When guests visit the cockpit, they almost always comment about “the view.” They notice the huge windows that offer us more than a one hundred and eighty degree look outside. If you’ve never sat in a cockpit during flight, it is quite a contrast to the small, oval, side view you see in the cabin.
Some views out the front never get old. The sun rising and setting is unique from the air. A full moon rise is even more spectacular. We also see land and water features the same way they are depicted on a map.
But, I’d like to let you in on a little secret: Our planet is much more spectacular and breathtaking when viewed with your feet firmly planted on it. It’s all a matter of perspective.
From the flight levels, even the most magnificent sites are dulled. I’ve seen all of our major landmarks from the air… including Niagara Falls, the Rocky Mountains and the Grand Canyon. I’d rather stand on top of a 14,000 foot peak than fly over it at 35,000 feet. It seems much more grand and awe inspiring from the ground.
For this year’s Spring Break, we decided to take the kids on a driving tour of the Southwest. We left Denver and drove to Phoenix to watch the Colorado Rockies play two Cactus League games. From there, we continued to the Grand Canyon for the night and then up through Monument Valley for a stay in Moab, Utah. After taking in Arches National Park, we drove over the Rocky Mountains to our home near Denver.
On the first day of the trip, we drove through Winslow, Arizona on Interstate 40. Like so many other places, I’d flown over it countless times but never driven the route.
“You know,” I said to my wife, “There’s a meteor crater not too far from here. I wonder how far it is from the interstate.” It always looked intriguing from the air. So, I was curious to get a closer look.
She looked at me like I was a little crazy. “If it’s close, are you actually thinking about stopping?” Thoughts of relaxing at the hotel were definitely trumping the thought of staring into a hole in the ground.
I started telling her everything I knew about the meteor crater. All pilots have seen it and pointed it out to other people. Everyone also claims they know a flight attendant who naively observed “wow… it hit awfully close to that road and building.” (Ponder that one for a second.) That’s how I knew there was a visitor center.
A few minutes later, we saw the sign: “Meteor Creator Visitor Center – 6 Miles Ahead!”
If it wasn’t too far off the interstate, we were going to stop. I was actually a little excited. My family thought I was nuts.
After we exited, another sign sealed the deal… it was only a few miles south of I-40.
We parked and walked up to the visitor center gate. Admission price? $16 for adults and $8 for children! There was no avoiding it… they did a really nice job constructing the parking lot and entrance so there was absolutely no view of the crater without paying to enter. I mumbled one of my dad’s favorite vacation quotes: “I’m a tourist. Take my money.”
Although overpriced, I thought it was interesting. But, only because I’d seen it so many times from the air. We walked along the rim, down a bit to some of the viewing platforms and watched the ten minute movie in the visitor’s center.
My little detour set us back about an hour and a half. I was happy to check another site off my list and gave my kids an opportunity to poke a little fun at me for the rest of the trip. They thought it was enormously comical that I would pay that much money to see a hole in the desert. (It became even more funny when it only cost $25 for a seven day pass at the Grand Canyon.)
There were other aviation related discoveries on the trip. We drove through Gallup, NM and Tuba City, AZ. Both have VORs (navigational beacons) that I’ve flown over countless times. There’s not much in either place… but, I will forever have a family memory every time I’m cleared to one of those places.
Good memories. But, not as great as the ones I’m going to have whenever I fly over that darn overpriced crater.
If you want more information about the Meteor Crater in the desert near Winslow, Arizona, CLICK HERE to visit their website.