there in the summer. To beat the heat, we spent the day in the Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall. It was an expensive jaunt into the air conditioning, but the cool air was worth it.

We ended the day by eating at Barrio Queen Restaurante y Tequileria. The food was good, and the bathrooms were confusing. However, that is a political issue, and I do not want to get into that.

The next day, we flew home to Tennessee, but we all agreed that it was a fun trip. The people who followed us on Facebook and Twitter have said that it looked awesome. They were not wrong. It was an awesome trip, and I am ready to go back.

 

Four Corners – The Grand Canyon

28 Aug

Wow, a lot has happened since the last post about our Four Corners adventure. School started. I had to get a root canal. It has been an eventful series of days, but it is not time to write about our day at the Grand Canyon.

The day began at the hotel’s continental breakfast, but this was like no other continental breakfast. First, it was packed with people. Second, most of those people did not live on this continent. From the time that we arrived at the Grand Canyon, we noticed that people were speaking a myriad of languages. I tried to keep track with how many but lost count. All I know is that people were from all over the world.

This brings me to another point. I have always said that the Grand Canyon is something that everyone should see if they get the chance, and we were surrounded by people who traveled from around the world to see it. However, there are people in the United States who will not go. I understand that not everyone can afford it. I am writing about the people who do not go because they are too focused on going to the beach and eating shrimp cocktail while drinking a margarita. This is a great country with a lot of great places to visit, but people keep going to the same old places. A ton of people followed our trip on Facebook and talked about how fun it looked. They talked about how they would love to do something like that. Well, you cannot see the Grand Canyon in the panhandle of Florida.

Alright, my rant is over. Now, it is time to get on with the fun. On this morning, we had plans to do something that I had always wanted to do. We flew in a helicopter over the Grand Canyon. I think everyone was nervous, but it could not have been a better experience. As we flew to the canyon, music played in our headphones. We had a feeling that we were close when they starting playing the music from 2001: A Space Odyssey. You know, the same music that Elvis used to come on stage with. Then, the land under us disappeared.

We got some great pictures.

Like this one.image-45

And this one.image-46

And this one.image-47

However, this is my favorite.image-44

After the helicopter ride, we went to the National Geographic Visitors Center and watched an IMAX movie about the history of the Grand Canyon. Then, we drove to the edge of the canyon to buy souvenirs and take more selfies.

Then, we went back to the hotel to relax and get ready for dinner. Not much happened in the afternoon, but I had an interesting experience in the hotel lobby.

I made myself ready for dinner and left the room to let the ladies get ready. I went to the lobby to read the newspaper and play on my phone. It was not as rushed as it was during breakfast, but there were people arriving to claim their rooms for the evening. There were two people, an African American man and an African American woman, working the desk.

Suddenly, a Japanese woman walked in and asked if they had a room available. Both desk clerks immediately said no. The lady left. A few minutes later, a tired and haggard white guy walked in. With his American accent, he said something like, “I guess you guys don’t have a room.” The lady said that she would look. She got on the computer and found a room for him.

Our nation is filled with racism. If we think that it is no longer a problem, then we can turn on the television for a reminder. In that lobby, I learned that racism can come in different forms. We, as Americans, can be racist in situations that I never realized. The Japanese woman was sent away without a thought. The white American was taken care of.

After that bit of enlightenment, we went to dinner at El Tovar, one of the Grand Canyon lodges.image-48

It was a great meal and a great way to end our day at the Grand Canyon.

 

 

Four Corners – All the States at Once

16 Aug

Today, we held our annual tradition of starting the academic year with faculty meetings. I say that because my colleague in history said that my last post left him in suspense. He had to know what my wife and I argued about. Well, here it is.

She wanted to start the next day with whitewater rafting. I knew that we had a long drive through desolate territory ahead of us and did not want to get a late start. This went back and forth for a while on the sidewalks of Durango, and, at some point, I brought up the wine that was served on the train. That is when my stepdaughter and her friend walked off and left us to our discussion.

The next morning, we were back at that same spot to go whitewater rafting.

Our guide arrived on his motorcycle, and the girls went kind of googily eyed. His name was Paden, and I immediately wondered if he was named for Kevin Kline’s character in Silverado. That probably means I have seen that movie too many times.

It was a good ride. We hit a enough rapids to make it interesting, but it was mostly a smooth ride. Paden talked about going to college and about life in Durango. I never did ask him if he was named after a character in a movie.

After the boat ride, we headed further down Highway 160 and passed through towns like Hesperus, Mancos and Cortez. After that, we did not pass much, and my wife began to realize why I wanted to get off to a good start. When we arrived at our destination, she admitted that she was hoping we did not have a flat tire.

Despite the desolation, we were not out there alone. A bunch of cars were on the road, and many of them were going to the same place that we were going – Four Corners.

When I was a kid, we went to Four Corners, the place where four states come together. I remember that my dad could not find it, and we drove back and forth for a while. When we finally got there, it was a round slab with the borders outlined. There were not many people, and you could walk around on the slab.

Now, Four Corners is completely different. They charge to get in, and an entire complex has been built. The state borders are in a theater type setting that can be used for ceremonies, and booths filled with Native American wares surround it all. On top of that, you have to stand in line to get a picture at the Four Corners.

Like everyone else, we stood in line and got a picture. I am pretty sure that I am standing in Utah. My wife is in Colorado, and the girls are in New Mexico and Arizona. image-42

At least, I am standing in Utah if that is the correct Four Corners. I did not tell anyone, but there is a chance that the real spot is somewhere in the distance.

Oh yeah, we took this picture, too.image-43

We left Four Corners and made our way through the Navajo Nation. I have been through different parts of the Nation, and I always wonder the same thing. How do people make a living out there? I know that poverty is everywhere, but, in my mind, reservations are the epitome of the problem. On top of that, I do not see many people speaking in support of Native Americans. I guess it is out of sight, out of mind.

After hours of driving by me and hours of worrying by my wife, we made it to Tuba City, Arizona and turned off Highway 160 for the first time in a few days. From there, we made our way to our ultimate destination – the Grand Canyon.

When my wife asked me to describe the Grand Canyon, I could not do it. I told her that she had to see it for herself. When arrived just before sunset and had to drive through the park to get to our hotel. There was enough light to stop and look at it. That is when they understood what I had been saying. The Grand Canyon has to be seen.

We took pictures, but they are not as good as the pictures we took the next day.

 

Listeria – Western Locales

12 Aug

The latest edition of American Cowboy lists twelve destinations in the American West that every cowboy must visit. Well, I’m not a cowboy. I don’t wear a cowboy hat, boots or Wrangler jeans. I don’t ride horses. At one time, my dad owned the top ranked herd of Angus in Tennessee, but I only went to the production sales to eat and watch the spectacle. Despite all of those non-cowboy things, I love the American West, and, of the twelve locations in the magazine, these are my favorites.

Grand Canyon National Park – I believe this is something that every American should see at least once in their lifetime.West 2010 313

The magazine says that people should visit Prescott, Arizona while they are in the area. I couldn’t agree more. Prescott has one of the coolest town squares I have ever seen. Wait, I guess I should call it a plaza.

Monument Valley – By far, my favorite place in the American West. It may be my favorite place in the world. It is the land of the Navajo. It is the land of John Ford. It is also the banner at the top of this blog.West 2010 258

The magazine suggests that people should also go to Canyon de Chelly. It is also in the Navajo Nation and is a place that should not be passed up. Although, be sure to go into the canyon with a Navajo guide.West 2010 213

Black Hills – This is the Holy Land of the Sioux, and the United States took it for the gold in the ground. Now, there is Mount Rushmore and a mountain being carved to represent Crazy Horse. The rest of the hills are covered with old mining towns, the most famous of which is Deadwood. No one should leave Deadwood without walking through Mt. Moriah Cemetery and leaving an offering at the grave of Wild Bill Hickok.

Yellowstone National Park – It is filled with natural wonders – geysers, hot springs, buffalo and more things than can be mentioned. This is another place that every American should see at least once, and they should enter from the original entrance to the north. If you are going to do it, then do it like they did in the old days.Montana 2012 and Other Stuff 275

Those are a few of the places to see in the West. There are only hundreds of more that could be listed.

Listeria – Wonders of the World

25 Jul

Before this post officially begins, there is something that needs to be cleared up. I started the “Listeria” series a long time ago as a way to explore our fascination with lists. Since that original post, I have covered the best places in New Mexico; the greatest guitarists of all time; some of the best places to travel; the greatest cowboy stars; the fastest gunfighters; Nashville’s best restaurants; and the best movies of all time. At no point during that time did I know that Listeria is a serious disease. I think I first heard about it on CNN.

Now, I am stuck. Do I change the name because it brings to mind something terrible? Or, do I keep the name that has become a well-known brand? You know, Coca-Cola didn’t change their name because they took cocaine out of their product. It seems to have worked for them, so I’ll stick with it.

This edition of “Listeria” comes to us from the people at LIFE, which only puts out these special publications because their magazine didn’t make it. This one is called Wonders of the World: 50 Must-See Natural and Man-Made Marvels. However, there is a problem, only 41 of them can be seen because the other 9 either don’t exist anymore, are in space or are in the unreachable depths of the ocean.

Out of the 41 that are obtainable by ordinary humans, I have visited the following.

The Colosseum – It was cool because it was just like a modern stadium. Entrance gates. Concourse. Seats. There was even a roof over part of the audience. They had club level, too. It was truly a technological marvel. However, I remember two things about it more than anything else. It was surrounded by traffic. Now that I think about it, that’s just like a modern stadium, too. It also had a bunch of cats living in it.

The Vatican – Obviously, it’s in the same city as the Colosseum and is a testament to the power of religion. The art was amazing, and, to me, the Sistine Chapel stood out. However, I mostly remember a statue that everyone rubbed for good luck. I don’t know who the statue portrayed, but I know that the feet had nearly disappeared. That’s a lot of rubbing.

The Empire State Building – I have seen this building, but I don’t remember much about it. I was in high school when my parents decided to take a road trip through the northeast, and my dad decided it would be a good idea to drive through New York City. As navigator, I was busy looking at the map and trying to get us out of the quagmire. We succeeded but only by going through Harlem and the Bronx, and that really wasn’t the plan.

The Golden Gate Bridge – We just drove over it on our honeymoon. You can read about that here.

Mount Rushmore – Now, we are talking. This is one of my favorite places and is a monument to some of the men who built America. Unfortunately, these men helped build America on land that was owned by Native Americans. There is something ironic about this being carved in the Black Hills, land that is sacred to the Sioux and land that they have refused to take payment for.

The Grand Canyon – One of nature’s most awesome accomplishments, the canyon is almost too big to comprehend from the rim. It needs to be hiked or flown into to understand how grand it is. My nephew was lucky enough to camp inside of the Grand Canyon, and it’s something he will always remember. Most don’t know that a Native American community lives on its floor.West 2010 309

Yellowstone – I have been to Yellowstone numerous times, and there are almost too many things to see. Natural wonders are everywhere. Last year, the guys in my family took a trip to Montana and dipped into the northern edge of the park. We didn’t see geysers on this trip, but we did see buffalo.Montana 2012 and Other Stuff 302

I’ve been lucky to make it to those, and, hopefully, I’ll make it to a few more, some day.