Desert Rats

As he dragged two bulging suitcases from our car at the LAX parking lot, my spouse muttered,  “Looks like a crazy person packed this car!”  We WERE crazy by the time we were closed the door on the Cambria rental and began our odyssey.

Being Cool in Florida
The Maestro

First stop, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where we visited daughter Amandah and her darling family.  We were wined, dined, and treated to performances  by son-in-law Jason, who possesses not one but TWO fabulous outdoor ranges – a huge gas job and a brand-new 21st Century Weber. He plays them like a Mighty Wurlitzer. Three-year-old Sean is so precious that we hardly noticed that it was 400 degrees with 197% humidity.

The moment we acclimated to the time change we found ourselves trudging back through our sadistic airline system to Los Angeles. Our pal Kaye graciously put us up for a night, patiently listened to our whining, and sent us on our way, this time in a car still jammed but more orderly.

Let’s just not talk about our stop in Las Vegas, okay?  HOT, crowded, loud, fattening, expensive.  That just about covers it.

And then there was Flagstaff, Arizona, which was the logical stopping place on the way to Monument Valley.  It was not a highlight.  The room had clearly been decorated by the owner’s mother in 1972, and the pool was full of a large group of Marco-Polo players from an area Lutheran School whose bus was parked immediately in front of our bedroom window.  The king size bed was comfortable but we passed on free breakfast buffet with the  Lutherans.

Flagstaff Decor

The scenery between Flagstaff and Monument Valley, Utah, is magnificent.  Every turn and change in elevation brought us new delights.  We were excited to see our gorgeous hotel, on which we had splurged (hence the cheapo stop in Flagstaff) so we could appreciate the grandeur of the natural monuments formed 570 million years ago when their lake bed disappeared.  The View Hotel is the only place offering rooms with views of Monument Valley. The hotel’s marketing department is almost as remarkable as the attraction it exploits.

The Hotel – our room FAR left – approximately a one
mile hike from the lobby, restaurant and wifi router.

Here is the hotel.  Each slot costs $250, dicey internet included.  Once inside the lobby we immediately became aware that the Navajo Indian nation is still mad as hell about all the lousy stuff we Europeans have pulled on them for the past 400 years.

But hey, there were the monuments – splendid, mysterious, regal, enormous. They are visited close-up via an axle-breaking, tire-slashing road whose condition is certainly a form of retribution for the above-mentioned Anglo indignities.

View from our Room
Near Sunset
Tim the Tourist

We drove about half  of the 17 mile loop when, in our typical fashion, we gave up the dusty bone rattling ride in favor of the view from our own terrace.  As we watched the shadows lengthen and the buttes on the other side of the lake bed come into focus,  the stars began to appear.  The silence of the valley was broken only by swirls of soft desert air rustling the sagebrush.  Aided by a glass of chardonnay, I began to carry on about the message we should receive in the presence of such eternal realities, how rare the experience was, how fortunate we were to have the opportunity to reassess our places in the universe – blah blah blah.  I expected a response of equal weight and reflective wisdom from my beloved.  What I got was “Oh, for God’s sake, woman!”   Well, you can’t have John Wayne, Einstein and the Dalai Lama all in one handsome package.

Now here’s the scoop the guide books don’t share: do not spend $250 for your slot and endure terrible food while seated on a chair that sits like a log.  Instead, stock up on some tasty treats and libations, check in at one of the nearby reasonably priced hotels, pay $5 to enter the monument park, and enjoy the whole show from the valley floor or from the hotel restaurant balcony.   These venues cost NOTHING and offer exactly the same views.   You might even get into a stimulating conversation with an interesting international visitor.  There are lots of them there.

Doggedly determined to enjoy the experience thoroughly (I am my father’s daughter), I rose at 5:30 to see the famed sunrise behind the rocks.  It was impressive, although no one else in my room had much to say at that hour.

Hmm..looks just like sunset, only from the other direction!

We declined eating our expensive breakfast while sitting on a log and took off into the desert bound for Taos, New Mexico.  Stay tuned for tales of living in a historic Native American adobe casita for several days without air conditioning.  Don’t you know the my personal Dalai just loved that?

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