Road trip! This time it was an opportunity to take an overnighter to Page, which is about a five hour drive from home. Back in the 90’s Denny and I had headed up 17 North, visiting the south rim at Grand Canyon and Montezuma’s castle. But I really didn’t remember much of the freeway driving (I was probably asleep – it was in the sleep apnea phase of my life). So I was pretty excited at reloading the memory banks and checking out new areas. We planned on meeting up with friends from Utah, and they would play golf while I noodled around town.
One the way there, the first order of business was finding a breakfast stop in Flagstaff. The GPS POI search was not very helpful – but we happened on the Little America Restaurant in south Flagstaff, at the juncture of the 17 and 40. Talk about a huge gas-and-go stop! The egg sandwich was good, and we moved on quickly so avoid dragging our feet on the way to our destination.
Driving on the 40 and 89 feels like visiting the moon. There are some interesting rock formations and some literal names for the places we passed (such as Gray Mountain). The perspective is amazing. The sad part is thinking that the state probably has most of it earmarked for development. But that’s another story. It’s just that seeing all this wide open space is always a heart-filling experience, having grown up in a town environment, where one town started where the other ended. In New Jersey, our backyard ended with a view of the back end of another yard, and the front was a view of the other side of the street. In a lot of ways the town/city structure enforced a myopic view of the world while I was growing up. I was insulated by whatever direct route was needed to get to school, the library, the deli, the park, to my aunts’ and uncle’s homes, and “down the avenue” to the supermarket for my Mom.
Now, after having visited my mother’s home town in Italy, and cities such as Venice, Florence, Perugia, etc., I can understand the European attraction to the American heartland. Visiting Horseshoe Bend and Glen Canyon Dam, we ran into a lot of foreign visitors. A nice couple from Amsterdam asked us about the proper use of the term “dude”. They spoke perfect English! It seemed that everywhere we went in town – the hotel, Bean’s Gourmet Coffee Shop, the tourist sites, there were foreign-born tourists. According to local press, the Glen Canyon Dam is one of the top draws for foreign travelers (proximity to the Grand Canyon makes this no accident). It boasts 3 million visitors a year.
Dinner with our friends was at the Dam Bar and Grill, which seems to be a popular hangout. The next evening we hit Strombolli’s, where they were very friendly and accommodating with the menu – I couldn’t make up my mind between the stuffed eggplant parmigiano and the primavera lasagna, so they gave me both! And they were both good.
The next day we packed up and headed out to Lee’s Ferry, after crossing the Navajo Bridge (when, oh when are we going to update that name to Dine, their true name?) and stopping at Paria Beach on the Colorado River. Some really awesome geology is going on in this space. Big sky, constantly changing weather, and the feeling of insignificance in a significantly large space all play into accepting that we are only a blink of an eye, after all. Might as well enjoy our time and not get caught up in all the silliness that goes on everyday. It is just amazing that all those people were so brave to come out here in the middle of nowhere, modern conveniences translating into what you really need to survive. Less is indeed more. And there is a subtle blending of the Dine presence with the American intrusion – it seems that some sort of balance through agreement has been reached. The question is how well balanced, how deep the commitment.