Day Ten: Mesa Verde, Ranger Larry & CW McCall

We stayed in a nifty little place in Cortez last night, called The Retro Inn. Out front, there was a shrunk down version of the mobile home that Ricky and Lucy  took cross country in their movie, and Elvis sat beside it, perpetually cool.  The rooms are retro, too, but thankfully with modern conveniences. The room we stayed in had black and white checker floors and furniture out of the fifties.

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The reason we stopped in Cortez (aside from the fact that we were starving) was that it was so close to Mesa Verde. Dawn and I had both really enjoyed seeing the Indian ruins we had seen the day before and were game for more. Mesa Verde is the big fish when it comes to this particular type of ruins. It’s also a little different than the other National Parks that we had been to, in that if you wanted to hike to the cool stuff, you needed to have a park ranger guide the tour. Once we signed up for the tour, I understood why – they allowed us to get up close and personal with the ancient artifacts. You know that if the Rangers weren’t there, some maroon would spray paint, “Joanie Loves Chachi” or some such on an ancient artifact. Normally, I am not a huge fan of guided tours, but we really enjoyed this one. We selected the Cliff Palace and lucked out and got Ranger Larry.

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By the way, all of the tour hikes at Mesa Verde are rated “strenuous” by the park service, and they ain’t lyin’. This hike isn’t all that long – less than a mile, but you are climbing up several steps of ladders and up and down a few hundred uneven, very steep sets. As Ranger Larry said, “The CCC built these steps, and it might have been their first assignment, because they didn’t do a very good job on them.” Those are the ruins from where we got our first informative lecture from Larry. Trying to learn about things by reading about them is one thing, but standing there in the face of history, while Larry (a former History teacher, he said) elaborates, brings it all to life – the people, the way they thought, the way they actually lived. Because the people who lived in these ruins didn’t leave any written record, there is still much that is disputed about how they lived and what happened to them, but Larry still managed to bring them to life. Here’s another couple of shots of the ruins, up close and personal:

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After the guided tour was over (goodbye, Ranger Larry, we hardly knew ye) there were a number of other cool spots and overlooks around the park, not to mention the Mesa Verde Museum, which really gave a good perspective on the history and people who lived there. On the way out of the museum, I snapped a shot of Old Glory, just because I love the way she looks, flapping in the wind.

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By the time we stopped and had a picnic at Mesa Verde, it was getting late, and we hit the road. By the way, you might have noticed by now that we have a “picnic” every day, unless we forget to eat altogether. That’s by design, for several reasons. For one, we are doing this trip on a budget, and having a lunch every day of french bread and cheese, or a tomato sandwich, is pretty economical. Also, if we ate two meals at restaurants every day, that would be way more calories than we want to take in. So, a daily picnic it is!

On the way out of Colorado, we stopped in a little town called Mancos. That’s one of our favorite things to do – get off the highway and drive through small towns to see what the flavor is. In Mancos, they were having a Farmer’s Market, and it was an actual Farmer’s Market, with lots of homegrown veggies for sale. When we lived in Orting, we had a weekly Farmer’s Market, too, but it was all arts and crafts items. We had a lovely time, wandering through the stalls, chatting with the folks in the booths. Mancos also had one of the coolest high schools ever. It is the oldest operating high school in all of Colorado.

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If you’re wondering about the CW McCall reference in the title of this blog, here’s the explanation: CW McCall was a One Hit Wonder, with the massive CB song, “Convoy.” I was a big fan of CW McCall back in the seventies and used some of my hard-earned money to buy a copy of his “Black Bear Road,” album and listened to it a thousand times. One of the songs on that album is The SilvertonAll the lyrics to that song (click on the link if you’d like to hear them) are about the area we were driving through – Silverton, Durango, the Animus Canyon. I know it probably wouldn’t mean much to anyone else, but connecting the lyrics of that long-ago song with the real place was a thrill for me.

Our last stop of the day was in Durango itself, where we snapped a shot of the Emma Sweeny.

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In case you didn’t recognize the Emma Sweeny, she was once a movie star. She was the star of the 1950 movie A Ticket to Tomahawk. She was rotting in a Hollywood graveyard when someone in Durango got the idea to move her to Colorado, restore her, and display her. I will be honest and admit that I’ve never seen the movie, but now that I’ve seen the locomotive, I’ll look it up and give it a whirl.

We camped out for the night in Aztec, New Mexico, the seventh state of the trip, with many more to come. We are going to hit several sites in New Mexico tomorrow, then hunker down somewhere in the state for a couple of days. It’s a three day holiday weekend, and there’s not a lot of reason for us to be competing with all the holiday travelers if we don’t have to. Besides, after all the activity of the last ten days, we can use a little rest before we tackle Carlsbad Caverns and the great state of Texas.

Cheers, and safe travels!

Shawn

15 comments

  1. I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed Mesa Verde, even after seeing similar ruins days before. I was also happy to learn they still conducted guided tours through the ruins. Can you imagine families with little children living right there on the side of a cliff?! I wonder how they kept rambunctious children from toddling over the edge? Continued safe travels to you both. Wishing you a nice holiday weekend together.

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  2. I lived in that area years ago as did some of my adult children. Very familiar with the scenery you are enjoying. I worked at the downtown Farmington Hobby Lobby for a year while I was recovering from a family tragedy. Still have grandchildren and great grandchildren there. It’s bittersweet for me.
    Worked for a summer at the Sims Mesa Marina catching boats and fueling them.
    Navajo Dam is a world wide catch and release fishing go to spot.
    Enjoying your trip as I can’t get around like that anymore. I waited too long. Happy you are doing it.

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  3. What an amazing place. Enjoy New Mexico, I have an aunt in Jemez Springs. Great place with so much beauty. I am so pleased for you and Dawn!

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  4. Mesa Verde looks and sounds fascinating – I’d love to visit someday! I found history quite boring in school, but that’s only because getting it out of a book is so flat compared to standing there in the presence of it.

    The guided tours are wise. You were still able to climb the Great Sun Pyramid at Chichen Itza when we visited many years ago, but I heard that changed a few years later because people got the great idea to carve graffiti into the walls at the top. People are so incredibly selfish and disrespectful.

    Rest up – happy Labor Day weekend!

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  5. Day 10 already? I like your picnic lunches. I can honestly live on bread and cheese. I bake my own breads, usually rustic sourdough or Italian ciabatta bread at least 3 times s week. The only cheese I ever made is mozzarella. That and a garden tomato and I’m good to go. Your pictures are very interesting and I’m glad you will be resting up for a couple of days. Looking forward to tomorrow’s blog entry.

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  6. Fun! Can’t wait to hear about Carlsbad Caverns! I went there decades ago on a family trip. Father was in the Air Force and we lived for a bit in Alamogordo and would take out of towners to White Sands. As kids we loved it because we could slide down the dunes on sleds. Safe travels!

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  7. Oh yeah – and the picnic lunches? Perfect. Daughter and I do something called “Fast 5” wherein we eat all of our food for the day generally in a five hour window. For me, that’s usually between noon and 5pm, for her, its usually morning due to her work schedule. We can pretty much eat whatever we like, and the weight that I’ve put on in the last 10 years that nothing would get rid of is slowly but surely melting away. And our energy levels are much better too – not being weighed down by too much digestion!

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