Grosse Pointe, MI – May 2017 – Edsel and Eleanor Ford House

Edsel Ford was the only child of Henry Ford, and as such had plenty of money to build his mansion however he pleased. He and his wife Eleanor chose the vernacular architecture of the Cotswolds, in England. This included sandstone walls, slate roof with reducing sized shingles, and an amazing collection of old materials collected and brought over from England, including paneling, flooring and windows.

The home is located in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, a small community about 10 miles from downtown Detroit.

The house is filled with art, much of which is now reproductions that represent the originals that once hung in the home, but are now in the Detroit Museum of Art, donated by the Ford’s.

As you arrive at the gatehouse you can’t help but notice the massive doors.

 

2017 05 20 5 Grosse Pointe MI Ford Estate.JPG

 

The house is 32,000 square feet, but with the various roof lines and wings to the building, it does not feel oppressive.

2017 05 20 11 Grosse Pointe MI Ford Estate.JPG

 

Situated along Lake St Clair, on this day it was home to what felt like 1000 Canadian Geese, which is appropriate since Canada is just across the lake.

2017 05 20 17 Grosse Pointe MI Ford Estate.JPG

 

A large lawn faces east from the home to the lake.

2017 05 20 20 Grosse Pointe MI Ford Estate.JPG

 

The grounds cover 87 acres, much of which is nicely landscaped, although not overdone.

2017 05 20 24 Grosse Pointe MI Ford Estate.JPG

 

The pool and pool house are detached from the main house by a couple of hundred yards.

2017 05 20 27 Grosse Pointe MI Ford Estate.JPG

 

The gardens are minimalist, but well kept, as noted by the persistent groundskeepers who kept getting in the photos.

2017 05 20 41 Grosse Pointe MI Ford Estate.JPG

Buffalo – May 2017 – Frank Lloyd Wright in Buffalo

Renown 20th century architect Frank Lloyd Wright has landmarks remaining throughout the country and beyond, most prominently in his adopted hometown of Chicago. While not to that scale, Buffalo has an excellent collection of FLW designs still remaining.

About 18 miles south of Buffalo in the town of Derby is Graycliff. Built between 1926 and 1931 along the Lake Erie bluffs, it was the summer home for Isabelle and Darwin Martin. The Martin’s had a FLW home in the city prior to this home being built.

2017 05 13 96 Derby NY FLW Graycliff.JPG

 

Differing from most FLW designs it does not have extensive overhangs, rather strategic design to maximize natural light throughout. Also emphasized from anywhere on the property is the view of the lake.

2017 05 13 41 Derby NY FLW Graycliff.JPG

 

Sitting on a bluff 60′ above Lake Erie, it had stairs to get down to the beach. However years of erosion has left the stairs stranded.

2017 05 13 70 Derby NY FLW Graycliff.JPG

 

The interior is still in a much needed state of repair, but it does give glimpses of the FLW style. Unlike most FLW homes, this one has a minimal amount of built in furniture, mostly as a cost savings.

2017 05 13 53 Derby NY FLW Graycliff.JPG

The servants quarters and garage feature fantastic bi fold doors with diamond shaped windows. The diamond shape is prominent throughout the estate.

2017 05 13 92 Derby NY FLW Graycliff.JPG

 

Next up is the Fontana boathouse, along the Niagara River. Designed in 1910 it was never built until 2007. While there we met some very nice guys from the Canisius Crew, who showed us around.

2017 05 14 6 Buffalo Fontana Boathouse.JPG

 

The lower level is wide open for the storage of the boats.

2017 05 14 2 Buffalo Fontana Boathouse.JPG

 

The upper level features a meeting room.

2017 05 14 7 Buffalo Fontana Boathouse.JPG

 

The balcony on the upper level offers great views of the Niagara River and the Peace Bridge to Canada.

2017 05 14 8 Buffalo Fontana Boathouse.JPG

 

The Davidson home is a Prairie Style on a street not far from the famed Martin House complex. It is privately owned.

2017 05 14 58 Buffalo Davidson House.JPG

 

The Blue Sky Mausoleum is in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo. Much like the boatside, and the filling station, this was built recently of an original FLW design, to his exact specifications.

2017 05 14 64 Buffalo.JPG

 

The Martin House complex in Buffalo consists of a number of homes and buildings designed and built by FLW. The primary home was built in the Prairie Style between 1903 and 1905, showing the amazing talent in that it still looks ‘modern’ today.

2017 05 14 28 Buffalo Martin House.JPG

 

Along the backside of the property is the Gardener’s Cottage.

2017 05 14 34 Buffalo Martin House.JPG

 

The main house holds a commanding view along the side street.

2017 05 14 42 Buffalo Martin House.JPG

 

An impressive Pergola connects two of the buildings together.

2017 05 14 46 Buffalo Martin House.JPG

 

Finally we paid a visit to the Pierce Arrow Museum (detailed in a separate posting) where they have built the FLW designed filling station.

2017 05 13 142 Buffalo Pierce Arrow Museum.JPG

 

 

 

Indiana – October 2016 – Weekend to the Dunes

Located in the Indiana Dunes town of Beverly Shores exist five 1933 World’s Fair houses, where once a year they have tours during an open house. I managed to get tickets to one of the Saturday afternoon tours, but to make the 300 mile trip interesting we made a number of stops.

We left early enough on Friday to make it to Knightstown, Indiana around 4:30 PM, in time to visit the Hoosier Gym. Built in 1922 it served the local high school until the 1960s, but is most famous for being the home gym of the Hickory team in the movie Hoosiers. Restored to it’s 1952 look, they have retained that look ever since.

2016 10 14 10 Knightstown IN Hoosier Gym.JPG

 

The great thing is the gym is a rec center and anyone can come in and shoot some hoops, which we did. The older gentleman who worked there gave us a brief tour, then tossed us a ball and said ‘have fun’. It was great, but also a reminder I haven’t shot a basketball in many years.

2016 10 14 11 Knightstown IN Hoosier Gym.JPG

 

We made our way to Indianapolis where we went directly to the State Fairgrounds where there is a 1939 arena, recently refurbished with the naming rights sold to Indiana Farmers Insurance. We were there for a minor league hockey game, the Indianapolis Fuel. The arena currently seats a little over 6000, with the seating bowl pitched fairly steep, offering good views throughout.

2016 10 14 20 Indianapolis IN Farmers Arena Hockey.JPG

 

The game against Cincinnati was competitive, with the teams competing in the ECHL, with quite a bit of checking.

2016 10 14 35 Indianapolis IN Farmers Arena Hockey.JPG

 

As with most minor league teams their events during breaks were amusing. First up was a couple of competitors shooting for a small opening in a board in front of the goal, which a young boy managed to do, thrilling the crowd. The other event was the chuck a puck, only this time they had a washer set up on the ice, which took a beating, even from the soft rubber pucks.

2016 10 14 86 Indianapolis IN Farmers Arena Hockey.JPG

 

We arrived at our hotel to find it packed with University of Iowa football fans, as they had a game the next day in nearby Lafayette against Purdue. Also staying in the hotel was a sports team from Transylvania, Kentucky, the Transylvania Pioneers. The following morning we had breakfast amongst the Iowa fans, as well as seeing them on the freeway as we were going past Lafayette as well.

2016 10 15 1 Indianapolis.JPG

 

We had a few stops planned on the way to the dunes, the first being a train themed restaurant called the Whistle Stop in Monon, Indiana. The grounds outside had a number of restored train cars, as well as an old train depot. Inside they had a display of lanterns but wanted $10 to view a small room, so we passed.

2016 10 15 14 Monon IN.JPG

 

Next up was Kerstings Cycles outside the small Indiana town of Winemac. The elderly owner, Jim, had just arrived as we did. While he may move slowly he was passionate about his collection of more than 100 vintage motorcycles. He boasts there are no duplicates, and that he has everything from an Ariel to a Zundapp.

2016 10 15 17 Winamac IN Kerstings Cycles.JPG

 

He has the bikes grouped together, American bikes, German bikes, British bikes, and others. In addition in the back room he has a number of old cars, including an old Rolls Royce.

2016 10 15 35 Winamac IN Kerstings Cycles.JPG

 

Along with the bikes and cars, there is a large collection of posters, mannequins in motorcycle clothing and toys.

2016 10 15 55 Winamac IN Kerstings Cycles.JPG

 

Finally we arrived at Indiana Dunes State Park, which is next door to the Dunes National Lakehore. I am not sure why they don’t combine the parks, but you end up paying for the state park, and would pay a second time for the National Lakeshore, except we had our pass.

2016 10 15 63 Indiana Dunes IN State Park.JPG

 

Since we had a couple of hours to kill before our tour we went to the State Park and took a hike up and down the dunes until we reached the lakeshore. The dunes themselves are mostly covered in trees and underbrush, which surprised us as we were expecting giant open dunes like at Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan.

2016 10 15 67 Indiana Dunes IN State Park.JPG

 

Once at the shore you have a great view out over the greenish blue waters of Lake Michigan, but you also had the industrial view just to the west of the steel mills of Gary. The day was somewhat hazy so you could barely make out the Chicago skyline 30 miles away across the southwest corner of the lake.

2016 10 15 71 Indiana Dunes IN State Park.JPG

 

After we returned to our car we made our way to the National Lakeshore visitor center to sign in and catch the bus for our tour of the homes. Over 70 years of wind, sand, and surf have battered the five World’s Fair houses located along Lake Front Drive in Beverly Shores, but their uniqueness has weathered the elements. With the theme of a Century of Progress, the houses were built for the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair to demonstrate modern architectural design, experimental materials, and new technologies such as central air conditioning and dishwashers.

2016 10 15 93 Indiana Dunes Century of Progress Homes.JPG

 

Four of the houses were brought to the dunes by barge in 1935 by real estate developer Robert Bartlett. The Cypress Log Cabin was dismantled at the fair and moved by truck. Bartlett hoped that the high profile houses would entice buyers to his new resort community of Beverly Shores. Today the houses are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The houses have been leased to the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana. Through this organization, private individuals or families have leased the homes for 30 years with the agreement they must rehabilitate them, normally at a costs over a million dollars.

The first home we went into was the Armco Ferro home, which is noted as the only one of the houses to meet the criteria set by the Fair Committee of building an affordable and mass producible home. This house was made out of Cleveland steel using corrugated steel panels for walls.

2016 10 15 97 Indiana Dunes Century of Progress Homes.JPG

 

Next door is the House of Tomorrow, which was designed with its own airplane hangar. It’s orgininal design had glass walls throughout, however this home is the only one still not refurbished. When we were there it was definitely a construction zone, and it appeared they have a long ways to go.

2016 10 15 111 Indiana Dunes Century of Progress Homes.JPG

 

The last home on the dune side of the street is the Cypress Log Cabin, sponsored by the Southern Cypress Manufacturers Association, to promote the use of cypress in construction. Today the harvesting of cypress trees is prohibited, so when the owners were doing their rehab work, they had to locate old cypress wood and reuse it on their project.

2016 10 15 112 Indiana Dunes Century of Progress Homes.JPG

 

Across the street is the Florida Tropical House. Designed for the southern Florida tropics, the house combines the indoors and outdoors into the living space. Large open terraces and a flamingo pink paint scheme stand out. The owners were home, and took great joy in describing their rehab effort, bringing it back to it’s original beauty. Situated on the lakefront the view both inside and out are fantastic.

2016 10 15 90 Indiana Dunes Century of Progress Homes.JPG

 

The final house was framed in steel and originally clad with an artificial stone called Rostone (Limestone, shale and alkali). Its Rostone exterior was billed as never needing repairs, but it only lasted until the 1950s. The exterior of this home was completed, but the interior was still being worked on by an eccentric old guy who chain smoked the entire time we were there.

2016 10 15 138 Indiana Dunes Century of Progress Homes.JPG

 

The highlight of this house was the Ferrari in the garage. Our tours done, with sunset coming, we made our way to Valparaiso where we spent the night.

The next morning was rainy and cool, and we had the long drive back to Columbus. The plans for this day were to hit some Roadside America sites along the way.

First up was a restored Mobil Gas Station in Plymouth, Indiana

2016 10 16 3 Plymouth IN.JPG

 

Next up – Mentone, Indiana and the worlds largest egg – or more appropriately a concrete model of an egg

2016 10 16 11 Mentone IN.JPG

 

Continuing across Indiana we stopped in Huntington to see some college professors collection of outdoor toilets….

2016 10 16 19 Huntington IN.jpg

 

Ossian, Indiana gave us a silo painted like a minion.

2016 10 16 25 Ossian IN.JPG

 

Finally we stopped at the Allen County Museum in Lima Ohio, where they had a hearse collection, some beautiful wooden model houses, a locomotive, and a collection of items a doctor pulled out of peoples throats over the years.

2016 10 16 44 Lima OH Allen County Museum.JPG

 

2016 10 16 49 Lima OH Allen County Museum.JPG

 

2016 10 16 71 Lima OH Allen County Museum.JPG

 

Also here was a mock up of the jail cell that John Dillinger spent time in.

2016 10 16 82 Lima OH Allen County Museum.JPG

 

Of note is their collection of quartz and other stones and minerals.

2016 10 16 91 Lima OH Allen County Museum.JPG

 

All in all a great weekend.

Mystic, CT & Newport, RI – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 4

MysticIf you really want to test a marriage tell her we are leaving the hotel at 5:45 AM to beat the traffic into and through the city. True to course we were in the Holland Tunnel at 6 AM, eventually making our way to Park Avenue, before cutting across 79th Street to the Henry Hudson Parkway to get out of the city. It was interesting sailing up Park Avenue with little traffic, and few people on the street.

2016 08 30 7 New York.JPG

Once on the Henry Hudson Parkway it was fortuitous that we were leaving the city as you did start to see traffic backed up coming off of the GWB and onto the Parkway. But the view of the bridge, albeit brief, was excellent with the towers gleaming in the morning sun.

2016 08 30 19 New York.JPG

We made a brief stop in New Canaan, Connecticut for coffee and hot chocolate at Zumbach’s Coffee. An interesting little shop who specializes in grinding their own beans, they had bags of them everywhere.

2016 08 30 24 New Canaan CT Zumbach Coffee.JPG

After crossing much of southern Connecticut we arrived at our next stop, at Mystic, to see the Mystic Seaport.  Subtitled The Museum of America and the Sea offered a glimpse into the whaling industry and the importance of shipping to the area.  We were free to roam the shipyard to stroll through the recreated 19th-century seafaring village, comprised of dozens of real 19th-century buildings brought there from parts of New England and staffed with historians and craftspeople.

2016 08 30 86 Mystic CT Seaport.JPG

Also onsite is a cooper’s shop that made barrels, the rigger’s shop that made and installed the ropes on ships.  The rigger shop was a long building with ropes stretched and looped; it had spools of hemp or manila to make rope for the rigging on the ship as in early times there, but today, rigging is made of wire or chain.  The final buildings in the village were a home and general store open for tours, as well as a small ship.

2016 08 30 61 Mystic CT Seaport.JPG

There was a large shipyard where repairs are made indoors to ships. This enormous building offered a bird’s eye view of the carpenter’s shop and massive yard to hold the ship. Currently there is restoration work being done on the Charles W. Morgan.  The ship, owned by Mystic Seaport and docked at the Seaport’s Chubb’s Wharf, is the last wooden whaling ship in existence and the oldest commercial vessel still afloat. This ship had not sailed for nearly 100 years.

2016 08 30 95 Mystic CT Seaport.JPG

Prior to the 16-week voyage that set off on May 17, 2014 along New England, the Seaport had spent $7.5 million on the vessel’s restoration.  Built in 1841, the Morgan is a legendary relic of the whaling age that sailing historians consider priceless.  Now as of our visit, the Charles Morgan is again in repair for more work not allowing us to board the ship. We did visit the museum of artifacts and the history of whaling in America.  Whale teeth and baleen were part of more than 100 whaling-related artifacts, images, and documents, including logbooks, photographs, scrimshaw, ship models, souvenirs, and sound recordings.

2016 08 30 74 Mystic CT Seaport.JPG

From there it was another hour drive to Newport, Rhode Island, a tourist town that capitalizes on the millionaire mansions from long ago such as the Breakers. Initially we parked in town and had lunch at the Red Parrot. Lunch was excellent, as we sat at an open window looking upon the street, which was filled with traffic and scooters the entire time, with the harbor just down the street.

2016 08 30 116 Newport RI.JPG

We made our way to the Cliff Walk area, finding parking on a street and starting the hike along the path. The first mansion we came upon is the Breakers, an east coast summer palace owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt located on Ochre Point Avenue in Newport with a view of the Atlantic Ocean.  As we continued along the paved cliff walk that snaked along the edge above a rocky ocean beach hoping to see the millionaire mansions, but, only saw surfers catching waves riding into dangerous water near boulders.

2016 08 30 128 Newport RI.JPG

Finally giving up on the cliff walk, our route took us back to the street for a front view of the mansions until we reached the car. A drive along the ocean drive in Newport while seeing cliffs, beaches and marinas filled with small boats.  Eventually we had enough of Newport and headed for our home for the night in New Bedford, Massachusetts, a Residence Inn.  The hotel fed us a complimentary dinner of meatballs and Italian sausage.  We laughed thinking that our best meal thus far was a free meal from the hotel.

Mesa Verde – National Parks Road Trip – Day 16

Just east of Cortez, Colorado is Mesa Verde National Park. With the brief drive, we ended up arriving before the Visitor Center opened so we drove to Park Point, the highest point at 8,572 ft in the park. From the observation tower you could see for miles to the distant mountains.

2015 09 19 4 Mesa Verde National Park CO.JPG

Returning to the visitor center promptly at 9 am we bought tickets at the Visitor’s Center for the 10:30 am ranger tour of the Balcony House, the only tour available that day. It is a 24 mile, 45 minute drive back to the Balcony House so we set out directly for our tour. Since we did arrive with some time to spare we spent a bit of time at the overlooks for the other houses in the cliff faces of the canyons.

Our tour took us into the pueblo cliff dwellings within the canyon. The one-hour Balcony House tour is one of the most intimate yet adventurous tours at Mesa Verde. A visit to Balcony House will challenge your fear of ladders, heights, and small spaces, and will give you the opportunity to explore the common areas of a mid-sized, 40-room dwelling.

2015 09 19 16 Mesa Verde National Park CO.JPG

The Balcony House tour requires visitors to descend a 100 foot staircase into the canyon; climb a 32 foot ladder; crawl through a 12 foot, 18 inches wide tunnel; and clamber up an additional 60 feet on ladders and stone steps. About 50 people hiked the path, down  and climbed the two-person wooden ladder as part of the journey to get into the dwelling.

As noted we also squeezed through crevices and crawled through tunnels to get to the ruins. We learned that the ancient cliff dwellers lived on top of the mesa for 700 years then moved to the cliffs of the canyon for another 100 years. It is thought that the cliff dwellers lived in these homes nested on the cliffs to give them an advantage from their enemies. No one knows what happened to these people but many artifacts and some graves were found at Cliff Palace.

2015 09 19 57 Mesa Verde National Park CO.JPG

The tour guide led the group to a kiva in excellent condition that was used for socializing for the Puebloans. Some of the dwellings had multiple stories with the wood and stone materials still visibly solid. An archeology group from the 1920’s set steel supports in some of the dwellings to preserve the structures while others buildings were left untouched. We moved along a ledge of the structure and climbed a very steep ladder to stone steps cut into the cliff. A chain railing along the steps helped us pull ourselves up to the next ladder to reach the top of the mesa again. I am not fond of heights but made it through the whole tour.

2015 09 19 66 Mesa Verde National Park CO.JPG

We drove the loop around the mesa to view the Cliff Palace from the overlook at the opposite side of the canyon. We could see the Cliff Palace with more rooms and kivas tucked into caves and hidden along the cliff. This site is very special, it sparks a thought to how these people survived and thrived for so many years by being so resourceful.

Lunch was at the park service’s Far View Cafe, with the company of two bus loads of French tourists. Later we drove to Step House where we walked downhill to see dwellings in a shady canyon. This cliff dwelling had upper and lower rooms and a kiva. Primitive steps made by the Puebloans rose out of the far side of the canyon but were not open to the public for use since these steps were not restored and dangerous.

2015 09 19 186 Mesa Verde National Park CO.JPG

Our next stop was the Spruce Tree pueblo, with a downhill on a path to ruins of 115 rooms and 8 kivas. There were rooms deeper into the cliff but we did not have access to go deep inside. The ancient Puebloans farmed small patches of corn and squash. We saw three flat stones with hand sized round stones set at the front of the dwelling as the ranger explained that these stones were used to grind grain such as corn. Juniper, a native tree, along with sandstone were used to build the dwellings. It was evident that the dwellings at this site still had original juniper wood and stone held together with their mud mix. The tall two-story construction had small square windows and small square doors. Spruce Tree dwelling also had a lower level where we climbed down a narrow ladder to a round stone room. The opening from above was so small that when a person stood at the opening he blocked all light into the room below. The ceiling was about eight feet high and about 20 people could stand inside.

2015 09 19 185 Mesa Verde National Park CO.JPG

By late afternoon we were ready for 1 more hike, so we went back to a trail near the Balcony House Overlook at Soda Canyon. We walked the trail to the edge of the canyon to see the Balcony House from across the canyon. This view showed exactly how high up on the cliff face the dwelling that we toured was, and from afar we could see the entire dwelling from one viewpoint. In addition we saw the ladders anchored against the cliff that we scaled down and up again. This view made the tour seem even more spectacular seeing the location of the dwelling and its height on the canyon wall, and made me glad I went on the tour before seeing this view.

2015 09 19 211 Mesa Verde National Park CO.JPG

We made our way off the mesa down the hill through switchbacks and a tunnel toward Durango, Colorado. As we neared Durango a rock hit the windshield and put a crack into the lower left side. A truck with a trailer carrying an ATV was ahead of us but we did not see how anything could discharge from the truck on a paved highway. We were only passing through Durango, a ski town, to get to Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

2015 09 19 229 Pagosa Springs CO.JPG

It was about 6 pm when we arrived at the High Country Inn on the outskirts of Pagosa Springs. High Country Inn did not have our reservation so we opted to find lodging in the town of Pagosa Springs closer to restaurants. We had trouble finding a place to stay the night but ended up at the Pagosa Springs Inn. We followed a bus of elderly tourist who were hassling the desk manager about their luggage and wake up calls. Those elderly patrons caused such a fuss that the desk manager threw up his hands to say he had no more rooms to avoid dealing with them anymore. The hotel was also bus due to a Corvette convention held as part of a town festival. As usual, I found that being polite helps, as I politely asked for a room for us and the manager obliged. Given the entire town was busy, we opted to walk next door to eat dinner at Pizza Hut.

Southeastern Utah – National Parks Road Trip – Day 15 – Natural Bridges, Hovenweep & Four Corners

The Spanish Valley is south of Moab, and our initial scenery leaving in the morning.  As we made our way down US 191 we passed a natural bridge arch before coming to a giant rock with ‘Hole In the Rock‘ painted in 30’ letters on the side of it. Apparently it is a 5000 square foot house someone carved into this giant rock, but we were too early in the day for them to be open, so we continued on our way.

2015 09 18 1 Moab UT.JPG

South of Blanding we reached Utah 95, a narrow state highway  that runs out through the desert up and down small hills. As I turned onto this road a dirty old 4 wheel drive pickup passed me, which of course I took as a challenge to keep up with. It is 38 miles from Blanding to Natural Bridge National Park, and according to the GPS should’ve taken us 45 minutes to make the drive, but following Deliverance Boy I did it in 30 minutes.

Once we did land at the park headquarters we received instructions from the ranger on the best option for a couple of hours of time that we had. As with many parks they have a auto tour loop that we took, providing views of three natural bridges and as well as a view of Native American ruins. The trails were steep and strenuous so we skipped the longer hikes and soaked in the view from the overlook. The first natural bridge named Sipapu was large and had a lot of rock above it with trees and a river below it.

2015 09 18 23 Natural Bridges National Monument UT.JPG

Our next stop was at the Horsecollar Ruin overlook. Here pottery was once found that dates these ruins between 1 AD and 13 AD. The ruins were well preserved but accessed was denied to them. These ruins are considered to be the best preserved ancient Puebloan ruins ,mostly due to their isolation. Horsecollar Ruin earned its name because the doorways to two structures resemble horsecollars, the site was abandoned more than 700 years ago.

We moved on to see the Kachina Bridge where the White Canyon and Armstrong Canyon meet. Kachina Bridge, known as the middle bridge which spans the canyon equally from both Owachomo and Sipapu bridges, is named for the petroglyphs of dancing figures resembling Kachina dolls. Kachina Bridge is larger than Owachomo but smaller than Sipapu. Owachomo Bridge is a natural bridge 180 feet high and spans 106 feet across thin stone and is older than any other bridge. Erosion through the years has thinned the span of the bridge. It was beautiful and we were happy to see it since it will not last forever.

2015 09 18 31 Natural Bridges National Monument UT.JPG

Leaving Natural Bridges we continued south on Utah 261 another nondescript highway across the desert – for about 30 miles – then you come to the Moki Dugway, a dangerous road to drive made of dirt and gravel carved into the face of the cliff edge of Cedar Mesa. It consists of 3 miles of steep, unpaved, but well graded switchbacks (11% grade), which wind 1,200 feet from Cedar Mesa to the valley floor near Valley of the Gods. A nerve racking but really cool drive down the mountain side.

2015 09 18 44 Moki Dugway UT.JPG

Just beyond Moki Dugway we arrived in the Navajo Nation to the town of Mexican Hat, Utah, where we stopped for lunch at the Olde Bridge Grille. The town is named after a large flat rock 60 feet in diameter perched precariously on a much smaller base at the top of a small hill. The village itself is small, home to fewer than 100 people We had a burger and vegetarian taco on Navajo bread. The Navajo bread was delicious.

2015 09 18 50 Mexican Hat UT.JPG

Just south of Mexican Hat is the Monument Valley, a place of mammoth rocks in the desert with beautiful thin spires on the Arizona border. The rock formation resembled a city from a distance and it is also the site where Forrest Gump stopped running in the movie of the same name, which of course I needed to recreate, much to the amusement of the European tourists parked along the road. Returning back through Mexican Hat we had gone just a few miles before we were stopped by the Sherriff’s Department while a Toyota commercial was being filmed on the road ahead.

By mid afternoon we arrrived at the Hovenweep National Monument. There are Pueblo ruins of a culture there that thrived from 1 AD to late 1200 AD. A variety of structures, including multistory towers are perched on canyon rims and balanced on boulders. We hiked the Little Run Trail to tour the ruins at Little Ruin Canyon which is made up of Square Tower, Tower Point, and Twin Towers. Towers at Hovenweep were built in a variety of shapes- D-shapes, squares, ovals and circles.

2015 09 18 79 Hovenweep National Monument UT.JPG

These towers had different purposes, including tool and grinding work areas, kivas (for ritual/social functions), living rooms and storage. We started at the overlook to see the stronghold house which is the upper story of a large structure with well-shaped stones. Then we climbed down the trail for a close-up view of more buildings. The Holly group is at the head of Keeley Canyon. The five buildings at the site are known for a rock art panel that has been interpreted as a summer solstice marker.

2015 09 18 90 Hovenweep National Monument UT.JPG

The Hackberry group was a medium sized Pueblo III village in the east fork of Bridge Canyon. The Horseshoe House is a D-shaped structure containing three rooms surrounding a possible central kiva. The architectural style suggests ceremonial or public use

As we hiked the loop we saw Rim Rock House that had peepholes built into the walls; the purpose of these peepholes is unknown. We continued down the trail to Hovenweep House which is one of the largest structures in the community. Next we saw Hovenweep Castle in the Square Tower Group. The Cajon Group is at the head of Allen Canyon, is primarily a remains of a tower, estimated to house 80–100 people, that was constructed on a boulder that sits below the rim of the canyon

2015 09 18 89 Hovenweep National Monument UT.JPG

Cutthroat Castle group is in an offshoot of Hovenweep Canyon. Cutthroat Castle, the largest of the remains, is on the north side of the stream. Cutthroat is unique among the units due to the lack of a spring, the numerous kivas and the fact that much of the architecture sits below the rim.

Goodman Point group contains small and large clusters of pueblo buildings built partially underground.

Finally the Square Tower group, with the largest collection of pueblo buildings at Hovenweep. These towers still have lintels showing that these were some of the most carefully built structures in the southwest

2015 09 18 98 Hovenweep National Monument UT.JPG

Leaving Hovenweep we passed Palomino horses roaming freely on our drive to the Four Corners. We arrived at the entrance to the Navajo Nation being required to pay the $5 entry fee per person to enter their tribal lands to get to the Four Corners monument. Prior to the trip I had read that with modern survey techniques the actual marker is really not at the point of the four corners, the original surveyor, using 19th century tools, missed where the spot should have been by about 1800 feet. The marker was placed in its current position and accepted by the U.S. Congress. From that time forward, the marker has been the legal divider among the four states.

We took turns standing on the spot of the Four Corners at the center where Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah meet, contorting ourselves to place a body part in each quadrant of the circle. After our Twister exercise we strolled the booths of vendors with their souvenirs that surrounded the monument. There was no food available here so we went to headed back onto the road to Cortez, Colorado, where we came upon the Sky Ute Casino on a suggestion that someone had given us. The large casino had a restaurant but it was an hour wait before we could eat so we drove on to Cortez to spend the night.

2015 09 18 127 Four Corners UT CO AZ NM.JPG

Checking into our hotel we found a nice casual restaurant called Destination Grill next door. We sat on the deck in the cool evening and enjoyed a very good dinner.