Monday, June 06, 2005

Southwest trip


Jessica and I (and Chispita) went on a week-long excursion around the Southwest US, beginning with a stay at my brother-in-law Aldo's house in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Another brother-in-law, Adrian, shown at right with Jessica, got us a hot air balloon ride, which was really cool. Supposedly, the air around Albuquerque is good for balloon rides due to an atmospheric phenomenon, known as the "Albuquerque Box", that causes wind to blow in predictably different directions at certain altitudes. The "Box" is so pronounced that pilots are able to navigate with considerable accuracy, and even back-track along their original course. Usually you can't steer a balloon, but in Albuquerque, you can come close to steering.

Aldo is an enthusiast of four-wheel "quads" which you can drive fast around sand dunes, so we did that too, along with his wife Edna, daughter Amanda, Edna's brother "Junior" and also Adrian. We also went out and saw some petroglyphs (rock drawings) made by Ancestral Puebloans around 1000 years ago. Notice the spiral they made (at left), which is similar to another spiral I've seen, which is 6000 years old and in Ireland. I don't know if these two are related, but I've heard of other theories about spirals showing up about the same time some 5 to 10 thousand years ago, all over the world. One idea had it that it may be a pre-historic recording of a celestial event which all early humans saw, say, a supernova or something.

After our family visit, which also gave me more time to get to know my father-in-law El Pidio, we went on to Santa Fe and Taos, looking at adobe buildings and eating southwestern cuisine. We then made it to Mese Verde in Colorado, where there are some famous cliff dwellings (right). These date from around AD 1200-1300 and were suddenly abandoned around 1300 when all peoples left the area, moving south and east. The reason is still unknown. You are free to speculate wildly. (In fact, it isn't known why they decided to build cliff dwellings to begin with.)

From Colorado, we went through Utah where Jessica was awed by the towering red rocks that dominate the landscape. It was very Mars-like. The trip ended at Monument Valley in the Navajo reservation near Four Corners, where "monuments" of red rock are all over the place. At left, I show the formations known as Left Mitten and Right Mitten.

On the way back, we were given an anonymous tip which helped us to determine what mix of dog Chispita is. Anyone want to guess?