The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Western Trip Part 5: Everything Grand

I've stepped away from writing about our recent road trip to the West Coast simply because this past week has been so very busy. I've had to teach a couple of day-long courses for the diocese, programs that demanded a lot of preparation. I also came down with some sort of flu that put me in bed for a day of two. But that's all behind me now so I've decided to finish my little blog-based travelogue.

After leaving picturesque Barstow we made our way east, headed for Flagstaff, Arizona. We checked into another dog-friendly La Quinta Inn and because the day was still young, decided to make the one-hour drive north to Grand Canyon National Park.

As senior citizens we can take advantage of what is surely the best deal in America. For the remarkable sum of $10 a senior citizen can purchase a lifetime pass that lets one enter any national park free of charge. Actually, everyone in the car is covered by this little magic pass, so it is truly a great deal. Many parks charge entrance fees upwards of $20 or $25 per car. If you're interested, or if you know someone who is at least 62 years old, here's a link to the online application: Senior Pass. You can also purchase the pass at any national park.

When we arrived at the park's south rim visitors center the first interesting encounter involved several elk strolling through the parking lot. I'm fairly certain this was the first time I'd met up with elk in these circumstances so naturally I snapped a bunch of photos. Maddie was very excited to see these large critters which I suspect she assumed were just big dogs.
An elk at Grand Canyon National Park

We spent the next few hours marveling at the canyon itself. It is too magnificent to describe and indeed looks almost unreal as one stands on its edge trying to take it all in. Because it was a weekday in mid-May (children still in school), the expected crowds were manageable, but I was surprised that well over half the tourists were Chinese. Most were in large groups that had arrived in tour buses. They all seemed very impressed with the canyon and I did my part to aid our floundering State Department by volunteering to take several group pictures. I have yet to receive a single word of thanks from Secretary Kerry. (Photos of our visit follow,)
Dear Diane, Maddie and I at the South Rim
Grand Canyon View

Grand Canyon View
Grand Canyon View
Grand Canyon View
Grand Canyon View
Grand Canyon View

The next morning we rose early and drove south along one of the most scenic roads in America, SR 179,  which runs through the magnificent Oak Creek Canyon and leads to the beautiful town of Sedona. In Sedona we had breakfast at a terrific restaurant, Ken's Creekside Cafe, where we were seated on their patio so Maddie could join us. After breakfast we drove around town a bit, before retracing our drive back to Flagstaff and from there continued our eastward trek headed for Santa Fe, New Mexico.
View in Oak Creek Canyon
View near Sedona, Arizona
Sedona, Arizona
Lovely Navajo vendor - bought a pot from her

Along the way, just west of Winslow, Arizona, a town made famous by The Eagles in their 1972 song, "Take It Easy," we stopped to see the even more famous Meteor Crater a few miles south of I-40. I've stopped there at least three times in the past -- I just can't resist the place -- and the kind and loving Diane always humors me and let's me pay the exorbitant entrance fee so I can take more photos of this giant, mile-wide hole in the ground. It's actually quite impressive and makes one grateful that this large meteorite struck in the Arizona desert thousands of years ago and not in central Florida today.
Meteor Crater
Meteor Crater

Leaving the crater behind we soon crossed the border into New Mexico. Along the way we made another brief stop, this time in Thoreau, New Mexico, which happens to be the home of St. Bonaventure Indian Mission and School where our elder daughter, Erin, worked as a teacher back in the 1990s. Erin thoroughly enjoyed her time there teaching Native American children. As I recall most of the students were Navajo and Apache. While I snapped a few photos of the school we met one of the teachers who's been at the school since the 1990s and thought she was probably Erin's replacement. Visit their website and support the work of this wonderful school by donating a few dollars.
St. Bonaventure Indian Mission and School, Thoreau, NM
St. Bonaventure Indian Mission and School, Thoreau, NM
St. Bonaventure Indian Mission and School, Thoreau, NM

In Santa Fe we stayed at another pleasant, dog-accommodating hotel, the Santa Fe Sage Inn. It had been a long day, so we grabbed a bite to eat and turned in early. We spent the next morning walking about in downtown Santa Fe. We stopped by a few art galleries, spent a quiet moment on the patio of a lovely little coffee shop, brought a couple of souvenirs at a sidewalk market, and then made our way to the Loretto Chapel and it's spectacular and very famous spiral staircase. Read the story of this seemingly miraculous staircase on the chapel's website: Loretto Chapel.
Morning coffee with Diane and Maddie
Silhouette of Sculptures atop a Sante Fe building
Unique Santa Fe tour guide
Native American crafts for sale in the Plaza
Locals chillin' in the Plaza
Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe

Amazing Staircase in the Loretto Chapel
After Santa Fe Dear Diane and I decided we'd had a wonderful time on this trip across the USA, but it was now time to go home. Poor Maddie, too, was beginning to get a bit punchy after three weeks on the road. We therefore stayed on the interstate highways and put the pedal to the metal. We did no more sightseeing and were home two days later.

So endeth the trip.

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