After the first day back at work, I have pulled together a few final observations from the road and even more photographs from our trip out west.
- Acoma Sky City (see Claire’s photo at top) is one of the most moving and beautiful places in America. If you ever travel near Albuquerque, take the time to travel about an hour west and see this extraordinary place.
- Follow your spouse’s good instincts when you travel. When we pulled into Gallup, NM after spending the day at Acoma, Candice really wanted to attend the Native American Tribal Ceremonial gathering that was taking place, to see the dancing and cultural displays. I was tired and didn’t follow through, and so we ended up resting in the hotel. Two days later when reading a regional paper we learned 1) that the event itself was pretty spectacular and 2) that PAUL McCARTNEY was in Gallup that evening and had attended the event to watch the dancing. Apparently he was traveling on Historic Route 66 and decided to visit the ceremonial. So, we missed the chance to see the ex-Beatle in person. Oh well…
- It is difficult to drive by iconic places…even if they are somewhat silly icons. Four Corners is one such place. We had been told not to take the time to visit the tourist trap that is the place where Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico come together. But as you drive by and see that the Four Corners marker is all of about 200 yards off the road, the car pulls left all on its own and you suddenly find yourself shelling out the $3/person to get in and get your photo taken.
- The Navajo Nation makes it pretty easy to get to the marker, find some willing soul to take your picture from the photo stand (in exchange for photographing their family…lots of cameras change hands, if only for a minute). And — as you can see above — we have the photo to prove that we did indeed stand in Four States at once. It was worth it!
- There are great funky places to eat on the road if you avoid the chains. At the end of two weeks, Candice and I thought back on our tour and realized that we’d only eaten in one chain restaurant over the course of the two weeks – and even in that case, it was a Panera Bread-type cafe that we didn’t realize was a chain. Over the course of two weeks we ate in great places, small places, strange places, elegant places, and funky places…but they were all unique and part of the special memories from our trip. So the Brown family offers up thanks for My Sister’s Place in Gallup, Goulding’s Trading Post in Monument Valley, La Posada’s Turquoise Room in Winslow, Absolute Bakery & Cafe in Mancos, The Decker House Inn in Bluff, Blondie’s Pub & Grub in Cortez, Cafe Pasqual in Santa Fe…and so many other places we enjoyed along the way. Look for those out of the way places on the road.
- The men and women of the National Park Service do a great job of showcasing America’s special places to audiences of all types from all over the world. Above you’ll see a picture of Ranger Zack, standing on the edge of the world at Balcony House in Mesa Verde giving a funny, informative, yet insightful talk to a group of people with many interests and perspectives. The ranger talks at places like Mesa Verde flew by – something we saw again and again in parks across the Southwest. We had a nice introduction to the archaeology at Mesa Verde by another ranger acting the part of the first explorer of the site. Two volunteers at the Grand Canyon provided very helpful introductions to the majestic California Condors. Through these talks and in many more ways we all came away from the trip with a renewed appreciation for the treasure that is our National Park System.
- One of the things I hoped our children would take away from the trip is a love for the western landscape. Judging from the photographs they took, I think they made that connection. Andrew’s photo to the right shows an interest for the detail of the plant life of the west set against the backdrop of the Grand Canyon.
- Andrew’s Acoma panorama below is typical of the many landscapes both children photographed over the course of two weeks. They loved using the digital camera to stitch together three photos into one view. (And Andrew was kind enough to teach his dad how to use it.)
- You can use your own memories to build new ones for your children. Both Candice and I had taken western trips with our families when we were young. We remembered them fondly. (Mine involved traveling from Tennessee to New Mexico during high school in an un-air conditioned car as we hit record highs in town after town in West Texas. Two weeks after we returned, my brother totaled that automobile and we finally got a car with air conditioning. We all laughed and said it would have been a better-timed wreck if it had happened a couple of weeks BEFORE the trip.) Candice and I planned this trip at a time when Andrew and Claire would remember all aspects of the trip AND would still agree to ride two weeks in a car with us! From all accounts from Claire and Andrew, we succeeded.
Thanks to all for the nice comments (both public and private) on the travelogues. You helped by allowing us to share the joy of travel.
More to come…
Image: Detail from Acoma by Claire Brown