Where God put the West Part
Where God put the West A trip to the Balloon-Fiesta in Albuquerque - It’s only In AmerIcA!
Well, folks, all the thing started in Chicago, at the end of September 2016, when a German girl went on a tour with “Vacations by Rail”...and was supposed to be on “tour”, not on “vacation”!
Arriving in Chicago, I (the German girl) had booked a “Hop-on-hop-off-tour” through downtown Chicago and I learnt a lot about the third biggest city in America: home of the “Blues”, situated at the most dangerous lake (Lake Michigan) of the Great Lakes (the only one which has no border to Canada); Michael Jordan has a steakhouse here and Queen Elizabeth, coming across all the Great Lakes, once stayed here for one night in “The Drake”, for 10.000 dollars per night (“a drop into the water of Lake Michigan for her, but a lot of money for us”, as Chuck said, the guide on the tourbus.). Chicago is also the starting point of “Route 66” and famous for its “Chicago Marathon” (Chuck: “The record is 2 h 4 min., incredible! I did cross-country and this was hard enough!”)
Chuck on the bus
friendly busdriver Janet
“Look, on the lakeside, there you see people fishing...wasting their time... They have a marina over there, only 100 Dollars a day for placing your yacht !” “But...now I will stop boring you with stories about Chicago, sometimes I bore myself after 8 hours hop-on-hop-off-bus!” (Chuck)
Donald was here!
Departing Chicago aboard the “California Zephyr” (Amtrak) heading to Grand Junction: “Welcome on board, folks! We are scheduled to leave at 2 pm – right about now!”
Chicago Union Station
People I met on the road to New Mexico
Maybe the Amtrak trains are the last “frontier” of America, because on board , you really get the feeling of being an explorer of unknown terrain, but the promised “luxury bedroom” is a sardine’s can, the meals are organized like in the Army and the attendants are the officers of this militarily organized system (for what they expect to be tipped). Yet,you are arriving in time!
The first “mesa” (“mesa = span. Table) behind Grand Junction (“a mesa is as wide as it is high, while a plateau is rather small, but high”, said Sally, our tourguide, and we were seeing later, that she was right).
Departing from Grand Junction, we got onto the “Colorado Plateau”, following the Colorado River to Moab, the center of Utah’s breathtaking red rock landscapes. The Colorado Plateau is made of sandstone and “Colorado Glue”, some sort of cement,that sticks the sand together, with only 20 % of rain/year. Utah in former times was the land of indigenous Indians: Ute, Paiute and the Shoshone-Nation, today it is the Mormons’ State Utah with the capital of Salt Lake City. The Mormons are known as a very hard-working people and in their flag, they have the picture of a beehive as the symbol of diligence. Plants of the Colorado Plateau are: saguach (sort of a cactus), chamissa, sage brush and juniper. In “Arches National Park”, home of more than 2000 natural sandstone arches, soaring pinnacles, massive fins and giant balanced rock, we are guided by Preston through history of time.
Preston, 7th Marlboro Man
Preston guiding through Moab country: “Let me talk to you in “Cowboy speed” (whatever he meant by that): “Moab is Marlboro-country! I survived six Marlboro men. All the advertizing spots habe been done here, and maybe I am the seventh! Movies and advertizing is after tourism the most important industry here on the Colorado Plateau, because we do not have very much besides nature. In August, it is raining two quarters of an inch of rain, this is our wettest month! Also outdoor acitivites are frequent , that’s the reason, why so much millionaires are having a home here, they are dissipating the money of their parents and forefathers. But, do you know, why mountain bikers don’t laugh? Too much work! Butch Cassidy (born in Silver City, as a son of a “woman negociating affection” = a prostitute) tried to escape through Moab country after the “Telluride robbery 1889” and John Wayne was asked, why he made so many films here in the Arches Park and he answered: “Because this is, where God put the West!”
A lot of movies have been realized here: The Witness (Harrison Ford investigating among the Amish) Dancing withWolves (from and with Kevin Koster) True Grit (in Ouray, with John Wayne) The Lone Ranger (with Johnny Depp) Fort Dobbs (with Clint Walker 1958) Sally: “You know, when the girls talk about Clint Walker, all the guys getjealous!” Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (with Harrison Ford) Warlock (with Henry Fonda and Anthony Quinn) City Slickers (with Billy Christal) Cliffhanger (with Sylvester Stallone) 127 Hours (with James Franco) Breaking bad (New Mexico) Electric Horseman (with Robert Redford) For the permit of making movies in a National Park, you have to pay... f.ex.: 8 million dollars for the rights to make “Indiana Jones” in the Arches Park.
Rock formation in Arches Park, called “Park Lane”... but...where were the shops?
And how did the arches become arches? Between the sand stone layers there are layers of salt, and salt cannot be sticked to any other layer firmly. So in winter times, when frost and water attack the sandstone-salt-rocks, the salt is washed out and the layers of sandstone are remaining upright and building arches. DUDE = the formula for the formation of the Colorado Plateau: D eposition U plift D owncutting E rosion Later, I will be taught by Bob Lawless, what also is a”dude”: “Don’t move too fast!” And a dude service: “Friendly, but slow!”
Bob Lawless and Joe Banks
The night, we spent it in the “Far View Lodge”, inside “Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado”, Mile Marker 15, in the middle of an overwhelming nature, calm, fresh air, at the height of 8500 feet, incredible sight on the mesa and the Rockies, looking over the “Four-Corners-Area”, where 4 US States meet each other: Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico.
Mesa and the Rockies behind
Room and scenic sight at “Far View Lodge”, Mesa Verde National Park
Next day, we are meeting Grant, our guide to the “Anasazi-Culture”, the ancestral Pueblo People, settling from A.D.600 to 1300 in the Mesa Verde. “Spruce Tree House” is the third largest cliff dwelling in the park, housing about 130 rooms and “kivas” (spiritual places beneath earth), thought to hold 60 to 80 people.
Anasazi cliff houses
Grant Armstrong from Cortez
Grant, our guide, a real “true grit” personality (“I was born in a very poor family and my father always told me: we got to do, what we got to do...and so I managed even to become a teacher. “), is explaining to us the archeological sites and also the special aspects of the region (you know, here, in the park, we even have herds of wild horses. Don’t provoke or irritate them, they will bite, kick and chase you! A horse’s teeth connect, before they let go, much more severe than a dog’s bite! – That’s the cowboy in me!”) Unfortunately, we got stuck in the middle of nowhere, because the bus had a problem with the fuel infusion. Grant, Sally and our driver Dave did their very best, to organize some other transporting solutions, while we were beginning to get familiar with each other (for a group of 45 persons a good chance).
a “kiva” of the Anasazi
Lilia from Hawaii, John Chu from China, Jim & Tricia from Buchanan/Virginia (“my Mummy” I named her, because on the first day, she said to her husband Jim: “Jim, this is Ursula, she came all the way from Germany, make sure, that she is included!” – and I never felt alone any more)
While waiting, a park ranger came along, but left after a while without helping us. - “ Well, this was the park repair service – but he doesn’t do buses!” (Rob Burns cynically)
Don, the guy of the “Rafting & Outdoor Company”, picked up all our suitcases and 6 of ourselves and was really driving in a “Cowboy” manner to Durango. To our question, if rafting was dangerous, he answered: “ Oh, no, I never lost a man!”
Cowboys and aliens (in the group, we were 22 couples and 1 alien = me)
Train from Durango to Silverton
Aboard the “Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad”, following the Animas River into the Rockies, we are enjoying the wilderness, the colours of high fall in the mountains and the views from the rail tracks quite narrow to the abyss. Twice on their way to Silverton, the old silver mining village in the mountains, the steam-engine has to get water on the track, then we were arriving in the wild Wild West and quite touristic athmosphere in Silverton.
Scenery along the railroad to Silverton
On our way next day to Santa Fe, we stop at the Sanctuario of Chimayo, an 18th century church that is famous for his “holy dirt”. One of the priests must have found in the soil a holy cross and interpreted this as a mission to build a church on this place. Since that time, Chimayo has become some sort of the “Lourdes of the South-West” because of its curative effect. Famous are hundreds of childrens’ shoes in the church, children that had been curated from diseases, offered as a gift from their thankful parents. Everybody can take a little bit of the holy soil from the ground,maybe to get rid of sorrows and pain, but Bob Lawless laughed at me: “When you come home, your husband will say to you: what....that is all you brought home from your trip to America: HOLY DIRT???”
The myths of NEW MEXICO: holy dirt and Georgia O’Keeffe. Driving through “Georgia O’Keeffe-Country, taking with us our “holy dirt”, and heading Santa Fe, we are learning from Sally: Coming down from the Rockies, the county is “ranch-country” (it takes 30.000 acres to feed a cow), but then, it becomes more and more dry and is showing the typical scenery of the South-West, arroyos, dry countryside, a dazzling sun, and very few signs of civilization – you can starve in this landscape, if you have not got enough water with you and don’t find a pueblo or another place, where you will get help.
The 3 BASICS of the SOUTH are (since the times of the Anasazi): corn beans squash
and the mostly widespread plants are: yucca (fibres for weaving)
piňon (for piňon-core) juniper (burning fire) juniper berry (pealed off for yeast) cotton chile (green & red)
Georgia O-Keeffe spent most of her life on the Ghost Ranch, painting again and again the landscape and sceneries of New Mexico. She was a woman of her own making, she was different, and not everybody liked her, but everybody respected her. Married to Alfred Stieglitz, a well-known photographer from New York, she met after his death her second man in a curious way: one day, a Mr. Hamilton knocked on her door in New Mexico and said to her: “ God sent me to you!” He became her second husband! Some people are lucky in life! Santa Fe is the Capital of New Mexico, a city without any skyscrapers, mostly built in the special adobe-architecture of the South and one of the most important spots for selling art besides New York and Miami. A lot of rich people are living here, f.ex. Robert Redford and Val Kilmer, but, as Sally says about visiting the villas of the rich: “I don’t want to see it, if I can’t own it!” And: “In Santa Fe you won’ t need anything, but want everything!” (Sally) The “Santa-Fe-Trail”, coming from Missouri, ended here, a trail of trading posts only, not a trail for the pioneers, and became famous for the conquest of the West!
From 1878 to 1881, Lew Wallace was governor of Santa Fe and he was so depressed about this place in the middle of nowhere, that he began to write a novel, “Ben Hur”. He wanted to publish it, but was not sure about its quality. A friend then did it for him and it became a worldwide bestseller and the movie with Charlton Heston earned a lot of Oscars. Here, in South-West, all houses should have “coyote-fences”, otherwise “your dog is dinner!” (Sally)
adobe architecture – brick and clay
Tricia at the station of the “Roadrunner” to Albuquerque
a Jewish sign in the portal of the Santa Fe Cathedral’s entrance...why? The archbishop of Santa Fe liked to play on cards, but he was a lousy poker player and always lost against his Jewish partner, the Rabbi of Santa Fe. And in this very typical Jewish way, the Rabbi once offered the archbishop to release him from his depts, if he would integrate the Jewish sign into the entrance of the cathedral. The archbishop did! “Black Tie” in the Opera house of Santa Fe: Tuxedo, Jeans and Cowboy-boots!” (Sally)
the first Indian woman who became saint
Original altar inside San Miguel’s, the oldest church in the country, dating from the Spanish colonists in the 17th century.
our hotel in Santa Fe near the old Plaza
Typical room in the “Loretto’s” On the roadrunner to Albuquerque we get along the pueblos of the sovereign
ndian Nation of the Navahos and can visit the next day the “Indian Pueblo Cultural Center”, assisting to traditional Navaho ceremonial dances
Little Indians today...
For the Pueblo Museum we got another sticker on our tag, serving as entrance- card, and Bob Lawless grumbled: “Why all these stickers? I don’t need no more stickers, I am stickered out!!!”
Museum of Contemporary Native Arts / Santa Fe
Finally the “Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta”: it started in the seventies with 7 balloons and became one of the most famous balloon festivals in the world. During one week, about 1 million people are visiting the fiesta, on the first day, Saturday, 100.000 persons on a field of 20.000 acres, 600 balloons, a large range of all types of kitchen-booths, art-and-crafts-tents, woodcarvers and tourist- shops. The “Dawn Patrol” is starting early, almost at night at 5 o’clock and the first balloons are emerging at sunrise. When the hymn of the “star-spangled banner” strikes up and two balloons with the National Flag are rising, 100.000 persons become all of a sudden totally silent, looking to the sky, pressing their hands to their hearts and listen to this emontional moment.
the star-spangled banner
When two balloons meet each other in the sky, the call it: “the balloon kiss”. But...you’d better not kiss “Darth Vader”!
on the field
They have a tradition there, when guests are arriving by bus: a volunteer assistant gets on the bus and explains all about the organzisation on the field. After ending, he asks: “ Do you have any questions?” And the answer should be: “WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?” After this trip (not: vacation! !!), we have no more questions and are answering with Marvin:
or...as Bob Lawless said: ” It’s only in America!”
Thank you, Sally, for that wonderful trip, I have left everything behind!!!
Impression from the Balloon field in the morning before sunrise