Who is that masked man? Michael at DeSoto NMEM, Bradenton, Fla.
Which way do we go? To Cabrillo NMEM, San Diego, Calif.
Sullen Conquistador at Cabrillo NMEM, San Diego, Calif.
La Conquistadora defends at Coronado NMEM, Ajo, Ariz.
October 9, 2006
Q: Why doesn't the National Park Service have a Christopher Columbus-related Park Site?
A: Because he never set foot in the continental United States. Good old Chris did disembark in present-day Puerto Rico during his second voyage but he never reached Florida. It is too bad. We are sure he would have loved Miami Beach.
In honor of Christopher Columbus, a (mildly) loyal dominion of Ferdinand and Isabella, we are highlighting the Park Service's three Spanish New World explorer-related Parks: Cabrillo National Memorial, Coronado National Memorial and DeSoto National Memorial. These three intrepid explorers were all complete failures. Here are their grand totals:
Number of colonies and/or settlements: 0 Amount of gold found: None Indians converted to Catholicism: 0 Bankrupt and disgraced: Coronado and DeSoto Grisly deaths: DeSoto and Cabrillo Decents into madness: Coronado, DeSoto and maybe Cabrillo
No matter. Their lives are now commemorated as a part of your American history in the National Park System. Time erases failures and turns it into triumph. They were the first (Spanish) ones here. They are our heroes. Happy Columbus Day.
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Not much is known about Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. Like Christopher Columbus, we are not even sure of his nationality. We do know that he soldiered with Hernán Cortés, helped conquer Moctezuma's lands in 1520 and later gained control of vast gold mines. He then enslaved the natives, threw them into the mines and made a fortune in gold.
But the desire to explore raced through his veins so he set sail northward. He discovered California in 1542 for the Spanish (or perhaps himself). Whether or not he stepped foot onto the mainland is a topic for debate.
How could this be? Well, his ship logs were lost and all his place names were later changed by other explorers. Cabrillo did not last long either. While on the Channel Island, he either fell on a rock or had his leg smashed by hostile Indians. Gangrene and death came next. Had he lived, Juan probably would have kept exploring, lost all his money and been disgraced in Spain like our next two honorees. So his death was probably for the best. Click here to read more of our earlier review.
Hernán DeSoto was the most accomplished soldier of our gallant three. He was known in Spain as one of the heroes of the Battle of Cuzco, a bloody 1532 battle that ensured the Spanish conquest of the Incan Empire. With his fortune earned in battle, DeSoto returned to Spain after having some creative differences with the chief conquistador Francisco Pizarro.
DeSoto wanted his own fortune and own personally conquered land. So he reinvested his booty into ships and men and sailed for Florida. Big mistake. There's no gold in Florida. Didn't he know?
In 1539, DeSoto landed and disembarked near present-day Bradenton, Florida, the location of his Park Site. From there he wandered back and forth the southeastern United States for two years, his route looking eerily like ours.
DeSoto zigged and zagged up mountains, through malarial plains and in and out of hostile Indian lands. Each tribe kept telling him the gold was just around the corner. But it wasn't. Snicker, snicker. Our hero died in May of 1542 in Arkansas after yet another Indian ambush. His lasting legacy? A failed Chrysler autmobile. Click here to read more of our earlier review.
Francisco Vázquez de Coronado. We feel your pain. Your 1540-42 expedition through the southwest was met by hostile, lying natives. They kept telling you the gold was in the next village. And you believed them, traveling from south of present-day Tucson, Ariz. all the way to eastern Kansas.
At your Park we were met by a hostile Park Ranger who believed that we were transporting something illegal. He harassed us, badgered our expedition-ready souls and told us to move on to the next park. Just like you Francisco, we had nothing of worth. We were just looking for the riches of possibilty.Click here to read more of our earlier review.
As we travel across the United States to all 358 National Park Areas in the Continental United States and other fun places we will be sharing our stories right here.
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Over 340 NPS sites visited and 68,000 miles logged, but there is still so much more to see in 2006!
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October 5, 2006
Good morning and welcome to the new look of USA-C2C!
We are very excited to unveil what we hope is a more user-friendly site. And this is just a sneak preview of what's to come.
Soon we will have all of our National Park ratings and reviews sorted by State and Region. You will be able to access stories and photos from the road and will have all of our "Best Ofs" at your fingertips using the menu over there on your left. Meanwhile, you can search for the information you want using the drop down menus below.
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