Texas, New Mexico and Arizona : Searching for the Face of America 7000 feet Above the desert

By Tony Mussari

I am writing this note from Moraga, California, about 3,600 miles from home.

The past two weeks have been nothing short of spectacular.  We have made our way through 10 states: Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. In the past week we have experienced the enchanting beauty of New Mexico, treacherous driving conditions in the shadow of the Grand Canyon, the bizarre art of the Cadillac Ranch, a hair-raising windstorm in the Arizona desert,  bumper to bumper traffic on the 101 outside of Los Angeles, and the goodness and thoughtful hospitality of the American people wherever we were.

At the Cadillac Ranch on I-40 a few miles west of Amarillo, Texas, we met five students from Harding College, a Navy family relocating to California, and a fireman from Oklahoma and his family.  Their stories spoke to the heart and soul of our country and its many blessings.

The Cadillac ranch is a must stop for anyone traveling in this part of Texas. It isn’t beautiful. It isn’t breathtaking. It isn’t pretty, but it is a place that speaks to something that is deep in the American character. It is a place where anyone can leave their mark on any one or all of the ten Cadillacs planted in the ground by an independently wealthy man named Stanley Marsh.

For 36 years people have been walking, talking and gawking in the shadow of this unconventional monument to what Marsh called "The Golden Age of the American Automobile, 1949-1963.”

In Albuquerque, we spent the night with Dr. & Mrs. Robert Fugate.  They are better known to us as Marilyn and Bob because we are family. After a wonderful dinner at an excellent Italian restaurant and a good night’s sleep, Bob showed us what it is like 13 billion light years away from earth in outer space.  It was a humbling moment. Bob has spent a lifetime studying outer space, and his story is both compelling and instructive.

After our visit with the Fugates, we headed toward Gallup, New Mexico. and somewhere close to Gallup we stopped for a few minutes for fuel and a bite to eat.

During this stop, it was our good fortune to meet J. B. Mitchell and his wife Orlinda.  They graciously permitted us to take their picture and they shared their thoughts about America and their Navajo culture.  It was a very special moment for Kitch and me. We could feel the goodness of the Mitchells and the historical significance of their story.

In Flagstaff, Arizona, we spent the night in a Holiday Inn Express.  It was clean, comfortable and the employees were very service-oriented. For the most part, this was an R&R day, a chance to rest, rearrange the car and put things in order.

After we posted two articles in the Face of America blog, we checked out and started our drive to California. In less than three miles, we found ourselves in a blizzard that made driving very challenging. Fortunately for those of us behind him, the driver of a Federal Express truck set the tone for everyone on the highway. No one did anything that would create problems and after about 90 minutes of driving, aka 30 miles, we drove out of the whiteout conditions as we approached the desert floor.

Then we encountered another hazardous condition, wind. As the desert wind in Arizona and California pummeled our Prius, it responded with a flawless performance. We were able to hold our own.

Sometimes you find the Face of America on a snow covered highway or a wind swept desert.

Until the next time, we hope that all of your stories have happy endings.

Please keep us in your prayers and always know of our gratitude for your help, kindness and support.

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