Essay from Joan Beebe

A Vacation in the West
My husband decided it was time to take a delayed retirement trip.  I picked up an AAA book and started to look at ways to have a memorable vacation.  The first thing was transportation and we decided to take the local Amtrak train to Chicago and then board the train for Denver, Colorado.   Our experience on that train to Denver was wonderful. We had a nice room with a fresh rose on the table and a shower all our own.  The food was quite good and they had coffee ready every morning at 6:00 AM. It was a very relaxing way to travel and not have to worry about traffic, road maps and detours.
 We stayed one night in Denver but managed to tour the Federal Mint which was very interesting. Denver was quite beautiful with the mountains in the distance

We had a nice lunch at a mall and used Denver’s public transportation that gave us a good view of some parts of the city.  We had picked up our rental car as we were leaving in the morning for Santa Fe.  New Mexico.  A few stops were planned on the way.  We stopped at the Air Force Academy to take a look at the static display of airplanes. There was also a stop at Pike’s Peak and we took the railroad ride to the top.  What a magnificent view we were privileged to have on top of that mountain.
From there, we continued to Santa Fe where we stayed for two days. We had time to stroll the small city  and had a tour of the Chapel of Loretto that has an interesting history all its own.  There is a beautiful curved staircase leading up to the choir loft.  Legend tells us that a  strange man stopped at the chapel and offered to build that stairway for them.  When the work was done and the nuns tried to find the man to pay him but he had completely disappeared.  There is no center support or attachments.  It is free standing.  Some think St. Joseph came to help them after the nuns prayed to him each day.    We were to tour the cave dwellings that ancient Indians used as their home.  They were high up on the side of tall hills and we could see the openings into the caves.  However not enough people were on the tour with us and were advised by the driver that we were not going there.
The next night there was a celebration called Zozobra where a large, ugly figure was hanging in effigy to represent all the bad things people either did or experienced the past year.  Dancers in costume with feathers and headdresses would dance up and down the steps leading to the figure.  There were lighted torches along the way and the figure had sound.  It would moan and groan.  Finally, the effigy was torched and all the people clapped and were happy that they could start anew for another year.  It is a traditional event and we were quite amazed but yet finding ourselves joining the people in their happiness for the coming year.
The next stop was Williamson, Arizona where we had reservations at a new hotel next to the train station that takes you up and up to the Grand Canyon.  We also had a tour there.  To look at the awesome beauty and majesty of that   Canyon is so inspiring.  It makes you feel quite small in comparison but you feel the wonder and peacefulness of that great Grand Canyon.  On the way to Las Vegas, we stopped at Hoover Dam and took the tour to the bottom.   It was quite awesome to see all the huge turbines creating power for the dam.  There are a lot of interesting facts pertaining to the building of Hoover Dam and our guide was well versed in relating the history.
Yellowstone has a story all its own.  It is a most fantastic and beautiful work of nature.  Yes, we did see Old Faithful go off and that was great.  We had a log cabin all to ourselves that had no radio, no TV and nothing to distract you from enjoying this wonderful place.  We had a raft tour scheduled on the Snake River and we joined a happy group from Wisconsin.  We also had booked a tour on one of the buses. There were buffalo, especially.  The driver stopped to let people take pictures.  The driver was an encyclopedia of knowledge about Yellowstone.  Besides seeing all the beauty there, we had someone who knew the history of Yellowstone and it was fascinating.  We certainly received a good education about this wonderland of nature. From there we drove to Mt.  Rushmore.  We were there on a cloudy and dismal day and it was disappointing as we thought, after traveling so many miles, we would not be able to see those carved figures of the Presidents, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.  But the clouds were constantly moving so from time to time, the vision was clear.  The monument is a wondrous piece of work.  It is a testament to the man, Gutzman Borglum, sculptor, who thought about and started the project. 
 Our trip was full of the wonders and beauty of our country, meeting new people and sharing laughter and stories.  We will always remember our Vacation in the West.