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Journey to Excellence: Journey Across America


Here we are, two city planner type people, on a journey across America.  We’re heading from Henderson, Nevada to Clearwater, Florida and will be doing some wandering about along the way.  We’ll start out by spending time in the Southwest, driving the backroads and seeing the awesome beauty that characterizes the Southwest.

Day One:  We start off by taking the Northshore Road along Lake Mead, instead of heading right to the Interstate.  It takes us about an extra 15 minutes to head north, but it is worth it. 

Few tourists venture beyond the Strip or Hoover Dam to see the exquisiteness of the desert surrounding Las Vegas.  The road along Lake Mead is full of dramatic beauty, with surprise outcroppings of red rock speckling the mountains.  Changes to the desert landscape are subtle, but obvious to me, as I lived fifteen years in the desert.  There is a subtle green cast to the landscape.  The vegetation that has been dormant for years has reappeared because of the plentiful rain this year.  And by plentiful, I mean that it has rained 4 1/2 inches since January 1.  In a few weeks, the wildflowers will explode. 

We pass through the small towns of Moapa Valley and Logandale, arriving at I-15 south of Mesquite, just in time to drive through the Virgin River Gorge.  The Gorge is one of Mother Nature’s optical illusions.  At first sight, it appears to be a solid wall that can’t be penetrated.  We wind through sharp curves, with sheer rock on either side, speeding along.

Our time on I-15 ends quickly, as we exit and head east toward Hurricane, Utah.  The view to the north is the beauty of Zion National Park and later to Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.  For hours, each curve in the road brings more of the spectacular orange, red, yellow and purple colors that make the Southwest so entrancing. 

 The evening destination is Page, Arizona and we opt to take the long way there.  We follow the twisting turns of Arizona Route 89A from Fredonia to Jacob Lake, watching the vegetation  change from the Southwest desert hues to juniper trees and then to alpine forest .   We stop at Jacob Lake Lodge and are surrounded by snow.  A fire is burning in the lodge;  it’s aroma blends with the smell of pine trees and draws us inside.  

The Lodge is charming, but we hurry along so that we can see more of the spectacular scenery before the sun sets.  We descend to the Colorado River and cross it at Navajo Bridge.  As it becomes dark, we wind our way into Page, where we’ll spend the night.

 Taking in all the splendor of the day, I can’t help but be extremely grateful for the visionary people who have created our system of national parks and monuments.  These very special areas of the United States are preserved for all time, for all of us to see.  It’s easy to assume that setting aside millions of acres of incredible landscape was the right thing to do and came about easily.  But I’m convinced that our system came about only because of the vision and persistence of visionaries.  And so the lesson I take away, and pass along, is to dream big, set your vision high and work until you achieve it. 

Tomorrow:  Glen Canyon Dam, Monument Valley and Four Corners…unless we change our plans.

March 22nd, 2010  in City Planning No Comments »