Monday, September 27, 2010

To look for America

As I said in an earlier post, my spouse and I spent most of September camping in the Yosemite high country, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand Canyon National Park (north rim and south rim), Hoover Dam, Death Valley National Park, Diaz Lake County Park in Lone Pine CA, and finally at the Fallen Leaf Campground by Lake Tahoe. We also spent a few days in Las Vegas coming and going, including seeing the Cirque du Soleil's show "O."

This is a political blog so I won't go into the travel aspects except to say Zion Park should be on everyone's bucket list. The combo of riparian woodland and wildly carved cliffs was just magical. I actually liked it more than Grand Canyon, grand as it was.

Politically--it drove home to me what a fantastic country I had the foresight (so to speak) to be born into. We encountered innumerable tourists from other countries who'd traveled here to sample these wonders. And we ourselves traveled in the company of an Indian from Pune, a Russian from Moscow (both now American citizens), and a pair of recent immigrants from Belarus. It was fun seeing our wonderful natural landscape through their dazzled eyes, and helping them all learn the ins and outs of camping in America.

One thing that surprised the Eastern Europeans was the fact that we could leave our stuff in our campsites, go adventuring all day....and our stuff would still be there when we got back. That was new for them. And in general they were surprised at how easily Americans struck up conversations with anyone and everyone, and generally tried to be helpful to each other. These are precious traits to be nurtured in our country.

And I hope that before Americans reading this plan their next big trip they'll consider what's available here in this country. I've traveled around the world, and our scuba diving habit takes us abroad often, but there really is a lot here not just to see but to marvel at. Our travels took us from 190 feet below sea level to nearly 10,000 feet above sea level, camping mostly between 6,000 and 9,000 feet above sea level, under skies so full of stars it was hard to make out the constellations. Nor do you have to be some rugged Man O' the Woods. Most parks we went to had hot showers and real bathrooms, and modern tents and sleeping bags can be easy to set up and comfortable on chilly nights. And where we went we experienced exactly zero problems with biting insects or larger pests. Didn't see or hear from a single bear, for example.

Now we're back with thousands of photos to go through and many rich memories. When you're married to someone in the other party, as I am, it's especially helpful to have these experiences together--to remind us of the things that unite us two, and which should unite us all.

E pluribus unum.

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