This summer, my family and I took a trip to the West Coast. It was quite an adventure, but one of the most exciting parts was that the journey took us to the last of the forty-eight contiguous states. That’s right, my family and I have now been to all of the states of our country except for Hawaii and Alaska.
Something I particularly treasured about this recent vacation is all the people we met along the way. This time around, I had two particular people I wanted to meet. One is the first person who welcomed me into the book-writing world, author Beth K. Vogt. She is just as sweet in person as she is online and over the phone. The other is my friend and boss, Christina Tarabochia. I’ve worked for this woman for two and a half years, and it was wonderful to meet her in person, along with her husband and youngest daughter.
|Beth K. Vogt and me.|
|R to L: Christina Tarabochia, Lili Tarabochia, and me.|
Many of the other folks stood out too. We met a Dallas Cowboys’ fan in Utah. There was a sweet cashier who, like me, is a huge fan of HGTV (I believe her favorite show is Fixer Upper, hosted by Chip and Joanna Gaines). The woman at the gas station who has seen Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie-Pitt around town encouraged me more than she knows. A fellow Dallas Stars’ fan stopped us at a beach, saying they noticed my Stars’ shirt, just so we could chat about how great our team was last year and our hopes for them in this upcoming season.
I took pictures for many people, so their entire party could be in the photo. It was so much fun seeing the different poses they came up with, from the serious to the silly to the romantic. One such family was a mother and two daughters from Stuttgart, Germany, who were enjoying the Grand Canyon. After taking many pictures of the sunset by the Desert View Watchtower, I returned a camera case to a young Frenchwoman, whose face lit up with gratitude once she realized it was her beautiful camera case that was nearly lost. Then there were hotel clerks and cleaning crews that were always so gracious to us. They made our stay at their facilities so pleasurable. People at restaurants and fast-food places greeted us with smiles when we were exhausted and needing rest as much as food. So many more people that we met along the way touched my heart. It’s impossible to name them all, especially since I often didn’t get names but rather enjoyed the shared moment of conversation.
Another treat to vacations is discovering treasures in gift shops. My favorite this year? Books! Once I got home, I counted up these findings. I had collected ten new titles to add to my collection! Here are the three I am most looking forward to.
The Harvey Girls: Women Who Opened the West by Lesley Poling-Kempes
From the 1880s to the 1950s, the Harvey Girls went west to work in Fred Harvey’s restaurants along the Santa Fe railway. At a time when there were “no ladies west of Dodge City and no women west of Albuquerque,” they came as waitresses, but many stayed and settled, founding the struggling cattle and mining towns that dotted the region. Interviews, historical research, and photographs help re-create the Harvey Girl experience. The accounts are personal, but laced with the history the women lived: the dust bowl, the depression, and anecdotes about some of the many famous people who ate at the restaurants — Teddy Roosevelt, Shirley Temple, Bob Hope, to name a few. The Harvey Girls was awarded the winner of the 1991 New Mexico PressWomen’s ZIA award.
Mary Colter: Builder upon the Red Earth by Virginia L. Grattan
Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter broke new ground in the male-dominated fields of architecture and design in the first half of the twentieth century. As the chief architect and decorator for the Fred Harvey Company from 1902 to 1948, she created remarkable buildings in her own vision, buildings that blended into the natural landscape and paid homage to ancient structures of American Indian tribes of the Southwest. Grand Canyon National Park is the most remarkable showcase for Colter’s work. There, such iconic structures as the Desert View Watchtower, Bright Angel Lodge, Lookout Studio, Hermits Rest, and Phantom Ranch display the mastery Colter had for selecting complementary natural materials and for creating unique designs. As she intended, her buildings blend into the vast natural panorama of Grand Canyon; it’s as if her buildings have always been part of the canyon’s landscape. A strong-willed woman who knew what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to go after it, Colter left an enduring mark on Grand Canyon National Park. Virginia Grattan’s Mary Colter: Builder upon the Red Earth is an unforgettable biography of an extraordinary woman.
I Am the Grand Canyon: The Story of the Havasupai People by Stephen Hirst
I Am the Grand Canyon is the story of the Havasupai people. From their origins among the first group of Indians to arrive in North America some 20,000 years ago to their epic struggle to regain traditional lands taken from them in the nineteenth century, the Havasupai have a long and colorful history. The story of this tiny tribe once confined to a too-small reservation depicts a people with deep cultural ties to the land, both on their former reservation below the rim of the Grand Canyon and on the surrounding plateaus.
In the spring of 1971, the federal government proposed incorporating still more Havasupai land into Grand Canyon National Park. At hearings that spring, Havasupai Tribal Chairman Lee Marshall rose to speak. “I heard all you people talking about the Grand Canyon,” he said. “Well, you’re looking at it. I am the Grand Canyon!” Marshall made it clear that Havasu Canyon and the surrounding plateau were critical to the survival of his people; his speech laid the foundation for the return of thousands of acres of Havasupai land in 1975.
I am the Grand Canyon is the story of a heroic people who refused to back down when facing overwhelming odds. They won, and today the Havasupai way of life quietly continues in the Grand Canyon and on the surrounding plateaus.
Now that my family has completed our trip through the states, the trick will be figuring out what direction our next vacation will take. Thankfully we have a while to think about it.