Commentary From the Mile High City

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Joshua Sharf

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January 13, 2008

Road Trip - Coda

But wait, there's more! Sometimes, the real camera either wasn't available or would have held up traffic, so the ever-preent camera phone had to do.

Gee, I didn't even know we had pastors...

In the old days, Howard Johnson's would have used this to deliver the food.

Why on earth don't these people have more cultural sensitivity towards themselves?

Must be that they are comfortable with who they are. A brief language lesson from the Bashas in Kayenta:

Finally, the Eagle Diner:

And yes, you Diner fans:

Day 8 - Finally!

Finally. Hey, save the best for last, and then make 'em wait.

A couple of trivial observations from someone who mostly knows about the Navajo from Tony Hillerman novels. First, they're incredibly patriotic. Signs outside of tribal government buildings honoring the troops, the ever-present awareness of the Code Talkers, the KTNN radio show that signs off with the "Stars and Stripes Forever." One of those "Adopt a Road" signs along US-160 that's in memory of "James Tsotse, Our Veteran."

Secondly, apparently country music is a big hit there. KTNN, the big station out of Window Rock, mostly plays country, although they do seem to have a show or two of Navajo chants in the afternoon. And while you can get just about every important Front Range radio station before dawn, during the day Monument Valley doesn't have much in the way of selection.

The talk part of KTNN is interesting in its own right. Navajo's an old language, but it's not like they have words for much invented since, oh, 1400, so there's a lot of English interspersed, which sounds to the English-speaker like, "codetalkcodetalkcodetalkcodetalkcodetalk GM Certified Technicial codetalkcodetalkcodetalkcodetalk Uranium Workers codetalkcodetalkcodetalk 1942 to 1971 codetalkcodetalkcodetalkcodetalk."

So, getting up before dawn (on vacation), to get to Monument Valley by dawn, I passed Agathla Rock. This is a stereo pair, so it helps if you have lazy eye:

I spotted this on US-163 as I got near the Utah state line:

Wow. Need to stop and get that before the fog burns off. I needn't have worried:


A couple of formations called, "East Mitten" and "West Mitten." I can't keep them straight, either:


As the fog rolls in:


This one's a little artiste-ic, but I still like it, so you're stuck with it, too:

Since redrock dirt trails have a tendency to turn into mud and quicksand when wet, I was a little concerned about driving down into the Valley, but again, I needn't have worried. I ended up driving the Jeep down, and following the Navajo guide's truck for the tour.

Apparently, John Ford used to sit on his deck chair for hours contemplating when the fog would lift:

The "Restricted Area," so called because whites aren't allowed to live there - No, not really! - so called because the tour companies have to have something to charge for, has the arches. It also has a family running sheep back there. Because of the weather, they elected to keep the sheep in the pens for the morning, leaving the dogs with a lot of time on their paws. They decided to try herding the trucks, and eventually, I had to honk to get them out of the way.


The guide, Joe, had a couple of Japanese tourists (yes, with very nice cameras) in his truck for the duration. I wonder if he told them about the Code Talkers...

In any case, the fog continued to thicken, so by the time we got to where the Totem Pole (known to the Navajo as, "Chimney Rock") should have been, someone from the art department had taken it for another set. Here's what the fog looked like on the way back out of the Valley:

On the way out of the park, the whole thing looked like the military was testing a dry ice bomb on the other side of the mesa:


On the way out to the North, you get the iconic picture, right out of a Chuck Jones cartoon:

And the "Three Sisters," now that the fog had finally lifted:

To the north, there's an area called Valley of the Gods. The rock is more worn away here, and it's not as dramatic as Monument Valley, but hey, you never know when you're gonna be back. Taking State Route 261 north, you climb up the side of Cedar Mesa, and get some breathtaking views looking back towards the valley:


And, we're back at Comb Ridge.

Now where have I seen that before? Oh, right...

And that dog-rattling Jeep track I took down the west side:

January 7, 2008

Day 7 - Snowbound in Kayenta

The (one) thing you have when you're out of work is time. And since whiteout conditions take the edge of a sightseeing trip, I decided to hang around Kayenta, field some job-related emails and calls, and take a few shots along US-160 that I had to pass up on the way south.

First, a couple of comments about this rather, ah, remote part of the world. As Lileks likes to note, the future never comes all at once. Bits of it, like satellite TV and wifi, have filtered in here, but cell phone coverage has not. Today, I heard an ad for a Christy Lane. No, it didn't mention the price of the 8-track, but had it been on TV, it would no doubt have been followed by Nanette Fabray blowing her hair out of the way and a spot for the latest Ronco innovation.

The other thing you notice is the dogs. They're not dangerous, they're just not...kept very well. They seem to be tame enough; one of them came up and immediately started playing chase with Sage. Of course, he also wanted to be fed. But driving up to scope out Monument Valley for tomorrow, I saw five or six running and playing by the side of the road. I wonder what the locals do to keep them from breeding out of control and going feral?

OK, on to the pictures. This, of Church Rock, about 6 miles north of Kayenta, and another a few miles up, shows what kind of weather I was up against:


There's a spot a couple of miles of from that called Baby Rocks. Apparently, it's a good place to start a failed business, since I saw both an abandoned garage and a decrepit hogan-shaped cafe. There's still a trailer, and a dog that I set off by stopping to take pictures, but that's all.


A fine skeleton of an old hogan:

And finally, the snow-swollen Chinle Wash:

And that's it. Tomorrow, Monument Valley in winter. Hey, at least it's not 100 degrees in the shade.

January 6, 2008

Day 6 (Or Day 8, Depending)

Depending on whether you count non-travel days Friday and Saturday.

It's the rainy season south of the Mogollon Rim, and the snowy season north of it. I finally gave up trying to wait out the calendar, and decided to retreat through Sedona one last time, and take whatever the sky gave me. Since the sky had opened up the day before, Oak Creek was a little swollen:


The red rock still stands out, although it would still look better against blue rather than grey.


You see a lot of this in Sedona, though, the whole year:

And even in town, and north of town in Oak Creek Canyon:


Flagstaff has preserved a bit of Route 66, but only a very few of the older buildings still stand. A railroad-themed cafe that's part of a Howard Johnson's, for instance. In very un-HoJo-like fashion, the excellent coffee arrived at my seat almost before I did. The light inside wasn't great, so I couldn't get good pictures of the model railroad running along the ceiling a la F.A.O. Schwartz.

And no, I didn't stay here, but you can see the seasonal stuff I was up against:

This thing probably dates from the 30s, and if the exterior is any indication, the mattresses probably date from then, too. Maybe the only excuse for using the term "Ancient Puebloans." "Hotel El Pueblo." Like the "Hotel The Village." Someday, someday soon, a native speaker will take over management and correct the grammar.

Finally, north of Flagstaff, on the way to US-160, the sun poked through briefly and narrowly:

As I write, the hail here in Kayenta has turned to snow, it's sticking, and it should make for some interesting pictures tomorrow.

January 3, 2008

Day 5 - Tucson

More clouds over Sedona this morning, so it looks as though I'll have to go home that way if I want any decent pix from there at all.

In the meantime, pictures of the Saguaros, along with evidence that Ron Paul was wrong.



January 1, 2008

Day 3 - The Road and the Rez

Today, the road. And the San Juan River.


On the way through the Navajo Reservation, I passed through a small town, Tuba City. Now, remember, this is on the reservation. There's a sign as you leave town to the west: "Tuba City High School, Home of the Warriors, Class 3A State Champs."

Warriors. Just so there's no mistake, there was a picture of an Indian chief.

New rule: If they don't care, I don't care.

June 11, 2007

New York Pictures

OK, it's been a while, but there's news which sort of explains it.

In the meantime, enjoy these pix, a little parting gift from my previous job.

October 1, 2006

Aspen Pix

From the weekend trip a couple of weekends ago. Posted for your enjoyment without comment for lack of time. I'll try to add comments tomorrow evening.





December 22, 2005

...And In With the New

Hey, when you've been on everything paved, there's only one way to get to new places.

Despite the name, there are certain limitations. For instance, I think it's actually named for the amount of gas it uses. And with the soft top, I'll not only hear my radio but most other cars' as well.

But this particular model has an extra 15" of space, and a longer wheelbase. It feels a little more SUV-like, a lot smoother ride, but it still handles like a Jeep.

Lat year, on a lark, I bought a series of books on 4WD drives out west, looking for ones that the Contour could handle. Now, I just need to tough it out until Spring. Or, head over into Utah....

Out With the Old...

It lasted me 8+ years and 128,000 miles, almost all of it with me behind the wheel. It took me to the Pacific Northwest and back, and to California and back. It took me all over Utah and Nevada and New Mexico and Wyoming. It especially took me all over Colorado, and probably drove on just about everything in the state that was paved and west of the Divide. And a fair amount that wasn't paved, including Boreas Pass, Buffalo Pass, Black Sage Pass, and Cordova Pass.

The trunk held a ton. In addition to me, it hauled tools and a dog and skach and drywall - lots of drywall - and wood and shelving and rocks and dirt and yucca and hens 'n' chicks. The trunk still had pine needles from the skach and the roof had dents from the drywall and wood, enough that two dealers had to be reassured that I hadn't rolled the thing.

It had idiosyncrasies, like passenger's side front window that had a tendency to go off the rails, and require a manual override to finish rolling up. Towards the end, things had started to go wrong, and keeping it repaired would have cost the equivalent of car payments. I had hoped to keep it going for another year or so, even on life support, but in the end, I asked a little too much of it.

So it was a good car, not a great car. But for a very long time, it was my car.


Power, Faith, and Fantasy

Six Days of War

An Army of Davids

Learning to Read Midrash

Size Matters

Deals From Hell

A War Like No Other


A Civil War

Supreme Command

The (Mis)Behavior of Markets

The Wisdom of Crowds

Inventing Money

When Genius Failed

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Back in Action : An American Soldier's Story of Courage, Faith and Fortitude

How Would You Move Mt. Fuji?

Good to Great

Built to Last

Financial Fine Print

The Day the Universe Changed


The Multiple Identities of the Middle-East

The Case for Democracy

A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam

The Italians

Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory

Beyond the Verse: Talmudic Readings and Lectures

Reading Levinas/Reading Talmud