The Meanderthals

The Long and Winding Road

ink I know where the Beatles got their inspiration for “The Long and Winding Road”. On the route from Cortez, Colorado to Bluff, Utah.

It’s a road that goes on… and on… and on…

Not only does it go on forever but there’s no visible sign of life anywhere in sight. Not a gas station, motel room, street sign or billboard. Not even a car for miles around. Every now and then there are a couple of horses or a small herd of cows. And the presence of humans is only evident in the countless smashed beer bottles on the side of the road – perhaps the only sign of entertainment in these parts.

And, as we came to the end of the route, we laughed at the sign painted on the tractor tire reading “Little Water Community”. No kidding.

Everywhere you look is flat, sandy, reddish earth dotted with dry dusty sagebushes, blowing sand and a road that winds on without end. Check out the photo – you’ll see what I mean.

It was a strange contrast to the topography we’d seen for the past couple of days. Only yesterday morning we’d been surrounded by snow-covered mountains as we wound our way through the incredibly stunning Mesa Verde National Park outside Durango, where the Pueblo Indians made their cave dwellings centuries ago and where we sat on overlooks viewing the vast expanse of the craggy countryside of Colorado.

And, as a reminder that Nature makes the ultimate decision, our path was blocked as we tried to exit the park by a small avalanche which tumbled from the mountains above, making the road impassable until a snow plough arrived to clear the path.

When Skip remarked yesterday that we’d be having some “oohs” and “aahs” along the way, he was right. But we also had some “er?” moments when we found ourselves driving for more than two hours, wondering if there would be an end to the flatness.

However, true to the form of this unpredictable country, as we neared our destination of Mexican Hat, Utah (has anyone ever heard of this place?), we found the landscape changing as it revealed to us brilliant red rocky outcrops with wild formations jutting from the earth and a river winding through the region.

Our trip to Mexican Hat led us from Colorado through a corner of Arizona and into the south western portion of Utah. We took a quick detour onto a dirt road so we could get closer to the rock formation which gave this town its name – a 60-foot rock precariously balanced on a 200-foot tall boulder (looking like a sombrero) then headed into town to see if there were any signs of life.

To our surprise, we landed at the San Juan Inn and Trading Post, a gem of a motel perched on a bluff overlooking the San Juan River – all for $58 per night.

It was also home to one of two restaurants in town. We chose the “Swingin’ Steak” – if not for its name or cuisine then for the promise of a unique experience of sitting outdoors watching the “chef” prepare 18-oz ribeyes on a mesh grill swinging back and forth over a 50-gallon drum fired by juniper wood. The smell was incredible, even for us non meat-eaters, as we were reminded the next morning by the smoky aroma in our clothes. We were also reminded that this is not fast food. Everything took time to prepare, even our veggie burgers which arrived on a sizzling platter accompanied by an enormous scoop of pinto beans, Texas toast and salad.

It was the perfect ending to the day, which started in the mountains and ended in the red clay cliffs. Another experience well worth the ride.

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