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October 1997

    My Louisiana cousin, Wayne Posey, and his Kentuky wife, Janet, arrived at our house in Spring, Texas on Wednesday October 15, 1997 at 4:00 PM. At 4:30 PM we are headed down the road. No messing around on our part, we are all nuts

 from the long two month wait. The day before Marshall installed a compass in the Pathfinder just for the heck of it. It was calibrated and working great on Tuesday. When he went north, the compass pointed north. When he went east, the compass points east. You get the picture? As we head toward Austin, into the setting sun, the compass is pointing north. Uh huh. Either the poles have shifted or the compass has a mind of its' own. We trust our instincts and guess that we are heading west, since that is where Austin was located the last time we went. We find Austin and have supper, dinner for you folks of the northern persuasion, at a Cracker Barrel restaurant.

    We leave civilization behind and leave on a compass heading of north and go to Abilene and Lubbock. Marshall and cousin Wayne see a meteor explode as it streaks in. Farm out! Marshall slaps in Robert Earl Keene's "Picnic" CD and selects the James McMurtry tune "Levelland" and sings along. So far everyone's sense of humor holds. We are all fresh and still in a good mood. Marshall did 30 seconds of research and concluded that this song was written about Levelland, Texas and not the entire mid west of the U.S. Anyway we head on down the road to Texico (wonder what the origin of this name was), Clovis, New Mexico, Fort Sumner (we wave to the still dead Billy the Kid) and roll on to Santa Rosa. Didn't the Dirt Band sing about this place? Maybe they were a little further west.

    After breakfast at Denny's, don't forget that the English translation of "La Quinta" is "next to Denny's", we head off toward Albuquerque. For those of you who are not in the know, cousin Wayne is known for his ability to make it rain simply by being present somewhere. It has rained on all of our trips and we expect no exceptions on this one. He made it rain in the west Texas desert in the spring. In fact it rained for several days. The sun is now up and the sky is completely clear. There is not a cloud in the sky. We are not fooled and continue on our north compass course across New Mexico. Nice scenery.

    We arrive in Albuquerque and hit Petroglyph National Monument. It seems that graffiti has been a long occurring problem. Most of this is 300 - 400 years old and chipped into the rock. Some is possibly 2000 - 3000 years old. There are lots of interesting figures strewn along a 17 mile stretch. I am especially interested in the "horned figures". Some look like deer antlers, others don't. It is interesting that some of these figures look surprisingly like the ones we saw in Seminole Canyon at the Pecos and Rio Grande rivers last year.

     After a nice little hike, it is up and over the mountains to Los Alamos we go. What a blast! (Yes, I am aware this is an extremely bad pun or just a pun in bad taste!) We discover that New Mexico and Iowa have something in common. They both believe that if you have not been somewhere then you don't need to go there. We know this is true because of the lack of road signs at key intersections. We take a scenic tour of Los Alamos. There is a heck of a canyon that runs right through the middle of town. We get back on the right side of the canyon and crash in Espanola; our bodies not our transportation. We have traveled north all day.

    Friday we go for breakfast at Joann's. Joann is a late riser and we eat breakfast at a cafe full of pickups and Mexicans. We feel right at home. We go to Puye ruins and get some pictures of the ruins as the moon sets over the mountains. These should be interesting. Cousin Wayne walks around and rubs his butt and says it is tired from riding. He finds the first kiva. He points to the hole in the ground and says, "This is a kiva". Gwen, Janet, and Marshall huddle for a short consultation. All agree that contrary to popular belief, cousin Wayne does indeed know his ass from a hole in the ground.

    We are summarily impressed! This is a self guided tour where you climb down a ladder over the edge of the cliffs. Marshall and Wayne are like two kids in a candy store. They are all over the face of the cliff. Gwen comes on down for a look a the ruins. Janet's knee surgery rules out the climbing, but there are a lot of ruins on top of the mesa. There have been several cultures reside in this area. The ruins in the cliff face are mostly holes carved out of the sandstone for one of two people. They are very interesting (say this with your best Arte Johnson impression). Marshall adjusts the compass and checks it out east and west. It is working again!

    Taking a south compass heading we drive up toward Colorado to check out Echo Amphitheater. This is a natural formation and will echo the sounds from just about any body orifice. We know this to be a fact. Neat sounds! We stop in at the Ghost Ranch but are not overly impressed. If we had the time, there looks to be some nice hiking trails. We hit a small museum and move along. We are now all getting high. We are very close to 8,000 feet as we approach Chama.

     We check into the Chama Station Inn and unload the truck. We walk out of the room and Marshall comments about the snow piled by a building. Cousin Wayne convinces him it is soap suds. Marshall hits cousin Wayne with a snow ball. Marshall convinces cousin Wayne it is snow. We decide to go for a ride and find a spot to get off the blacktop and run around on dirt and mud for a while. We find some snow and the predictable Texas/Louisiana war erupts! Good ol' slush balls in the ear, etc. We accidentally stumble across a waterfall and cousin Wayne has to go to the bottom while we all laugh at his dumb ass. We all realize we are 10,200 feet high but cousin Wayne has forgotten this in the excitement of the moment. He is wheezing like crazy when he gets back to the top. Dang, this is entertainment! We drive through the snow on down to the lake and see a couple of happy fishermen. They are not catching anything. They are just happy to be at this little lake surrounded by mountains and trees. We went on down to Antonito, Colorado. These folks must be extremely happy that this is one end of the worlds longest and highest narrow gauge railroad because there is nothing else here. We circle through the mountains back to Chama. We consume large chunks of dead cow at the Chama Cattle Company and turn in for the night.

    Saturday morning we awaken. During the night we learned one of the rules of this little town. Namely, none of the pickups that park at the bar across the street from us, are allowed to have exhaust systems. The bar had a nice band. Wow! Free entertainment! Breakfast sucks. The cook must have been one of the clowns raising heck in the bar parking lot at 3:00 o'clock in the morning. 

    At 9:30 we board the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railway. We are an engine, 12 passenger cars and an open air car. You must be as intelligent as cattle to ride in this car. We roll out at 10:00 o'clock and start up the canyon. We pick up another engine after a ways. We need this to get up the hill from Chama. We rise from 7,900 feet to 10,200 feet. What a view! This is a fantastic ride! We stop at noon at Osier for lunch. You are allowed to take your own food. We should have. Lunch sucks. Cold Mexican food. Yuck! The view is great!

    The end of the season buys are fantastic! The train trip shuts down tomorrow. So does Chama. We buy up half of Chama. Marshall is into western art. Buys a horned toad carving. Janet and Gwen buy jewelry. Cousin Wayne is into hats and tee shirts. Gwen and Janet go to wash a few clothes. Gwen meets a relative of a friend of Marshall's from Missoula, Montana. It is a small world. Marshall adjusts the compass again. Everything is working fine.

    Sunday we got up with cousin Wayne's internal clock. It is still on Central Time. We are on Mountain Time. It is five o'clock. Marshall is not amused. We head up to Colorado on a compass heading of east. We eat in Pagosa Springs since Chama was closed when we left. Gwen talks to the waitress. The waitress is moving to Spring, Texas. Small world. We leave and head for Mesa Verde. Home of the fantastic Indian ruins. I don't want to hear about that Native American crap. I too, am a Native American.

    We tour the Cliff Palace Ruins. Wow! Wow! We see a tour bus and run up to it. We attempt to speak Swedish to them. They look at us rather strangely. Obviously these were not our friends that we met last year. This is the largest of the Anasazi sites and has been greatly restored. Some of the ruins are four floors high! We leave via three short ladders up a crack in the rock. Cousin Wayne is flashed by a funny guy from Virginia while he is taking a picture up the ladder. This should be an interesting picture! We move to the other side of the canyon and hike a mile for a good view of the Balcony House ruins. There are ruins all through these canyons. We check out the Far View ruins which are built on top of the Mesa.

    Leaving Mesa Verde we head on to Four Corners. For the uninformed this is where Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico all meet and share a common corner. This is the only place in the U.S. that the corners of four states meet. We drive around the parking lot and go through four states fast like heck. We all take our turn taking the obligatory picture of our fat behinds in four states at the same time. I am not sure that I care to admit that my behind is large enough to be in four states at once. I am proud to admit that I hiked from New Mexico to Colorado to Utah and on to Arizona in a single afternoon. We go on to Blanding, Utah. It is Sunday. Blanding is closed except for two motels and a small cafe. Welcome to the land of the Mormons. All food stores are closed. All pharmacies are closed. We decide to eat and sleep.

    Again we arise a 5:00 o'clock. This time Marshall is excited. We eat at the only cafe in town that is open at 6:00. We head down toward Arizona on a compass heading of west. We stop at the Valley of the gods and await sunrise. Marshall slaps Cusco's Apurimac III CD into the player and cranks her up. We wait to see the Indians attack. Where is John Wayne? Apurimac III is the epitome of the desert southwest. The drums, the flutes, oh wow! How fitting. We shoot up a bunch of pictures and roll on.

    We approach Monument Valley. You know, the movie site for all of those wonderful John Ford movies. Apurimac III is now being played continuously for the next several hours. We drive all through Monument Valley looking for John Wayne. He is a no show. Lots of Navajo show up. They want your money to take you on an open air tour bus. We laugh hysterically at the clowns that fall for this. All the roads are dirt. I occasionally turn on the windshield wipers to clear the dust. Gee, I wish I was outside getting covered in dust. The Indians are in the cab. Dumb ass white men. There are Californians everywhere. They do not believe in pulling over if they want to see something. Just stop in the middle of the road. After all the world revolves around them, does it not? This happens several times. Marshall is not impressed with Californians. Tries to figure out how to get the Indians to attack them. No success. After shooting 42 rolls of film we move on.

    We go to Goosenecks State Park. This is where the river meanders back and forth in a DEEP canyon. Cousin Wayne and Marshall are over the side headed for a point a short distance below. Uh huh. We look back up and we can almost find Gwen and Janet. They are very tiny. Uh oh. We climb back up slowly. Marshall finds some coral. He realizes there are large chunks of coral reef laying all around. After looking around he realizes there is a reef just below the surface of the canyon everywhere you look. He recalls from his previous schooling in Marine Biology that coral only grows in warm shallow seas. He don't see no shallow sea here!

     Circling around we head across the desert into the Valley of the gods from the back side. We stop in the desert and did a little rock collecting. We head back down the road to the highway. We start up the side of a major cliff. We catch the dang Californians. They decide in the middle of a switch back that they want me to pass them. They stop in the middle of the road. No signals. No nothing. Just stop the car in the middle of the road. Dumb ass white man. Californians must all be required to check their brains at the border when leaving the state. They have been C-BABed. Checked Brains At Border. We go around and go up, and up, and up. We go up some more. We keep going up. What a view! We finally reach the top and are greeted to a fantastic view of the desert far below. We wish to see the Californians in a pile at the bottom. No such luck.

    The next stop is Natural Bridges National Monument. We hike around and climb around on the sandstone cliffs. This is one neat place. The are three very large arches scattered around this park. We are becoming arch freaks. We head back into Blanding, Utah and go to the Edge of the Cedars Museum and pueblo. They have a restored kiva here. Cousin Wayne and I get down. We wonder if kivas have anything to do with the Hopi belief that they came here through a hole in the earth, since that is what the kivas really are. We check out some of the trading posts in town. We look for a bank to rob. These guys don't know about end of the season sales. At seventy-five percent off some of this stuff might be reasonable. We find an out of the way gift shop and purchase some Navajo pottery at 50% off. Cousin Janet buys two rocks. We have lots of rocks in the car that we got for free. Dumb ass white woman.

    Tuesday morning Marshall recalibrates the compass. We head south, away from the sun, to the other side of Utah. We stop at Lake Powell and the Dirty Devil River. It stinks. It is a dirty devil. We climb around the sandstone cliffs. Marshall finally sees a way down to the river. He climbs down and climbs up a rock formation for pictures. Looks up at everyone else. They all are so tiny. Marshall scrambles back up the sandstone cliff like a monkey. He finally realizes there is no oxygen here. He spends five minutes bent over catching his breath. Dumb ass white man. We hit another lookout over Lake Powell and find fossilized ripples and mud from and old sea floor. The view is fantastic. We want to come back here and rent a houseboat and float the lake. Cousin Wayne is a harbor tug captain. We can do this with a professional. Hot dang!

    We roll on across the canyon lands to the wonderful tunes of Craig Chaquico's Grammy winning CD "Acoustic Planet". You would never guess that this guy used to play for Jefferson Starship. You would guess that he is also on the Apurimac III CD. We stop to see a small waterfall. We find more petroglyphs. More horny fellows. Dang Californians are everywhere. They all like to stop in the middle of the road. They believe the world revolves around them again. Cousin Wayne and I would like to revolve some of them. More arches, oh boy! We go up, we go down, we zigzag, we go all around. More canyons, more mountains, ho hum. We see another tour bus. These guys don't speak Swedish either. We cruise along a ridge with nothing on either side of the road past the shoulder. Marshall is not too crazy about driving here. We go through more mountains, more canyons, more up, more down, etc., etc. Cousin Wayne works on the compass. We go northeast down toward Arizona. We are glad that we have lots of road maps. Cousin Wayne tries to slide off the side of a mountain. He is almost successful. Dumb ass white man. We decide to leash him. We stop in a little town that is not on our map. We want a room for two nights. They want to know if it is a problem if it is for only one night. Well yeah, you moron. They don't think they will be around tomorrow. We tell them we don't care if they are around. Ok. They'll leave the back door open. Ok?

    Wednesday morning we arrive in Bryce Canyon just after sunup. We are now early risers. Take in the scenery. Cousin Wayne and Marshall go for a real hike. Janet and Gwen go shopping. Smart ass white women. Our hike drops us about 800 - 1000 feet in about three-quarters of a mile. We walk through a hole in the rock. We find ice coming out of the side of the mountain. This must be a frozen spring. Hoodoos are everywhere. We find more arches. We are now archatics; as opposed to lunatics. We might just be archatic lunatics. We start back up. Marshall is so happy that he quit smoking. We take a ton of pictures. They are good reasons to stop and catch our breath. We are out of the park by noon.

    Marshall finds Mill Creek ceramic Indians on sale at 50% percent off. These will fit perfect with his growing western art collection. He goes nuts. He buys more stuff than there is room for in the truck. Dumb ass white man. We detour by the post office and mail some of the stuff home so we will have room for more stuff! We then cruise down some dirt roads. We like dirt roads. We cross the foot hills. We see an area that is dug out. Is this a stock tank? Is it a mine? No, we have found the Panguitch city dump. We here rumors of more arches to the east.

    We backtrack to Kodachrome Basin. Yep, in 1949 National Geographic came through here and tried out some new Kodak film and the name stuck. We find chimney rocks. We find another arch! Hot dang. We find more C-BABed Californians. We head down to Grosvenor's Arch. It is only a short ten mile drive down a wash boarded dirt road. It's down washes and over narrow mountain roads to the arch we go. It's a double arch! Oh wow!

    When we get back to the hotel Marshall can't find his key. He goes to the office. The sign on the front door says, "CLOSED FOR THE SEASON". No one is around. That's what they meant huh. Uh oh. Marshall tours the office and finds all of the keys to all of the rooms. Hot dang! Gwen finds the key she swore Marshall had. Dumb ass white woman. Cousin Wayne and Marshall explore both floors of the hotel, the office, the library, etc. This is really weird! We are the only ones in the hotel. We have complete run of the hotel. Cousin Janet brings up "The Shining". We go to our rooms and lock the doors.

    Thursday it is up and on to Zion Canyon. We travel east away from the morning sun. We go to the "Rock That Weeps". Californians are everywhere. They are C-BABed. We see an IMAX film on Zion Canyon. We are ready to roll on down to the big hole in Arizona. We cross into Arizona. Marshall is not convinced that Arizona really only has a 55 mph speed limit. The red and blue flashing lights convince him that maybe they really do. After taking my license the officer says, "Mr. Bowling, is that compass correct?". We are facing south, the compass says north east. This elicits an outburst of laughter from the Pathfinder. We get away with two warnings. He was not impressed with my expired Nebraska tags. Told me that in Arizona expired tags carried a fine of $400 dollars because the winter folk didn't like to register there cars in Arizona. I don't know why? He said new car tags were about $1,000.00 dollars. Marshall scratches Arizona off of his list of places to live and kisses the officer's butt and drives away at 55 mph. We roll on down to the Grand Canyon.

    Marshall had heard Al Gore say that the federal government was more powerful than mother nature and that we could lick El Nino. Marshall wonders aloud if Al Gore has a plan to stop all the erosion going on in Utah and Arizona. All agree that he has his work cut out for him. Dumb ass white man. Marshall thinks the view of the Grand Canyon would have been spectacular 20 years ago. The haze from the west is depressing.

    We head out to find a place to stay. We find rooms with no TV in Cedar Ridge. This will not work but we do have some GREAT Philly Steak sandwiches. Navajo home cooking! We go on to Tuba City. We find $100 Quality Inn rooms. Marshall laughs all the way back to the Pathfinder. This white man ain't that dumb! We find $65 rooms with multiple security guards. We decide to get off of the reservation and finally get a room in Flagstaff at midnight. Marshall decides that Arizona sucks. Friday morning we sleep in till seven. The trains kept us awake most of the night. We eat breakfast at the Train Track Restaurant. There are trains running around the top of the dining room. There are trains on TV. There are train clocks. There are trains all over the place. Cousin Wayne and Marshall plot purchasing M-80s to dynamite the train bridge. That would shut up all the racket. Our sense of humor is waning. A Navajo strikes up a conversation with Marshall. Says he used to be a welder in the oil field in the town of Corpus Christi, Texas. This is where Marshall grew up and worked in the oil filed. Small world.

    It's off to the Walnut Canyon ruins and a hike down 185 feet of steps. Cousin Janet passes. Smart lady. We take the self guided tour. It circles an "island" sticking up out of the bottom of the canyon. There are ruins all around us and all around the island. It begins to rain. (Remember, I told you that Cousin Wayne could make it rain in the desert just by being there). Little ice balls start to fall out of the sky. Ok cousin Wayne, you can quit showing off. We walk back up 250 feet of steps. Someone added some more while we were hiking!

    We travel on over to the Meteor Crater on a compass heading of north east. We are heading toward New Mexico. Marshall is like a little kid. This is one of those places he has wanted to go ever since he first read about it a long, long time ago. There is a mountain in the desert. No, it is just the dirt that has been pushed up by the impact. The astronauts trained here. The museum here is better than the one at NASA in Houston!

    Next stop, the Petrified Forest. Lots of big trees once grew here. The wind is blowing, the sky is dark. Marshall, Gwen and Janet give cousin Wayne the evil eye. It tries to snow. It stops. Janet is excited. We get a view of the painted desert. We go on to Gallup for the night. There are several inches of snow on the ground. We go for dinner at a Mexican food joint run by Navajos. This is strange. Vendors come by your table selling jewelry while you eat. Great prices. Nice stuff. Marshall and cousin Wayne part with more hard earned cash. We turn in. We listen as more trains pass. There are lots of trains that pass through New Mexico.

    Saturday we had planned to go to the Canyon De Chelly pueblos. These are spectacular. The forecast for 50 mph winds dampens our spirits. We decide to head toward the house. We run into snow. Cousin Wayne has outdone himself this time. Snow in the desert in October. He really thinks he is something today. Marshall is impressed. Rain, sleet, and snow in the desert. Only with cousin Wayne could this happen. We see more trains. Marshall is forced to stop at a road side park by the folks from Louisiana. They don't get to see this stuff very often. Cousin Janet plops down in the wet snow and gets instructions on making her first snow angel.

    We roll on over to Fort Sumner. We see lots more trains. We stop by to see the dead Billy the Kid. He is still dead. His tombstone is shackled down and the grave is caged in. People keep stealing his tombstone. We roll on into Texas for the night. Marshall wonders why all the trains are heading west. We have not seen a single train heading east. What happens to all the trains? As we cross the border we decide to forgo adjusting our clocks to Central Time, and then "falling back" for Daylight Saving Time a few hours later, only to wind up where we started. The next morning we roll on down to Georgetown, Texas and decide it is time to get down. No trip is complete without a cave tour. We hit Inner Space Caverns and then roll on to the house on a westward compass heading. We arrive home. The compass meets an untimely death. We did not need it anyway!


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