Category: Travel

Mesa Verde, Part 1: Mysterious Mesa Verde

This is Part 1 of a 7-part series about Mesa Verde National Park. For the next installation, CLICK THIS LINK. Thanks for reading!

Mysterious Mesa Verde

We once called them the Anasazi, but that’s no longer politically correct. Anasazi is a Navajo word for “ancient enemies.” But it refers to the ancestors of the Puebloan tribe, and modern-day Puebloans sometimes take umbrage at this term. They prefer “Ancestral Puebloan,” instead. Like most politically correct terms, it sounds awkward and has more syllables than the “offensive” term, but what the hell, I’ll play along.

The Ancestral Puebloans were unicorns, in a sense. They were unique from most Native Americans, in that they were far more advanced in their ways, and in the civilization they had established.

There’s much we’ve figured out about them, but much more remains a mystery. And the things we don’t know have left a lot to speculation and imagination. My wife and I decided to visit the old stomping grounds of this mysterious people, and discover what we could imagine about them.

So about a month ago, we headed for Mesa Verde National Park. This park is located in the Four Corners region of the USA. Four Corners is a unique piece of geography, as it contains the only spot in the United States where four states share a common border. These are the states of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. And in this region, the Ancestral Puebloans thrived for about 700 years.

Four Corners Monument is owned and operated by Indian tribes. Here, idiots like me have traveled for many miles, so that we can stand in four states at once, while having our picture taken. Which is what that crouching tourist in the middle is doing. The Indians charge 8 bucks a head to get in. I suppose this is the modern-day experience of being scalped.

At Mancos, Colorado, we met up with my brother and sister-in-law, and settled in for nearly a week of visiting with each other, interlarded with excursions to old Indian ruins.

Mesa Verde means “Green Table,” in Spanish. It’s a series of 7,000-foot to 8,000-foot high, south-sloping mesas in Southwestern Colorado, that extend like fingers toward the New Mexico border. Between the fingers of these green mesas are deep canyons, with alcoves carved out of the canyon walls, that form deep cave-like grottoes. Within hundreds of these grottoes are the phenomena that has made Mesa Verde National Park famous. Here, the Ancestral Puebloans built massive communities out of sandstone and adobe.

They’re called cliff dwellings. They are about 800 years old, and are still mostly standing, in remarkably good condition. Atop the mesas many other ruins can be found, built by the same people, out of stone and adobe. But they’re not as well-preserved as the cliff dwellings, due to their greater exposure to the elements. Also, they tend to be much older.

Spruce Tree House cliff dwelling. This is one of around 600 cliff dwellings found at Mesa Verde National Park.

It’s easy to figure out why dwellings were built on top of the mesas. It’s similar to the reason why the chicken crossed the road. The Ancestral Puebloans, like any other people, needed shelter. But nobody knows why they built cliff dwellings. The cliff dwellings are the most recent additions to the ancient dwellings at Mesa Verde, having been erected between about 1200 and 1281 AD.

But by 1285 AD, all of the cliff dwellings were mysteriously abandoned.

Long House cliff dwelling. Aptly named, as it was abandoned a long time ago, along with all the other cliff dwellings.

I’ve read and heard several reasons for building the cliff dwellings. Some say that overpopulation forced the people out of prime real estate on the mesa tops, that was needed for farming. Others say that living on the side of a cliff was needed for defensive purposes, against enemies. And some argue that it was more comfortable living cliffside, as it tended to be warmer in the winter while cooler in the summer.

I’m glad we have all these competing theories, because it gives me license to use my imagination and come up with my own theory. Which I’ll be sharing with you later. But to come up with any theory, it’s helpful to understand how people arrived at Mesa Verde in the first place. We’ll explore that mystery in the next post.

Sculpture at the Mesa Verde National Park Visitors Center. It depicts an Ancestral Puebloan climbing on a crag, while toting a basket of corn on his back. Corn was the main crop of these Indians, which enabled them to support large enough populations to build their cliff dwellings and other pueblos.

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A Plethora of Pillows

We recently went on a road trip, which I will be posting about in a few days. But first I have a gripe to get off my chest.

On our road trip, we rented hotel rooms and a cabin. The hotel room was typical. It sported a couple of middlebrow paintings on the walls, a TV, mini-fridge, desk, chair, and two queen-size beds. And on both queen-size beds was something that was also typical. They each had four pillows.

Who needs four pillows?!

Who the hell needs four pillows on a bed?

My wife always gets the bed next to the air conditioner. I hate air conditioning, and have bad memories of shivering all night while she snored in comfort. So we’ve worked it out where I always get the bed that’s furthest away from the a/c.

I was exhausted from a long drive, and tried to lay down on my assigned bed. But I couldn’t, because of all the damned pillows that were in the way. So I spread them out on the surface of the bed and tried to lay over the top of them, assuming that this was some sort of decadent luxury that hotels were promoting. But no matter how I arranged those beastly pillows, I couldn’t find a comfortable platform. Instead it felt lumpy, and the pillows contorted my back into stressful positions.

Finally I gave up and pulled three of these torture devices off the bed and dumped them on the floor. But pillows take up a lot of floor space, and can be a dangerous trip hazard. I had to be careful after my post-peripatetic nap, to keep the soft-pawed monsters from grabbing my ankles, sending me to the floor, and perhaps dragging me under the bed. As has happened in some nightmares.

Fortunately, I only had to deal with those pillow monsters for one night. The next day, we arrived at our short-term rental cabin. I figured that now we would be roughing it, away from the inutile annoyances of modern amenities, such as pillows.

But as I stumbled through the front door on dog-tired feet, my visions of austerity were shattered. I was greeted by a main room equipped with a love seat and futon. And on this furniture poised the menacing, square-shaped, puffy forms of a half-dozen scatter cushions.

“Never mind, I’ll just lay on the bed,” I murmured to myself. But in the bedroom, atop our queen-size bed, I was accosted by an artful arrangement of no less than eight fancy, colorful pillows. I stared aghast at those damnable, fluffy gremlins, and they seemed to gaze right back at me, taunting me with muffled, sinister laughter.

They had me over a barrel. My wife, you see, loves pillows. I was taking a chance when I rounded up those feathery imps and 86’d them to the futon in the main room. Would she object? No, thank God. Even she, of the fairer and softer sex, appreciated what a pain-in-the-ass a plethora of pillows presents.

Inflated Gas

A hillbilly credit card, otherwise known as a siphon hose.

Gas has inflated substantially this year, and I’m not referring to all the political speeches ahead of November’s mid-term elections. No, I’m referring to the price of that awful tasting juice we pump into our cars. And I know it’s awful tasting because I’ve tried siphoning it a few times, through my hillbilly credit card.

Gone are the good ol’ days, when you could fill your 15-gallon tank for a mere three bucks. That was back in 1930, when gas sold for 20 cents a gallon. But in 1930, 20 cents went a heck of a long ways. I did a little research and found that two dimes that year equates to $3.46 in 2022 money.

But still, the national average price of gas is $4.86, as of this writing, on June 6, 2022. So, when adjusting for inflation, it seems we’re paying substantially more to fill our tanks this year, than our ancestors were spending on their Model T’s, 92 years ago.

This left me wondering how the price of gas compared with the years after 1930. So I got on Google, and dug my calculator out, and changed the spark plug in my brain, along with a few other tune-ups, then fired my thinker up to arrive at some scientific-like conclusions.

With the help of Google, I made a chart showing the national average price of gasoline at five-year intervals from 1930 through 2020. And then, using the geniuses at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (who also know how many times I’ve been fired from a job), I found the Consumer Price Index for each of all those years. From that I was able to add a column to my chart, showing the price of gas in 2022 dollars, for each of those years.

Here are my results:

YearActual Price2022 Price
1930$0.20$3.46
1935$0.19$4.01
1940$0.18$3.72
1945$0.21$3.37
1950$0.27$3.24
1955$0.29$3.13
1960$0.31$3.03
1965$0.31$2.85
1970$0.36$2.62
1975$0.57$2.97
1980$1.19$3.98
1985$1.12$2.96
1990$1.15$2.48
1995$1.15$2.16
2000$1.51$2.50
2005$2.30$3.36
2010$2.79$3.66
2015$2.45$2.98
2020$2.17$2.40
2021$3.04$3.15
2022$4.86$4.86

Notice how the 2022 equivalent price doesn’t change much until 2022? I felt surprised on seeing this, how gas prices have been so stable. At least until this year.

I averaged these numbers out, and found that the average 2022 equivalent price of gas, from 1930 through 2020, is $3.10 per gallon. Thus, today’s price of gas, at $4.86 per gallon, is about 57% above the historical average. It’s also the highest we Americans have ever had to pay for gas. The second highest price occurred in 1935, when the piss-poor peons suffering during the Great Depression were shelling out $4.01 per gallon (in 2022 dollars).

Our President Biden likes to blame Russian President Putin for our high gas prices, due to the war he started in Ukraine. But the Ukraine war can’t be the whole reason. When you look at gas prices in 1945, 1965, and 1970, when the U.S. was at war, gas cost substantially less than today. And today, we’re not even in a war.

Some blame the high price of gas on Biden, who they say is making it more difficult for oil companies to drill for oil. They claim he wants gasoline to be so expensive we’ll buy electric cars. That way we can decrease global warming. But hell, when I examine my skyrocketing electric bills these days, I shudder at the prospect of plugging a car into my house.

This left me wondering if the president actually wants us to trade our gas-guzzling cars for a good pair of hiking boots. So I got online and researched the price of hiking boots. And, holy shit! It seems my actual footprint is getting to be about as expensive as my carbon footprint.

Maybe instead of a road trip or hiking trail this summer, I’ll just stay home. I’ll sit around in my livingroom, wearing slippers, while listening to the inflated gas of politicians on TV, who rail about the inflated price of gas.

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"Depths of Poison" Book 2

Scroll down to read the sequel.

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