Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Monument Valley and Mesa Verde

The first shift of today's journey took us from Page, AZ, to Monument Valley, AZ, right near the Utah border. I knew that various landscapes here had been seen in numerous Westerns and other movies—many from John Ford, director, and John Wayne, actor. The first of these was Stagecoach in 1939. But, I had a slight bias against the place from Claire's earlier trip in 1989 to various Native American sites: She did not like the almost-hostile interactions with many natives, the limits on where you could go without a guide and the fact that there seemed to be fees for everything. We did not have reservations for the jeep tour and had decided to take our chances on timing.

Chuck Leaving Colorado Horseshoe Bend Near Page

Life in the Desert--Even in the Rock

Coal Power Plant on Navajo Land

A Drive-By Monument

When we finally got to Goulding's Lodge and Tour Service near the park, there was no one at the desk; as we waited, the clerk appeared, ignoring us, picking up the phone and, presumably, continuing a conversation on hold. We thought he could at least have acknowledged our presence and said, “Be with you in a minute.” We have encountered this indifferent customer service frequently on this trip. We found that we'd have to wait 1.5 hours to begin a 2.5 hour ($40) tour. Since this was already going to be a long day before we reached our ultimate destination of Mesa Verde National Park, we determined to either try one or two short hikes or to view the scenery from a single location. Moreover, I felt that I had already seen much similar landscape in our week of travel. The buttes were impressive, monumental even; but, I was satisfied with the view from the Visitor Center terrace—though it was a trifle overcast.

Impressive Monument

This permitted us to quickly move on to the second stage of our trip, today—to Mesa Verde, CO, another 2.5 hours driving time. I must say that since we have been switching driving duties, I enjoy the view a lot more than when driving all the time, as was our situation in Europe. I also feel somewhat more rested. We had a picnic along the way with our usual turkey slices, grapes and apples, with yogurt for dessert.

We arrived at the Mesa Verde Park Lodge about 4pm. We were very glad to be staying in the park, since—just as at the North Rim—the driving distance from outside the park to desired destinations inside the park are considerable. The clerk gave us our keys and told us where and when the bus pickup, tomorrow, would occur. We then walked down to the Visitor Center and asked the Ranger on duty whether we needed tickets or if our confirmation number would be sufficient. He said we needed tickets but he really couldn't tell us anything because that tour has nothing to do with park Rangers. His attitude was one of annoyance, reminding us of a similar experience at the North Rim. Perhaps each park is required to have its quota of grumpy Rangers.

View from our Terrace at Mesa Verde

We walked on down to the Terrace Cafe to check on the meal situation for dinner. There seemed to be a blackout in the cafeteria. We saw signs advertising the cafeteria food offerings, but no indication of prices. We had ruled out the Lodge restaurant—we had already splurged at North Rim and the entree prices of mid-twenties was more than we were willing to pay.

We could not find anyone on duty at the coffee bar; but, the gift shop staff were kind enough to see if anyone was on duty and, finally, two service employees came to staff the coffee counter. They were very pleasant, but we could not figure out why no one was present. We got two large lattes and were happy to sit, relax and talk over coffee while viewing the mesas in the distance. While we were drinking, one of the employees came over to inform us that the cafe opened at 7am and that we could have breakfast and be picked up for the tour there. This was welcome and friendly outreach and much appreciated, especially after the interaction with the Ranger.

Claire saw the unstaffed kiosk for our tour company in a corner of the cafe and I walked over to check it out. I had no service on my iPhone, but the literature there had a phone number and there was a lighted handset in a cradle on the counter. So, I picked up the phone and dialed their number. After receiving a couple of messages, I got through to an agent who reassured me that we needed no tickets, our names would be on a list and the confirmation would be sufficient for us to be seated on the tour.

"Have I reached the party to whom I am speaking?"

Our next agenda item was to blog, read and wait for dinner time.

Chuck's Dinner--Southwest Lasagna. It was delicious and filling.

We were fortunate to get back to our room just before our nightly thundershower began. I continued work on the blog while Claire did her Qi Gong exercises. All in all, a lovely day.

Certain things catch your eye, but pursue only those that capture your heart. ~ Old Native American Saying