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The Grandest of Canyons
Route 66  (some of the same pictures)
Grand Canyon Links
The Grand Canyon 2002
Old Mexico
      This has been an odyssey of a couple of different types, for me. This was my first trip to the Southwest, and also my first trip through real desert. Desert lands, with their solitude, and specially adapted life forms, have fascinated me since early childhood. Only the poles are more desolate, pristine, and untamed (maybe next year). Despite the supposed desolation of these lands, the people who populate them seem very optimistic, enthusiastic, almost inspired. This is very much the land of independence, initiative, and self reliance. The only other home to this mindset, these days, is Alaska, and you can't drive there direct. Some of the most advanced scientific research in the world is being done here; this is where nuclear weapons are being tested, developed, and manufactured. This is also the place where Pluto was discovered. On the other hand, this is a region of Indian reservations, substainance farming, ranches, and cowboys. Quite the contrast.
    The Grand canyon is the most spectacular of a whole series of marvelous geological formations scattered throughout the Southwest. This is the attraction of the awesome, the alien, and the forbidding. These places are set amidst desert, and mountain, interesting terrain in their own right. This series of geologic formations, does not end at the park border, or even at the state line. The Grand Canyon Series continues up into Utah, giving form and wonder to a great loop of national parks, and scenic areas.
    I made my way out, to this amazing place, via as much of the old Route 66 as I could find. In many places, this classic old road has been torn up, and where it has not, it has been relegated to secondary status. This, to my mind, only adds to it's charm, keeping it a bit in the past. The road, for those who are familiar with it in name only, goes from Chicago to Los Angeles. It swings south, before heading west. Parts of it have now been preserved, while others are still being used for local transport. Countless small sections have simply been bypassed. These sections are still there, but there is no direct connection to them, from the highway, and they have been abandoned.
    On the other hand, we Americans have a strange nostalgia about our history, and are particularly sentimental about our cars, roads, and the feelings of freedom they inspire. This road has been bypassed a bit at a time, starting in the sixties. Ironically, just about the time the road was being replaced, was when it gained it's greatest popularity. Since the official bypass of the last stretch, and the retirement of the road as a federal highway in 1985, the road has made a comeback. rather than a route to faraway places, it has become a destination in it's own right.

Old Mexico
    Once out of the mid-west, and entering Texas, we are in lands that had formerly been part of old Mexico. If Texas is included then something like a quarter of the lower 48 had once been part of old Mexico. I use the term Old Mexico to differentiate the Spanish colony from the latter independent nation. The Spanish possession of Mexico was quite a different  creature from the anarchy of the independent state of Mexico. The Spanish colonies which wrenched themselves free from Spain, lacked the visionary leadership and unity, which had previously saved the fledgling United States from collapse after winning independence from Britain. Independent Mexico quickly fell to internal squabbles, minor rebellions, and internal disorganization. Some of the colonies, notably that of California, considered allegiance to Mexico City no better than the rulership of Spain. The United States had experienced similar problems during it's birth, but had managed to overcome them. Mexico was unable to do so. This internal weakness was unfortunate for the newly independent state, because it had a powerful, expanding neighbor to the north.
    America desperately wanted to spread itself across the continent, but was blocked by the British held Oregon Territory in the northwest (today's Oregon, and washington states), and by the Spanish possessions of California, and New Mexico (today's states of New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona, as well as parts of what was a soon to be expanded Texas, Colorado, and Wyoming) in the southwest. The opportunity came with the rebellion and independence of Mexico in 1821, and the rapid migration of Americans into some of the less desirable Mexican territories to the north, Texas in particular, over the next few decades. Many of these lands had been in dispute since the turn of the century. The nature of maps, and of the exploration of the times made setting definite boundaries of sparsely inhabited regions problematic at best.
    There were some Americans who argued that much of old Mexico should have belonged to the United States as a part of the Louisiana Purchase. The boundaries of these areas had never been properly defined, because at their inception, there had been little reason to calculate them, as the lands were uninhabited and considered useless. The loss of Texas and it's later incorporation into the United States, caused considerable hard feelings in Mexico. Mexican argument over what the boundaries of Texas were, and constant incursion by Mexican criminals into the U.S. caused considerable hard feelings on the part of the United States. In retrospect, war was inevitable between the expansionist United States, and the collapsing Old Mexico, particularly with the winds of Manifest Destiny fanning the flames.
    The Southwest is part of America now, though many Mexican Americans descended from Mexicans living on the "wrong" side of the border when the lands were taken, still feel a strong cultural and spiritual pull of Mexico. The disputed Oregon Territories were divided in a peaceful manner by agreement with Great Britain, soon afterwards, and the United States finally fulfilled it's stated purpose of spanning the continent. The old Mexico is still alive here, in some ways even stronger than in the present day nation of Mexico. It lives in the culture of a large segment of it's people, in words, phrases, food, and in a certain way of doing things. In many ways this is the most culturally diverse part of the country. Culture clash is still taking place here between Mexican, Indian, and Euro-American cultures. Still, if it is a clash, it is a gentle one, compared to the black/white, liberal/conservative, imigrant/native clashes which are stirring up such controversy and fury further north and east. perhaps the heat, the need for cooperation in such a harsh environment, and centuries of coexistence have taught a more relaxed, and reasonable way of dealing with these matters.

My first trip to the Southwest, and to the South.
    I had heard amazing things about the Grand Canyon. I had also dreamed of traveling on old Route 66, ever since my childhood. I took the opportunity to do both. You can start the journey from the begining, by selecting the first section, or select individual sections from the table below. There are three side trips (Meteor Crater, Sedona, and Zion) which are not part of the main trip, and were taken on "days off", they can be reached via their own links, or by links from some fo teh trip pages. 
Photos Comments
Start Here
A Journey South
Deeper into Illinois than I had ever ventured, also crossing the Mississippi, a bit further south than usual, seeing St. Louis, and the Ozarks, and this was just the first day.
Leaving the Mid-West The Ozarks, Missouri, and a wee bit of Kansas.
Oklahoma More midwestern than I would have thought, more farmers and bankers than cowboys. Oklahoma City was very nice.
Texas A Texas steak, oil wells, and cowboys. No armadillos though.
New Mexico Desert, butte, and bluff.
Tucamcari Formerly the brightest spot on the road, it is looking a bit worn these days, but a comeback has started.
The Painted Desert (sidetrip) Fantastic place very similar to the Badlands.
The Arizona landscape What you would expect from Arizona (no other state has a magazine devoted to it's roadside scenery).
The Meteor Crater (sidetrip) Arizona's other big hole in the ground
Sedona (sidetrip) A little bit of California, transported into the red rock area of Arizona. One of conservation's great failures. Strip malls galore.
Flagstaff, AZ Great town nestled up in the cool mountains, rather than the roasting plains below. You can even ski here in the winter.
The Grand Canyon I won't even attempt a summary. Just look at the pictures. There are lots of them. 
Zion side trip (comming this summer) One of the most spectacular and pleasant places I have seen. This place is underrated to the extent that I had hardly heard of it before visiting.
Utah and southern Wyoming My first visit to the south of Wyoming, and my trip ever to Utah. Desert, and fantastic rock formations give way to prairies, and grasslands.
Jackson A nice city, and a great tourist stop, even though they kicked out all of the real cowboys years ago, and have actors put on cowboy shows for the tourists.
The Tetons The highest vertical drop on the continent (in the world as far as I know). These are very rugged, European looking peaks. 
Yellowstone and Cody, Wy What can I say about this place that I have not said before? Well, plenty probably, but we only had a couple of days this time. Cody is one of my favorite places out west. We actually treated ourselves to the Cody rodeo at Stampede Park.
South Dakota, Trapped in Wall Though I have always loved Wall, being trapped there by triple digit heat, and car troubles for 12 hours took much of the charm out of the experience.

The Future
I will be returning to the Grand Canyon, at some future date, though next time, I will have the wit to go in spring fall or winter. I plan to hike to the bottom, and then cross up to the other side. A raft trip also appeals to me.