Monday, June 30, 2008

By car at 70 mph

It's time to flex my fingers again. I've been away sightseeing North America. What I can tell you is that West Texas is a long trip across an interstate. Hell, all of Texas is. Also, the road heading north from I-20 into Carlsbad, New Mexico is loud, meaning lots of tire noise. I believe it's highway 285, but I could be wrong after all the highways I've been on lately.

I can tell you that even though the Johnny's Pizza south of exit 114 in West Monroe, La is a bit farther off the interstate than I thought it would be, the pizza is as good as any Johnny's Pizza anywhere.

As far as "tourist spots" go, Carlsbad Caverns is worth the trip north from I-20 or south from I-40. It's just overwhelming. Wear tennis shoes; try to take photos in the cave without flash, with long shutter speeds.

Roswell is neat. I saw more police officers patrolling the roads in and around Roswell more than every other location in over 3500 miles. I got there too late to visit the UFO museum and research facility in downtown Roswell, but I did find a neat little tee shirt and gift shop across the street. In the downtown area, there are plenty of them. In the rest of Roswell, it's an ordinary town in the middle of nowhere.

The Grand Canyon may be one of the 7 wonders of the natural world, but it was a wonder to me how anyone can enjoy visiting it by car. We stayed in Tusayan, one mile south of the south entrance to the national park, and that was fine and all, but truly underimpressive for the cost. But then, we drove up into the mountains due north of Flagstaff instead of taking hwy 64 off of I-40, and we had one of the top 2 most incredible drives of the whole trip by doing so.

But back to the canyon: we went in the park early in the morning, before it got hot and full of people, and while the park service has done a great job of providing a shuttle to take sightseers to each of the main overlook sites (for free, with your $25 per car admittance), it takes a lot of walking to get to the overlooks, and it eats up a lot of time waiting for the shuttles, riding the shuttles, etc. We did that for one spot, then we went back to the car and just did it ourselves after that. We saw what we wanted to see, we had minimal difficulty finding parking, and after an hour, we were more than done.

Yes, it's a big and amazing hole in the ground. Maybe time of day factored into it, but the haze in the canyon was a bit disheartening for me (wielding my camera and all), and the view was pretty similar everywhere we stopped. Our conclusion is that the best way to see the canyon is from the Colorado River by raft, on a mule ride into the canyon, or hiking it. At any rate, I left with a large sense of "ho hum". You could say it was a mile deep sense of "ho hum".

Still to come: photos, more about the trip, and some of my favorite moments on any vacation ever.

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