Me: Slow down! [Eyes closed, only a flimsy guard rail between me and a gazillion-foot drop-off]
John: If I go any slower, we’ll miss our tour. Try channeling Summer Cassidy.
Good idea. Summer, the hydrogeologist I invented for my Water Warrior novels, is my alter-ego. No pitiful whines would escape from that brawny, brave young woman.
Channeling Summer Cassidy: What amazing anticlines and synclines, millions of years in the making! What vistas! What breath-taking views!
The Real Me Returns: [hyperventilating] Oooo, I can’t breathe. [Both hands clutching the door’s grab-bar] I’m going to throw up. Riding on this road is worse than a roller coaster.
John: You’ve never ridden a roller coaster.
Damn the man—that’s irrelevant. I crack my eyes open so as not to miss the snow-capped peaks rising in the distance beyond the surprisingly verdant hills we are winding through.
Me: Check out those golden daisies all along the road. Arrowleaf balsalmroot.
And those red spikes to my left. Scarlet gilia, perhaps. If I scan the rocky roadside and ignore the drop-off, I can get through this ride without getting sick. Maybe.
Me: Over there—those lavender spikes. I think those are lupines.
While the roadway through Mesa Verde is scary, even at fifteen to twenty-five miles an hour, the park itself is astonishingly lovely. It combines fascinating ruins of ancient peoples with gorgeous geology and a glorious array of wildflowers blooming everywhere you look.
We took two ranger-led tours, one of Cliff Palace and the other of Long House. Both were wonderful. When I was a child, I had recurring dreams of living in a pueblo and hiding in an alcove or tunnel when raiders came to take our food. Whether this dream stemmed from a previous life or a book I read, I can’t kn
ow. Whichever the case, visiting a pueblo dwelling for the first time was magical.