We love the Holiday Inn free breakfasts. Yummy bacon, fried crisp the way I love with it, cereal, yogurt, and homemade waffles for Dani. We were going to start the day out right in Amarillo, Texas, with a nice healthy breakfast and excitement for reaching the New Mexico border.
Unfortunately, we started talking politics. We don’t disagree on everything, but there are a couple of issues that we don’t see eye-to-eye. I admire that she is a young woman intent on making the world a better place—admirable since she would be doing that for her children and the generations after them. She just doesn’t have the drastic outlook change that can happen once a person has held their first child in their arms. Our debate got rather heated and tempers flared. She excused herself to go to the restroom while I got another cup of coffee. When she walked out, we both automatically went in for a hug. We apologized. I told her I respected her opinion, but respectfully disagreed. I also told her no matter her opinion or choices, I loved her anyway and nothing would change that. I’ve always told her that, and it’s true. The hug changed the tone, and we were again excited to be on our way.
It was time to be back in the wonderful rolling Hector, who has been such a reliable gentleman this entire trip. We were headed west on highway 40, and the New Mexico border was looming in front of us. The terrain started to gradually change and rock formations started to appear, looking like small mountains, but edging abruptly, looking like giant stairways in the rock wall sides. The colors were red, bright orange, light beiges, and pretty muted yellows. The land around it was flat and almost bare with only small shrubs breaking the baldness of the countryside. The mesas started getting larger and more frequent as we crossed the border to the New Mexico Welcome Center. It was a Spanish-style building set in a stark flat area, which looked out to a beautiful mesa sitting across the opposite highway.
The lady at the Welcome Center invited us to sign the guestbook and offered a free map and post card. We looked at the history of Billy the Kid, the Wild West stories, Native American history, and the current reservations so much a part of New Mexico and Arizona.
I fell in love with New Mexico. I looked at the rock formations and wondered how in the world people could believe the Big Bang Theory. Absolutely everything was created for its own purpose to work with everything else as a whole, something that could have only been done with a specific purpose.
New Mexico strengthened my faith. Almost like the first time I saw the ocean, it hit me just how big our God is—how He made this land so incredibly, breathtakingly beautiful in so many areas of the world. How do people think it just—happened? Tears came to my eyes and all I could do was say over and over in my head, “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus.”
We marveled over the New Mexico landscape in mostly a companionable silence while listening to “The Hunger Games” audio book. We went through Albuquerque and thought about looking up Jesse Pinkman from “Breaking Bad,” but didn’t. After that, the exits were few and far between, but as we got closer to the Native American reservations, the ads for authentic Indian-made blankets and pottery became more frequent, all with giant teepees and/or statues with leather loincloths and huge feather headdresses. Unfortunately, those places are not authentic and exploit their close proximity to the reservations. Something Dani and both agreed on—stay away.
We had been driving straight through since morning and were getting hungry. We stopped at a very quaint hotel/restaurant called El Rancho. We really didn’t know what to think since it was obviously a Mexican restaurant on the border of the Navajo reservation. It was a sweet little hotel with two stories open to the rustic lobby. The walls were filled with old Hollywood starlets and actors who had not only stayed at the hotel, but filmed many of the older westerns in the general vicinity (one of our distant cousins, according to my Great Grammy Tracy, Spencer Tracy). The Mexican restaurant was off to the side of the building. I had the chicken enchiladas, and they were amazing. I learned that green chili is mild and red chili clears your sinuses and is felt through the entire gastrointestinal system—I did say the ENTIRE system. It was a wonderful stop and we enjoyed it very much. We had a great conversation about relationships, career plans, and excitement about what the future holds.
New Mexico was a long drive, but pleasant and beautiful. The countryside towards Arizona looked like the typical old westerns done by John Wayne. Dani was excited when she saw a lonely cowboy riding a horse in one of the vast desert meadows.
Since our goal was the Grand Canyon, we had to get moving. Dani drove the last leg of the trip, which led us into Arizona, which was a little drab and boring until we started driving the 65 miles into the entrance of the canyon, where we saw a beautiful sunset against wind turbines in the gentle, rolling hills.
We hadn’t made reservations for the night. This was an error on our part for which we paid dearly, but we did find a place to stay. Since it was dark when we got there, we decided to get up early to see the canyon and then drive on to Nevada. We ordered pizza to go from a local pizza house, Canyon pizza, bought a couple Stella beers, and planned to turn in for the night in our overpriced hotel room at the Red Feather Lodge—or at least I did. Until Dani lost all patience trying to do a final paper that was due for school with the subpar hotel internet. The irritability scale was heavily tipped, so it was safer for both of us to just go to sleep.