Every now and then pure unexpected magic happens, a blessing, pure grace. Every now and then you make a stop and all the right things happen.
We had not enjoyed our breakfast the previous morning at the Far View Lodge, so we decided to get on the road early, and find a place to eat on the road. We were up and out by seven, and it took about half an hour just to get off the mesa and down to the main road. Once we hit the main road, we start looking for a good place to stop.
We see a sign: The Absolute Bakery in Mancos, Colorado, just turn right at the next stop light.
We turn right. We find the bakery, which looks cute from the outside:
And then we found a place to park, in front of a Hat-Maker’s Shop guarded by a beautiful long-haired cat. For me, the magic has already started. Did you even know of a hat maker anymore? I thought they had all disappeared:
As we walked into the Absolute Bakery, we were enticed with smells, the odor of break baking with cinnamon, the fragrance of freshly brewed coffee, bacon frying . . . and inside, it is homey, and welcoming, and you are warmly welcomed, and we just feel so glad to be there on this sunny morning when we have so far to drive . . .
The breakfasts are delicious, and as we eat, the bakery fills up, travelers, locals, families . . . it has the feel of a place we would like to live, a community, people who know each other.
You know how it is sometimes when you have so much to do, and you really need to get started? As we paid for our breakfast, instead of getting on the road, we dawdled. We picked out cookies for the road – I had the most huge delicious macaroon I have ever had, just a bite now and then, and it lasted all the way to Amarillo. We got to talking with travelers headed the direction we had come from, just strangers crossing paths, but it was a great conversation, and we hated to pull ourselves away, to get back to the serious business of driving.
Lunch was OK. It was BBQ, but someone forgot our order, so we lost some time:
To add insult to injury, not only is it a long day on the road, but we also loose an hour, so we get in even an hour later than we would have. As we near the border, I am watching my phone to see if I can see the change, but it happened about six miles before the border and I missed it. AdventureMan’s on the same system, but his phone changed a little later.
The morning drive was mostly through the Navajo nation and backroads, full of ranches and horses and some drama. The afternoon, on Interstate 40, was just boring, with an occasional moment of hilarity:
What can you imagine would use a tire that big?
We have reservations in Amarillo, and by the grace of God, our hotel is just off the highway, and my little iPhone tells us exactly how to get there. We hit the pool, and get some exercise. We split the last apple and some trail mix for dinner – we are still full from breakfast at the Absolute Bakery!
Back when we left Grand Canyon, we stopped to take photos at a gorge, and there were some shops setting up nearby, so I stopped by to take a look. As I was looking, the man running the shop I was in asked where I was from. I said “Pensacola” and then realizing that not everyone knows where Pensacola is, I added “Florida.”
There was a silence. I looked up and asked “Have you been in Pensacola?” and he said “Yes.” He had been in the military, trained in Orlando and then had some additional training in Pensacola. Small world.
It was a nice chat. He knew we were driving through the Navajo Nation, and told us to be sure to stop somewhere for a Navajo Taco, that we’d like it. We tried to stop, but it was Sunday and everyplace was closed. We ended up eating in a Subway, we like Subway, but they’re everywhere and I’m not about to take a photo of a Subway to show you where we ate, LOL.
Anyway, after our 700 Year Cultural Tour, we drove down to Spruce Tree House restaurant, the only place open for lunch in Mesa Verde this early in the season, and there they have a Navajo Taco:
It really was good. The base was a lot like the sopapilla we had in Holbrook, Arizona, and the topping was like chili. Delicious chili.
We also ordered the home-made chips. I always like to see what real chips look and taste like:
These were also delicious, spicy. We didn’t eat them all, just tasted a few. They were good.
In the afternoon, we visited and revisited several of the sites from our morning tour, appreciating having the sites all – or mostly – to ourselves. In the late afternoon, we tried to capture the great light.
Early early in the morning we are up and ready to grab a bite of breakfast at the Far View Lodge and to take the 700 years tour. When we called for reservations at the Far View Lodge, the desk clerk asked if we would like to sign up for the 700 Years of Culture tour, and since Sparkle had told us that the tours fill up early, we signed up.
The light in Mesa Verde is beautiful at eight in the morning, and we were shocked when thirty-something people around our age (I guess we are all out exploring America!) got on the bus. Somehow, for $45, I had thought it would be a tour of five to seven people. I didn’t think so many people would pay so much for a tour!
The guide, Dave, and the bus driver, Leiter, were both local men, living in Cortez, men who double as guides a couple days a week to liven up their retirement. Dave’s depth of knowledge and investigative spirit was impressive; clearly he has a passion for the Ancestral Puebloans, and reads everything he can get his hands on. He has read all the latest studies and speculation, and as a farming man, he had some of his own down-to-earth speculations which he shared with us. It was all good stuff.
First, we went to look at early pit dwellings:
And then we headed off to visit some of the more and less famous cliff dwellings:
Look at the terrain – so similar to other places where similar dwellings have evolved . . . (Hint Hint: Les Eyzies de Tayak) There are cliff dwellings in almost every conceivable concavity.
From pit dwellings to small family dwellings, to multiple family dwellings, small villages . . .
And then, the old legend goes, they just disappeared . . . or did they? Dave, the guide, tells us that the Apaches and Navajos won’t come any where near the Mesa, that the mesa is full of old spirits, not their spirits. The Hopi, however, a little further South, have no fear; the customs and dwellings of the Ancient Puebloans are familiar to them.
It’s kind of like conspiracy theories. We all love a good scary story.
“And then, they all just disappeared!”
But Dave thinks they didn’t disappear, that maybe they just moved on. Maybe too many years of drought, or maybe the soil they were farming gave out. Maybe they heard life was easier a few miles down the road and just picked up and moved a little on down the road . . . which seems to me to be a more logical, if less romantic, possibility.
Anyway, one of the things I really liked was that these ancient peoples, whoever they were, built their dwellings in locations and styles similar to the pre-France people of . . .umm . . . err. . . France.
I need to add a footnote here. This doesn’t happen to everybody, but it happened to me. Once I got to Grand Canyon, activities that I normally do without batting an eye began to be harder. I am a walker and a hiker, but any time I had to hike uphill in the Grand Canyon, I was huffing and puffing like a geezer. “Oh no! Oh no!” I was thinking to myself, “I must have some terrible respiratory condition! I’m suddenly getting old!”
Not so. As it turns out, I am just sensitive to high altitude. I should have known. I drove through Colorado once, and my eyes turned bright red, tiny little capillaries in my eyes burst.
At 8000 feet, in Mesa Verde, I could function, but sometimes found myself huffing and puffing. As soon as we descended a couple thousand feet, I was fine. Leiter, the bus driver, told me that many athletic teams train at high altitude so that when they perform, at a lower altitude, they will exceed themselves. It is such a relief to be able to move fast now, and not puff. I always took it for granted before. Not now.