Trip Meter 353 miles
Wednesday April 1, 2015
We spent a second night in Cuba, New Mexico after spending all of Tuesday seeing the Chaco Cultural National Historic Park. Luckily the temperature this night did not dip below freezing as it had the night before.
We have laid out another ambitious day today, and we may have to scale back our expectations. We hope to go all the way from Cuba to Page Arizona. This is a 5 hour trip without any stops- and we want to stop at least twice. Once in Aztec to see the ruin there, and once in Farmington for a couple Starbucks mochas. We'll see...
The trip up US route 550 is old news now, we have seen the first 50 miles up and back yesterday going to Chaco, however the scenery is quite pleasant and the traffic light- no complaints.
We stay on US 550 all the way to Bloomfield where we will skirt around the town and head 10 miles further north to the town of Aztec.
Aztec, New Mexico is the home of a famous Puebloan ruin of the same name. The Spanish explorers concluded that the structures they found here must have been early Aztecs before they moved south, therefore they named the place Aztec. We now know this not to be true- but the name stuck.
The Aztec peublos were built just a little after the Chaco Canyon structures and it is believed that many such structures existed in a trading network. The Chacoan influence is seen in the architecture and the ceramics found here.
What brings Joan and me here today is the re-constructed kiva. Earl Morris, under the sponsorship of New York's American Museum first arrived in Aztec in 1916 to excavate and stabilize the ruin. He later returned in 1930s to supervise the re-construction of the Great Kiva
Here is what the final result looks like today. The shape and structure is a near copy of the kivas we pictured in yesterday's blog of Pueblo Bonito. The main floor is underground (cool in the heat of day) and the structural columns and roof beams have been reconstructed to match the original. A fresh coat of white plaster covers the stonework on the inside- just as it would have been in the original.
Geologist John Newberry first visited the site in 1859 and the ruin was in a fair state of preservation, some walls were 25 feet high in places, and many rooms undisturbed. Newberry made drawings and records of much of the site, which is fortunate, because looting took place over the next 50 years before Congress would vote to preserve the site in 1923. By 1878 it is estimated that over a quarter of the stones had been taken by settlers for building material.
Part of the self-guided tour takes you through the subterranean passages and rooms. The early Americans were much smaller in stature than we are today. Men averaged 5'2" and women of that era were even shorter. The door ways were designed to make you bend over to walk through as a defensive measure- that means we have to duck walk through.
The rooms we visited had intact ceilings consisting of Ponderosa pine beams and Poplar cross pieces that are an astonishing 900+ years old!
The masonry walls, though similar to Chacoan masonry are quite different. Where as the Aztec walls have large dimension rock and relatively wide mortar joints...
The walls in Chaco Canyon (shown above) have much thinner stones and very tight mortar joints. Not terribly surprising, as the materials available at each place were quite different. To my eye there seems to be a much more careful and practiced look to the Chaco masonry than the Azrec craftsmanship. It's the construction superintendent coming out in me...
To get back to our main route that would take us to Page Arizona, we followed New Mexico 516 through Farmington. I love driving through these old downtowns- especially when they are thriving with business like this one. Farmington is a major shopping and economic center for the Four Corners area.
At Farmington we turned onto US Highway 64 west, which will take us to the town of Shiprock. I've always wanted to see Shiprock because I'm a fan of Tony Hillerman's novels that are set in this area.
And there really is a Ship Rock rising out of the desert floor.
US 64 will also take us to Teec Nos Pos (I have no idea how to pronounce that) where we intend to turn off on highway 160 and go out to Four Corners- the spot where 4 States have a common boundary.
The detour from our route is only about 5 miles each way. The monument is in the Navajo Nation which incorporates parts of all four states.
The roads are excellent and the tourist attraction has ample parking for large buses and RVs which I very much appreciate.
We took the obligatory photo of the corners of four states touching at one spot. The plaza is four sided and has places for vendors all around. You can buy jewelry, clothing, clay pots, works of art, candy, food- you name it. We browsed the shops and even bought few items before returning to the RV.
We still have 2 more hours before getting to Page, so when we reach Kayenta, Arizona an hour later, we turn into town to see if we can spot an RV park in or near. Nothing shows up on the Internet, and indeed, we find no parks at all.
We roll into Page at 6 PM our time. Time changed back 1 hour crossing into AZ, however we are going to have to change time again going into Utah tomorrow- so we are not changing our clocks.The Page-Lake Powell Campground sign says "full" We are tired so we turn in and head to the office to see if they have any cancellations. No cancellations, however they do have "dry" camping (no utilities) available- We'll take it!
Not too shabby- We're in for the night.
Your Traveling Friends
Jeff and Joan