The Mission of this blog was to serve as a permanent reminder for us, and to share all of the visions, joy, and emotions with all who had an interest in our Journey. I didn’t want it to just be a “Travelogue”. In spite of those intentions, I feel compelled to at least briefly highlight the magnificent views we were privileged to experience on our way home. (Along those lines, the sheer size of many of the locales visited will make viewing much easier on a laptop or home computer vs cell phone.)
Before that “return trip” could commence, however, I had to perform a “McGyver Fix” to the broken rear view mirror on STella, compliments of a wayward delivery van who backed into the mirror in a parking lot.
Our first stop was a return visit (for Cathy) to Huntington Gardens, just because there is so much to see at this Utopia of Botanical Gardens. A career, professional librarian could not pass up the opportunity to visit the World Class library that is one of the main attractions of this place. The highlight exhibit currently is “Books That Changed the World”. Fascinating manuscripts, even to a non-professional like me.
It would be impossible to rate the individual gardens, they each had a majesty of their own. The Chinese Garden is undergoing a major expansion, and, even as is, is spectacular.
I realize in writing this that calling the Desert Garden our “favorite”, seems like an oxymoron. But the incredible diversity and resilience of these amazing plants really appeals to us. That they can endure in the environment that they do, and still display such beauty is soul satisfying. Add to that the number of miles that I pedaled through their natural habitat makes it perhaps more understandable.
Our departure from Huntington headed us East for the first time in months. The day ended with a RV park in Barstow, CA, another USMC related town, and the starting point of my MOTORcycle race across the desert to Las Vegas in 1970. This rates as the second most stupid thing I’ve ever done in my life. Don’t ask about the first.
The National Parks and Monuments beckoned us on East and North. First encountered was Zion National Park. Oohs and Ahhs were continuous on the steep and winding drive. This visit was a first for both of us.
Utah contains some of the most amazing scenery in the United States. Zion was just the first of many marvelous destinations.
We took the time to take several glorious hikes to view the wonders of geology and time on the landscape. A formation called “toadstools” for their obvious visual similarity to the common fungi drew us on a delightful walk.
Next destination was Glen Canyon Dam, just over the border into Arizona. We arrived too late in the day to tour the dam, but did spend very informative time in the visitor center. We were both quite surprised at the amount of armed security all around the visitor center and the dam itself. A sad commentary on our times. The RV camps are very full all through this part of the Southwest, and we felt fortunate to find a spot in the Park campground.
Following the sage advice of our Wellman friends in Arizona (thank you, Greiners and Brophys!), we headed for Antelope Canyon, a so-called “slot canyon” of major renown.
Hard to leave this natural wonder, but still more “places to go and things to see”. Next up, Monument Valley, of world-wide fame. More hiking and exploring, and an unexpected added plus, a showing of the original movie “Stagecoach”, which simultaneously introduced to the world, Monument Valley and John Wayne, in his first major starring role. The movie was filmed in and around Monument Valley, and added greatly to the grandeur of the film. The campground we stayed in there was in fact in the same place as the film makers, under the direction of John Ford, also stayed for the duration of the filming. What a treat!
Only Native American driven tour vehicles are now allowed to drive on the monument lands. Most of these tours are multi-hour visits, and we didn’t think we could afford the time to indulge. What lasting memories we now have of this famous locale.
While at the visitor center, we were advised to drive back along the way we had come to see “Goosenecks State Park”. A relatively new park that has yet to be “discovered” by the touring public. The area showcases the bends of the San Juan River in a spectacular setting, similar to the Great Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado.
STella gassed up and ready to go with Mesa Verde on the GPS cross hairs. Almost a hundred miles of scenery that would be remarkable anywhere. To add some drama, however, a snow squall popped up. This was a first for this trip. The road surface was warm enough to melt the snow as it fell, but we realized there would be more of the white stuff at the higher elevations we were headed for.
Our day ended at a pleasant but nearly vacant RV Park in Bluff, Utah, a town that proudly proclaimed it’s settlement in 650 AD. We enjoyed our first steak supper of the trip at the just-opened-for-the-season Cottonwood restaurant. Very nice, and super friendly folks.
Bright and early the next morning, we made the very short trip out of town to view the petroglyphs that have been gracing the sheer rock walls of the San Juan river valley for a thousand years or more. That some of them have been vandalized is not surprising, that any of them still remain pristine is remarkable.
It was hard for us to complain about some snow since we have had nearly perfect weather for all the trip thus far.
We have seen multiple cliff dwellings up til now, but these at Mesa Verde were the most extensive and well preserved of all of those. Truly mind-bending, trying to visualize the construction and day to day life of those who lived here 800 years ago.
Off from the Cliff Dwellings to the last of the National Parks on the list: Arches. Once again, our Senior Parks Pass got us in for free. Who says it doesn’t pay to get old? 🙂 This park is one of the most photographed parks in the country, and it’s easy to see why. There was an overflowing parking area at the first of the many “must stop for” sites; The Balanced Rock.
From whichever direction you see this “it-can’t-really-be” monolith, it appears to be on the brink of collapse. The “balanced” rock sitting precariously at the top of the crumbling column is estimated to weigh 3,500 TONS! That’s the weight of 17 locomotives! Until 1975, there was a smaller little brother named “Chip off the old block”. As we made our little hike all the way around it, I decided I wouldn’t want to be in the vicinity when this one finally succumbs to gravity and erosion.
The arches in all their individuality are pictures of grace and seeming fragility, but they have been in place for more years than we have existed. What a feeling of wonder to see.
We left Arches and headed for Denver and arrived at sister Bev and hubby Russ’s about 8pm. Warmly welcomed! Spent Thursday thru Saturday there. Met beautiful baby Kaylee there the next day and enjoyed time with Marisa and Mike when he came there from work. Relaxing days and then wonderful party hosted by Bev/Russ to celebrate our trek. Nine good friend guests and wonderful evening.
Left 0400 Sunday and drove all the way to Albia to be with Mom for her 96th birthday. She had a wonderful BD party at the White Buffalo hosted by my siblings. She really enjoyed it. Her best friend from Homestead, Dorothy Beary was with her for the party. Cathy and I had supper with her in the Homestead and then visited with Howard at his apartment along with Peg. Feeling the strong pull of HOME now, we left for the final leg of the giant circle we had scribed around the USA.
It was heartwarming to be welcomed home by Sean, Barb and Collette. Kelley was here from Chicago as well and brought two of her girls, Laila and Ellie.
And so, the end of this chapter, of what we hope will be an ongoing story of travel and adventure. Having you all along has made it a journey of joy. Thanks always for that.