21-Jun-2001 -- Culture clash. June 21, 2001. Thirty-seven degrees North latitude, one hundred ten degrees West longitude. A few days ago I was reviewing my work schedule. It appeared as though there would be a free afternoon during an out-of-town lay over. I started making my plans to visit 37N110W.
So. First things first. Check the maps. I should be able to drive or bike to within a couple of miles. The topography appeared to be fairly flat. The confluence is in Monument Valley and near the Four Corners (the point where four state borders touch, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.) I made notes about the necessary waypoints (junctions, forks in the road, etc.)
Next, gather the necessary equipment – mountain bike, water, digital camera, tripod, GPS, cellular telephone, Palm Pilot with notes.
Next, make the drive to Monument Valley from Kanab, Utah. All I can say is that it is a l-o-n-g drive through scenic, sometimes barren, and almost totally undeveloped country. I say “almost” because I did pass a rather significant development which is the Glen Canyon Dam in northern Arizona, along with all its attendant developments – the bridge over the Colorado River gorge, Lake Powell, the city of Page, Arizona, etc. The only cities or towns that the highway went through were Page, Arizona and Kayenta, Arizona.
The thirty-seventh parallel is defined by law as the border between Utah and Arizona. You can look it up in the Utah State Constitution, Article II, Section 1. However, we all know about one of the great rules of life, “Saying it doesn’t make it so.” When you investigate confluence points on this website, you’ll find that some on 37N are in Utah and some are in Arizona. It turns out that, according to current technology and historical maps, 37N110W is in Utah.
So. On to the next step, which should be “Arrive at the confluence.” BUT (and there’s always a big but, isn’t there?) as I was driving along my pre-planned route I came to a sign which said, in essence, “Stop. Pay Entrance Fee here.” It was about 6:00 PM. I stopped. I met a very pleasant man in the entrance station booth. I paid the fee. He showed me a map. I pointed to where I wanted to go. He said, “You can’t go there. It’s a restricted area. You can drive near there on the scenic loop road, but the gates to the road will be locked at 6:30 PM.” He gave me the brochure that contained the map. It turns out that I was in a Park on tribal land operated by the Navajo Nation.
I drove on to the Visitors’ Center. I spoke to a man at the desk. “Oh, you can’t go there unless you hire a private guide. The guide services are right here (pointing to another desk a few feet away.)” “But the gates will lock in a few minutes.” “Don’t worry about that, if you are on the loop road before 6:30 PM, you stay out there for as long as you like.”
I spoke to one of the guides. “You want to go out there just by yourself?” “Yes.” “Go ahead, you’ll be OK.” I thought to myself, “I’ll drive on the scenic loop and see how close I can get.”
So, I drove. I came to the road where I could leave the scenic loop road and saw the sign shown in photo 2. Then I started thinking like a lawyer. “Well, the sign says no vehicles, but it doesn’t say ‘no bikes.’ I’ll ride my bike.” So, I mounted up and rode. I passed within several hundred yards of a mobile home and was approaching another when I heard the sound of a diesel engine. I looked behind me. A Ford pickup with dual rear wheels was coming towards me. I stopped and waited. The power window went down and a Navajo woman spoke. “Do you have a permit to ride your bike in this residential area?” “No.” “They will fine you for trespassing.” “I’m sorry. I will leave.” I did and she did, driving toward the mobile home. On my way out I stopped and set a waypoint since it was the closest I was likely to get to the confluence point.
I hope that my photos will show the beauty of this spot. I apologize to the Navajo people for trespassing. But, as I’ve said before, a bad day exploring is better than any other day. The GPS photo I took at the car before I started on the bike is N36° 58.111" W110° 5.370. The waypoint I set on the bike is N 36° 58.467' W110° 3.988. If my math is correct, that put me about 2.5 miles from the confluence.