Monday, April 5, 2010

Spring coats??

When I was a kid, we used to anxiously watch the mailbox in anticipation of the arrival of the spring Sears & Roebuck, J.C. Penney's, and Montgomery Ward's catalog. We'd spend hours thumbing through the pages. Growing up on the gulf coast of Texas, we marveled at why anyone would want to buy a coat in March or April. Our air conditioners were already on by that point!

God does have a sense of humor. Now, I live in Utah where we are expecting six inches of snow tonight. I can't remember an Easter since we moved here that it wasn't cold or at least cool. Those spring coats come in quite handy. However, I still love wearing pastel colors and white shoes for Easter. Of course, being a good southern girl, I NEVER wear white shoes before then and ALWAYS put them away by Labor Day.

Friday, April 2, 2010

This was the view out our window the next morning. So glad we saw the park the day before. How awesome to look miles across the landscape and see the weather approaching--especially when you're not in it. We were blessed throughout the trip with sunny weather on days we were sight-seeing and good driving weather even when it snowed. It is, after all, spring time in the Rockies.

A girlfriend teased me with this email while I was gone, "There is a report on the news of a sighting in Southern Utah. Lovely brunette with head through sunroof, hair flying in the breeze, squealing... weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!" I convinced Tommy to take this picture and sent it to her via an iPhone app which allows you to create postcards. She loved it! I have such good friends and a patient husband.

Today was the longest day of the trip, since we opted not to spend another night in Moab. We drove through six Utah counties. Saw lots of Jeeps headed to Moab for the Easter weekend extravaganza. Those people are crazy! Saw lots of signs for dinosaur museums and lots of small airports. Rural Utah at it's best.

It was windy, rainy, and snowy for the entire trip. Very much reminded us of our initial drive along the same route in March 1980 when we moved to Utah. Part of the trip was on Highway 6, which is known as one of the deadliest roads in America. It's two lanes, winds through the mountain pass, and often carries impatient drivers who pass when they shouldn't. Only the weather was worse then. And neither of our cars was 4-wheel drive. We decided that God really does protect the foolish. As flat-landers from the Gulf coast of Texas, we had no idea how dangerous the drive was.

It dawned on me that we have lived in Utah longer than we lived in Texas. Yet, we still refer to Texas as home. Why is that? Perhaps there are multiple definitions of "home." Home is where our roots are, which for us is Texas. Home is also where you live, which for now is Utah. Home is also where I will one day be. 2 Peter 3:13 promises, "But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness."

Our trip was wonderful! Relaxing, beautiful, restful, surprising, and fun. we have vacation scheduled again in April. This one will again be via air if all goes well. I'm sure you can't wait to read all those details. :)

Day 4 - Cortez to Monument Valley

Today was a day of surprises. We bought gas and a car wash in Cortez yesterday. The car wash was closed, so we planned to wash the car as we drove out this morning. First surprise. Would you believe the car wash was closed for power washing?! Who knew you had to wash a car wash?

Monument Valley was the final destination for the day. But, we chose to drive south a bit first to visit Four Corners Monument. That took us through the Ute Mountain and Navajo Reservations. It breaks my heart to think of how Native Americans were treated by our government. The reservations are beautiful in their own way, but quite isolated and remote. What a challenge for a people accustomed to moving about their land at will. Second surprise. Red Mesa High School, which is on the Navajo Reservation is the home of the Redskins. Apparently it's alright to use that term as a mascot if you are Native American. I don't mean that disrespectfully. It was just something I didn't expect. Third surprise. Sheep herded by a cowboy and his dog. Only the cowboy was in a truck rather than on horseback.

Fourth surprise.

It was recently discovered that the monument is actually in the wrong place by a few feet, so it's being moved. We were glad that this wasn't the main destination for our vacation. What a bummer that would have been!

Arrived at Monument Valley early in the afternoon.We stayed in the only hotel in the park. It is built to blend with the terrain. Can you see it?

This (to the right) was the view from our room.

Final surprise of the day. The park exceeded our expectations even after waiting 30 years to see it. So many different types of landscapes and types of rock. A geologist's heaven. Wow! That was our comment around every turn. See what you think.

Monument Valley is on the Navajo Reservation. Much of the land is considered sacred by the Navajo people. You feel privileged to be there. It is almost a religious experience. Several scriptures came to mind while making the 17-mile drive through the park. Psalm 19:14, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Luke 19:40, "He replied, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!” Psalms 23 was brought to mind when we came across this flock of sheep and goats grazing. They were shepherded by a small dog.

What an amazing day!

Day 3 - Ouray to Cortez

This is what we woke up to the next morning. Eighteen inches of snow fell during the night! Tommy was thrilled he didn't have to shovel it. Our quandry now was how to get to our next stop. The most direct way is through Red Mountain Pass just south of Ouray. But, that goes through the San Juan Mountains and is 20 miles of a two-lane winding road with no guardrails at 11,000 feet. This is what the road looks like in summer. (It's called the million dollar highway because that's how much it cost to build.) Now imagine it covered in snow. Colorado DOT reported the road was open, but chains were required for commercial vehicles. We do have 4-wheel drive on my car. So, we opted to wait a bit then try it. While we waited, we had eggs benedict, juice, and fruit. Yum!

We drove three miles into the pass before traffic stopped. The road was blocked by a snowplow while avalanche control was done. That was a first. We could hear the cannon fire up ahead. After 30 minutes, the plow moved and we were off once again. It was a beautiful drive! God outdid himself here.

Today's destination was Mesa Verde National Park to see the cliff dwellings. I'm a huge archelogogy/history buff and loved it when I visited the park on a family vacation many years ago. Tommy had never seen it. We planned to stop in 1980 enroute from Alamagordo, NM to Utah. However, snow was falling, so we wouldn't have been able to see anything. We just drove on. Three interesting notes on the drive in this time: 1) The entrance to the park is about a 30 minute drive from the freeway on Ruins Road. We couldn't decide if the road was named that because it led to the ruins or because the road was ruined. Quite rough. 2) When we stopped to pay the entrance fee and get a map, we were told that we were visiting the park during the "annual rock migration" and to be on the lookout for rocks falling onto the road. 3) There had been a recent fire in the park. Many trees were burned. The only green vegetation was yucca plants.

The park was just as amazing as I remembered it. We took a guided tour down a 90 foot drop to one of the sites. That will certainly let you know how out of shape you are! Our park ranger guide was excellent. I'll let the pictures tell rest of the story.

Day 2 - Moab to Ouray

One of the great things about staying in a bed & breakfast is the breakfast--especially since I don't have to cook it. We shared the meal with two other families. The Sunflower Hill staff prepared scrambled eggs, fresh fruit cups, juice, and homemade scones that were out of this world. I got the recipe. (Side note here. Tommy is not a big breakfast eater, and I love it. He indulges me on vacation but probably won't eat breakfast for a month after this trip.)

We stopped at a Native American art gallery in Moab on our way out. They had these beautiful wind "chimes" (not sure what they are actually called). We really wanted one for our yard, but the prices were WAY out of our reach. I did buy a cross to add to my wall collection. We opted not to go back to Arches today but definitely want to come back again another time.

Our first stop today was Montrose, Colorado. More details later. Here are my rather random notes from the drive there.
*Tommy and I had just commented on how brown everything was--snow gone and spring green not quite here--when we passed a sign that said "welcome to colorful Colorado."
*Today's animals included wild turkeys and elk.
*In the middle of nowhere, we passed a spruce tree on the roadside still decorated with silver Christmas ornaments next to a flag pole with an American flag waving in the breeze. Wonder who decorated it and why.
*Streets in Grand Junction are numbered even stranger than Utah's coordinate system. There was 2 3/4 road, 26 1/4 road, and B 1/2 street. How does anyone find their way around?

The reason for our stop in Montrose was to visit Ron and Carrie Dixon. Ron was our youth minister way back when. They moved to Colorado a couple of years ago to care for aging parents. We were so blessed by his mentoring and Christian faith at such a crucial time in our lives. It's been almost 35 years since we've visited with them. What a special time it was. We spent over two hours sharing a meal and catching up. Tommy and I both agreed that seeing them was the highlight of our trip. I hope it's not quite so long before we get together again.
The drive from Montrose to Ouray was about an hour. It started snowing just before we arrived, and most of the shops in town were closed; so we went straight to our next bed & breakfast, The China Clipper. All the rooms are named for sailing ships and are decorated with oriental decor. Beautiful place.We were the only guests for the evening and had the run of the place. A storm two days earlier had cut the cable connection, so we were given a room upgrade to compensate for the inconvenience. We turned on the gas fireplace, pulled the wing back chairs in front of it, and watched Casablanca on DVD while the snow quietly fell. What a wonderful evening.