Friday, May 25, 2007

Off the Beaten Path

The hallmark of any adventure in our family is to take the road less travelled. Now, I'm not going to lie to you; sometimes you find yourself in places where a full set of teeth is an exception and people have names like "Hootie" and "Cleetus" (I can make that joke as we have relatives with those names...).

But, getting off the beaten path holds treasures, too. Sights that you get all to yourself; quiet on a grand scale; a promise that WalMart would never soil the emptiness of the land. And the food!!! Biscuit's-n-gravy; navajo taco's with real goat meat and native spices; local micro-brewery's with spruce ale or dark razzberry hefewiezen and woodfired pizza.

The best find ever, and one we still talk about, was in Hanksville, Utah. It's not even a dot on the map, but it has some backroads worldliness to it. There's a rock shop in Hanksville, the only business as near as I can tell. The owner's a crusty old desert rat, probably in his 80's. From a rusted porch chair, he'll call out to you and tell you about any stone or gem you touch. If he likes you, he'll tell you to take a peek in his backroom at his dinosaur bone. Now, I rolled my eyes when he encouraged us to wander towards the back, expecting to see something that was meant to play a joke on the "lost tourist." But, inside the room was a thigh bone to a somethingoranotherasaur that was at least 15 feet long! Come to find out, he found it in the 1950's and had been cleaning it up ever since. He figure's it's worth a "quarter mill" although when he passes, he'll leave it in his will to a museum.

The other gem in Hanksville is the purple house. The guy who owns it 'tuned in, turned on, and dropped out' back in the 60's. Now, he lives amongst the ultra conservative rancher's and miners in Utah, baking organic breads and pastries in a little brick oven in his front yard. INCREDIBLE! He made me some organic, hand pressed coffee with cream from his cow that still makes me sigh to this day....

Long story short....... Don't shortchange yourself by missing out on the backroad culture. Sure, the Grand Canyon's are important to witness. But to get personal with the folks, the land, the moment; that's what lives in the memory.
This photo was taken somewhere in the Navajo Nation. Old Pueblo and Fremont culture ruins are scattered in the west. The craftsmanship that it took to build these structures is testament to the rich and advanced culture these people's had; and long before any European landed.