Tag Archives: History

East Does Not Meet West!

You know the saying “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”? In other words, we believe we might like something we don’t have better than the thing we do have. Well, that old saying does not always apply to cross country travel. Why? Because, compared to the American West, the American East is definitively greener. But, no one from the West wants to go there!

We have found, on our travels throughout the country, that this is true.

People who live on the East Coast almost universally, except for those who don’t travel at all, wish to go and see the marvels of the West. The Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion, Grand Teton, Arches, the Redwoods. The list goes on and on.

The West contains landscapes of a staggering nature. Sheer beauty so different from what Easterners are used to seeing, it’s a shock to the system. A wonderful shock, to be sure, but of high, amazing drama. And, to know that all these natural wonders belong to every American and that we hold them in trust for all to see, well, you just have to go!


And go we do! Easterners flock to the West. But, Westerners do not flock to the East. Why, I’m not totally sure. I think they’re not saying, because “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”.

We frequently asked folks we met out West if they’d ever been East. “Well, no.” was the number one answer. Most folks didn’t say anything more. Except maybe: “There’s so many trees! You can’t see but a few yards away, maybe a quarter mile at the most. I feel all closed in, in the East.” or, “It’s too crowded there. Too many cars. I can’t drive in that”.

So, the only conclusion we come to is this: Westerners don’t believe there’s anything good on the East Coast. We sometimes would tell them that we “followed Fall down the East Coast”. “Oh, yes. The leaves. It must be beautiful. I might go see that someday.”. But, they haven’t yet and didn’t make any plans to do so.


But, consider these facts, my Western friends:

1. Our country began in the East. John Adams, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson. All were born here and created the foundations of America here, in the East. There are buildings – whole towns – that are hundreds of years older than things out West. (That white guys built, anyway. Those Ancestral Puebloans built things long before white guys landed in the Caribbean.)


2. The American Civil War and the Revolutionary War took place on Eastern soil. There are hundreds of battlefield sites and there are structures still standing that saw the agonies of those wars. Come and learn something!


3. Our nation’s capitol, Washington D.C., sits regally on the shores of the Potomac River, waiting for all Americans to come see how our government works. There are many thrilling museums and monuments to behold and be proud of.


4. New York City. The Big Apple, huge and exciting, glitters on the Hudson.


5. Come see something moist, for heaven’s sake. The rivers, creeks, stream beds and reservoirs are full! Of water! Hard to believe, but true. The East is waterland! Down South is steamy, with hanging moss and palm trees. And very friendly people with a great cuisine. And they’ll show you how people used to live, before we found all that space, out West. Up North, you’ll find a different culture. And those famous leaves.


So, here’s an open invitation to our new, Western friends. Travel East. Stay with us and we’ll show you around the Mid-Atlantic. Just bring along some Valium – it might be too exciting!

– Jane

DAY 162 – 02/19/2013 – Mesa Verde, CO

A long time ago, I was talking with a patient who was telling me about her extensive travels around the U.S. I asked “What was the most wonderful place you have visited?”. She said, without hesitation, “Mesa Verde!”. It was the most beautiful place she’d ever been.

So when our random travels took us near, we stopped to take a look.


We toured Spruce Tree House ruins. One of 4,000 sites of archaeological significance in the park.

And Mesa Verde is beautiful! I probably would not go so far as to say it’s the most beautiful place we’ve seen. But it’s certainly way up there!

It’s interesting that the very best thing about Mesa Verde was – our Park Ranger guide! Ranger Sean Duffy of Rochester, NY was not only chock full of deep knowledge about the park, he gave us a really great performance of his informative tour. It’s as if he’d trained as an actor. He really animated what might have been a dry (no pun intended, it’s very dry out West!) talk. It was fun and funny and by the end, we wanted more!


Sean Duffy gives us some background and insight.

Here’s something that Sean taught us, in his own inimitable way: Do you remember hearing about the mysterious Anasazi people? The ones who inhabited the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde and then disappeared forever into history? There was much speculation about who they were and where they went. Was it climate change? Disease? They vacated these beautiful villages long before Europeans arrived with their guns and germs and Manifest Destiny.


Spruce Tree House ruins are in the bottom of this canyon. At the top is the ranger station where our tour began.

Now, however, anthropologists believe that, for whatever reason, they just moved elsewhere. That the Anasazi, now called Ancestral Puebloan, are the distant relatives of the Ute, Hopi, Acoma and Navajo people. Now these tribes live in the surrounding area; in Arizona, Utah and other Western states.


Sean expounds at the ruins. Behind him you can see the remnants of yellow and red paint on the dwelling walls.

Sean was able to answer questions on any subject. Park history, natural history, geologic formations, botanical questions about trees and plants. He was quite the font of knowledge.

Mesa Verde National Park included lots of landscape around the ruins. This beautiful mesa is sacred to the native people of the Southwest.


The beautiful Visitor Center, with the sacred Mesa Verde in view.

The gorgeous, brand new (it opened 7 weeks before we visited) Visitor Center was built to be as environmentally friendly as possible and highly respectful of the places Native Americans hold as precious.


We climbed down into a kiva, a room with a fire hole and a sipapu, a portal where spirits rise from one world to the next.

Mesa Verde manifests, for the visiting Easterner, compelling echoes of the past while presenting the spirituality of one of the most gorgeous places in the American West. Does that sound a little like a National Parks brochure? Maybe, but it’s all vividly true!


A modern metal sculpture in the desert near Mesa Verde.

– Jane

DAY 160 2/17/2013 Durango Colorado

Serendipity landed us in the welcome parking direction arms of Geno from Maine as he guided us into Durango’s Lower Columbine lot.  “Just pa-ahk near the back and it’ll be fine”.  We visited and I particularly enjoyed the Main-ah pronunciation of “Mon-aww-rch” as we told him our little story.  The usual glint formed in his eyes as we went up toward that nice dinner at the resort and a good nights cozy sleep.

Apres Ski Smiles, Durango Style!

Apres Ski Smiles, Durango Style!

Durango proved to be a very nice ski area, I’m glad they cling a bit to their old name, Purgatory.  Dante’s, Limbo, Hades, and Pitchfork among others make for a fun theme of trail names.  The most notable terrain feature though are the shelves.

Afternoon sun gleams on the rolling terrain shelves

Afternoon sun gleams on the rolling terrain shelves above the Village

Every trail seems to roll along, flowing from gentle to sudden steep pitches.  Dropping out from under you, over and over.  Rolly-polly, undulating ground leading lower and lower.  Such fun to let the skis lead me down, pressing my legs sideways to compress a pre-jump and stay on the ground.  Maybe you had to be there, maybe you had to see it,

The next day we had the distinct joy of lunch in town with Christy and Steve, friends of my sister Meg.  We laughed and bubbled through dozens of stories.  Included, of course, was their own early trip into Durango that led to moving here and leaving the family/company arms of the also incredible Merritt company/family!  They have skied, worked, sailed the Caribbean living on a sailboat for a year and and seem to have that same sense for life that leads to daily joy also. Kindred.  We really hope to visit with them again.  I may have to buy Meg a plane ticket out here to press her to take her own visit with them and to see Colorado.


Our own lack of planning almost made us miss out on that lunch.  After skiing, night fell quickly and our “serendipitous selves” hadn’t found a “campsite”.  We sometimes hide, sometimes park in plain sight.  That eve I thought a parking spot under a streetlight on Fort Lewis College looked un-noticeable.  Ha!  At 9:30 a campus security officer knocked on our door (First time on the whole trip!) and gave us an “out”.  “You’re not planning on sleeping here are you?”  There is a city ordinance against “camping” anywhere inside city limits.  Thank goodness for Walmart! We found a store 3 miles away and didn’t have to drive far so tired. (This is the second city that seems bent upon keeping campers and Trampers from sleeping peacefully, Saint Augustine, FL was first).


DAY 156 – 02/13/2013 – Goodbye, Sweet Book!



I think it’s safe to say that I read the heck out of this book! Now, I will do something I try not to do, which is, throw it out. I try not to do this, ever. Except for old college textbooks that no one will  buy or even be interested in for the next hundred years, I pass books along so that someone else can read them.

On the Tramper Voyage, I search for books at Goodwill or other second-hand stores. Sometimes, someone I meet along the way will give me a book. When I’ve read the book, I give it away or leave it someplace. There’s no room for extra weight in the Tramper!

The place I leave it varies. Lots of RV parks have “libraries”. Junk stores always take donations. Once, I left a pile of books at a Habitat for Humanity Re-Store.

As for The Once and Future King, well, it was picked up in one of those junk stores, already well-loved by countless readers. Plus, it’s just a cheap paperback, printed over 50 years ago. My handling wasn’t rough – I promise! As I turned the pages, various leaves would pop out. Then, entire sections would separate from the binding. When I needed a rubber band to hold the book together, I knew it was doomed!

This post isn’t meant to be a book review. I’m not qualified! But, I really enjoyed it. I’m a fan of the play and movie versions of this story, called “Camelot”. It was fun to recognize parts of the book that were incorporated into the movie. Other movies, too. “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” lifted concepts and entire lines of dialogue from The Once and Future King!

The movie took off in flights of Hollywood fancy, though. The story of Arthur, Guenever and Lancelot was a lot longer and more mature, according to T.H. White. Imaginative recreation of the whole of English history was described by White. Lots to ponder; fun to read.

– Jane



A Sad Legacy…

On the way out of New Orleans, we visited the Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, LA.


It’s a beautiful place, separated only by a levee from the mighty Mississippi River. In it’s time it was a sugarcane plantation. Wise investors and devoted historians have saved it from the ravages of time. imagesNow, it’s an educational site. It gives a glimpse of antebellum life for all the people who lived there.

That now includes the slaves who made the whole thing possible long ago. Time (and shame) had eradicated the wooden houses behind the ‘big house’. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow, the slave quarters are being rebuilt and acknowledgement of the system of enslaving other humans for gain is being rendered.

The roster of ‘inventory’ is reproduced on a plaque. This list bears silent witness to generations of suffering. Human beings, listed as possessions…100_7386

Hard to imagine, the owning of people and the state of being “owned”! Notice on the list that families are not listed completely. The women and their children surely had a husband and father but these facts are ignored.

Credit has to go to the foundation for producing this vivid accounting of human suffering. It’s nothing for them to be proud of, but it is a fact.

My folks, in this era, were quite poor, working very hard to keep body and soul together. But, my folks were free. Free to live where they chose. Free to be who they needed or wanted to be.

Sometimes we all long for the Good Old Days but never the days of slavery!

– Jane