Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Awesome Arizona - Winslow's Saving Grace

I've been in a Motel 6 so bare-bones that I wish they hadn't left the light on for me, endured fifteen hours in a Calais, France, room so miniscule that David and I had to take turns walking, and suffered through a rainy night in a London basement accommodation where the dozen pigeons cooing outside the window obviously had a much more restful night than David and I.*

But sometimes a hostelry is so special it makes me forget any unpleasant hotel experience I've ever had and makes me wish I could stay there for years instead of a day or two.  Such a place is La Posada--Winslow, Arizona's saving grace.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Awesome Arizona - How to Kill a Town

For sixty years, anyone driving from the middle of the United States to the Southwest or West Coast took this Main Street of America.  Oklahomans fleeing the Dustbowl, Jack Kerouc and the Beat Generation, vacationers intent on seeing the Grand Canyon all traveled on this most famous road in America, one of the original highways the government established in 1927.

When travelers got hungry they stopped for a bite in one of the town diners sprinkled along the route; when they couldn't drive another mile, they stopped for the night at Earl's Motor Court or the Hill Top Motel.  Route 66, the highway John Steinbeck called the Mother Road in The Grapes of Wrath, passed right through the middle of towns across America and helped them prosper.

Winslow, Arizona, was one of them.

The famous corner in Winslow.
The Mother Road, so famous it spawned a TV series called, appropriately enough, Route 66, went right through the heart of Winslow.  Then Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey wrote a song called "Take It Easy," popularized by the Eagles in 1972, and Winslow became not just a place to pass through but a destination.

Well, I'm a standing on a corner
in Winslow, Arizona
and such a fine sight to see
It's a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed
Ford slowin' down to take a look at me
Come on, baby, don't say maybe
I gotta know if your sweet love is
gonna save me
We may lose and we may win though
we will never be here again
so open up, I'm climbin' in
so take it easy

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Awesome Arizona - How Did I Land on the Moon?

Can you imagine trying to cross this terrain?  No wonder so much of this area is called the Badlands.
In yesterday's post I said that Arizona's topography startles the senses and befuddles the brain, and nowhere is that more apparent than the Petrified Forest/Painted Desert area.  Forget about paying Golden Spike, a space tourism company, $750 million for a round-trip flight to the moon.  In northeastern Arizona, you can feel as though you've made a lunar landing for a measly $10*!  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Awesome Arizona - The Most Wonderful Person You've Never Heard Of

Arizona's topography startles the senses and befuddles the brain.  Are we in North Africa's windswept plains, a village in the Swiss Alps, or on a crater of the moon?  When you drive through this state, the changes and surprises occur every few miles.

Not only is the geography interesting, but the people who were shaped by these lands are fascinating too.  The Navajo (Diné meaning The People) roamed northeastern Arizona for centuries never minding the fierce winds or inhospitable land.  They traded with other Native Americans and relied on nature to provide for all their needs.  This sacred land, given to them by their forefathers, was all they required to lead meaningful, fulfilling lives.

Despite Spain's invasion in the 16th century that brought many challenges, it wasn't until the United States took possession of this area in 1846 that the trouble for the Navajo truly began. 

Pioneers, lured by the vague promise of gold in the mountains, were assured by US generals that they would be safe from the Navajo.  That promise led to heartache.  Under the leadership of Colonel Christopher "Kit" Carson, the Navajo's crops were burned, their livestock killed, and their women and children massacred.  While many Diné were able to evade capture, the prospect of starvation during a particularly cold winter led them eventually to surrender.

They thought the worst was behind them, but it had only just begun when more than 8,000 Navajos were forced to march over 300 miles.  The torture didn't end when they reached their destination because "The Long Walk" took them to a virtual prison in central New Mexico called Fort Sumner where inadequate food, disease, and intemperate weather further reduced their numbers over the years.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Awesome Arizona - Canyon De Chelly

The circles you see in the foreground are caused by ant colonies.

This valley, considered sacred by the Navajo, has been occupied for 5,000 years; settlers have left their mark in various ways.

The first residents left no permanent homes, but their "stories" are etched on the canyon walls in petroglyphs.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Awesome Arizona - Four Corners Monument

Forget any ideas you had about spending eternity at the Four Corners Monument. 
You can't miss this sign at the welcome building where you pay your entrance fee.
Actually, you probably won't want to spend more than an hour here. 

Although it's certainly unique to have the corners of four states, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona, converge in one place, there's little to do at the site after you finish watching people manipulate their bodies trying to simultaneously place a limb in each state for a photograph. 

The site itself is barren with only a portajohn type bathroom to break the monotony.  

There are, of course, the ubiquitous stands selling Navajo arts and crafts in each state ringing the monument, and I suppose you could tell people you were exhausted from shopping in four states in thirty minutes, but that's about as much excitement as you'll find. 

Practicalities -

It costs $3 per person to enter the monument. 

Many of the arts and crafts were some of the best we saw during the trip.  This is a good place to buy because only Native Americans can exhibit their wares, and all of it must be made by the artisans themselves.  Nothing here was made in China.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Awesome Arizona - Just Meandering

What looks like a giant sand painting is just a few miles from Mexican Hat. 
As awe-inspiring as the land is in Arizona, I think Utah's scenery may be just as jaw-dropping.  Although David and I didn't have time to explore the many places on our must-see list, the Valley of the Gods, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands and Zion, we were impressed just driving along Utah's roads.

We kept expecting to be charged admission because we could not believe such startling beauty could exist for free without someone putting a fence around it and trying to make a profit.  But, so far, this topography can be yours for the looking. 
This is the view 1000 feet down at Gooseneck State Park.  Admission is free but the view is worth a million!  In one and a half miles of space, over six miles (If you could straighten the river out) of San Juan River flow in what geologists call entrenched meanders.  It took nature millions of years to create this wonder, but it will only take you a half hour to drive there from Monument Valley

Monday, July 1, 2013

Awesome Arizona - The Day Jesus Disappeared at Monument Valley

the left "mitten"
Our guide, Gary, pointed to the rock wall and asked if we could see Jesus' face.  We had been studying the formations in Monument Valley for the last two hours--imagining the nun teaching two pupils, seeing the elephant kneeling in a butte, finding the rock shaped exactly like a thumb, and being impressed by the giant's mittens, one for the left hand and one for the right--so it wasn't difficult to envision Jesus among the rock layers.  Sure, there He was.  Right in front of us.

But, no sooner did we spot Him than He disappeared.  With a rumble and a cloud of dust, Jesus was gone.  In the space of twenty seconds.  Just like....that.

There's no need to worry though.

In this valley considered sacred by the Navajo, even though His likeness may have disappeared, Jesus lives just as surely as God, Buddha, Allah, and Yahweh.