Durango, CO

Durango, CO is one of my favorite tourist towns. We lived 65 miles away in the little town of Pagosa Springs, CO from 2000 to 2008. Since it had the closest Wal-Mart and Home Depot we were regular visitors to the town. We had visited the town regularly before then also from Grand Junction, CO for the annual Harley Davidson rally and tax seminars and as a turn-around from drives over the million-dollar highway. We visited Durango on a day trip on July 3 from a short stay in Pagosa Springs and I took these photos.

Durango was established in the 1880s as a support city for Southwestern Colorado mining operations. A narrow gauge railroad was built to Silverton, CO which still operates and is rather famous as a tourist attraction today. The train draws tourists internationally for one of the most scenic rides through high mountain canyons that can be found anywhere. Town has 10 or so blocks of the nicest shops and restaurants you will find in a tourist destination – The entire length of downtown Main St has a historic feel and some of the buildings remain that were constructed before 1900.

This photo is of the Strater Hotel built in the late 1880s. Somehow, I chopped the top of the hotel off in the photo – sorry – but you can see the beauty of the historic architecture. The hotel has been updated continuously over the years and offers luxury accommodations with an extensive collection of antique room furniture as part of its unique character.

A photo of the grounds of the Durango-Silverton narrow gauge rail station at the sound end of Main Street.

I suppose, if the truth be told, our day trip drive to Durango was motivated by a desire to visit the Durango Diner more than anything else. The Diner sits on Main Street near the 10th Street intersection in a very narrow and really deep space in an old building with an entrance from Main Street. Seating is dominated by the long counter you see in the photo. All of the cooking and waitressing takes place within almost arms-length of the customers at the counter. There are two tables on the entrance side at the far end of the photo and 4 booths at the rear of the Diner behind where the camera is taking the photo. The Diner was established in the early 1970s and over the years has become an icon of Durango eateries – Durango being known throughout the Southwest for its abundance of quality restaurants. As far as I’m concerned, the Durango Diner is the best short order breakfast diner in the world. Admittedly, my experience doesn’t qualify me to make that statement, but suffice it to say I love this place. My first visit was in the mid-90s while in town for the Labor Day Harley Davidson rally. Gary was there running the flat-top then, and was still there cooking a chile relleno omelet for Darlene and I to share this visit – nothing else much has changed in those 20 years either. You just have to love that. The Diner has a separate flat-top for the hash browns. On busy hours one short order cook spends a lot of their time managing the cooking of the hash browns because they go on most every breakfast menu item. Each hash brown serving is made from a whole, large baking size potato which has been peeled and pre-boiled. The cook shreds the potato one at a time directly onto the flat-top – each potato making a separate serving and cooked on the flat top individually. I’ve watched the process numerous times from a counter stool less than 5 feet away from where all the action is taking place. They shred the potato and that large mound sits and sits on the flat-top cooking away untouched for so long. I always worry that it is burning on the bottom – early on I wanted to warn Gary to check the hash browns, but kept my mouth shut – and eventually learned that Gary or whoever else was helping him cook them knew exactly what they were doing. They flip the mound of hash browns one time – they flip it and the top is this perfect golden brown and then the other side sits on the flat-top for what seems way too long. But when they take it off and slide it next to our chile relleno omelet the bottom side is a perfect golden brown also. They ladle the green chile over both the omelet and the hash browns. So what you end up with is this crunchy brown tasting bottom of the pile of hash browns with a crunchy brown tasting top of the hash browns and in-between is so tender and soft – then on top of it all is that flavor of the green chile – all I can say is WOW. It’s almost too good to be true. We love the chile relleno omelet and order it over and over, but the breakfast item that is world famous is called “The Cure”. It is that big serving of hash browns that all plates get with an extra-large serving of either ham, bacon or sausage on top of that with eggs to order on top of that with lots of melted cheese on top of that and then smothered with green chile. I’ve had it a couple of times – it’s so good you force yourself to eat it all – then you don’t eat for a couple days afterwards. The Durango Diner – wherever you live you owe it to yourself to eat an order of “The Cure” before you die – so plan a trip.

We finished breakfast and walked the length of Main Street down and back. Noah talked his grandmother into buying him a red, white and blue fidget spinner in some little shop. I guess, why wouldn’t you need a red, white and blue fidget spinner when the next day is July 4th? We drove the 65 miles back to Pagosa Springs – a good day with family – another memory and a few more photos on the hard drive.

Pagosa on the 4th of July

We spent 3 nights in Pagosa Springs, CO over the 4th of July with our daughter and family this year. Pagosa is a mountain town at the southern edge of central Colorado that sits at over 7,000 ft elevation. We lived in Pagosa from 2000 to 2008. Our daughter has lived there for 17 years now. I love celebrating the 4th in mountain towns. Over the years we’ve visited, Vail, Aspen, Telluride, Pagosa and I’ll even add Dahlonega, GA for their 4th of July parades and festivities. The parades in mountain towns are the best anywhere – always totally patriotic – completely unpretentious – and the turnout and enthusiasm of locals and tourists just astounds. Pagosa Springs fills up with tourists during the summer – town this year was packed as full as I’ve ever seen it. We drove into downtown at 7:15 AM this 4th to get a sit-down breakfast at our favorite, The Rose, cafe. People had already lined the 8 block parade route with their camp chairs, 4 deep in places, for the entire length of the scheduled 10:00 AM parade. We stood in line to get seated for breakfast for nearly 30 minutes – the green chile smothered, bacon, breakfast burrito was way worth it, though.

There is some time-lapse on the fireworks photo. Fireworks were held at dark in downtown the night of the 4th. The town puts on a really good fireworks show.

A color guard of retired armed forces local residents leads the parade.

On the 4th small town politics is not too vicious – I watched as Republicans applauded the Democratic float with smiles on their faces and vice-versa.

A local ultra-light, powered glider flew around before the parade started, and as the parade began a squadron formation of 5 single engine vintage war planes buzzed the parade route.

It seems like we’re bombarded continuously with politicians from both parties telling us that America isn’t great any more. I’m a fairly average, lower middle- class American – my life has never been better, and as I observe friends and neighbors there is no seeming lack of prospering wherever one looks. It’s pretty much always been that way everywhere I’ve lived in America in my lifetime. America has always been great. Much of the complaining, maybe, is mostly just whining with the intent of advancing a self-serving agenda. Spending a July 4th on the streets of the mountain town of Pagosa Springs shouts that greatness of America at me. I’m thankful for and proud of this great country.

Red River, NM – the annual family encampment

We drove the 200 miles up to the ski town of Red River last Saturday morning and stayed until Monday afternoon. They hold the Red River Family Encampment there the last weekend in June every year. This year was the 31st encampment. It is a gathering of mostly Church of Christ members from New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona and Colorado. This year there were 1,800+ in attendance. It runs from Saturday through Tuesday with the beginning session Saturday afternoon and continuing two sessions a day Sunday through Tuesday. We attended the Saturday afternoon session, two on Sunday and the Monday morning session before returning home Monday afternoon. During those sessions we heard 6 sermons, attended 4 classes and joined in a lot of congregational singing. The encampment is a wealth of spiritual encouragement. Talented speakers and teachers are invited from across the country to present thoughts on a common theme. The theme this year was taken from the old hymn – I Love to Tell the Story.

The picture is a view of the Monday morning session from inside the main tent. The singing this year was led by Keith Lancaster who founded the group, Acapella many years ago. Churches of Christ traditionally have only used congregational singing without instrumental accompaniment for worship. The result is that just normal members get pretty good at singing four-part harmony to a wide variety of hymns. The singing during these sessions with 1,800 strong blending their voices was incredibly beautiful – so beautiful I had to hold back tears on a couple of occasions as I sang along. The encampment is self-supporting – a collection is taken Sunday mornings which along with some other contributions and sales of CDs pays for the expenses on a year by year break even basis. None of the speakers, board members, workers, or administrators take any compensation. It is operated so simply that the quality of the program presented amazes. It’s a testament to the value that can be provided by volunteers who believe in the good they are part of providing.

The main tent was close to full with 1,800 in attendance. At the end of each morning session we break into a dozen classes on a variety of subjects taught in smaller tents by teachers from around the country.

Red River is a small town in north-central New Mexico about 30 miles north of Taos; or 100 miles north of Santa Fe. It sits at an elevation of 8,500 ft in a canyon with the Red River running through one side of the length of town on its way to join with the Rio Grande River. Historically Red River was a mining town, but the economy now is driven by a medium sized ski resort and summer tourism. You don’t think of New Mexico as snow country, but Red River gets 200 inches of snow in an average year and the peaks of the Rocky Mountains rise to nearly 11,000 ft from the edges of town.

You can see just a bit of a ski run in this picture – the mountain and the ski runs rise much higher to the left of the picture as this ridge runs up to the peak. It was a joy to be in town this weekend. There were constant smiles and hello’s as we walked the streets – the restaurants were busy, but any slow service was met with patience and a contentment by all we witnessed. I heard no politics discussed by those in attendance or mentioned from the speakers. The faith that the 1,800 in attendance had in common was witnessed in a way that a God who is good would approve, I think. I know that faith is viewed by some of my friends as something that plays out in many Christians in divisiveness and eccentricity over a set of hot button issues. I suspect that might be true in some – but the message taught and received and manifested this weekend was one of the goodness of God, and how those of faith can reflect that to all they know. We attended this encampment in 2005 – 2007 and then moved to South Carolina for eight years. This weekend was a restarting of a tradition I hope. The experience this weekend certainly makes me want to return.

Roadrunner

She wouldn’t really pose for me the way I wanted, but it’s a Roadrunner, perched on the edge of the birdbath I faithfully fill with water every evening. You can see her beak as her head is turned slightly to the side – the angle of the picture doesn’t show it, but her tail is long. We see her regularly on the fairway around our condo. Sometimes she is running – sometimes just meandering – a couple of times she’s been marching dutifully with a dead lizard in her beak, maybe carrying it to share with her chicks. Have not seen a coyote in pursuit yet – though I have sighted a coyote several times in the neighborhood – if you’re young and don’t have a clue ask someone older about the cartoon. She had startled me the day before when I was sitting on the patio, and out of nowhere she hopped up on the edge of the bird bath and took a long drink. Though it surprised me, I told her hello, and she was welcome to the drink. She hadn’t seen me before I spoke, and she cocked her head and her comb feathers raised up in a quizzical way as she looked at who had spoken. She took two more long drinks, looking at me between each one, and then hopped down and walked away across the fairway. When I first saw her this day, through the window from inside the house, she was down in the birdbath laying down like a duck would float on a pond. It was near 100 degrees outside, so I guess even Roadrunners seek ways to stay cool. I ran for the camera, and she had gotten out on the ledge by the time a picture could be taken. I’ve never lived where there were Roadrunners before. Some of my neighbors speak poorly of them, saying they are ruthless scavengers who will eat the eggs of pheasants and other birds with ground nests. For me, I just am entertained by the ridiculous look they have – they pretty much look as ridiculous as the cartoon character – and love to see her out and about, walking or running by – any day with some amusement is a better day. Maybe someday I’ll get a picture to share which shows what our local one really looks like. In the meantime, I’ll just leave you with – beep, beep!

Jason Mraz

Darlene and I attended the Jason Mraz concert at the Sandia Casino Amphitheater on the north edge of Albuquerque last Saturday night. It was our first visit to this venue – we love outdoor concerts – this venue works well – good sound and comfortable seating and small enough that everyone is close to the stage. Mraz and his band played for well over 2 hours and we didn’t make it home until nearly midnight. That’s way past bedtime for this old man, but it was such a good time – a long afternoon nap Sunday afternoon after worship services and lunch got me back on track.

Mraz is a singer/songwriter in his late 30s, I think, and he began achieving commercial success 10-15 years ago. I first heard him on the Coffee House channel on Sirius XM in 2003 or 2004 with his song, The Remedy. It was a good song with a catchy tune and lyrics and a positive message. It was several years later that the song, I’m Yours, was released from his third album – it got lots of air time and made him a star, and I started making playlists of his music on Spotify, or whatever music service I had at the time, and followed his new releases. He has won two Grammy awards. The lyrics to his songs are poetic and complex compared to many popular songs we hear. He’s clearly a romantic with an optimism that is undaunted. I continue to be a fan – my favorite genre is singer/songwriter acoustic guitar folk music, and Jason Mraz is as close to that as it gets these days. He played with a band of 8 at the concert. Off the picture to the right are a keyboard and a percussion musicians. His songs almost always have a positive message – there was no politics or crude language at the concert – we left with smiles on our faces and uplifted hearts.

When I look into your eyes
It’s like watching the night sky
Or a beautiful sunrise
There’s so much they hold
And just like them old stars
I see that you’ve come so far
To be right where you are
How old is your soul?

 

Well I won’t give up on us, even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love, I’m still looking up

 

And when you’re needing your space, to do some navigating
I’ll be here patiently waiting, to see what you find

‘Cause even the stars they burn
Some even fall to the earth
We’ve got a lot to learn
God knows we’re worth it
No, I won’t give up

I won’t give up on us, even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love
I’m still looking up, still looking up.

                from “I Won’t Give Up”

                by Jason Mraz

 

We have tickets to a twin bill with Dwight Yoakum and also The Mavericks at Kit Carson Park in Taos on July 29. I lost track of Dwight Yoakum 15 years ago, but hope he still rocks like he used to. We saw the Mavericks in Greenville, SC a year or so ago – they put on a great live show – their studio albums don’t do them justice. So, we’re excited – a small road trip and a concert on the schedule.

reflection

It’s a picture of the back patio taken shortly after sunrise – it’s a quiet place in the early morning. The pots and beds of flowers create a pleasant, gardenlike area to sit and think with a cup of coffee as lingering dullness from the night’s sleep clears from the head. As I sit there in the cool of the morning the textures and colors of the ornamental grasses, flowers, Yuccas, the Desert Sage, etal, create an atmosphere that is good for personal reflection. I suppose that personal reflection is noble if comparisons with others is avoided. Morning is a good time of the day to be relaxed and not in a hurry – to let thoughts develop and mature.

I’ve commented to the Sunday morning class I’m part of that personal reflection with measurement of our actions and words and emotions and responses to each day’s happenings – comparing them with standards we’ve adopted for ourselves – is valuable in making progress toward being a good and consistent person.

There are those I know who are easy to respect and appreciate in terms of the goodness of their lives. They are the people we seek out to share a problem with or seek counsel or advice from. Their lives are an encouragement to grow in the virtues seen in them. There is nothing quite as powerful to our own lives as the example of someone we respect as a person with a good heart. We live in a culture where self-centeredness is often encountered – those who are prideful can be good friends also – respecting and describing the proud as good hearted, though, is not what we feel about them – good heartedness and self- centeredness can’t go hand in hand. Humility is a common denominator in those I observe and describe as good hearted. We sometimes see pride evident even in an action intended for another’s good. We see that in religion more than we should – good motivated by, and as an aid toward our own benefit. My heroes are those who love doing good without, or even in-spite-of, advancing their own agenda.

There exists a fierce political divide in our culture – experienced now for several years – that has consumed so many of my friends into a fervor of menacing partisanship. The divide is so overbearing it blurrs recognition of the good in many of their lives, though I know that good exists there. Name calling, disgraceful labeling, elitism, and even threats are common components in blogs, and facebook posts and shares that fill my social media feeds. It is as if many friends believe that only in confrontation can their perceived foes be conquered. It is difficult to recognize a good heart in those who communicate so ferociously. Combativeness is so often the marker of pride.

It is difficult to know what really works in changing evil into good or prevailing in a virtuous cause. But it seems like our words and actions could be carefully constructed to make thoughtful choices between methods that employ pride instead of humility, or rashness instead of patience, or callousness instead of gentleness, or confrontation instead of meekness, or antagonism instead of cooperation. For me passion for a cause is more effectively communicated with some kindness, quiet rationalism and concerned persuasion that recognizes and understands the reasoning that the opponent relies upon. Some will immediately label such an approach as weakness or the way of a snowflake. But, I know that personal beliefs have been adjusted often in my lifetime – but, probably not as a result of being called demeaning names or by a presentation predicated upon and labeling me as dumber than the presenter. There is a path to achieving common thought and common means toward accomplishing a good endeavor, but it rarely is accomplished in slander and confrontation.

The value of personal reflection is in the identifying and enabling of knowledge that helps me become personally effective – what virtues make me good and valuable – how do I act in a way that is a positive force – what actions result in a just cause gaining traction? We greatly desire the accomplishment of good things which benefit every being – but ends never justify ungodly means. There is a passage in Philippians 4 that most of my friends and family is familiar with, and which some can quote:

Philippians 4:8 (NIV) “….whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

For me it is good to sit in a pleasant place and convince the mind that there is time on my hands, and patiently reflect upon the role of, and the means by which good prevails. The mighty, by means of force in confrontation, have failed in achieving lasting good for all of recorded history. Defense of its citizens who desire good is the responsibility of and calling of civil kingdoms, but to expect government by might and by law to ever succeed in uniting the world’s people in good is a hope doomed by its own long history of futility. That responsibility – to encourage people to be good – is my own and it starts with me being good – it is accomplished through reflection on the excellent and the praiseworthy – it spreads not by badgering those who are not good, but through communicating whatever is true and lovely – it spreads because of the impact of good deeds lavished on all. And, just maybe, it starts and grows by regularly sitting patiently in a quiet and pleasant place, in the cool of morning with a cup of coffee and a time of personal reflection.

The Mogollon Rim

We visited Overgaard, AZ for four nights the last week of May. It was our first visit to this part of Arizona. You’ll see from the photos that it is beautiful country. We tend to think about Arizona with visions of Phoenix and the low desert – our mind sees a parched landscape with only cactus and scrub brush. But much of Arizona is not low desert – some is true alpine landscape – much is sub-alpine, like Overgaard, with Cedars and Pinyon and Ponderosa pine at elevations of 6,500 to 8,000 feet.

The Mogollon Rim marks the southern edge of part of the Colorado Plateau. The Plateau is a large area of high desert and sub-alpine landscape that covers large areas of Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico in the 4 corners area of those states. The Mogollon Rim extends from the Sedona, AZ area east through Overgaard and extends 200 miles nearly to the New Mexico border. The elevation drops south from the rim, eventually to the low desert floor which can be as low as Phoenix at just over 1,000 ft. The rim is often rocky and cliff-like in this area. The sky was hazy and not the best for photos on Tuesday morning (our first morning there), but still they give a sense of the vastness of the views and the beauty of the forest in the surrounding area.

We spent the first morning driving and hiking along the Rim Road west of Overgaard which follows the Mogollon rim for a few miles. It was beautiful views looking out over the landscape below as it drops to the low desert floor miles in the distance.

We met up with Phil & Rene’ Thompson after the drive and hike and went out to breakfast with them. Phil was minister at our Church of Christ congregation in Grand Junction during the 1980s. Our families were great friends then and it was a special blessing to spend much time with them during the 3 days in Overgaard. Breakfast was at June’s Café.

It doesn’t look like much, does it. They have really good food – it’s a tiny place that is packed with people much of the time. If you are in Overgaard for breakfast someday, you should stop in and have something with chorizo. It might be the best chorizo anywhere – tender with not any chewy gristle – red chile hot – but not brash or caustic – just perfect joined up with some eggs and potatoes.

On Wednesday, we drove down off the rim with Phil and Rene to Payson, 50 or so miles away. Nice little town with lots of shops – thrift and antique shops galore. Darlene added to her Irish coffee mug and Coke bottle collection.

Thursday, we drove down and explored the historical sites in Black Canyon which starts in Heber, the adjoining sister city of Overgaard – the canyon drops down off the Rim in almost valley like fashion – it’s historic ranch country set in the Ponderosa Pine landscape. There are some 800-year-old Indian ruins remains, including pictograph drawings on overhanging rock ledges which we walked to. I posed Darlene and Phil behind remains of a room divider wall where several dwellings once existed under a large overhanging rock. The first picture of the colored pictograph gecko was taken on the underside of the rock overhang which served as the roof of these dwellings. The second picture of a large group of drawings was taken at a different location down the road. The second picture of drawings was taken from a vantage point up a trail meant for mountain goats – my body doesn’t do mountain goat trails well any more.

After a late lunch on Thursday we sat in the living room at the timeshare – I hooked up the computer Bible program to the wide screen TV and I picked Phil and Rene’s brains on the occurrence of the phrase “heavenly realms” that is used 5 times in the short letter to the Ephesians. I especially wanted to know what they thought about the use of it in chapter 6, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, … but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” They are the best of Bible students – we talked several hours – 30 years ago they always helped me think clearly about my Bible study – 30 years later they’re smarter and more helpful than ever. Their friendship, even though interrupted for 30 years, is a treasure for me.

Friday, we headed home, back across Highway 60 through Pie Town and past the Very Large Array. It was a good trip – the 4 nights and 3 days in Overgaard and the 2 travel days – I expect we’ll revisit Mogollon Rim country one day, and we’ll especially try to join up with Phil and Rene’ regularly.

Pie Town, NM

Written May 29, 2017 and posted June 5.

We left home this morning for 4 nights away at the Bison Ranch Resort timeshare in Overgaard, AZ. We left Belen and headed south on I-25 to Socorro for 50 miles then made a right turn onto US Hwy 60 and drove west 220 miles through the middle of New Mexico and eastern Arizona to the timeshare. Highway 60 is all a good 2-lane – speed limits are 55 and 65 except through the several very small towns along the way. The highway rises in elevation to 6,000 ft quickly after leaving Socorro, and varies between that and nearly 8,000 feet for most of the 220 miles. We passed through Magdalena and then drove by the Very Large Array. I stopped and took a picture – don’t have the ability to both show the vastness of this desert valley and the huge size of these dishes – the array is quite impressive, 27 separate, 25 meter-diameter radio telescope dishes sitting out in the middle of nowhere on a high plain with nothing else in sight. We had stopped at the visitor center about 11 years ago on a trip to Silver City. The work done here is very interesting – looking into deeps space not through a lens, but by analyzing radio waves that the celestial objects project. Look at that Western sky – cirrus type clouds above and 3 dimensional, cumulus clouds below with the dark grey, wet undersides turning to pure, fluffy white at the tops. Then there is that clear, dark-blue sky poking through here and there. Of all the beauty of New Mexico and the West it might be the sky I love the most.

A few miles down the road west from the Very Large Array as the highway rises over the continental divide at 7,900 ft is the tiny settlement of Pie Town. Wikipedia tells me the town has a population of 186 from the 2010 census and got its name from a small bakery established in the early 1920s that specialized, and became famous for its dried-apple pies. Today there are two small cafes in the town and not much more – one on each side of the highway. Eleven years ago, on a whim, we stopped at the one named The Pie Town Café and had lunch and a piece of pie. The nice waitress and the pieces of pie left an impression, and so we stopped again eleven years later, today, and each had a piece of pie ala mode and a cup of coffee. My piece was New Mexico Apple and had, along with the tasty apples, mild green chiles and pine nuts. We left with full bellies and a smile on our faces.

Darlene looks full of pie and happy, doesn’t she?

Highway 60 traveling east and west through New Mexico and eastern Arizona is sparsely populated country. The landscape varies from sage to pinyons and cedars. It is dry country – the only significant commerce is ranching and the cattle must be spread thin over the vast acreage because the vegetation providing food is sparse. I love this western high desert – the sky is huge and the vistas with the bluffs and ravines and rolling hills with mountain peaks as a backdrop give the sense that the wild west lives on, untamed. That might seem a little inconsistent with riding down the road at 70 mph in air conditioned comfort, in leather captain’s chairs with the radio turned up, listening to the SiriusXM Beatle channel – but there’s a little bit of pretend cowboy in a lot of us that this scenery brings alive. By the way, this new Beatle channel is reminding me that there’s some Beatles songs we’ve forgotten about over the years (it’s scary, but it’s 50 years). Do you remember The Octopus’s Garden?

I’d like to be under the sea
In an octopus’ garden in the shade
He’d let us in, knows where we’ve been
In his octopus’ garden in the shade.”

Small towns out in the middle of nowhere exist in a vacuum in large part. The buildings are old – often rundown – as you drive through you wonder when did history pass them by – how many years ago. Their character is nostalgic and there is a sense of romance to that. As we drove through Magdalena and Quemado today I wondered how It would be to live there. I stopped, and took a picture of a Catholic chapel and its adjacent cemetery in Quemado. It’s old (except for maybe the sign out front) and small and unchanged for how many years? The rest of the town is the same – everything is old, much of it run-down, and some boarded up. How would it be living miles and miles from a Wal Mart and a Sonic, in a place incredibly quiet that never changed except everything keeps getting older. Would it suffocate the spirit, or would it free it to focus on things that are the most important?

Crossing into Arizona we drove through the slightly larger towns of Springerville and Show Low. The landscape changes as Show Low is reached with Pinyon and Ponderosa pine predominating. Turning onto Highway 260 at Show Low we reached Overgaard at 2:00 in the afternoon. The landscape at our destination of Overgaard is beautiful. The town along with its sister town of Heber is a second home and weekend retreat for many from Phoenix to escape the summer swelter there. We sighted elk several times during the stay. The guest at the unit across the way saw a mountain lion at the edge of the resort clearing while we were away to breakfast one morning. I’ll attach a couple pictures of the timeshare resort and then try to post some separate pictures and description of the landscape and Mogollon Rim country later.

Moab and Southeastern Utah

Psalm 65:8

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;

where morning dawns, where evening fades,

you call forth songs of joy.

There are so many natural wonders to see and appreciate in this nation of America. As the Psalmist expressed, I too, respond with awe and a song of joy in my heart to so many of those wonders. Southeastern Utah is one of those places that I keep returning to because of the beauty there. I got up and drove the canyon road along the Colorado River east from Moab, Utah last Saturday morning at dawn hoping to get some pictures of red rocks in the morning light. As fortune would have it, the skies were full of low hanging, grey clouds. The pictures didn’t turn out well, but nevertheless, I’ll share a couple showing this magnificent landscape that adorns this area I love.

We traveled to Moab, Utah and spent last weekend for their annual custom car show. It was a reunion with a town and area missed greatly during the eight years we lived in the East. Moab is in Southeastern Utah in the middle of red rock country. The sandstone rock formations that arise out of the high desert floor and in bluffs and ridges throughout all that area in Utah are a spectacle of beauty to me. Arches National Park lies just north of Moab and Canyonlands National Park sits to the West and extends both north and south for an extended distance. To the east of Moab are the high peaks of the La Sal Mountains which are usually snow-capped through the end of May. The Colorado River runs by through sandstone canyons from the east on the northern edge of town – it is popular with rafters and jet skiers in the Spring and early Summer months. A Utah designated Scenic By-Pass highway follows the river through the canyons and rock formations for 25 miles out of town, and eventually crosses the desert and connects to the east in Colorado with Interstate 70. There are campgrounds along this stretch of river and 2 resorts which are very popular. Despite the tourism, the ruggedness of the landscape takes center stage. It’s my favorite 25-mile stretch of road anywhere. I’ve ridden it innumerable times in autos and on Harley Davidsons when visiting from Grand Junction, CO where we lived for 25 years.

The wonders of Southeastern Utah extend many miles both west and south from Moab. Far to the West is Capitol Reef National Park near Torrey, Utah. Driving south out of Torrey on Highway 12 over an alpine forested mountain the road drops back to the desert through Boulder and Escalante which sit to the West of the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument. Darlene and I drove south from Capitol Reef on dirt roads through part of the monument one day 12 years or so ago. It is amazingly vast and beautiful and undeveloped. I hope my great-grandchildren, yet to be born, can drive that same dirt road many years from now and experience the same sense of awe I felt that day. Further south on Highway 12 is Kodachrome Basin and further is Bryce Canyon National Park. The diverse beauty of the forest and rocks and desert on the 110-mile drive from Torrey to Bryce is unparalleled in my travels. Car and Driver Magazine had an article years ago that named Utah Highway 12 as the greatest road in America. There is never a stretch on the twists and turns of that road when there is not something that draws your eyes and interest. I would have to agree with the magazine.

Driving south from Moab are the towns of Monticello, Blanding, Bluff and Mexican Hat. They are very small towns. At Mexican Hat the San Juan River is crossed and a few miles beyond on the Navajo Reservation is Monument Valley. We spent over 2 hours one blustery, Spring day in 2007 on a ridge in Navajo Park with a camera taking picture after picture of mixed shadows and light racing over 3 huge monoliths in a vast desert valley that the ridge overlooked. I’ll never forget that afternoon. Monument Valley always stirs a spiritual sense within me. I’m not at all eccentric in regard to metaphysical things, but nevertheless, something always stirs, hauntingly within me when venturing through that valley. We took a slight detour on our drive home from Moab last Sunday driving south all the way to Bluff, then taking a road East through Montezuma City and Aneth, both just wide places in the road, connecting with the highway south to Shiprock and Gallup just east of the Four Corners.

Bluff, Utah has a population of 500 people, more or less. A highway which is busy with tourists goes directly through town, but it is not a place where many spend either the night or very much time. The town is in a valley carved out by the San Juan River surrounded by sandstone cliffs and bluffs – hence the town name – some of them 300 feet high on each side. You can see them behind the photo of the café. At the north edge of town is a little café, the Twin Rocks Café – we happened to stop at it years ago on a drive from Flagstaff, AZ to Moab. We were pleased with the food that stop and since have tried to plan a stop when in the area. Over the years, it has developed a kind of foodie menu with a number of breakfast items unique and interesting. We stopped last Sunday morning before heading east to the Four Corners and ordered Eggs Manuelito and some fry bread. The dish was plated with two good size fried potato cakes which had been encrusted with blue cornmeal. On top were eggs to order and then some melted cheese. On top of the melted cheese was a small amount of apricot based jam with a hint of chile and something acidic – maybe a touch of balsamic. Then on top of that were chorizo sausage crumbles. It was very good and tasty. The fry bread was light, nicely browned without being grease soaked. There were several other breakfast menu items just as interesting. Who would expect that at a little café out in the middle of nowhere in Southeastern Utah.

My perspective of the wonders of a landscape such as those in Southeastern Utah are influenced a lot by faith in a God as Creator and Caretaker of all that is seen. The horrid evil in the world does not challenge that faith for me. A perspective that includes belief in an over-arching purpose for all that exists in both the beautiful and good things and the unbeautiful and evil things, provides a sense of peace and acceptance with all. An encounter with the wonders of a drive through Southeastern Utah enforce an optimism that reverence for all that is creation will one day see that over-arching purpose fulfilled in an eternity where only the beautiful and good remain. Spending time enjoying the wonders that are all around us renews such faith and optimism.

car shows

We drove up to Moab, Utah last weekend, and spent two nights to attend their annual, last weekend in April, Hot Rod and Custom Car Show. I was asked before we left why you would drive 400 miles to go to a car show when they have them everywhere. There wasn’t an answer I could give that would make much analytical sense to them or probably even me – lol. Most people aren’t car people. It’s just an affliction like lots of other afflictions that result in strange behavior sometimes. Crazy or not we had been anticipating the trip since winter.

In 1995 we lived in Grand Junction, CO, a medium size town in Western Colorado, where we lived for 23 years and raised our family. On Saturday, the last weekend in April that year, my good friend Dave Sherrill and I decided to ride our Harley Davidsons down to Moab, UT to get a cheeseburger for lunch. It was a nice Spring day – Spring fever was strong – and although 105 miles might seem like a long way to go for a cheeseburger for lunch it made perfect sense to us that day. When we arrived in town we began seeing quite a few hot rods and 60’s muscle cars. We asked the waitress who served our cheeseburgers, and she said there was a car show in town that Saturday and that we should go to the town park where they were on display. After lunch we walked the three blocks to the park and were amazed to see 300 custom hot rods and muscle car era GTOs, Road Runners, Camaros, Challengers and on and on displayed row by row on the grass of the large town park. We found out that this was the third year the show had been held, and that it was turning into kind of a big deal. The next year we brought Darlene and Sharon with us on the back of the Harleys – rode down on Friday afternoon and after some searching found motel rooms for two nights. A tradition was begun and for 12 years in a row we spent the last weekend In April in Moab, UT in what became an event that now draws up to 700 custom cars each year for the Saturday in the park and for Friday and Saturday cruise nights up and down the long Moab Main Street. We learned to make our motel reservations in October each year to get a motel of our choice. Our move to South Carolina interrupted those yearly visits, but 2017 marks their renewal.

Last November we called our favorite Virginian Motel in Moab and reserved the next to last room they had for the weekend. Road trips are one of our favorite things so loading into the Crossfire and taking off Friday morning for the 400 miles was a task anticipated rather than dreaded. We arrived in Moab about 3:30 and headed out to a new restaurant for us to split a cheeseburger and a wedge salad.

Being crazy about cars has been a life-long affliction. My brother is equally afflicted and we both blame out father who was likewise a little car crazy. For me it started with a used 1959 Plymouth Sport Fury, 2 door hardtop with a 360 V8 and Torque-Flite transmission. I had graduated from high school the year before purchase and started college and Spring 1967 gave me my first car all my own. The list of new and used cars since then goes on and on – it includes a 64 Plymouth 426 Wedge convertible, a Camaro, a Mustang SVT Cobra, a 240Z, 2 different Taurus SHOs, 2 old Porsches, an old Austin Healey Sprite, a Crossfire, pickups, Jeeps and 4 Harley Davidsons. I made a list a couple years back of 20 brand new cars in the 50 years since turning 19 years old plus an array of used cars. You’re right – it’s been worse than an affliction. Walking row after row of special cars in a park on the Saturday of the last weekend in April is a reminder of a lifetime of thinking about the next car and poring over car magazines and planning and dreaming about cars. The event is free to the public. The show takes over the town each year – there’s a high that you sense everywhere – car people being around a bunch of car people – with their cars taking center stage.

Our son, Matthew, daughter, Jessica and her husband, Joe and grandchildren, Ashley, Bella, Sierra, Marissa, with boyfriend Mandon, and Noah were in Moab with us. It was a great weekend for family. We got breakfast at the world-famous Moab Diner Saturday morning – Darlene and I shared the Sweetwater Skillet – home fried potatoes, chorizo sausage, 2 eggs, melted cheese, all mixed together and smothered with green chile – yum. Lunch was at our long-time favorite Pasta Jays where they have my favorite ravioli of anywhere.

 

Moab is one of the premier red rock, off road bicycle and all-terrain vehicle tourist destinations in the world. Both Canyonlands and Arches National Parks main entrances are just a few miles outside of town. The La Sal mountains are to the East and the Colorado River flows through red sandstone canyons from the East and joins the Green River in the Canyonlands northeast of town. The La Sal’s were still capped with a lot of snow this weekend. I got up at dawn Saturday morning and drove the winding road up through the river canyon 25 miles to the Fisher Towers rock formation. The stretch of road is one of my favorites. It is a Utah designated Scenic By-Way. It is twisty and narrow and rises and falls and at 6:15 AM there are no other cars or bicycles. The Crossfire feels at home on it at speeds greater than I have nerve for. I had hoped to get pictures of the red rocks in the canyon in the morning light, but low rain clouds and morning mist made the light all wrong for photos. No pictures, but it was a great drive before breakfast.

Will we plan to go back for next year – probably . Will it make sense to drive 400 miles for a car show when they have them everywhere? Probably not – but I’ll try to come up with a logical reason.