Driv­ing Amer­i­can South­west, look­ing for re­boot

The Korea Times - - TRAVEL -

Over a re­cent 10 days, your lo­cal colum­nist has been ca­reen­ing around the Amer­i­can South­west in search of an at­ti­tude re­boot and in­creas­ing amounts of wine as the pas­sen­ger (hostage?) in an SUV pi­loted by her daugh­ter.

I found it. Maybe the kid — should I stop call­ing her that? She’s 26 — did, too.

Any­one who has toured the South­west can­not help be­ing awestruck by the grandeur and majesty of the land. The amaz­ing ge­o­log­i­cal for­ma­tions are breath­tak­ing. (Lit­er­ally, since the el­e­va­tion is 6,000 to 8,000 feet higher than here.)

Our first stop af­ter an overnight stay at a less-than-im­pres­sive mo­tel next to a strip club in Phoenix was the Grand Canyon. Talk about con­trasts. Daugh­ter Eleanor, who grew up in Florida, never had seen the canyon as a child and could ut­ter only one par­tic­u­lar word over and over. The word is not one we typ­i­cally print at this fam­ily news­pa­per.

She was ex­pect­ing some­thing along the lines of a big ditch, not the mile-deep and 10-mile-across Canyon splashed by rocks of or­anges and reds with the green Colorado River rush­ing through the bot­tom.

The com­ing days were like suc­ces­sive punches to the senses, spark­ing even more won­der.

There was a float trip through Glen Canyon with its 1,500-foot sheer cliffs on ei­ther side and its 46-de­gree wa­ter con­trast­ing with tem­per­a­tures of 115 or higher in the boat.

There was bizarre Bryce Canyon Na­tional Park with its wind-carved stone struc­tures that must have left fron­tiers­men gap­ing in as­ton­ish­ment and left your own colum­nist with a heart rate of 174 beats per minute while hik­ing up and out. Turns out that hik­ing into the Canyon is a snap. (“C’mon, Mom!” Is the kid try­ing to kill me?)

And there was Mesa Verde Na­tional Park, the home of cliff dwellers who were mak­ing the tran­si­tion from wan­der­ing tribe to farm­ing so­ci­ety and who built homes that still stand to­day, even though they aban­doned the cozy cliffs for rea­sons un­known about 1,300 AD.

The na­tion’s na­tional parks in the South­west make it easy to see why the peo­ple who lived there, be­fore Amer­ica was “dis­cov­ered” by Eu­ro­peans, found their God in na­ture. Vista af­ter showy vista cap­tured the eye, con­trast­ing with the stark re­al­i­ties of liv­ing in a desert that gets fewer than 15 inches of rain a year.

Na­tive Amer­i­cans lived with the ev­ery­day re­al­ity of know­ing they were at the mercy of forces far greater than them­selves, forces that could and did change their lives in a twin­kling. No won­der their deep brown eyes speak of long-ago civ­i­liza­tions in times no one can re­mem­ber. No won­der their out­look is so dif­fer­ent from the phone-ob­sessed gen­er­a­tion back East whose goal is to find the per­fect cof­fee blend.

The deep roots of the na­tives whose an­ces­tors lived in New Mex­ico for thou­sands of years be­fore the Jamestown set­tle­ment, the first English colony, stretch into the soil at the long­est con­tin­u­ously in­hab­ited UNESCO World Her­itage site in North Amer­ica, called Taos Pueblo. It’s just out­side the northwest New Mex­ico city of Taos, which is Mount Dora on steroids, all won­der­ful art, shop­ping for free trade items and hand-spun wool. And wine. Turns out that lo­cal ones are un­ex­pect­edly won­der­ful.

This va­ca­tion took longer than most for the re­boot to kick in. First, one must get used to the sweep­ing splen­dor of the Amer­i­can South­west, and that takes some time. Here in Florida we’re re­minded of our pow­er­less­ness and mor­tal­ity only oc­ca­sion­ally, such as when an al­li­ga­tor eats a clue­less hu­man or a Cat­e­gory 5 hurricane threat­ens.

And then, your colum­nist had got­ten more than the usual dose of Trump-pre­oc­cu­pied Face­book posters whose in­ter­net di­ar­rhea filled the soul with more mean-spir­ited non­sense than is cus­tom­ary.

Or­lando Sen­tinel-Tri­bune News Ser­vice

Eleanor hikes through Bryce Canyon Na­tional Park while her mother strug­gles be­hind with a nearstroke heart rate of 174 beats a minute.

Or­lando Sen­tinel-Tri­bune News Ser­vice

Daugh­ter of lo­cal colum­nist Lau­ren Ritchie ex­plores the ru­ins of Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde Na­tional Park, where the ear­li­est an­ces­tors of the Pueblo peo­ple lived un­til the Mid­dle Ages.

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