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Barbara Goes West

Henry Fonda in My Darling Clementine.

Mike at the mitten, just like Hank.

There is always a lot of work to be done at Greenwillow, but occasionally I get to take a short vacation. For instance, last year around Easter (that’s when Mike, my schoolteacher beau, gets some time off—not including the ENTIRE summer, but that’s another story…), we flew to Arizona, and then drove up to the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley. I really wanted to see Monument Valley. You may know the place, even if you haven’t been there–especially if you’re a fan of classic movie Westerns. It’s been featured in many John Ford films (am I dating myself?), such as The Searchers, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, My Darling Clementine, Stagecoach, and Fort Apache. (Think John Wayne or Henry Fonda.)

We drove there from Sedona (which is a whole entry in itself, but do go there).

Anyway, we cross the northern border of Arizona into Utah, check into Goulding’s Lodge (also home to John Ford and company while filming) and decide to wait a little before going into the Valley itself. While most people take a guided tour in a 4-wheel drive truck, we decide to go it alone along the 17-mile dirt road. We read that the best time to get pictures of the true scenic glory was a little before sunset (around 6:35). So around 5:45, we drive in…and it’s already a little darker than I’d like it to be. This is off-season, the tourist office is closed. We are greeted at the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park entrance by a singularly unhelpful worker in a lone booth, who gives us an unintelligible map and tells us to follow it. Now I consider myself a world-class map reader, but picture a lot of squiggly lines with no rhyme or reason, and a few meaningless arrows, and you have our map.

Killer dogs!

As we drive along really rough, dusty terrain, subjecting our sub-compact to numerous drops and dips, we notice that other cars are few and far between, and it’s getting dark faster than we would like. We stop at a few markers, get out of the car, say “How beautiful!” (which it truly was), then drive on to the next scenic point. Finally, we blunder our way to John Ford’s Point, where Ford fell in love with Monument Valley. We decide to get out of the car…only this time we can’t. Charging the car are three loud, mangy, killer dogs (Mike’s description), who won’t allow us out of the car. (Think mini-Cujos.) We look at each other and decide to distract them with food(!) and start hurling fruit snacks and protein bars out the window. We throw the bars a good distance from the car; hurriedly get out, snap a photo or two—but by then the raging canines are coming back. They’ve devoured our car snacks and now they want more…they want…us! We jump in the car and drive off—with the dogs on our tail—but we don’t know where we’re going, and it’s getting darker and there are no other cars and all the rocks are starting to look the same. We finally lose the dogs, but we’re driving in circles. As you all know, I’m a very resourceful person (I haven’t been fire warden forever for nothin’) but I’m starting to panic. This is the desert and the middle of nowhere. We’re completely lost, there’s no cell signal, it’s dark, no one’s going to look for us, no one even knows we’re here, and I’m starting to think I’m going to freeze to death in the car in the middle of the night. (Where’s John Wayne when I need him?) Finally we catch sight of another car and follow, in hope that he knows the way out. Luckily, he does and we make it back to the hotel. It’s around 6:45.

The ringleader.

When we return to the room, we turn on the TV and see that the time on the Fox News Channel (how’s that for a plug?) says 7:55. Mike is incredulous when he finds out we had lost an hour driving north, so that we had actually entered Monument Valley at 6:45—past the time of the best pictures and way past the time we should have been there alone.

So where did the hour go? We didn’t know that unlike all the other states on Mountain Time, Arizona doesn’t observe Daylight Savings Time, so when we crossed the border into Utah, we lost an hour. That clear? Here’s a link to a helpful diagram. Note Arizona, the striped state.

So many lessons to be learned! You can never be too prepared. And you should always be mindful of the time—especially when entering the darkening, increasingly cold desert in a sub-compact rental car.


  1. cindy says:

    um, those dogs look scary, barbara!
    and who knew that they’d eat protein
    snacks and fruit! so healthy! do you
    think they were wild dogs? meep!

    beautiful fotos! i’m so close to AZ
    but have never been to the sights.
    maybe when the bubs are older.
    lucky teacher beau w the whole summer off.

  2. Virginia says:

    1. Who said you could go on vacation?
    2. Isn’t it easy to fall off the face of the earth?

  3. mwt says:

    Hmmm . . . *Makes a note* TAKE FOOD FOR WILD DOGS WHEN TRAVELING.

    Barbara, was there *any* discussion of just, you know, skipping the photo op there at the Wild Dog Stop? Did Beau say, “Honey, you know it’s just more rocks, we already have pictures of some other ones?” Or were you both like, “Photo or Death! Wild Dogs will not stop us!”?

  4. Tim Smith says:

    BT: great post!

    CP: it’s against the law to smuggle expired Luna bars across state lines and feed them to wild animals.

    everyone (for the benefit of mwt): raise your hands if you think it’s safe to say that Barbara is tenacious. (everyone raises their hands)

    our corporate overlords: see what Barbara did there with the “subtle” synergistic mention of Fox News?

    Arizona: get with the program already. I have no doubt that the daylight savings time snub is at the root of your other problems.

    teachers: there is a special place in heaven for all of you

  5. Barbara says:

    Megan, You bet! We are fearless in our quest for vacation photos!!!We were making a “cinematic pilgrimage” to John Ford’s Point. That’s what we came to see. (And I took the photos of the wild dogs from INSIDE the rental car.)

  6. mwt says:


    Notice that I asked if Mike expressed any reservations. I didn’t need to ask if Barbara had any hesitations about playing tag with her feral little friends.

    Barbara, I am only surprised that you didn’t bring one back stuffed to go on your desk.

  7. Mike says:

    To mwt,

    No way would I was miss John Ford’s Point. To me, that was the reason for our litle excursion. Plus, nothing stands in the way of a good photo op. These hounds of Hell would not deter me!


  8. cindy says:

    tim, i’m expiring some clif bars in my cupboard
    as we speak. HOW DID YOU KNOW? =D
    (wonders how to work “expiring” into

    honestly barbara and mike beau, those
    dogs look like they wanted limbs and flesh.
    y’all are braver than i am!

  9. Jeannette says:

    Great story. You guys are such adventurers. My idea of a vacation is sitting on a beach while someone brings me cold drinks.

  10. Lori says:

    Just goes to show you, you should always travel with a hearty supply of meat to deter the wild animals.

    Not just a vacation….it was an adventure!

  11. Laurie says:

    YAY Barbara! Looks like a great vacation, great pictures.

  12. Hernan says:

    Arizona is such an extreme state…
    resisted recognizing Martin Luther King Day,
    controversial immigration/illegal alien laws,
    resisting daylight savings time
    confusing travelers!

    Glad you survived this trip
    with stories & wild vacation photos to share!

  13. Sharon P.D. says:

    Arizona is truly an amazing place…Monument Valley was one of our special destinations bk when we managed to get lost almost everywhere we went and always were at the wrong place at the wrong time but it usually turned into a right place and time after all as we looked back…Also nothing like traveling to the moon (even if it’s really Arizona) to appreciate home! Besides, you wouldn’t have had such a spine tingling story to tell if you hadn’t journeyed out at dusk into the desert to find wild dogs among supernatural rocks…..first there were the three Billy Goats Gruff and then the Three Bears and of course the three little kittens……and now Barbara’s Three Fierce Dogs!!

  14. Elizabeth says:

    Just goes to show you that New Yorkers are truly fearless!
    Glad to hear you only carry healthy snacks in your car.

  15. Neil & Robin says:

    Sounds like a great adventure. Glad you survived to tell the tale. Another valuable lesson from your story is to always keep snacks in the car.

  16. Tara says:

    You made me want to take a vacation. Well written.

  17. Steve P says:

    As a former co-worker to Barbara and brother to her “beau”, I am impressed by this adventure and marvel at their gritty mano-a-mano battle with nature-gone-evil. I would have preferred the ending of JAWS or CUJO, but hurling protein bars and fruit snacks offers its own rip-roaring, edge-of-your-seat, cheer-inducing finale… I guess. Well done!

  18. Yvette says:

    Can’t believe that while I was exploring the Swiss Alps, you were exploring the mountains right here at home.
    Driving across country many years ago, I also was in similar situation in the middle of Utah….DARK…feeling lost and no one anywhere….So I really could relate vividly to your discription!

  19. […] an honorary Greenwillowite prominently featured in a few of Barbara’s  blogs, I thought it might be OK to write a little about my […]

  20. Elizabeth Garamy says:

    Hey Barbara! You look great and I’m jealous, I love the southwest! Long way off from Uncle Lee’s Soc Stu Class!

  21. […] my neck surfing California beaches (and I don’t convince other authors to join me). I don’t meander around Monument Valley in the dark, and the last place you’re going to find me is climbing into a deep, dark hole full of narrow […]

  22. […] Well, Kevin told me my June 3rd post, “Barbara Goes West,” was a big hit on his block in Madison (and it got 21 comments!), and I’m fond of my ode to Mr. […]

  23. Phyllis says:

    How did I miss this earlier? Barbara, great post, and what an adventure! I would have been terrified and would have insisted that we leave immediately. But it does sound like fun–in retrospect.

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