After a long drive through various subdivisions of nowhere, we spent the night in Page, Arizona, at the edge of Lake Powell. The high point of our brief stay here was spotting a rabbit in the motel parking lot on our way out of town.
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We arrived at the Burger King in Kayenta a little after 9 a.m. So did busloads of tourists, mostly from France. They drank coffee with a straw, and the only words I could understand were “In ‘N’ Out” and “California”; presumably they didn’t love their Whoppers.
I ate some random breakfast sandwich thing, which made the grumbling in my stomach stop but which isn’t the point of visiting this particular Burger King. As with the one at the base of Mt. Shasta, you don’t go to savor the cuisine.
In the case of Shasta, it’s all about the view. Here in Kayenta, the draw is a Navajo Code Talkers exhibit that honors Native Americans who proved instrumental in helping the U.S. and its allies (including France) win World War II by using their language to slip encrypted messages past enemy lines.
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While driving across the high deserts of northern Arizona and southern Utah, and again later in Colorado, we saw many snow-capped peaks in the distance. They never failed in their capacity to surprise. The only thing more surprising than their presence was my own ability to be repeatedly surprised by said presence.
These peaks often are straddled by giant cloud formations, and it is hard to tell whether you are looking clouds or snow. I had it in my head to use this as a metaphor for the difficulty of differentiating between seemingly similar phenomena from a great distance. Is the condition temporary (clouds) or more permanent (snow)?
This then would be applied to the Padres. Are their struggles like clouds or like snow?
Then I decided the metaphor sucked and scrapped it. Then I told you about my failed plan, thus undermining my own narrative. Then I realized that undermining oneself is an even better way to describe this year’s Padres, so it all works out in the end.
The careful reader will note that the Padres actually beat St. Louis on Wednesday and that Mat Latos pitched well. That this improves their home record to 9-20 is indeed cause for great celebration, but in the interest of full disclosure, I wasn’t feeling so positively giddy when I first drafted this article back on Sunday. One win, though… now, that changes everything. So please bear with my sometimes critical tone even as we should rejoice at the Padres’ recent success. And we should rejoice, because who knows when we’ll get this chance again.
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Four Corners was a letdown. Knew it would be, but damn… I haven’t been that disappointed since Dennis Tankersley
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North along US-160 toward Cortez, Colorado. Sprawling mesas, San Juan Mountains (the ones with clouds and snow), cows, goats, the occasional bison or prairie dog.
Arrived at the Far View Visitor Center (elevation 8040 feet) in Mesa Verde National Park around 2:20 p.m. Slow road. Only way in, only way out. (There is another way, actually, that is much faster but it is not recommended.)
Hiked to Spruce Tree House to see ancient Pueblo ruins. Struggled to breathe thin mountain air.
I am reminded of the time I tried to play tennis in Fort Collins or some such in the mid-’80s. Aside from the fact that I couldn’t hit the ball with topspin and keep it in play, my head felt like it was going to explode.
Then my mind wanders to thoughts of Coors Field and the effect it has on baseballs and players. It is extreme, in nearly the exact opposite way Petco Park is.
Yep, even while staring at cliff dwellings where people lived thousands of years ago, I’m contemplating park factors. It would be fun to hit a baseball here, though. I’m sure the late Roberto Pena, infielder for the inaugural 1969 Padres, would have enjoyed it.
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Arrived in Durango around 5:15 p.m. Got lost looking for our motel, which by some happy accident straddles one of the town’s breweries. We checked in, wandered over to grab a pint, and chatted with a fellow traveler about Stevie Ray Vaughn of all people.
Another Steve lives in these parts. Hall of Fame left-hander Steve Carlton is one of many famous people to have called Durango home.
On May 10, 1969, while pitching for the same Cardinals team that Latos just beat, Carlton served up a grand slam to the aforementioned Pena. The Padres went on to win, 5-3, with Johnny Podres getting the decision in relief.
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Pena retired following the 1971 season. He spent just the one year in San Diego before moving on to Oakland and Milwaukee. In 2064 big-league plate appearances, Pena hit .245/.290/.310 with 13 home runs. Had he played half his home games in Mesa Verde National Park, there’s a decent chance he would have hit 14.