Posts Tagged ‘ travel ’

Journey Across America: Day Two

Journey Across America:  Day Two

Ooh.  Ah.  Beautiful.  Stunning.  Spectacular.  It’s another day of superlatives, from the time we leave our hotel room in Page, Arizona until the darkness descends on us in Albuquerque.  It’s also a Tony Hillerman day.  We’ll be driving the Four Corners area that he featured so vividly in his novels.  I can’t wait to see Monument Valley and Shiprock, two places on my “bucket list”, thanks to Hillerman.

The Glen Canyon Dam and Bridge were stop number one.  Glen Canyon Bridge is definitely the most beautiful bridge by a dam site, but will soon be outdone by the bridge over the Colorado River at Hoover Dam.  We looked north from the bridge into Lake Powell, named for the famous one-armed explorer John Powell. 

It’s also a day of travelling two-lane roads.  We spend the time on the drive to Monument Valley, “oohing and aahing” about the scenery, stopping to take pictures.  When Monument Valley arrives on the horizon, we know we are in for a visual treat.  As we get closer, we can identify the famous Two Mitten Buttes.  To their northwest is Sentinel Mesa, standing guard over the valley. 

We stop at the Monument Valley Navaho Nation Visitor Center.  The indigenous materials and design of the visitor center blend seamlessly into the majestic scenery of Monument Valley.  The Navaho Nation voted in the 1960’s to construct the visitor center to stop encroaching commercialism.  In one of life’s ironies, across the road from the visitor center, a billboard mars the magnificent vista.

Four Corners National Monument, the only point in the United States common to four state corners–Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado—is next on our loose itinerary.  We drive through each of the four states on our way to the monument.  To our surprise and disappointment, it is gated and closed for remodeling.  There’s no chance to take pictures while standing in four states.  We console ourselves by deciding that we are surely looking at all four states at the same time.

As we leave Four Corners, the colors of the desert change to ochre and gray.  The mighty Shiprock comes into view, surrounded by rolling hills and sagebrush.  It dominates the bleak landscape, its grandeur in sharp contrast to its surroundings.

 We drive through the high plains of New Mexico, eagerly awaiting the dramatic vistas that will return as we approach Albuquerque.  The Sandia Mountains that flank Alburquerque appear on the horizon.  We’re grateful for their beauty and for the end of the day’s journey.

For photos of day one and two of the journey, go to

March 23rd, 2010  in City Planning 3 Comments »

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 »