Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Reaching the Breathtaking West

It was a nice long haul (about 3000 miles worth) but we rolled into Denver and found our friends from the Mayland delegation at dusk on Saturday. I must admit that it is going to take some doing to get revved up for the excitement of the presidential convention after several days lost in the all encompassing beauty of the West. The sky. That's the essential part. From Albuquerque to Santa Fe to Taos to Mesa Verde and through the Rockies, it changed us and reduced our East Coast pace. What a tonic for the tired soul! Afraid that there is little way to bring that wide open feeling to everyone back home. (Perhaps at least a daily visit to the Ag Reserve would help.) But if you ever get a chance, drive through the northern mountains of New Mexico, do Mesa Verde and check out Telluride. Breathtaking. Highlights included our visit to the oldest Indian pueblo in the United States at Taos and an all homegrown dinner on the reservation. The buffalo was a bit salty but the veggies were to die for--everything about Mesa Verde--the moment to moment weather changes through the magnificent Rockies and the 11,000 foot Monarch Pass (try to stay away from the edge). And it is good to be reminded that Montgomery County's issues are no different from everybody else's. Telluride is embroiled in debate over the economic benefits and community costs of development and is considering bond bills and tax increases to pay for road repairs, school construction, affordable housing for teachers and medical facilities. Calmed by the views, we left them to work it out for themselves.

On the road, we enjoyed seeing some vast wind farms in Texas before we arrived in the Land of Enchantment to find welcome blue skies, mesas and wildflowers. Of course, my trip to Albuquerque would not be complete without a visit to its fledging light rail, or appropriately named "roadrunner" system being extended to Santa Fe. And as with Maryland, a special session of the New Mexico legislature ended with mixed results.

Earlier, we passed through Memphis, Little Rock, and Oklahoma City. In Memphis, the Shelby County Commissioners are suing the State of Tennessee for their fair share of education funding. I suppose it is reassuring to know that everyone has the same issues everywhere. In the same vein, the road surface in Arkansas has been awful. Infrastructure funding is equally lacking everywhere.

We went to Central High School in Little Rock, the scene of a major integration battle in 1957 requiring the use of the National Guard to keep order. It was the first day of school at this National Historic site. The visitor center had an interesting display that pointed out the tremendous effect television coverage – at that time a relatively recent phenomenon - had in drawing attention to the refusal of the City of Little Rock and Governor Orval Faubus to cooperate with court orders to desegregate.

Our travels have reminded me of Valerie's reality that many areas we have passed through remain racially divided.

I did not expect the Oklahoma City bombing Memorial to be as beautiful as it was. If it had not been for the rain, we would have lingered longer.

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