To Tuba City

A quick post after a quiet day. We left Chinle and headed southwest, changing our route to accommodate the weather.

We knew this four-corners area would be somewhat iffy in late December, IMG_1071and it’s proven to be. We travelled only as far as Tuba City, just a few hours, and will drive the rest of the way to Monument Valley tomorrow. We changed altitude several times, between about 6,000 feet, where there was lots of snow, and 5,000 feet, where there was much less.

We’ve already booked a tour of Monument Valley for tomorrow afternoon. Guided tours are not usually our choice, though when we do take them wIMG_1112e often find they challenge our arrogant, “we can do it ourselves” approach to travel. Funny—the folks whose job it is to know their stuff often know quite a lot. Here, there’s not much choice. In the Navajo Nation, the tribe runs all the tourist sites and they control access to them pretty strictly. So, except for a few do-it-yourself trails and roadways, you really need to hire a guide.

We passed from Navajo land into Hopi land today, and then back again. The Hopi territory has a very different feel—much less developed. The homes we saw from the road were mostly trailers and tiny plywood houses. We stopped at a place that advertised crafts and encountered a wonderfully articulate young artist who was eager to talk about his culture, the ceremonial significance of the baskets and kachina dolls, a bit about the clan system and the traditional division of labour. So interesting, I couldn’t leave without buying a pair of earrings and a book about the Hopi. He let Jack take a few photos inside his shop, but they’re still on Jack’s camera. If they’re any good, I’ll post them tomorrow.

A few miles—and many craft shops—later, we stopped at a Hopi Cultural Center and Museum where we learned a bit more about the difference between the Hopi and the Navajo. The Navajo come, originally, from the Dene of Manitoba; the Hopi from the Aztec. They shared this area reluctantly until about 20 years ago when the Hopi territory was carved out of the middle of the Navajo nation. The Hopi now occupy an area dominated by three mesas, and each mesa is a distinct community within the larger nation.

The Hopi and the Navajo are distinctly different cultures. I won’t pretend to know more than the quick-info from the museum and a flyer. From those limited sources, it seems evident that the Hopi have maintained a more traditional way of life, still heavily grounded in their religion, whereas the Navajo have adopted a modern, more materially rich way of life. Hence the casinos? I’m looking forward to reading the book I picked up today about the Hopi, and I expect the next couple of days will be filled with a Navajo perspective. Of course, I thought I’d learned a lot of this two years ago when we were in New Mexico, but…well…that was two years ago.

Scenery, scenery. I’mIMG_1082 not really a photographer, and I’m finding myself feeling a bit frenzied by the iphone-snapshot routine. “Oh no! Can’t miss THAT one!” So, today I decided to let the world roll by without trying to stop it. But I couldn’t resist a few.

IMG_1099We inadvertently broke the law yesterday by consuming wine in our motel room. The entire Navajo Nation (and Hopi Nation) are dry. When I registered for today’s hotel room, I had to sign saying I understood about the $250 fine for consuming alcohol in the building. We left the wine in the car; Jack just went out for some ginger ale.


We stopped early today to do some errands, wash clothes, and have some time to catch up on email, relax with our books, etc. The only laundromat in town was absolutely packed, with people standing in line, and many of the machines seemed to be broken. So much for that plan; maybe tomorrow. A few bits of handwashed underwear are now decorating the motel room. Jack got the tires balanced (so hopefully we’re rid of that annoying jiggle at 100 k/hr) and washed the car, which was still covered with salt from the Minnesota snowfall.

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2 Responses to To Tuba City

  1. sandysteer1 says:

    Hi Paula (and Jack), I love reading the blog.  I am learning much about my country.  How interesting that you actually had to sign a pledge to refrain from drinking in your motel room!  How was the ginger ale?  Traveling as you are without an itinerary etched in stone is the best way to travel – it gives you the freedom to stop and “smell the roses” along the way.  Safe travels and thanks for making me feel as though I am traveling with you!



  2. nonna3js says:

    Leo and I are thoroughly enjoying your travels. We went through a fair bit of the same area you are traveling in now when we did a road trip four or five years ago in what I call our Canyon Road Trip. It was fantastic and we are reminiscing as we read your travel blog. Thanks for taking the time to do this and for including photos. The history is wonderful to follow as well so thanks for that as well. Safe travels.


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