Caving & ruminations on complexity
Writing this just after finishing the cavern tour in Sonora. Carlsbad’s caverns are much larger, of course, and the rock formations are more… clustered by type, I think, over that span. For example, the deepest the Sonora cave goes is about 150′, where Carlsbad’s underground visitor center (which is not actually the deepest point) gave me another first: a meal eaten deep underground, at something like 794′.
However, Sonora’s caverns are to me in some ways far more beautiful. Since it is privately owned and under a working ranch it was less commercial feeling, and we were allowed closer to the formations. Also, there were some really gorgeous and remarkable varieties that were a more shimmery, pale and translucent crystalline color due to the greater amounts of calcite (I think?) in the water. The cave tour itself was more intimate feeling due to being deliberately kept smaller.
On the other hand, because this cave was more active (I’ve also heard the term “alive” used) than Carlsbad, there was a lot of humidity underground, which meant we were hiking around in what felt like 85 degree weather — sweat bath, yikes! I made everyone laugh at one point when a drop of cold water fell on me and made me yip in startlement. I immediately excused myself and explained why I’d made the odd noise, so the handful of kids weren’t frightened — but it was still a funny noise. :)
Also, for quite valid reasons I happened to overhear, Sonora does not take reservations. When two troops of Boy Scouts turned up early on the day I was there, the guided tours (the only kind allowed) filled up quite fast, and at least one family chose to leave rather than wait the couple of hours until the next tour. The Caverns of Sonora are also very much a small family business, with the three individuals I saw trading off taking tours, running the tiny (but astonishingly delicious!) fudge-and-other-food counter, and running the cash register for the gift shop and tour tickets.
Oh! There was one other thing Sonora does that I thought was very cool. If you schedule it with a group, they have a natural amphitheater underground where they can show slideshows. Not only that, but for the really small children they have a small sandbox which they salt with tiny sharks teeth and other little fossils and semi-precious stones. Watching the kids’ excitement as they ran their fingers through the sand and found something to take home with them was incredibly cute! :)
Also, a quick correction before I take off: apparently the flag I erroneously described as being of the Navajo Nation is actually Arizona’s state flag. Mea culpa! More later — must get on the road now; hoping to make Houston some time tomorrow. Woot! :)
Personally startling realizations
I’m typing this later, in a McDonald’s in the wonderfully named Junction, Texas; I’m starting to realize large service corporations are more complex entities than I’d originally realized. I cannot condone, frex, either McDonald’s or Walmart’s rapacious business practices. For a single example for each, I believe McDonald’s destruction of the Amazon rainforest for more cow-grazing lands should be checked severely. I also believe Walmart’s successfully defeating the class action suit brought against it by its women managers was a travesty of justice.
That being said… I am successfully and comfortably crossing the country thanks to two of their national business practices. In the case of McDonald’s, their free wi-fi has been an emotional life saver. Further, the assistance, patience, and kindness of all the employees faced with my often exhausted requests for assistance has been remarkable — I cannot thank them all enough. In the case of Walmart, the safety of their parking lots at night is really nice, as is their lack of censure when I wander blearily into their restrooms early the next morning for a quick wash-up over the sink.
I’m also realizing there’s a strange beauty to country-western music that I’d never before been aware of. It’s… sort of eye-opening to see the window it offers me on the society it reflects, especially since that subculture is not one I’ve ever been part of — though I have lived metaphorically next to it for several parts of my life.
I’m going to post this for now, and muse a bit more before I write about the music, I think; I want to get a little further down the road before I stop for the night.
The Caverns of Sonora don’t take reservations because way too frequently the people who made the reservations turned up late or not at all — and then those who were waiting just to go for a tour would be (validly) upset at not being allowed to go.
Also, you can schedule a show in the amphitheatre, but not reserve any particular time — it simply happens when your tour goes in. You just tell the tour guides ahead of time that you’d like to have the show during your tour, and I think the boy scouts also brought along their own props, such as slides for a slideshow. I think you can also ask the guides to give one of their “canned” talks as well?
Re the corporations: I’m still of mixed opinions on this. I mean, are they doing these good things because they’re being genuinely community-minded? Or do they believe by doing good things that they are effectively “paying” for the bad things they’re doing as well?
They don’t take reservations, but you can schedule a group to use the amphitheatre? That’s confusing.
I can’t say I’m surprised the realization you had about the big corporations. They do things that are disagreeable, but they have a big and complex job.