Monthly Archives: March 2016

Good Samaritan

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I broke the first rule of van life. I didn’t know where my keys were.

It only took about twenty seconds of not knowing where my keys were for life to begin to unravel.

I’d pulled in to a potential boondocking spot to check it out on my way somewhere else. As I drove around the main loop, nature called, then began to shout. I pulled into a spot near a pit toilet restroom and hustled inside. Once out, I slapped some hand sanitizer on my palms and climbed into the driver’s seat. Then I thought, I should take a few photos here, grabbed my camera, got out of the van, and slammed the door behind me.

Snap! Snap! I took the photos and turned around to get back in the van. The door was locked. I reached down for the cord around my neck on which my keys usually hang. No keys. That’s when I realized I didn’t know where my keys were.

It didn’t take me long to find the keys. I looked through the window on the driver’s side door and saw them, one sitting in the ignition, the other hanging on the ring. I cursed under my breath.

Maybe another door is unlocked, I thought. I walked around the van checking doors. Every door was locked. Every window was latched. There was no getting in.

This is what I think happened. I unlocked the van and got in the driver’s seat. I hit the power lock button, but didn’t close and latch the driver’s side door. I put the key in the ignition, but didn’t start the engine. I decided to take photos and grabbed my camera. At that moment, I thought I knew where my keys were, but in reality, I didn’t. I got out of the van, not realizing the door was going to be locked when I slammed it behind me.

So. I was locked out. My keys were in the van. My phone was in the van. All helpful phone numbers were in the van. Everything was in the van, except for me and my camera, and the camera was not going to do me any good.

Down from where I was parked was a school bus. It had a nice, conservative, professional looking paint job. When I’d first pulled in, I’d seen a man and a young teenage boy cooking at the fire ring. (Roasting marshmallows is what it looked like they were doing.) When I saw the man (thin, mid 30s, with short brown hair) come out of the bus, I walked over and politely asked him if he knew how to jimmy a lock. He grinned and said he didn’t have the right equipment, which made me think he could jimmy a lock if he had the right tools.

When I told him I’d locked myself out, he and his boy (about thirteen years old, lanky, short hair, and with a machete strapped to his side) walked over to the van.

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This is the back window that was open.

The man walked around the van, checked every window, tried every door, found it was locked tight, except for a window on one of the back doors. Unfortunately, there’s no way to open those back doors from inside even if one of us could have gotten an arm through the small opening at the bottom of the window.

The man and his son discussed different tools they might have that would work to jimmy the lock on one of my doors. Nothing the boy named seemed right to the dad.

At one point I asked if they had a coat hanger, and the man laughed and said, I live in an RV. I guess those marshmallows I thought I saw hadn’t been skewered on a coat hanger.

The man thought he could take the bolts out of the piece holding on the back window and remove the whole thing. He sent the boy to get tools. The boy came back not only with wrenches, but with two younger kids, a girl of about eleven, with long blond hair slung into a ponytail, and another boy, this one about nine with short, dirty-blond hair.

The man couldn’t get the bolts off. He sent the boy to get crescent wrenches. Those didn’t work either. The man tried the boy’s machete in the gap between window and body on the passenger side door, but that didn’t work either. The girl produced a Swiss Army knife with a tool the older boy thought might work, but that tool too proved inadequate.

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This photo shows the hinges holding the door to the van.

Just when I thought the man was going to admit defeat and tell me there was nothing he could do to help me, he wondered aloud if he could remove the pins from the hinges on the side door, thus enabling him to remove the door. He banged on the top pin, and to everyone’s delight, it moved. He sent the big boy to the bus for a hammer and chisel. It didn’t take long for him to remove the pins and take the door off its hinges. Some wires (electrical, probably) connected the door to the van body, so the man held the door while I tried to snake my (frankly, too fat) arm into the gap between the door and the van’s body. Then the man had the idea to open the latch on the window of the unhinged door. Once I stuck my hand in the open lower portion of the window, it was easy enough to reach under the cloth organizer hanging there and slide open the lock.

It didn’t take the man (who when it was all over introduced himself as Tim) long to get the pins back in the door’s hinges, at which point, I was on my way.

Thanks Tim (originally form Philly) for not giving up and leaving me stranded. You’re not just a good Samaritan, but an angel too, I think.

I took the photos in this post.

Words of Wisdom from Dad

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My dad has a lot of thoughts, opinions, and ideas, and he’s not afraid to say anything out loud. Today I want to share some of the words that came out of my father’s mouth repeatedly during the years I lived under his roof. (Not all of these sayings originated with my dad, but he said them so much, I think of them as his.) I’ll let the reader decide for him/herself which words are really wise.

A lock is to keep an honest man honest.

You know what thought did? He thought he’s farted, but he’d shit his pants.

It’s not illegal if you don’t get caught.

If everybody liked the same thing, there wouldn’t be enough to go around.

Spit in the air and it lands on your nose.

Six of one, half a dozen of another.

[When he wanted a kid to leave so he could be alone with Mom] Be gone, peasant!

Possession is 9/10 of the law.

“Assume” makes an ass of you and me.

[If a kid were crying about some hurt] You won’t remember this on your wedding day.

[If a kid were crying about some hurt he thought was insignificant] Do you want me to smash your fingers with a hammer so you’ll know what hurt really is?

[If a kid were misbehaving] I’m going to rip off your arm and beat you with the bloody end.

I thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken.

I only know of one guy who was perfect, and they crucified that son-of-a-bitch.

It’s all over but the cryin’.

[To describe something dark] It’s darker than 65 miles out in the desert on the darkest night of the year.

Who lied to you and said life was fair, kid?

What words of wisdom did your parents offer when you were young? What were the catchphrases in your family? What did you tell your own kids? Feel free to leave a comment sharing your family’s words.

 

Mean Lady

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When Mr. Carolina and I left Milton and his community, we really didn’t have anywhere to go. Mt. Shasta had been the light at the end of our tunnel of plans. Since neither of us wanted to spend a cold winter in Northern California, we knew we had to hit the road and head south.

After bidding adieu to friends old and new, our first order of business was to get some fuel in the van’s tank. The few dollars worth of gasoline Milton had put in two days before was nearly gone from the driving from the camping spot to the church with the community dinner, back to the camping spot, back to the church for the clothing giveaway, and to the camping spot again.

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I made these hemp bracelets with malachite stones. These are not the bracelets I was trying to sell in Mt. Shasta. These bracelets are no longer available because they have all been sold.

Since Mt. Shasta is a woo-woo little hippy town with shops selling crystals and new-age books and jewelry, I thought I might be able to sell some of the hemp bracelets with healing stones that I’d made. I decided to walk from store to store on the town’s short main drag of local businesses and try to make some money for us.

I went into several stores. Nobody was buying. Oh, the people in the shops liked my bracelets, but they all had reasons they couldn’t buy: the busy tourist seasons was over; the person authorized to buy wasn’t in; my jewelry didn’t fit with the other inventory in a particular store. Everyone was really nice, but I was getting discouraged.

I hadn’t given up, though, and I walked into yet another shop selling shiny rocks and angel figurines and books on spirituality. An older woman, plump with long grey hair, was sitting at a desk at the back of the store. I walked up to her and explained I wanted to sell bracelets I’d made so I could buy gas for my van and get out of town. I told her the bracelets were made from hemp and showed her that each one sported a healing stone. I told her the name of the stone on each bracelet and showed her how the slip knot clasps on the bracelets worked. She wasn’t super encouraging and didn’t even smile at me as I went through my spiel, but when I paused for breath, she asked how much I wanted for the bracelets, which was farther than I’d gotten with any of the other shopkeepers.

I explained I usually sold the bracelets for $4 each or three for $10, but since I really needed gas money, I’d sell them to her for $2 each. I felt a little sad to sell the bracelets off so cheaply, but I wanted to contribute to our getting out of town. Besides, I had more hemp and drilled stones, so I could make more bracelets.

The store owner’s attitude wasn’t making me feel any better. She acted as if she didn’t really like my bracelets much at all. She acted as if she were doing me a huge favor by taking the bracelets off my hands. In a way, she was doing me a favor, but I knew she was going to sell the fruits of my labor at a profit.

The shopkeeper picked out sixteen bracelets she wanted to buy. I was ecstatic! She asked me if she could write me a check. I explained again that I needed the money to put gas in the van, told her that I wasn’t from Mt. Shasta and didn’t have a bank account, so I really needed cash. She acted entirely put out, but rounded up $32 in paper currency for me.

I was feeling really good. Not only had I earned enough money to get us out of town, I’d found someone who liked my work enough to pay me for it and sell it in her shop. I was all smiles when I reached into my pocket and pulled out one of my business cards. (Yes, it’s true, I was living dirty and broke in my van, but I had business cards to hand out.) I want to give you this, I said to the woman as I thrust the card at her.

I don’t want that, she all but sneered at me. It’s not like I’m going to order anything from you.

My bubble was burst. It was all I could do not to cry as I took my money and left the shop.

I tried to sell the remaining bracelets at a few more stores, but no one was buying. We used some of my earnings to buy a fast food lunch and put the rest in the gas tank before we headed on out of town.

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I made these bracelets from hemp. The stones are turquoise. These are not the bracelets I tried to sell in Mt. Shasta. These bracelets are no longer available because they have all been sold.

 

I took all of the photos in this post.

My Time in Mt. Shasta

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Almost as soon as we pulled into the town of Mt. Shasta, Mr. Carolina saw his friend Milton. He pointed out the guy (an thin, older man), but we were on a mission to drink from the headwaters of the Sacramento River. (Read about our mission here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/03/26/headwaters-of-the-sacramento/.) After we’d filled our bottles and drunk our fill, we headed out to look for Milton. He wasn’t difficult to find, as he hadn’t walked very far from where we’d seen him. Mr. Carolina pulled the van into a nearby parking lot and he and Milton had a huggy reunion.

Milton needed a ride up the road to Weed. Yes, that’s the real name of a town. According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weed,_California,

Weed is a city located in Siskiyou County, California, United States. As of the 2010 Census, the town had a total population of 2,967…

Weed is about 10 miles (16 km) west-northwest of Mount Shasta, a prominent northern California landmark…

The town of Weed gets its name from the founder of the local lumber mill and pioneer Abner Weed, who discovered that the area’s strong winds were helpful in drying lumber. In 1897, Abner Weed bought the Siskiyou Lumber and Mercantile Mill and 280 acres (1.1 km2) of land in what is now the City of Weed, for the sum of $400.[7]

Milton said his errand wouldn’t take long and asked if we could give him a ride. He said he’d have some cash after his errand and could give us gas money and treat us to lunch. Mr. Carolina and I readily agreed. I was really hungry, but all our money had gone to buy gas to get us to Mt. Shasta. I’d told myself all day that when I arrived in Mt. Shasta, someone would feed me. It looked as if my prophesy would come true.

After the errand was run and the hamburgers were eaten, Milton invited us to stay at the free camping spot on public land  where he pitched his tent. We drove out there and met the motley crew making up his community. There were several young men living there, a middle-age woman with a history of mental health issues whom they’d taken under their collective wing, and several dogs. These folks planned to spend the whole winter in that spot, living in their tents.

We hadn’t been in the woods long when the group suggested we drive to a free community dinner at a church near town.

The meal was pretty good: pasta with red sauce, salad, and garlic bread.

At the dinner, I recognized a couple I’d met a few years before at a music festival and again later on Further lot. (To read more about Furthur lot, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/12/19/how-i-met-mr-carolina-and-the-boys/.) The world felt really small to me after randomly meeting up in Northern California with acquaintances I’d made on the other side of the country.

After the meal, we went back to Milton’s community for the night. I slept in my bed in my van and passed one of the coldest nights I can remember. I had my sleeping bag spread over me like a blanket, but it didn’t do enough to contain my body heat. I couldn’t wait for the sun to rise. I worried about the folks who planned to sleep out there in their tents in the winter snow.

My recollections of the second day with Milton’s crew are vague, although I do remember a few things. I remember we went back to the church where we’d had dinner for a clothing giveaway where I got a pair of white and blue billowy pants. I barely remember the guys shooting a pellet gun; I took a turn and to my delight, I hit the target. I remember shocking Milton with one of my stories (maybe the one about the man offering me $40 for a blowjob once when I was flying a sign), and him saying, I didn’t see that coming, sister. I remember one of the guys (a Southern boy from North Carolina, I think), always referring to me as Miss Blaize.

Late in the afternoon, the community members invited us to stay for dinner. Mr. Carolina seemed hesitant to stay another night, but I didn’t want to get on the road so late in the day. We agreed to stay for dinner, spend the night, and leave early-ish in the morning.

On the menu that night was chicken of the woods, collected locally by someone in the group. I’d only heard of chicken of the woods a few days before, and had never tasted it.

Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laetiporus) says,

Laetiporus is a genus of edible mushrooms found throughout much of the world. Some species, especially Laetiporus sulphureus, are commonly known as sulphur shelf, chicken of the woods, the chicken mushroom, or the chicken fungus because many think they taste like chicken. The name “chicken of the woods” is not to be confused with the edible polypore, Maitake (Grifola frondosa) known as “hen of the woods”, or with Lyophyllum decastes, known as the “fried chicken mushroom”.

The mushroom can be prepared in most ways that one can prepare chicken meat…

In some cases eating the mushroom “causes mild reactions . . . for example, swollen lips” or in rare cases “nausea, vomiting, dizziness and disorientation” to those who are sensitive.[5] This is believed to be due to a number of factors that range from very bad allergies to the mushroom’s protein, to toxins absorbed by the mushroom from the wood it grows on..to simply eating specimens that have decayed past their prime.

There wasn’t much food in the van, but we were able to contribute cooking oil for frying the mushrooms, and I think we offered up rice as well. I was glad we had some food to share with the group, food that was actually going to help make the meal delicious. (The Southern boy who was doing the cooking maintained it was the process of frying in oil that brought out the chickeniness of the mushroom.)

The meal turned out to be tasty. The mushrooms did have a meaty texture and a chickeny taste, and I enjoyed myself until the guys did the dishes by letting the dogs lick the cooking pots and then washing the pots with cold water. (At least they did use dish soap.) I tried not to think about the dog germs that were probably on the pots before dinner was cooked. I tried to convince myself the hot oil had killed all the dog germs in that pot, but what about the pot the rice had been cooked in? There was no hot oil to kill germs there. Gross!

After dinner, I retired early to the van. I got inside my sleeping bag, so I stayed plenty warm. However, it wasn’t long before I had another problem: a rumbling tummy. Scary thoughts ran through my mind. Had the person gathering mushrooms gathered something poisonous instead of chicken of the woods? Had I gotten food poisoning from the unsanitary kitchen? Was I going to die?

I needed to use the toilet, but the free camping area was free of amenities; there wasn’t even a pit toilet. I was going to have to dig a cat hole before I took care of my business, and I wasn’t sure I could deal with that in the dark. I cowered in my sleeping bag all night, my stomach rumbling, feeling a bit nauseous, hoping I wasn’t dying, trying not to shit my pants.

I was relieved to make it to first light, when I was able to exit the van, dig a hole behind a bush, and let what was ailing me out of my system. Oh relief!

 

 

Headwaters of the Sacramento

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Mr. Carolina and I bonded over water.

The first thing he and I did together was fill water bottles from the five gallon jug in my van. (You can read about how exactly I met Mr. Carolina here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/12/19/how-i-met-mr-carolina-and-the-boys/.) During our travels with other folks, he and I seemed to be the only ones who’d remember to fill the big water jug so everyone could stay hydrated. When I found out Mr. Carolina’s birthday is January 22, I got a kick out of the fact that we were both born under the sign of Aquarius–the water bearer–and we were the ones who thought about getting enough water so everyone could drink.

Mr. Carolina was picky about the water he drank. He wasn’t very enthusiastic about the water we encountered in Arizona, and once at a New Mexico rest area, he refused to fill the big jug because he said the water there was crap. He kept talking about the headwaters of the Sacramento River in the town of Mt. Shasta, California. Now that, he maintained, was water.

I didn’t get it. Wasn’t water, water? Wasn’t any water just about as good as any other water? Sure, some water might not taste great, but everything Mr. Carolina complained about tasted good enough to me.

After a couple of days in Las Vegas (read a little about that trip here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/11/20/the-other-las-vegas/), and dropping off Robbie and Sweet L at the Los Angeles airport and going on a mission to Laytonville, CA and running out of gas in Redding (read about that adventure here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/13/broke-down-in-redding-california/), Mr. Carolina and I headed north to Mt. Shasta.

(Sidenote: Mt. Shasta is a mountain. According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Shasta,

Mount Shasta (Karuk: Úytaahkoo or “White Mountain”)[5][6] is a potentially active volcano located at the southern end of the Cascade Range in Siskiyou County, California. At an elevation of 14,179 feet (4321.8 m), it is the second highest peak in the Cascades and the fifth highest in California.

A small town near the mountain is also called Mt. Shasta. According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Shasta,_California,

Mount Shasta is a city in Siskiyou County, California, at about 3,600 feet (1,100 m) above sea level on the flanks of Mount Shasta, a prominent northern California landmark. The city is less than 9 miles (14 km) southwest of the summit of its namesake volcano. As of the 2010 Census the city had a population of 3,394…)

I was glad when Mr. Carolina said he would take me to see Mt. Shasta and drink from the headwaters he’d talked so much about. I felt as if I were on some kind of spiritual journey. I needed to see that mountain, if only from a distance. (It was the end of October, and there was already snow on top of the mountain. No way was it a good idea to take the van up there. But I was happy to see the mountain even if wasn’t walking on it.) I needed to taste that water Mr. Carolina had been raving about.

When we got to Mt. Shasta the town, Mr. Carolina drove us directly to the headwaters. According to http://www.exploringnorcal.com/2011/07/sacramento-river-headwaters-mt-shasta.html,

The headwaters of the Upper Sacramento River are located at the base of Spring Hill in the Mt. Shasta City Park. You can park within about 200′ of the spring.

The website of Mt. Shasta Recreation & Parks District (http://msrec.org/) says the

26 acre Mt. Shasta City Park [is located] one mile north of downtown Mt. Shasta City…

Mt. Shasta City Park is the site for the Headwaters of California’s powerful Sacramento River.  Even in the driest years, clear, icy water rushes from the hillside feeding a picturesque pond area.

As soon as Mr. Carolina stopped the van in the parking area, we jumped out with containers.

The headwaters were as Mr. Carolina had described: water came of rock (I can no longer remember if it was a trickle or a gush), then filled a pool which became the river. We (and the other people there) stepped on large stones to collect to collect water as close as possible to the source. (I wouldn’t want to collect water downstream from where people were walking in the pool.) We collected our water and stepped back onto dry ground.

I tipped the jug to my lips and took the water into my mouth. WOW! WATER! This water was the most watery water I had ever drunk. This water was nothing but water. Or maybe it was more than water. All I know is that this was absolutely cold and absolutely delicious and absolutely refreshing and absolutely water. WOW! WATER!

Mr. Carolina was right. This water was the very best water I had ever tasted. It was possibly the very best water in the whole world. It was the only water I ever wanted to drink for the rest of my life.

I miss that water almost as much as I miss Mr. Carolina.

 

 

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

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One of the Gorge Bridge vendors said this photo shows the spirit of The Bridge.

The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge is in my heart.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rio_Grande_Gorge_Bridge,

The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, locally known as the “Gorge Bridge” and the “High Bridge”,[2] is a steel deck arch bridge across the Rio Grande Gorge 10 miles (16 km) northwest of Taos, New Mexico, United States.

A community of vendors sells on the side of the highway just off the west end of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. To those folks, it’s known as The Bridge. When Gorge Bridge vendors talk to each other, what other bridge could they possibly mean?

The Gorge Bridge’s Wikipedia page goes on to state,

[a]t 565 feet (172 m) above the Rio Grande,[3] it is the seventh highest bridge in the United States and 82nd highest bridge in the world.[4]

[Construction on t]he bridge was started in 1963 and completed in 1965.[5] It was dedicated on September 10, 1965 and is a part of U.S. Route 64, a major east–west road. The span is 1,280 feet (390 m): two 300-foot-long (91 m) approach spans with a 600-foot-long (180 m) main center span.

According to Taos.org  (http://taos.org/art/historic-landmarks?/item/2/Rio-Grande-Gorge-Bridge),

the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge [is] the second highest bridge on the U.S. Highway System. The bridge is a three-span steel continuous-deck-truss structure with a concrete-filled steel-grid deck. It was called the “bridge to nowhere” while it was being built because the funding did not exist to continue the road on the other side.

Taos.org says the Gorge Bridge, atSDC10012

650 feet (200 m) above the Rio Grande…is the fifth highest bridge in the United States,

so there is a discrepancy between what that website and Wikipedia have to say about the bridge. The figure I always heard vendors tell tourist is 680 feet from The Bridge to the bottom of the Rio Grande Gorge.

Both websites agree that

[i]n 1966 the American Institute of Steel Construction awarded the bridge “Most Beautiful Steel Bridge” in the “Long Span” category.

The Wikipedia page also says,

A $2.4 million “facelift” to the bridge was completed in September 2012. This year-long project included repair and restoration work to the 50-year-old bridge including structural steelwork, a new concrete deck surface, new sidewalks, ramps, curbs, and gutters.[5]

I was near The Bridge almost every day during the final days of its “facelift.” I heard the man in charge of the entire operation tell someone that the repairs being made on The Bridge would last 15 to 20 years, at which time a whole new bridge would have to be built.

Both Taos.org and Wikipedia agree,

[t]he bridge has appeared in several films, including Natural Born Killers, Twins, White Sands, She’s Having a Baby, The Signal (2014 film), Paul, Wild Hogs, and Terminator Salvation.

RoadsideAmerica.com (http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/30189) says the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge is on

US Hwy 64, either 19 miles east of US Hwy 285, or 86 miles west of I-25 exit 419. There are small gravel parking lots on either end of the bridge, and pedestrian sidewalks on both sides of the highway.

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I took all of the photos in this post.

Meteor Crater

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Crater Sign

I’d heard about Meteor Crater on an episode of the Betty in the Sky with a Suitcase (http://betty.libsyn.com/) podcast. In the episode, a pilot tells the story of flying over the gigantic crater near Winslow, AZ. Supposedly, a stewardess saw the crater from high up in the airplane and marveled at the fact that the meteor landed right at the end of a road.

I made a mental note of the location of the crater and told myself I’d visit if I were ever nearby.

In the Fall of 2015, I found myself passing through the area as I traveled from Las Vegas to New Mexico. I’d stopped in Winslow to take some photos of the Standin’ on the Corner Park to update my blog post about the town (http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/04/28/winslow-arizona/), but I hadn’t stayed there long.

I was driving east on Interstate 40 when I saw one of those brown signs that alert drivers to state parks and outdoor activities. I think this one said “natural attraction,” and probably something to let me know Meteor Crater was the attraction in question. I was not traveling under a deadline, so I decided to stop and see the sights.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteor_Crater,

Meteor Crater is a meteoriteimpact crater approximately 37 miles (60 km) east of Flagstaff and 18 miles (29 km) west of Winslow in the northern Arizona desert…Because the United States Board on Geographic Names commonly recognizes names of natural features derived from the nearest post office, the feature acquired the name of “Meteor Crater” from the nearby post office named Meteor.[2] The site was formerly known as the Canyon Diablo Crater and fragments of the meteorite are officially called the Canyon Diablo Meteorite.[3] Scientists refer to the crater as Barringer Crater in honor of Daniel Barringer, who was first to suggest that it was produced by meteorite impact.[4] The crater is privately owned by the Barringer family through their Barringer Crater Company, which proclaims it to be the “best preserved meteorite crater on Earth”.[5][6]

Despite its importance as a geological site, the crater is not protected as a national monument, a status that would require federal ownership. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in November 1967.[7]

Meteor Crater lies at an elevation of about 1,740 m (5,710 ft) above sea level. It is about 1,200 m (3,900 ft) in diameter, some 170 m deep (570 ft), and is surrounded by a rim that rises 45 m (148 ft) above the surrounding plains. The center of the crater is filled with 210–240 m (690–790 ft) of rubble lying above crater bedrock.[1] One of the interesting features of the crater is its squared-off outline, believed to be caused by existing regional jointing (cracks) in the strata at the impact site.[8]

After exiting I-40 (at exit 233, according to http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/13081), I drove a few miles through the desert. As I drove, I saw several signs, each with a clever or funny message, like the one that opens this post. I became more excited as I drew closer to the attraction.

Because I’d done no research on the crater, I had no idea the attraction is privately owned. According to http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/13081,

The Barringer family still owns the Crater, and has made a tidier profit as a tourist attraction than Daniel ever would have made from the meteorite.[Daniel Barringer, a mining engineer from Philadelphia, bought the crater in 1903 and spent 20+ years looking for the meteorite that made it.]

The Crater is such a big natural wonder that some people mistakenly believe it’s owned by the government, and are sometimes unhappy to discover that they have to pay retail price to see it. But, you know, the Barringers have sunk a lot of cash into this place. They built a six-mile-long paved road between it and the interstate, and a nice visitor’s center and museum, and even an elevator to take you to the rim if you don’t want to climb the stairs.

I’d figured there would be a price for admission, even if the attraction were owned by the government, and I was ready to pay it. I’m fully aware that many (most?) cool things to see in the U.S. have some sort of price tag attached. So I budgeted $10 to see the Meteor Crater. I don’t typically spend more than $5 on an activity, but I decided I’d splurge to see the crater.

I tucked a ten-dollar bill in my small travel purse, along with my camera and my lip balm, and walked into the visitors center. I got in line to pay my entrance fee, and looked up at the board listing admission prices. WHAT? $18 for adult admission? (The Meteor Crater website [http://meteorcrater.com/contact-us/] lists other admission fees as follows:  Seniors (age 60 and older) $16.00; Juniors (age 6-17) $9.00; Non-Active Duty U.S Military/Veterans (with I.D.) $9.00; U.S. Military Youth (age 6-17) $5.00; Active U.S. Military (with I.D.) FREE.) Upon seeing I was expected to fork over $18 to see the crater, I turned right around and left. $18 was simply more than I could justify spending.

I get it. As the Roadside America.com article quoted above says, money’s been sunk into the place, paved road, visitor’s center and museum, elevator, etc., etc. However, $18 just seemed more than it was worth for the time I was going to spend there and the photos I was going to take and the information I was going to acquire.

I asked one of my Arizona friends if she’d ever been there. She said no. She said she’d waited in the car while her husband and daughter went in. When I asked her husband if it had been worth the $18 admission fee (plus the $9 he’d have paid for his daughter to get in), he had a hard time believing he would have paid that much to see the crater. He kept insisting they must have had a coupon. (Or maybe he’d just wanted to please his daughter and had swallowed hard and handed over the $27.)

In any case, while I would have liked to have seen the crater and learned more about it, I still don’t think the visit would have been worth the price of admission.

I took the photo at the top of this post.