Saturday, August 3, 2013

Thursday Happened

The day after the grand light show extravaganza of the century (a white light on a canyon wall, read all about it in my last post), we decided we had just not spent enough time in the car, which truly was a poor decision. We went to the Four Corners National Monument first. At first, this location was a bit intimidating to me, as I read a sign about the illegality of dispersing body parts upon entrance. What kinds of people come here? What dangers await us? Upon reading further, the sign explained that the Native American culture of the area found cremation to be extremely disrespectful, and I felt a lot better about the whole situation.

After being in four states simultaneously, we went to Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. Though we faced a bit of rejection, we were accepted for our second choice, the tour of Balcony House. This park is unique in that it has the remains of cliff dwelling communities. 

As previous experience has taught me, a tour guide can totally make or break (ok, mostly make) a vacation (see We were greeted by a park ranger and our tour guide. This young lady's most prominent feature was her unceasing smile. Well, almost unceasing. One time, after telling a joke, she stopped and I just did not know what to do. Other than that, whether tour guide was telling about the food of the cliff dwellers, summoning of ancestors, or, believe it or not, the smashing of heads with stones, Laura's eerily perfect pearly whites glared at me. In addition to all of these smiles, we faced an uncomfortable pause at the end of each phrase, as if there was a hidden question we needed to answer, or a deep piece of knowledge upon which we needed to ruminate.

This tour was much more academic than anticipated. We explored ancient living spaces through a progressive lens of Maslov's Hierarchy with a call to action in leaving a legacy at the end. Very well put together.

On the way back to Moab, as the sun set, we witnessed the most incredible storm. The sun loomed as a small but brilliant explosion of orange at the horizon that I thought for a moment was fire. The lightening kept coming, ripping across the sky every few seconds, but strangely elusive of photographic attempts.

'Twas a lovely day.


Thursday, August 1, 2013


As a child, my deepest, most pressing desire was to go to Indonesia, my father's homeland. Finally, when I was 14, I got to visit that beautiful country. For the trip, Dad bought us Pinkstonlets Marmot brand backpacks that were, to speak his language "way cool!" 

These backpacks are true beauties: neutral colors and a kind of long and skinny that could hold a small flock of geese. They have an impressive array of pockets, including one that is padded and perfect for that rad digital camera or hip iPod nano (keep in mind that these were given to us in 2007, when surely words like hip and rad were utilized, as they should be).

In the years to follow, I have traveled the world with that pack on my back. I have been to over a dozen countries, and I'm fairly certain that this Marmot backpack has accompanied me to all of them, plus many more local destinations. From visiting friends in China to a mission trip in Haiti to exploring in Europe to summer project in Ecuador to college in Bloomington, my companion has been ever faithful.

However, the selfish beast I am, it was really always all about me and never about the backpack. The other day at Capital Reef National Park, Mother dearest noticed that a pamphlet declared marmots among the wildlife found in the park! Marmot, like the brand printed proudly across our backpacks. And not just any marmots, but yellow-bellied marmots! This raised questions I had never really pondered. What is a marmot? What kinds of animals would they name after belly coloration? "I thought it was like an elephant," marveled Dad. "Is it...a bird?" I inquired. "It's like a prairie dog," stated Mom.

What. A prairie dog. I've been traipsing across the globe proudly bearing the mark of the prairie dog? My luggage boasts of relation or aspiration to a rodent that 0.03% of the population could take seriously, given that they had received extensive training? You know what they say. It is what is is. Que serĂ¡, serĂ¡. And all those cliche phrases about accepting the nature of your pack.

Well, now you know. Now you can judge me, or anyone else proudly carrying the name of the great woodchuck-like beast.

Slightly embarrassed but all the better for the education, 


A Darn Good Day

On the way to the hotel in Torre, we saw the entire town. Except Jack; he blinked. Dad saw a police car on the side of the road, and so he pulled over to ask for directions. Unfortunately, the policeman was a literal dummy. I want to know who has the time and resources and willpower to set that up. It's probably the same guy who must have intentionally brought white paint and driven out to the county border to change WAYNE COUNTY to an almost convincing DWAYNE COUNTY. Five dollars his name is Dwayne. An additional five dollars that we would be friends.

We dined at the restaurant right across the parking lot from our room that claimed no affiliation with or connection to our hotel, though it was literally connected. A high school dude, overheard to be named Brock, was our waiter and a true gem. Very pleasant and built like a football player, but unable to play since his school is so very small, this guy was the only person I've ever met who could pull off the one little braid in the back that my cousin used to call "the jedi braid." Seriously, I was so impressed. When we awoke in the morning in our room with an excellent view of rocks and cows, we ate again at the separate but not restaurant. Waiter boy was either there again or had never left. We had very hearty breakfasts and then started to pack up the car.

Mom sent Joely and I to get ice. We scoffed at the fact that we, two fully capable women, were sent to do what was clearly a one man job. Little did we know what danger lurked right outside the door. Our room opened up to the parking lot, and the ice machine rumbled just a few doors down. Joely boldly grabbed the bucket and headed to the ice. I, on the other hand, decided to hop from the sidewalk to the little concrete car parking marker thing (you know exactly what I'm talking about) and hop from parking thing to parking thing. Alas, I missed the first parking thing and totally wiped out. Sitting on the ground in the parking lot because I was laughing to hard to get up, I heard Brock peek out the restaurant door and holler at us to be careful. Here is where, in the style of old school Avril Lavigne, I write a song entitled "w8r boi." 

Once recovered and still laughing, we rolled down the road to Capital Reef National Park. Much to the disappointment of Jack, we watched an 18 minute video about the history of the park. Dad told us to give "the signal" if we wanted to leave the video early, but though Jack gave every signal he could think of from the first moment the video started, we watched all 18 minutes. As you can imagine, I found it utterly fascinating, as I do most things in life.

We decided to do a longer hike, but Jack and Dad were only able to join us at the beginning, since Jack still wasn't feeling 100%. It was very hot with almost no shade. Compared to the other parks, it was eerily empty. We passed only 2 people in two hours. There were tons of rocks to climb on, and I'm sure it would have been a favorite had the whole family been able to enjoy it. Interesting facts about Chimney Rock Trail: you only see Chimney Rock for the first 20ish minutes and you can see Chimney Rock even better from the road. Still, we had a nice hike and saw many, many lovely rocks before leaving the park.

Now, we are in Moab. I know all kinds of things about Moab after our lights and sounds boat tour, but I figure if you wanted to know them, you'd probably use Wikipedia, you technology wizards, you. Really, my main goal is to keep my brother away from the women, because besides Ruth, who is about as exceptional as any exception ever has been, my time studying the Bible suggests that Moabitesses lead God's chosen ones astray, and we can't have that.

Our tour was just swell. Ranked in the top 100 tours in the good ole U.S.ofA., this tour featured dutch oven cooked supper and then a boat tour lead by Preston, a retired man who reminded us many times that his jokes "don't get better; they only get worse." A personal favorite was the narrative that "our cook uses a special method to cook the baked beans, putting only 239 beans in each pot. You know why? Because one more would make it too farty." He, like the other staff, wore a cowboy hat and boots, and said "darn good" at every possible opportunity.

I had never experienced a light show. Now, this wasn't a laser light show. Preston did, however, sport a laser pointer, such as one may use in a classroom. For the first part of the tour, Preston talked about the area, the sights to sees, the impressive line up of movies and commercials filmed in the town, and pointed out shapes on the canyon walls with the laser pointer. It was thoroughly enjoyable.

For the more official part of the program, a truck on the highway along the river pointed a light at the canyon walls as it moved with us. We listened to a contradictory and slightly confusing history of the area as we, unrelatedly, studied the canyon walls. Occasionally, we were a bit lost. For example, on the topic of mountain men, with no explanation, the recording claimed "And the wearing of one's own hair came only at the cost of eternal vigilance." Please let me know if you've decoded this cryptic message.

My favorite part was by far the stars. The first time they turned off all of the lights to allow us to look at the heavens, the glaring light of a construction zone stared us all straight in the corneas. As we lifted our hands to block the beam of straight sunpower, the construction people waved back at us. I like them. 

Now it is late. Blogging has kept me up for what I'm sure is not the last time.