Christmas on the Road

What a wonderful Christmas!

We decided to drive hard for one more day to get us into “destination zone”—ie, Arizona. Instead of a two-hour drive to Albuquerque, we drove more like six hours to Clinle, AZ—right next to Canyon de Chelly. You can look at the map, but the map’s not the story.

We woke in northern New Mexico to a skim of snow on the ground and television reports of bad driving through the mountains—this after we’d decided to drive through the mountains. morning

But we figured we’d go as far as Albuquerque anyway, and decide then whether or not to carry on. The roads were a bit snowy at first, but clear and dry quite soon, and we enjoyed a Christmas day that moved from dreary to sunny; from snow-covered to snow-free and back to snow-covered again; from mountains in the distance to expanses of snow-drenched sagebrush to the striated red rock formations that typify this part of the country. And some views that could easily have been Ontario (if you’re not so good at identifying evergreen species).

IMG_1415We stopped for lunch at a Casino, close to Route 66, which advertised an all-American diner experience. To get to the diner, we had to walk through the Casino. I’ve never been in one 5before. What a sight. Slot machines filled a room the size of an arena! Very few people were gambling, but it is Christmas day. I took photos on the way out, but a security guard stopped me and insisted that I delete them while she watched over my shoulder! (The hamburger was excellent.)


Then on across the high plateau, through more amazing scenery, to this little town. We took a quick drive along the rim of the Canyon de Chelly just to get a sense of it, and we’ve booked a jeep tour for tomorrow.

IMG_8319Most of today’s travels were through the Navajo Nation, a vast expanse covering 71,000 km2 in northern New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. It obviously includes both prosperous towns and tourist establishments (including our Casino lunch stop) and areas of rural poverty. According to Wikipedia, the land is a complicated combination of public and private, and the jurisdiction is shared between the Navajo Nation and the Federal Government.


Some thoughts en route today. This landscape is spectacular to look at—but seems to me harsh and cold, and I know if I lived here, I would crave softer profiles, waving grasses. It’s hard to believe that landscape doesn’t have a lot to do with shaping personality and worldview. But then, I remember a series of lectures I’ve just watched about language. It’s also hard to believe that language doesn’t have a lot to do with shaping one’s view of the world. It’s an idea that’s intuitively irresistible. And based on all available evidence, dead wrong. So, maybe it’s the same with landscape.

We finished the day at the Thunderbird Cafeteria on the edge of the Canyon de Chelly, where we opted for the turkey dinner. Of course.

And, finally, a quick nod to Christmas back at home: Our two youngest grandchildren, Quentin and Stella in Kitchener, Ontario — where Christmas was not white.


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