Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Summing Up

As we were leaving we found a clear view of Hearst Castle from the beach area, the best weather we have had here.

On a Clear Day You Can See...

Our goal for the day was to arrive at Nepenthe, near Big Sur, by 11:30am--opening time--for one of their delicious Ambrosia Burgers. We actually arrived about 45 minutes early and took the opportunity to browse the Gift Shop downstairs. They are not cheap, but they have delightful curios. They also have an interesting book selection. This time I was intrigued by the section on books of lists: The simple idea was that each book had a theme, provided a caption for each page, and you provided the content. For example, a book on relationships might have a heading, Characteristics of A Best Friend.


We decided to enjoy ourselves; we began with caffeine.

Claire's Cappuccino

Chuck's Latte

Since the weather was so perfect, we chose an outside table, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Outside Table at Nepenthe

We decided on the Ambrosia Burger with bean salad as our entree.

Ambrosia Burgers All Around

Since we were willing to splurge on this final day of our trip, we also had dessert. Claire and I had banana cream pie and Letha and Tai had a slice of four layer chocolate cake. The service was terrific and the food was great.

We stopped at both Winco and Costco on the way home, since we had little food in the house. We finally arrived home at 5:30pm. It took another hour to unpack. We had a light meal and a movie as our welcome back home. Be it ever so humble...We were both glad to be back.

A miscellany of observations and comments from the trip.

We have relied heavily on Susan, our loyal TomTom GPS, on our trip. She has been extremely helpful through all the States, even rural areas. The only complaint I have is that she seems to be consistently inaccurate when calling out the number of feet before the next turn--I am "sure" she slightly overestimates the distance, which is confusing; but, once we accepted this, we were able to adjust to her misstatements.

The peals of thunder in the Southwest were long and loud. I do not recall ever hearing such lengthy thunder. The lightening that precedes the sound appears (to me) brilliantly white--not yellow, as it appears in other areas. It sometimes occurs 24 times in a single day. But, the showers never last long.

The relatively recent and revised wisdom of allowing forest fires to burn in order to avoid later, devastating fires is not followed in some National Parks: This is to protect both archeological sites and people.

We loved our Senior National Parks Pass that cost only $10 and is good for life. It entitles the owner to bring a carload or 3 guests--where per person fees are levied. It is hard to imagine a better deal, unless you go to Canyon de Chelly, where there is no admission fee.

We have encountered our largest examples of road kill on this trip, both on the same day: A cow and a dog. I also saw a young mountain lion along the side of the road.

Rangers do not appreciate being compared to guides. In other words, National Park Rangers meet high standards and private guides may not.

We enjoyed learning about Navajo codetalkers before we took this trip. There are many reminders of them throughout this area. Clearly this is a matter of great pride. Native Americans served with distinction in WWII and they love their country--but this is associated more with love of the land than with a governmental system. We learned that Indians were not given citizenship until 1924 and could not vote until 1948. Sadly, we have witnessed much poverty throughout this area. (This is judging by our standards; we are not sure how Native Americans see living in rural housing with wood or, at best, propane heating, no indoor plumbing, and no running water. In many cases they must cart in their own water and propane, because the population is too sparse and the roads too crude for larger vehicles to pass.)

The Civilian Conservation Corps provided labor to create many of the National Park trails, often with steps carved in stone. This was part of the New Deal and the economic activity to spend our way out of the Great Depression.

I tried to order a beer with dinner one night in AZ and was informed that no alcohol was allowed as we were on tribal lands.

We relied heavily on Frommer's Arizona & the Grand Canyon guide for this trip. It was generally satisfactory. There were, however, some disappointments:
  • Elevations are not given. This would help plan for clothing.
  • Populations are not given. This would help plan for buying food or locating restaurants and motels.
  • Locations are not given for post offices, grocery stores, ATMs, laundromats and gas stations.
There has been a fair amount of Deja Vu on this trip through the Southwest:
  • Petroglyphs reminded us of Hieroglyphics in Egypt.
  • Mushroom rocks reminded us of the White Desert in Egypt and Cappadocia in Turkey.
  • A plethora of foreign languages reminded us of all of Europe.
  • Kivas and pithouses reminded us of Skara Brae in the Orkneys, Scotland.
  • Rain like in England--occasionally but briefly.
  • Navajos are Athabaskans and share the language of their Alaskan cousins.
The U.S. has some of the best natural beauty in the world. We hope you enjoy these comparisons:

Slot Canyon, Bryce, AZ
Siq, Jordan Canyon de Chelly, AZ
Scala dei Turchi, Sicily
Painted Desert, AZ
Cappadocia, Turkey
Zion, UT
Petra, Jordan Mesa Verde, UT
Petra, Jordan Kiva House, Mesa Verda, CO
Stone House, Skara Brae, Scotland Inn, Painted Desert, AZ
Nubia House, Abu Simbel, Egypt

Total mileage for the trip: 3,533 miles--equal to driving across the country.
Total cost for the trip: $4,595 (for 25 days).
Total worth of supportive planner and tolerant partner on the trip: Priceless.

Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey. ~ Fitzhugh Mullan