Tag Archives: Arizona

“Travel America” and Me

20 Feb

The other day, we were flying to Arizona, and I picked up a magazine to read on the plane. Travel America lists over 250 places to visit in the United States. As I skimmed through the pages, I began to count all of the ones that I have visited. I have been lucky enough to travel to all 50 states and have seen some great stuff. This is a list of places that Travel America and I have in common.

Wait, here is a picture that I took on the trip to get you in the mood. It is in the Superstition Mountains.img_2279

Massachusetts

Paul Revere House

Old North Church

USS Constitution

New York

Central Park

Madison Avenue

Statue of Liberty

Empire State Building

Broadway

Niagara Falls

Pennsylvania

Independence Hall

Liberty Bell

National Constitution Center

Rhode Island

The Breakers

Florida

Walt Disney World

Kennedy Space Center

Everglades National Park

Miami Beach

South Beach

Georgia

River Street

Buckhead

Georgia Aquarium

World of Coca-Cola Museum

Kentucky

University of Kentucky

Louisiana

Garden District

Lafayette Cemetery

French Quarter

Louisiana State University

Mississippi

Ground Zero Blues Club

Delta Blues Museum

Natchez Trace

North Carolina

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Biltmore

South Carolina

Harbour Town Golf Links

Tennessee

Beale Street

B.B. King’s Blues Club

Graceland

Ryman Auditorium

Country Music Hall of Fame

The Hermitage

Union Station Hotel

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Alum Cave Trail

Cade’s Cove

Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Washington Monument

Lincoln Memorial

Arlington National Cemetery

Old Town Alexandria

Mount Vernon

Illinois

Michigan Avenue

Indiana

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Michigan

University of Michigan

Missouri

Gateway Arch

North Dakota

Badlands

Fort Mandan

Ohio

Progressive Field

Warehouse District

Oklahoma

National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum

Cattleman’s Steakhouse

South Dakota

Badlands National Park

Wall Drug

Mount Rushmore

Crazy Horse Memorial

Custer State Park

Saloon #10

Mt. Moriah Cemetery

Arizona

Tombstone

Mission San Xavier del Bac

Grand Canyon

Canyon de Chelly

Goulding’s Lodge and Trading Post

Sedona

Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Mesa Verde National Park

Montana

Billings

Pompeys Pillar National Monument

Little Bighorn Battlefield Indian Memorial

Beartooth Highway

Glacier National Park

Going-to-the-Sun Road

Nevada

Death Valley National Park

Luxor

Excalibur

Venetian

New Mexico 

Carlsbad Cavern

Palace of the Governors

Inn of the Anasazi

White Sands National Monument

Texas

Sixth Floor Museum

South Congress Avenue

Sixth Street

River Walk

The Alamo

Utah

Bryce Canyon

Temple Square

Wyoming

Snake River

Grand Tetons National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Old Faithful Inn

Yellowstone Lake

Old Faithful

Lower Falls

Yellowstone River

Buffalo Bill Center of the West

Alaska

Glacier Bay National Park

Denali National Park

California

Universal Studios

HOLLYWOOD sign

Grauman’s Chinese Theater

Walk of Fame

Rodeo Drive

Golden Gate Bridge

Chinatown

Redwood National Park

General Sherman Tree

Sequoia National Park

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Falls

Pacific Coast Highway

Hawaii

USS Arizona Memorial

Lanikai Beach

Volcanoes National Park

Waimea Canyon

Oregon

Haystack Rock

Columbia River Gorge

Mt. Hood

Historic Columbia River Highway

Crater Lake

Washington

Mount Rainier National Park

Four Corners – Into the Valley of Fire

6 Sep

This day started with two people doing something special and two people doing something ordinary. My wife and my stepdaughter’s friend got up before daylight to see the sun rise over the Grand Canyon. My stepdaughter and I stayed in bed.

When they returned to the room, they talked about the spiritual experience, but they also talked about the crazy tourists who climbed over the fencing and walked to the edge of the canyon. They went to pray for the beauty that God created and ended up praying that these people did not fall to their deaths.image-53

Once their nerves were in order, we loaded the car and headed toward Phoenix. This meant doing something that we had not done in over a week – drive on an interstate. This was Interstate 40, which goes through our hometown. I asked if they wanted to drive home, but that suggestion was not well received.

Eventually, we turned south, and I noticed something on the thermometer. For the entire trip, we had comfortable temperatures that rarely climbed out of the 80s. As we got closer to Phoenix, the thermometer kept easing higher. It would eventually reach 112 degrees.

Before the trip, my wife and I decided that we would stop at two places on this day. The first was Montezuma’s Castle, an ancient Native American cliff dwelling. We had visited the site with my parents and thought the girls should see it. Surprisingly, we did not encounter much history on this trip, and we needed to see some.image-55

There is one thing I must say about Montezuma’s Castle. It was named after stupid Europeans who thought the Native Americans in this area could not have built such a thing. It must have been built by the Aztec because everyone knew that they had built a magnificent city. Now, the place is stuck with an inappropriate name.

Our next stop was another place introduced to us by our parents. We had to eat at the Rock Springs Cafe.image-54

This place is known for its pies. They have every imaginable kind, and they are all good. I was going to get something made of berries but ended up getting pecan. It is hard to beat pecan pie.

From there, we drove to our hotel in Scottsdale. It was hot. Really hot. It was dry heat, but it was extreme heat. I love Scottsdale in the winter, but I do not see how people live there in the summer. To beat the heat, we spent the day in the Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall. It was an expensive jaunt into the air conditioning, but the cool air was worth it.

We ended the day by eating at Barrio Queen Restaurante y Tequileria. The food was good, and the bathrooms were confusing. However, that is a political issue, and I do not want to get into that.

The next day, we flew home to Tennessee, but we all agreed that it was a fun trip. The people who followed us on Facebook and Twitter have said that it looked awesome. They were not wrong. It was an awesome trip, and I am ready to go back.

 

Four Corners – The Grand Canyon

28 Aug

Wow, a lot has happened since the last post about our Four Corners adventure. School started. I had to get a root canal. It has been an eventful series of days, but it is not time to write about our day at the Grand Canyon.

The day began at the hotel’s continental breakfast, but this was like no other continental breakfast. First, it was packed with people. Second, most of those people did not live on this continent. From the time that we arrived at the Grand Canyon, we noticed that people were speaking a myriad of languages. I tried to keep track with how many but lost count. All I know is that people were from all over the world.

This brings me to another point. I have always said that the Grand Canyon is something that everyone should see if they get the chance, and we were surrounded by people who traveled from around the world to see it. However, there are people in the United States who will not go. I understand that not everyone can afford it. I am writing about the people who do not go because they are too focused on going to the beach and eating shrimp cocktail while drinking a margarita. This is a great country with a lot of great places to visit, but people keep going to the same old places. A ton of people followed our trip on Facebook and talked about how fun it looked. They talked about how they would love to do something like that. Well, you cannot see the Grand Canyon in the panhandle of Florida.

Alright, my rant is over. Now, it is time to get on with the fun. On this morning, we had plans to do something that I had always wanted to do. We flew in a helicopter over the Grand Canyon. I think everyone was nervous, but it could not have been a better experience. As we flew to the canyon, music played in our headphones. We had a feeling that we were close when they starting playing the music from 2001: A Space Odyssey. You know, the same music that Elvis used to come on stage with. Then, the land under us disappeared.

We got some great pictures.

Like this one.image-45

And this one.image-46

And this one.image-47

However, this is my favorite.image-44

After the helicopter ride, we went to the National Geographic Visitors Center and watched an IMAX movie about the history of the Grand Canyon. Then, we drove to the edge of the canyon to buy souvenirs and take more selfies.

Then, we went back to the hotel to relax and get ready for dinner. Not much happened in the afternoon, but I had an interesting experience in the hotel lobby.

I made myself ready for dinner and left the room to let the ladies get ready. I went to the lobby to read the newspaper and play on my phone. It was not as rushed as it was during breakfast, but there were people arriving to claim their rooms for the evening. There were two people, an African American man and an African American woman, working the desk.

Suddenly, a Japanese woman walked in and asked if they had a room available. Both desk clerks immediately said no. The lady left. A few minutes later, a tired and haggard white guy walked in. With his American accent, he said something like, “I guess you guys don’t have a room.” The lady said that she would look. She got on the computer and found a room for him.

Our nation is filled with racism. If we think that it is no longer a problem, then we can turn on the television for a reminder. In that lobby, I learned that racism can come in different forms. We, as Americans, can be racist in situations that I never realized. The Japanese woman was sent away without a thought. The white American was taken care of.

After that bit of enlightenment, we went to dinner at El Tovar, one of the Grand Canyon lodges.image-48

It was a great meal and a great way to end our day at the Grand Canyon.

 

 

Four Corners – All the States at Once

16 Aug

Today, we held our annual tradition of starting the academic year with faculty meetings. I say that because my colleague in history said that my last post left him in suspense. He had to know what my wife and I argued about. Well, here it is.

She wanted to start the next day with whitewater rafting. I knew that we had a long drive through desolate territory ahead of us and did not want to get a late start. This went back and forth for a while on the sidewalks of Durango, and, at some point, I brought up the wine that was served on the train. That is when my stepdaughter and her friend walked off and left us to our discussion.

The next morning, we were back at that same spot to go whitewater rafting.

Our guide arrived on his motorcycle, and the girls went kind of googily eyed. His name was Paden, and I immediately wondered if he was named for Kevin Kline’s character in Silverado. That probably means I have seen that movie too many times.

It was a good ride. We hit a enough rapids to make it interesting, but it was mostly a smooth ride. Paden talked about going to college and about life in Durango. I never did ask him if he was named after a character in a movie.

After the boat ride, we headed further down Highway 160 and passed through towns like Hesperus, Mancos and Cortez. After that, we did not pass much, and my wife began to realize why I wanted to get off to a good start. When we arrived at our destination, she admitted that she was hoping we did not have a flat tire.

Despite the desolation, we were not out there alone. A bunch of cars were on the road, and many of them were going to the same place that we were going – Four Corners.

When I was a kid, we went to Four Corners, the place where four states come together. I remember that my dad could not find it, and we drove back and forth for a while. When we finally got there, it was a round slab with the borders outlined. There were not many people, and you could walk around on the slab.

Now, Four Corners is completely different. They charge to get in, and an entire complex has been built. The state borders are in a theater type setting that can be used for ceremonies, and booths filled with Native American wares surround it all. On top of that, you have to stand in line to get a picture at the Four Corners.

Like everyone else, we stood in line and got a picture. I am pretty sure that I am standing in Utah. My wife is in Colorado, and the girls are in New Mexico and Arizona. image-42

At least, I am standing in Utah if that is the correct Four Corners. I did not tell anyone, but there is a chance that the real spot is somewhere in the distance.

Oh yeah, we took this picture, too.image-43

We left Four Corners and made our way through the Navajo Nation. I have been through different parts of the Nation, and I always wonder the same thing. How do people make a living out there? I know that poverty is everywhere, but, in my mind, reservations are the epitome of the problem. On top of that, I do not see many people speaking in support of Native Americans. I guess it is out of sight, out of mind.

After hours of driving by me and hours of worrying by my wife, we made it to Tuba City, Arizona and turned off Highway 160 for the first time in a few days. From there, we made our way to our ultimate destination – the Grand Canyon.

When my wife asked me to describe the Grand Canyon, I could not do it. I told her that she had to see it for herself. When arrived just before sunset and had to drive through the park to get to our hotel. There was enough light to stop and look at it. That is when they understood what I had been saying. The Grand Canyon has to be seen.

We took pictures, but they are not as good as the pictures we took the next day.

 

The American West Coming Through My Speakers

14 Jan

After lunch, I was driving back to work with my iPod cranked up. The sun was shining and masked the coldness of the air. Before turning onto campus, one of my favorite songs came through the speakers.

“I Guess He’d Rather Be in Colorado” was recorded by John Denver, and that is the version on my iPod. However, that is not the version that I first heard and made the song hit me in my soul.

Merle Haggard sang the song in the last scene of Centennial, a 1970s miniseries about the American West. I have already written about that movie and will not repeat myself. That scene is on YouTube, and I urge you to watch it. You will probably recognize some of the actors, and there is a great message. It gets me every time.

When I hear the song, I am reminded of my love for the American West. Its history. Its land. There is nothing better than climbing the dunes at the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Mesa Verde National Park brings back the echoes of the ancient peoples. The streets of Durango harken to the days of yesteryear, and the train in Durango will take you on a great ride to Silverton.Durango

The song is about Colorado, but, to me, it is about the entirety of the West. The mountains. The plains. The deserts. Life the way it was, and life the way it is. This song takes my mind to New Mexico, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and all of the others states that make up that region. The song says Colorado, but it means everything. To me, the song means relaxation, peace of mind and wide open spaces.

The words go like this.

I guess he’d rather be in Colorado.
He’d rather spend his time out where the sky looks like a pearl after the rain.
Once again I see him walking, once again I hear him talking
to the stars he makes and asking them the bus fare.

I guess he’d rather be in Colorado.
He’d rather play his banjo in the morning when the moon is scarcely gone.
In the dawn the subway’s coming, in the dawn I hear him humming
some old song he wrote of love in Boulder Canyon. I guess he’d rather be in Colorado.

I guess he’d rather be in Colorado.
I guess he’d rather work out where the only thing you earn is what you spend.
In the end up in his office, in the end a quiet cough is all he has to show,
he lives in New York City. I guess he’d rather be in Colorado.

A New Year’s Eve Celebration to End All New Year’s Eve Celebrations

2 Jan

Yesterday, my old college roommate sent a text saying that it has been 26 years since the greatest New Year’s Eve party of all time. It was held at our apartment, and I am certain that, in the past quarter of a century, the apartment complex has not seen anything else like it. I will not recount the specifics of the gathering. Just know that none of have forgotten any of it.

After that text, I thought about how I have spent some of the other New Year’s Eves.New Year

There was the one that my future wife and I spent in a swanky private club in Nashville.

There was the one at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida.

There was also the one in the downtown streets of Phoenix, Arizona with the same old college roommate.

Oh yeah, there was also the one spent in a Waffle House in north Georgia.

I almost forgot about the one on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii.

There was also the one when I had the flu.

A lot of New Year’s Eves have come and gone. Some of them have been memorable. Some of the have been forgotten. Some of them have been fun. Some of the have been miserable. However, my favorite New Year’s Eve was a few night ago.

My stepdaughter had a couple of friends over. We had homemade pizza and took selfies. They danced and sang. I slipped off and watched the end of The Magnificent Seven and the beginning of Wyatt Earp, but nothing could keep me away from the fun. We watched the ball drop in New York and the musical note drop in Nashville.

It was a great night spent with people I love. Is there a better way to start the new year?

 

 

Get Away From Magazines

14 Jul

I have to stop going to the grocery store because I always buy some “Special Edition” magazine. “Special Edition” is the code for something that costs more than a regular magazine. Yesterday, I got one called Great American Getaways that was put out by LIFE.Getaway

I read it and decided that the money spent meant that I should do more than that. Therefore, we have a post.

This is going to be simple. List the getaways. Write if I have ever been to them. Yes or no answers will suffice.

Mount Desert, Maine – No

The Freedom Trail, Boston, Massachusetts – Yes

Franconia, New Hampshire – No

Block Island, Rhode Island – No

Mystic, Connecticut – No

Sag Harbor, New York – No

Tanglewood and Williamstown, Massachusetts – No

Stowe, Vermont- No

New York City, New York – Yes

Cape May, New Jersey – No

Cooperstown, New York – No

Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, No

The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. – Yes

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania – Yes

Niagara Falls, New York – Yes

Sea Island, Georgia – No

Walt Disney World, Florida – Yes

The Florida Keys – No

Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia and North Carolina – Yes

Horse Country, Kentucky – Yes

Columbus, Indiana – No

Mackinac Island, Michigan – No

Nashville, Tennessee – Yes

Chicago, Illinois – Yes

New Orleans, Louisiana – Yes

Ozarks, Arkansas – Yes

Sand Hills, Nebraska – No

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota – Yes

Santa Fe, New Mexico – Yes

Land of the Anasazi, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico – Yes

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming – Yes

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Yes

Horseshoe Bend, Arizona – No

Alta, Utah – No

Glacier National Park, Montana – Yes

Las Vegas, Nevada – Yes

Death Valley, California – Yes

San Diego, California – Yes

Yosemite National Park, California – Yes

Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada – Yes

Oregon Wine Country – No

Mount Rainier, Washington – Yes

Big Sur, California – Yes

San Francisco, California – Yes

San Juan Islands, Washington – No

Redwood National Park, California – Yes

Volcano National Park, Hawaii – Yes

Lanai, Hawaii – No

Glacier Cruise, Alaska – Yes

The Brooks Range, Alaska – No

That is 29 visits out of 50 places.

Now, I promise myself that I will not buy more “Special Edition” magazines…until I go back to the grocery store.