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Posts on travel.

Grand Tour 13: Holy Dirt and the Sacredness of Real Things

This entry is part 13 of 13 in the series Grand Tour

All through the New Mexico portion of this journey, I have noted how much it matters here what things look like. This is in some small part a reflection of how much things matter. I don’t mean this in the sense of how much it matters to have things. Rather in the sense that things are important in themselves. This is magnified by the sacredness attached to certain particular things (and things cannot be sacred unless things, generally, matter). Nowhere is this very Catholic habit of finding the sacred in real things more evident than in Santuario de Chimayo, which is the second big stop of this day. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018, Santa Fe to Taos (part 2): I will go back now to the beginning of our route from Santa Fe to Taos. I dealt with our visit to the Poeh Cultural center in my last post. Now I will go back to the beginning and start with the description of our route.

Grand Tour 12: The Museum Has Become the Artifact

This entry is part 12 of 13 in the series Grand Tour

The museum has become the artifact. These days one can often tell more about a people from how they structure and present their museums than from what those museums contain.

Thursday, May 10, 2018, Santa Fe to Taos: This was a day mostly about visits to various sites and there is enough to say about some of those sites to warrant breaking it up into more than one post. This post will concern itself with our visit to the Poeh Cultural Center in Pojoaque, New Mexico and the thoughts that it occasioned about the nature and function of museums.

Grand Tour 11: Intimations of Mortality in a Town Too Pretty to be Beautiful

This entry is part 11 of 13 in the series Grand Tour

Wednesday, May 9, 2018, Santa Fe: A day on foot in the heat and altitude of Santa Fe leaves me feeling ten years older and ruminating on my mortality. The themes for the day are towns that try too hard to be beautiful and end up looking contrived, and a reflection on mortality in general and the pioneering spirit and the way time slowly robs you of the capability for adventure.

Grand Tour 10: The Stunning Similarities of Ancient Sites

This entry is part 10 of 13 in the series Grand Tour

Tuesday, May 8, 2018, Las Vegas NM to Santa Fe NM 

Today our Grand Tour takes us to the Pecos National Historical Park where we notice the stunning similarities between the ruins here and the stone circles, Roman, and Medieval ruins of Britain. We also note just how much it matters what things look like in New Mexico, and how different the scenery of the mountains makes you feel from the scenery of the prairies.

Grand Tour 8: A Church Should Look Like a Church

This entry is part 8 of 13 in the series Grand Tour

Sunday, May 6, 2018, Amarillo

Today is a rest day. I go to Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle church and find the building not to my liking. It is a typical modern auditorium-style church with padded pews. The floor slopes down to the altar like the floor of a movie theatre. It is all about making sure that everyone has a good view. If in the pre-Vatican II days we said that we went to hear Mass, now we go to see Mass.

Grand Tour 7: The Best Museum on Route 66 is About Barbed Wire

This entry is part 7 of 13 in the series Grand Tour

May 5, 2018 Oklahoma City to Amarillo

Themes for the day: into the West, barbed wire, weak beer, parking meters, and killer slip roads.

Oklahoma City to Amarillo

The landscape changes quickly west of Oklahoma City. Now you feel like you are in the West. Now you can imagine a dustbowl happening. (Later we see a map of the dust bowl at the Devil’s Rope museum that confirms that this is indeed where it happened.) The land still rolls, but it seems like larger waves, and greens give way to browns more and more with every mile. Trees are few and far between, but jagged and dramatic where they do occur, usually singly or in pairs. It is interesting how often a solitary pair of trees will face each other across the road, one often leaning across the tarmac toward the other as if yearning for companionship. Alas we did not seem to take any pictures of such yearning pairs. A lot of the landscape looked like this:

Road and fields

Grand Tour 6: Pride in Service is Not Militarism

This entry is part 6 of 13 in the series Grand Tour

May 4, 2018, Tulsa to Oklahoma City

Today we continue westward through Oklahoma. The themes are not so different from yesterday in Missouri: pride in service, helpful locals, and frustrating navigation units. Also, a small transgression and some disappointing trees.

Grand Tour 5: A Thousand Tiny Attractions

This entry is part 5 of 13 in the series Grand Tour

May 3, 2018. Springfield Missouri to Tulsa Oklahoma

Themes of the day are ugly English tourists, underwhelming attractions, and decent ice cream.

Springfield MO to Tulsa OK

A storm system passes overnight and it continues raining for most of the morning. The day’s planned route is not terribly long so we make a leisurely morning and hope for the weather to clear.

There are three loud Englishmen at breakfast in the motel’s breakfast room. Apparently they are doing Route 66 west to east. As a Canadian born in England, who has experienced the ugly American tourist in Europe, it is nice to see roles reversed and the ugly English tourist being obnoxious in America.

Grand Tour 4: Memorializing Corporals, not Generals

This entry is part 4 of 13 in the series Grand Tour

May 2, 2018. St. Louis to Springfield MO

We head out of St. Louis toward Springfield, Missouri on a route that takes us through the Ozarks.  Themes for the  day: thousands of tiny attractions, bridges that memorialize corporals rather than generals, and wonky navigation units. St. Louis to Springfield MO

The Garmin, which served us so well in Chicago, decides to ignore all my painstakingly set shaping points for leaving St Louis by the old road and dumps us onto the freeway. The freeways of St. Louis are a particularly unpleasant place to be at 7 am on a weekday. We pass one Route 66 historic byway sign, but far too late to jump across lanes to the exit. We eventually get off and find a parking lot where it takes me 20 minutes to beat the Garmin into submission. Then five more minutes to persuade it that we don’t want to go back downtown and start over.

Grand Tour 3: The Road as a Museum to Ordinary Eccentricity

This entry is part 3 of 13 in the series Grand Tour

Monday, April 30, 2018 Springfield to St Louis

I resume the long-delayed transcribing of my Grand Tour travel diary in the midst of a pandemic which has meant, among other inconveniences, that I am at home on my laptop instead of somewhere in Utah, as originally planned for this October. Some say that the purpose of travel is to accumulate memories. If so, revisiting these diaries ought to be better than actually travelling. In some sense it is. Memory leaves out the tedious bits, the inconveniences, the frustrations and delays. Hopefully this account leaves them out too. Still, I’d rather be on the road right now. But here I sit and reminisce.

Route Map Springfield to St. Louis

On this day, May 1, 2018, we take a fairly short drive from Springfield to St. Louis, leaving time for various detours and bits of sight seeing.

While Route 66 is a 2500 mile open air museum, a Beamish Museum / Upper Canada Village / Colonial Williamsburg, right down to the original section of red brick pavement or the concrete section with the turkey tracks, both of which we drive today, it is less “authentic” than those sites in the sense that the old bits are scattered among all the new bits.

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