Saturday, August 16, 2014

Mesa Verde, CO

We left Rexburg, Idaho nearly two weeks ago to start a new job at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma. The shortest route would take us over some of the higher passes of the Continental Divide and through Denver and a number of toll roads. However, I had wanted to see the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings for some time, so we decided to go through southern Utah/Colorado and take a little longer rather than driving with no reprieve. I drove the Uhaul the 134 miles to Malad and then turned it over to my parents to drive the remaining 1300-some-odd miles while I drove the minivan. Debra's brother Barry and his family graciously came along also as part of their summer vacation. I can't say that it would have been much of a vacation, but we were grateful to have their help throughout the move.

Turns out we still didn't plan our trip very well, and the four hours or so that we were at the Mesa Verde National Park were grossly insufficient--although I blame some of that on the National Park Service. When we arrived, we learned that we would have to buy tickets to visit some of the more popular ruins. So much for having an annual pass to visit the National Parks. It did save us the $15 entrance fee to enter the park, but it offered no relief for the $4 a person to visit a cliff dwelling. All the early tours had already been purchased, so we were left with a time slot for the Balcony House at 11:30 a.m. That tour lasted an hour but was not as informative as I would have expected. With all the required driving and going at a snail's pace for the tour, we had little time to view much else, except for a brief glimpse of Cliff Palace from a distance. Of the more than 600 cliff dwellings, we got to see two from a distance and enter one on a "guided tour."
The Balcony House shown here required a 30-foot climb up a ladder as well as some other short climbs and squeezing through a small tunnel. Maybe that is why we were still able to get tickets for the tour. This image shows one of the two large kivas found in the Balcony House.

The dwellings sit under a cliff overhang that protects them from storms. Several of the dwellings, including Balcony House, had a seep spring inside to provide water.

I loved what we got to see, but unless you have a couple days and a few wads of cash, don't plan on seeing all that much. Each of the less-expensive tours is $4 per person. If you have a little more (i.e. $12 to $25/person), you can do "Twilight Tours" or a "Backcountry Hikes".

They say that the National Parks are America's "Best Idea", which I'll agree with to an certain extent, but many aspects of this visit just seemed like an amusement park--pay a lot of money to stand in line for brief moment of pleasure. The National Park Service does a great job at preserving the parks, but I'm convinced that they could do a better job at making the experience more accommodating and enlightening.

If I get to do it again, I'll still do it. In fact their are Anasazi/Ancestral Puebloan ruins all over the Four Corners region. I hope to visit a good number of them during my annual pilgrimages back to Utah and Idaho to visit family, but I think I'll plan to camp rather than stay in the overpriced hotels in the area. That way maybe I'll have enough money to pay to take my family on the tours through the ruins! With luck, I might even see more wild turkeys.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

San Xavier del Bac

The more things that we do in Tucson, the more I realize how few places we have visited. You probably know how it goes, you have some amazing places within ten to twenty miles of where you live and you never visit them. Meanwhile, some people travel thousands of miles to see them. Last year we visited a number of Indian ruins and cliff dwellings in central Arizona. This last Saturday Debs and I decided we had to visit the Mission of San Xavier del Bac while we are still here in Tucson.

I can't believe we almost missed the opportunity to see it, especially since it's closely related to many of my own studies, including some colonial courses that I have taken.

Father Eusebio Kino founded the mission in 1692, and the current cathedral was built between 1783 and 1797. It is the oldest edifice in Arizona of European influence. The east tower was left unfinished because of the lack of funds. Over the years the mission has been visited by the likes of the Mormon Battalion, and much later, Ansel Adams.

Despite its historical significane, this amazing edifice in the middle of the desert continues to face a shortage of funding for restoration projects; nonetheless, a lot has been accomplished in preserving it in the last 25 years.

The iconography on the facade of the cathedral and all throughout rivals that of most European cathedrals, even if some of the artwork and materials used do not quite match the skill and resources available in the Old World.

The mortuary chapel filled with candles and numerous figurines of saints lies to the west of the cathedral inside a small enclosure that features a wide variety of cacti.

Here Gabs and Bells stand by one of the doors on the west side of the cathedral.

The west tower has been restored and whitewashed and stands in vivid contrast with its surroundings. It should come as no surprise to learn that the mission is also known as the White Dove of the Desert.

A docent took us on a free guided tour, which was fabulous by the way! Our guide pointed out the iconography throughout our visit as well as the mozarabe influence in the construction of the mission. I could have stayed for hours, but with temperatures reaching 105°F and no air conditioning in any of the buildings, we had to cut our visit short before Sammy Jay got too hot. I've already planned another visit to the mission before we leave Tucson in a few weeks!

Baby, Ride Your Firebolt

Okay, so a lot of my friends don't like Harry Potter; perhaps it's not academic enough. I, on the other hand, am crazy about the books. A guy can dream can't he! ;-)

Chanté, one of the apartments in the video looks a lot like one of the complexes you lived in--is it the same one?

Sunday, June 26, 2011


From June 11th to the 19th I went to Cincinnati Ohio to grade Spanish AP exams; something I've done the last two years. It's a great way to meet professors and high school teachers of Spanish from around the country. Each day after grading exams, the readers can find a wide variety of activities to entertain them. Last year I enjoyed a trip to the Freedom Center, a museum on slavery. This year on the evening of June 17 I walked down to the Great American Ballpark with Jeff Turley—one of my former professors at BYU—and three other professors.

Earlier this summer I took Bells and Gabs to a couple of minor league baseball games to see the Tucson Padres before we move back to Idaho this fall. I hadn't been to a baseball game in about fifteen years and the last time I went to a major league game was about twenty years ago when I watched the Oakland A's while visiting my oldest sister and her family in California. It's been fun to get back to a few games.

During the 6th inning Drew Stubbs of the Cincinnati Reds hit an inside-the-park home run that had the more than thirty thousand fans on their feet. Now that's not something you see every day! That night as I walked into my hotel room at the Millenium, Duane Rhoades, my roommate told me that my wife had gone into labor and was at the hospital. I was in trouble! :-)

Thanks to a feature on Gmail, I was able to call Deb's cell phone and learn that she gave birth to a 6 lbs. 11 oz./18 in. baby boy. He came three and a half weeks early. It's a good thing he came early though, or he would have been even bigger than his older siblings. The following day during the AP reading, the room leader announced my "dedication" to about four hundred other readers. Believe me, had I known she would have gone into labor that week, I would not have been at the reading, but at least I got to see an inside-the-ball-park home run!

On Saturday night, June 18, Deb's mom took the kids to the hospital to see their baby brother. Erik suggested names like Pooh Bear, and after a bout with hiccups, Hiccup.

Erik also insisted that the baby try on his cowboy boots while at the hospital.

On Sunday afternoon when I returned home, Debs and I settled on a name. When we announced it to the family, Gabs decided that Sammy Jay, after a character in Thornton Burgess' Bedtime Stories, would also work. None of my suggestions survived. I guess that's what happens when you miss the birth of your son. Aside from William, which is a family name, I suggested Red or Cincy since I was at a Cincinnati Reds game watching an inside-the-park home run, which by the way, happened at about the same time as Sammy Jay's birth. I can always tell my son that I was on my feet cheering vociferously during his birth! Can you?!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bells's Graduation

Two years ago Gabs, our oldest, graduated from kindergarten. This time it was Bells's turn. She loved her class. Ms. O'Hare, her teacher, was kind enough to provide us with a lot of pictures from throughout the year.

This picture is from the start of the school year, when Bells was still four.

Here she is in her graduation cap and gown! We loved watching the graduation program that included several dances and songs that they sang! They just keep growing up.

This is her class on one of their field trips.

If we ever get a job and move out of Tucson, we are going to have to do our best to find a good teacher for Erik and his brother-on-the-way. Wish us luck! It will be hard to replace them.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ride 'em Cowboy

Erik loves the time that he gets to spend with his friends twice a week at preschool. Four kids participate in it and the parents generally alternate on who will do it each week. Toward the end of February it was held at the Francisco's home. As part of the Tucson Rodeo that comes to town each February, the kids learned about cowboys, donned the necessary western wear, and made their own horses out of a wrapping paper tube and a cutout horse head. From the pictures, do you think Erik enjoyed it at all? Erik loves wearing his six shooter, Tombstone sheriff badge, and cowboy hat around the house, but this time he even got to carry a lasso and sit on a real saddle. Oh to be a kid again!

In the following two pictures, three of the gang of four get together for some memorable pictures.

Kira, Erik, and Robbie are ready to get outside and show what they can really do.

Here Erik patiently soothes his newly tamed horse.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tucson Festival of Books

Two years ago we attended the first annual Tucson Festival of Books. The festival has grown each year and just gets better and better. For the last couple of years it has been one of our favorite springtime activities as we climb into the van and drive the 4.5 miles to the University of Arizona campus to attend the wonderful event. The Festival of Books brings hundreds of authors to the campus each year for book signings, lectures, and storytelling. It also offers numerous activities for people of all ages. Since we have three kids, we spend most our time in the kids' area and at entertainment venues.

This year we got to meet the Berenstain Bears. Bookmans, a local store that buys and sells used books gave out the hats that our kids are wearing. Gabs, Bells, and Erik also received numerous other free gifts from the different booths in the children's section. Several of the hospital booths gave out reusable grocery bags, slap-on wristbands, night reflectors, and reading buddies (adorable little stuffed animals). Another booth gave out free children's books. Our kids got three hardbound books (Snow White and two Dr Seuss stories: Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose and There's a Wocket in My Pocket).

We love going to one of the main storytelling tents, where authors do a superb job telling short stories. This year we only managed to listen to one storyteller, Joe Hayes, as he told the stories El Cucuy, The Lovesick Skunk, and one or two others. Gabriela especially enjoyed the stories.

The Lindley Lopez Literary Circus was also very entertaining with a contortionist, jugglers, acrobats, etc. They also did several fun Alice and Wonderland scenes (unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of that).

In the science section, the kids got to make DNA strands using two pieces of licorice, which they put together using toothpicks that had colored miniature marshmellows on each end. Gabs got to sit on the long end of a teeter totter as they taught kids about fulcrums, levers, and pulleys. Bells and three others rode the short end of the teeter totter. The kids also got the chance to try to lift 60 pound weights before having the chance to raise them off the ground using pulleys.

Here the kids wear their turtle hats that the Tucson Medical Center gave out.

And after five-and-a-half hours of a fun but warm 83° day, we finished things off with Frog and Toad.

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