October 13, 2011: Sante Fe, NM to Chaco Canyon, NM
What a beautiful OLD city Sante Fe is. According to the markers we read last night, it has the oldest church, oldest house and oldest government offices in the US. The government offices were in operation before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth rock!
Alas for more time to spend, but we needed to be in Chaco Canyon before noon to hit the tours. We arrived there just in time to set up tent next to some cliff dwellings and then join a very knowledgeable volunteer guide (retired teacher). What an unbelievable amount of construction took place
here in 800-1150 AD!
Of course there is controversy--already renamed “ancestral puebloan” territory from Anasazi Ruins--some suggest that they shouldn’t be open to the public at all. Glad to be seeing them now. In the evening, it feels a little like a pilgrimage site with the tents under the stars and people playing music around campfires.
October 14, 2011: Chaco Canyon, NM to Cortez, Co
Well, it got cold enough last night to freeze the first few inches of the water in our canteen. Almost everyone waited for the sun to strike the camp before rising. We spent the morning chatting with new friends (who told us about the best hike!) and then took to the hills--squeezing through the sandstone cliffs and up the chipped paths to view Pueblo Alto and the sites we had wandered through the day before. Quite the complex and easy to see how it could have been the hub of this civilization. After a quick lunch, we were off to Cortez, Colorado in order to see Mesa Verde tomorrow. Another long afternoon of driving (at 75 miles/hour) and we set up at the KOA with a lovely fire to warm us.
October 15, 2011: Cortez, Co and Mesa Verde
We were up early (warmer this morning) and on the road to Mesa Verde. We followed our Chaco friends’ recommendations and signed up to take part in both tours--including the more rigorous “Balcony House tour”. Very, very interesting to hear how the theories have changed about why these buildings are here and why they were abandoned. Cliff Palace is fascinating,
but Balcony House more attractive--especially for the children on the tour. They ask to repeat the climb up the death-defying ladder and through the claustrophobic tunnel.
After a visit to the informative museum, we check out more “self-guided” sites and talk with a KAO camp-neighbour who is longing for the land of malls. Tomorrow, they and we are off to the Grand Canyon. Fall has arrived in this high country and the drive down is spectacular.
October 16, 2011: Cortez, Co to The Grand Canyon, AZ
And...on to The Grand Canyon, Arizona. We decided not to do the quieter northern route, hoping that the traffic had slowed to the southern route. Luckily, most drivers were heading for a fair enroute.
*Is there anything that says “welcome” quite like a pit bull with a barbed collar?
This seemed to be a Navajo or Hopi gathering with roping competitions and roadside craft/food stalls.
Once on the rim, we were treated to the amazing vistas that this area promises and then spent a very interesting evening swapping stories with two Spanish-American couples from New Mexico. We were trying to figure out the sleeping arrangements as there was only 1 small pup tent, 4 chairs and a large Tacoma truck. Turns out that the one gentleman is a fan of motorcycle/tent camping and has been all the way through to Alaska in that manner. The rest of his gang opted for a motel.
October 17, 2011: The Grand Canyon, AZ to Los Vegas, NV
After one last look at the canyons, we headed for LV, a cheap room, a cheap buffet dinner (no campfire cooking tonight) and cheaper margaritas. We managed to confuse the GPS, but eventually found all of the above on the outskirts of the city. We even managed to play the one-armed bandits in Janet and Dad’s honour.
October 18, 2011: Los Vegas, NV to Reno, NV
Yes, it is going to be a long, long day of driving, but soon we will be closer to Oregon. There sure is a lot of desert and nothing much in Nevada. Pretty interesting to find a gas station/outpost of earth--section 51/brothel/museum. Not sure how that looks to the interplanetary visitors. There seems to be a lot of mining activity up near the mountains and one green town (Fallen).