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Published: October 25th 2013
Shiprock, New Mexico
This can be seen for miles. We are still far from it in this shot.
After Carol and Ned left, we opted to stay an extra day, get some laundry done, and relax. We hadn't realized how tiring the cold, bouncing, and shaking could be on the train. The leaves were starting to fall some and so it was cool, crisp and had the great Autumn smell of leaves and damp ground. Got some reading done and worked on the blog.
Next day we left and headed for Hillerman country. For those not familiar with Tony Hillerman, he wrote detective/mysteries about life on the Indian Reservations in the Four Corners area. Trish has read most of his books and wanted to drive through some of the towns mentioned and get a feel for the area. We headed south through sandstone and distant buttes and began climbing in elevation. Eventually we came to Farmington and then headed west toward Shiprock. Farmington and Shiprock are not big towns and though Farmington looked mildly prosperous, Shiprock was dusty, dry, windy, arid, and less than desirable. Yet this was the weekend of a big Navajo festival and people were coming from all over to camp, celebrate and have fun. There were food vendors selling "kneeling down bread" along the
Driving through Navajo Nation
It was barren, dusty, and windswept...but with an awesome beauty of ruggedness.
road and other vendors selling lamb, mutton and goat meat (grilled) sandwiches. But pulling the RV over and getting food was difficult so we didn't try. There were lines behind us and horse and riders were crowding on the edge of the road and were riding in groups through the fields, all to get to the fairgrounds. Interesting, but not where we wanted to spend time.
Heading out of Shiprock we saw the HUGE rock in the distance that looked like a ship. It rises from nothingness and clearly stands out for all to see. We followed the road on towards the west and marveled at the rock formations, the barrenness, the dust. This is the Navajo Nation (larger than the state of West Virginia!) and yet there appear to be little in the way of natural resources and farming is hard scrabble at best. Homes are often singular mobile homes, sitting in the middle of nowhere, with scattered cars, ATVs and other large items sitting around. Most appear to have horses somewhere about with a small shed for the animals to get them out of the weather. But farming as most would recognize it is minimal.
Our Garmin was very clear on exactly where we were.
came to the turn off for Four Corners and drove the short distance to the entrance. Again, we are in First Nation lands and the access is controlled by the Navajo Nation. No one was in the entrance booth, so we did not pay a fee ($3) and drove to the spot where Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico all meet. It is a rough spot, beautiful in long views but disappointing up close. The parking is rutted and dirt and there are some fairly new pit toilets provided, but no other amenities. It looks as though the Navajos are working on improving the site, but for now, only the actual commemoration point is spiffy. There is a large circle indicating the exact point and the states indicated. Ramps with elevated viewing and photography points are provides and most folks waited patiently for their chance to step up and get a picture taken. Around the edges, the Navajos have erected concrete booths with small counter spaces and a door to the rear. This is for vendors to rent and sell their wares. Only a quarter of them were occupied at this time of year with members of various tribes selling
trinkets, jewelry, paintings, rugs, and in one corner, fry bread. Fry bread became a Navajo tradition in 1864 and uses flour, sugar, salt and lard. This was all they had from the Federal government when they were forced to make the 300-mile journey known as the Long Walk from Arizona to New Mexico and were put on land that couldn't easily support their traditional staples of vegetables and beans.
We left Four Corners and pushed on to Kayenta, where we spent the night in a Burger King lot. But the BK had a wonderful exhibit on the Navajo Code Talkers, so it was well worth it. There were other things to see and do in the area, but we had promised a former student from Franklin, NH, we would see her in Las Vegas, and she had Sunday and Monday off, so we wanted to get there and spend time with her. We pressed on to Flagstaff and then to Vegas. NOW, this would NOT have been the norm. Our original plan was to see Mesa Verde and then on to Grand Canyon, eventually getting to Vegas when it would have been good for Debbie. But with the government
Making Navajo Frybread
Had frybread with apricot jam (Trish) and applebutter (John). Really yummy!
shutdown, we couldn't even stay in National Forest campgrounds, so off we went. Opps, couldn't cross Hoover Dam; it's a National Park. So we took the high bridge, saw very little, and pulled into our campsite in Henderson, NV.
Campgrounds in Vegas are on asphalt...they don't do grass. Some have gravel or dirt, but most are just hot asphalt. But we had all the amenities, including a pool and hot tub, so it wasn't too bad. We went over to Debbie Cross Chamberlain's house and met her husband and she treated us to a WONDERFUL dinner of homemade beef barley soup and homemade cheddar biscuits. Oh-Yum! It really hit the spot. (Deb was a student when we were in NH and had been in all the productions we did. We reconnected at the Franklin HS reunion last year and promised if we ever got out west, we would see her.) Next day Deb took us to the Valley of Fire state park north of town and we really enjoyed seeing the rock formations, petroglyphs and desert scenes. For the 2nd night she fed us another wonderful meal. Third day we took Deb to dinner at a Japanese restaurant and
Desert at sunset
Sun was going down as we approached Kayenta. Cliffs are naturally red, but with setting sun, this was magnificent.
introduced her to some typical non-sushi food and then she drove us down "The Strip" to see the glitter and glitz. We dropped Trish off at the campground and Deb and I went back to Freemont Street to see the light show, hear the music, watch the people, and get a feel for Vegas at night. It was a fun experience and my jaw dropped several times. But soon it was late and since we were leaving the next day, we finally headed back to the campground and said our good byes. It was such a great pleasure to see the wonderful wife, mother, grandma my former student has become. We plan to stay in touch and maybe someday she will come to Alabama and we can show her around our part of the country.
We had time to kill and decided to head to California. As I think I explained previously, we have a map in the RV hanging on the wall and we add the states to it when, and only when, we have slept in the state in the RV. We have visited many states but not in the RV and have not slept in the
Crossing Hoover Dam and Lake Mead
Because of the shutdown, Hoover Dam and the road over were closed. We took the bridge and were advised to use caution for the high winds. YIKES! John drove and actually kept his eyes open.
RV in the state. (By this standard, we will obviously never add Hawaii, though we have been there.) So to take a couple of days to drive to CA seemed reasonable. We headed to Desert Center, a midpoint on I-10 between Phoenix and Los Angles. Turns out this is where General Patton trained troops prior to heading to Africa to fight Rommel in the desert. Does that give you a clue as to how a)desolate it was, b) how hot it was, and c) how windy it was??? We finally found a literal oasis and a small mobile home/RV park and spent a couple of nights in the middle of no where. But it was quiet, restful, and they had a nice pool and hot tub.
From here we were headed to Yuma and a chance to see a friend from Iwakuni, Japan. But before we got to Yuma, we had to cross out of California and across the Colorado River. Then we HAD to stop at Quartzite, AZ. This is a big RV spot for the rock show in the middle of winter. But it is also the grave of Hai Jolly, a famous Greek/Arab camel driver from
Valley of Fire
Outside of Las Vegas is a state park, Valley of Fire. It is NOT because of volcanic action, but because of the redness of the rocks all around.
the 1850s. There is even an old folk song about him. So we stopped, looked, took pictures, then headed south to Yuma and our friends.
Helen Marquez and her husband, Richard, were in Japan in 2000 when we went back. Helen was the deputy Comptroller and I was the business manager, and our advice to the CO was at times contradictory. But we always worked to provide him with options and often worked together on money and manpower issues. They had retired to Yuma and when she heard we would be in the Southwest, urged us to come visit. We stayed at a nice Snowbird resort and made arrangements to meet Helen and Richard for lunch on day. We had a great meal and loved catching up on our lives and both agreeing that retirement was wonderful. We finally parted and Trish took careful note of several cactus farms along the road home. Next day we went back and after careful scouting, she bought two cacti to bring back to Alabama. One small one rides in the RV; the larger one is in a large plastic barrel and rides in the back seat of the Toyota we tow behind
Deb and John getting closeups
The petroglyphs were close in some spots, but here, Deb and John climbed up closer to get better shots.
While in Yuma, we heard that the Federal Government would allow states to pay for the cost of reopening National Parks, and Arizona had agreed to pay to open the Grand Canyon. I called and made reservations at the Trailer Village on the South Rim for three nights and off we went, north from Yuma to Phoenix and them on up to Flagstaff (again) and then to the park. This was one of the big events we had dreamed about for years!! Next up...Grand Canyon National Park.
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