Monday, June 13, 2005
Blog Trek IV: The Voyage Home
After our brief stay in Vegas our next stop was Albuquerque, New Mexico to visit our friends Karyn and Randy Berner, who had moved there from Wheaton over a year ago. Since we decided to also take a little side detour to see the Grand Canyon (kind of a "been there, done that" sort of visit), it was a pretty ambitious trip to do in one day of driving, but we made it.

But our first sight along the way was actually the Hoover Dam, since you have to drive over the dam to get from Vegas into Arizona. (For the time being at least. They're in the process of building a highway bypass for security reasons.) We didn't stop long, basically just pulled over along the road to snap a picture. But we did have some fun telling a few dam jokes. :) The Dam is pretty huge, and it's amazing to know that it's purpose isn't primarily to provide hydro-electric power, but rather to provide water to San Diego. Contrary to popular belief, the power capabilities were just an afterthought.

We made it to the Grand Canyon around mid-afternoon. It's way bigger than you'd even imagine or be able to tell from pictures. It's so far across and it just keeps going down and down. About halfway down there's a series of plateaus that look like they're the canyon floor, but then it just keeps going on down even further than that. It really boggles the mind. I really wish we had been able to spend more time there just to soak it in.

What I also found really incredible about the Grand Canyon was reading some of the historical plaques that quoted some of the original Spanish and American explorers who first discovered it (for Western Civilization that is). To them the canyon was ugly and worthless, and why?... because they couldn't exploit it for wealth or natural resources! Because it wasn't useful to them in their quest for gold and power, it was merely a nuisance. To me those quotes just embodied the whole spirit of our Western imperialistic, capitalistic heritage: "If we can't dominate it and make money off of it, it has no value to us." Thank goodness for people like John Muir and others who founded the National Parks Service, that saw wild places like the Grand Canyon or Yosemite as invaluable national treasures that should be preserved as much as possible in their natural state as a resource of beauty and simple untamed nature for future generations. (And yet, even still, how far have we progressed really? Would we consider places like Yosemite and the Grand Canyon as being quite so valuable just for their sheer natural beauty alone if we weren't also making millions of dollars off of them through tourism. After all, look at what we're doing to other wilderness areas like ANWR in Alaska, that can't make us any tourist money and that have other natural resources that we want to exploit. These wilderness areas are still only valuable to us in so far as we can profit from them.)

Anyhow, after visiting the Canyon, we continued south and east through the Navajo Indian Reservation and past the Painted Desert to Albuquerque. It was great to see our friends again, and they seemed very happy where they settled, after their long ordeal of being uprooted from their long time home in Wheaton, thinking they were moving to Seattle, and then being cast adrift again after the job there fell through. After a brief period as nomads they "washed ashore" in Albuquerque, which turned out to be a great town full of cultural diversity and good food. While we were there they not only gave us a driving tour of the city, they also took us up on the Tram (i.e. a mountain gondola) to the top of the Sandia Mountains overlooking both Albuquerque to the south and Santa Fe to the north. It was a place of unexpected beauty, and I can't wait to go back and take the opportunity to hike some of the trails up there in the mountains.

We had a great time hanging out and talking theology and ministry with our friends. It's always good to be with people who aren't afraid to argue and push you on your ideas. They also introduced us to some incredible food. New Mexican food is very unique and exceptionally good. They also took us to one of the best Indian (as in Asia) Restaurants I've ever eaten at. And let me tell you, there's no better way to experience Indian food than to let someone order for you who has actually lived in India! :) And our friends also gave us a great recommendation for a little restaurant in Santa Fe called Harry's Roadhouse, that we were able to stop at on our way back north. I honestly don't know how they manage to always find the best restaurants no matter where they go, but they do.

Rather than heading straight back to Chicago after we left Albuquerque by going through Amarillo and Oklahoma, we decided on a different route that would take us through Santa Fe and across Kansas (which neither of us had ever been to before). We stopped for a couple of hours to see Santa Fe after lunch. It's one of those trendy, artsy kind of towns that has over 400 years of history behind it from the days of Coronado and the Spanish Conquistadors. Some of it's historical claims to fame are that, having been founded in 1607, it's the oldest European city west of the Mississippi and it's the oldest capital city in North America. It's managed to preserve a lot of that history, especially by passing an ordinance that all the buildings in the old town have to be made in the Native American adobe style. There are also several really old churches in the town, including the oldest church in North America, and a cathedral to St. Francis that has a labyrinth out in the courtyard. Another chapel in the town (Loretto Chapel) has an interesting story related to it's mysterious staircase up to the choir loft. Built by an anonymous wandering carpenter, the winding staircase makes two complete 360 degree turns and yet has no nails and no center or side supports! Architects and scientists are still puzzled at how the staircase nonetheless is perfectly balanced and sturdy.

After doing the tourist thing in Santa Fe it was time to head home. We trekked north to Colorado Springs and then turned east to Kansas, staying the night in a small town on the high prairies. In the morning we continued on to Kansas City and then on through Missouri, Iowa and back to Illinois, finally arriving back at home shortly before midnight.

It was an amazing journey. Having never been out west before, I was overwhelmed by the gorgeous landscapes and vast open spaces. It's truly a beautiful country.
posted by Mike Clawson at 1:22 PM | Permalink |


At 12/11/2007 09:17:00 AM, Blogger Derek Berner

What, no shout out? I feel so dissed. ;-) Actually Leslie and I only briefly stopped by for a visit and some margaritas and a ride on the Albuquerque tramway. I was really getting into some of your emergent church talk even if I wasn't interjecting.

Anyway, just reading the archives before I have to get to work. Who knows if you'll actually get this... it's a ways back there now. Interesting stuff and perhaps a bit more in line with my present thoughts... Incidentally, your link to the article that spawned the evangel controversy is broken. I'd be interested in reading that.


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