I am still on my journey across the Heartland of America. You remember, those places that President Obama complained that “they cling to their guns and their religion.”
My first impression is that the American West is stunningly beautiful. The deserts near Tucson with their signature Saguaro cactus and a plethora of wildflowers contain an unexpected bounty of life.
I next stayed in Williams Arizona near Flagstaff, and took the package tour that included all meals, hotel and a vintage train ride to the south rim of the Grand Canyon where an air-conditioned bus and expert guide took us to some of the outlooks not available to private vehicles. The Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel is a well-oiled machine that also included entertainment, a gunfight and a train robbery. For me the beauty of the scenery was matched by the warmth and goodness of the people of Williams. As our train passed the homes of people who were living off the grid, many gave us a cheerful wave.
My next stop was Page Arizona, gateway to Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam which tamed the mighty Colorado River. The shoreline is longer than the entire western coast of the United States. It is home of the Rainbow Bridge and magnificent views of mesas and buttes that rise dramatically out of, and around, the lake.
Heading further east I drove past the amazing other worldly Monument Valley. My day ended in Colorado in the town of Cortez only eight miles from the park entrance of the World Heritage site of Mesa Verde. You must see the pueblos clinging to the sides of the rock cliffs to believe them. Upon first viewing I was reminded of another World Heritage site that I visited last year, Petra in Jordan. Both are equally impressive despite their construction being separated by about one thousand years and two thousand years of technology.
Heading points east for our ultimate destination in Niles Michigan, which is just across the state lines from South Bend Indiana, home of Notre Dame University, our journey took us over the magnificent Rocky Mountains via a pass that marked the Great Divide and was over 10,000 feet in elevation, while on our way to the Mile High City, Denver Colorado. Talk about a Rocky Mountain High. Peaks still with patches of snow, western towns, cattle ranches and outdoor recreation resorts were the rule of the day. Beauty abounded whenever one took a moment to appreciate God’s creation.
From the moment we crossed into Colorado, another type of Rocky Mountain High became apparent. The good peoples of Colorado’s acceptance of recreational cannabis; vendors were everywhere. Overheard while leaving a restaurant in Denver, “Wait in the car, children, your mother has to go pick something up at the cannabis store.” It may have been said in jest, but the effects on society, in general, are already being well documented. Even in small towns, there is a shabbiness and decay that is not seen in similar locations in Arizona, Iowa and Nebraska where cannabis is still illegal. There was public vagrancy by characters appearing slightly stoned even in the Mesa Verde gateway city of Cortez. Speaking to locals, they agreed that crime and more serious drug use was up. Clearly, also more dependency on public services and entitlements. Colorado is a stunningly beautiful state, but I believe that legalizing cannabis has not served the people of Colorado well. That said, the people of Michigan are looking forward to having recreational Mary Jane next year.
Next Chapter, 1000 miles of corn. Can you say gasoline with 10% ethanol?