A faithful companion who was always ready for an adventure.

Sydney

 This travel blog is dedicated to a faithful companion who was always ready for an adventure

 

 To read more,  fasten your seat belts and click “here” !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Published in: on June 18, 2009 at 12:44 pm  Comments (10)  
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What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas (For now)

 
Hello from JFK!    Had a wonderful time in Las Vegas. 
I will update the blog with exciting stories and lots of pictures.  Please stay tuned!    In the meantime, please click here to start the journey, or on the links in the right hand column specific to a particular day.
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Reese

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Elvis

Published in: on May 5, 2009 at 9:53 pm  Comments (6)  
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The Mother Road and a Dam Journey to Las Vegas

We checked out of the hotel in Williams and decided to pay a visit to the Red Garter for coffee a few blocks away.  The folks running the joint told us that hundreds of classic cars that would be cruising Historic Route 66 and said we’d probably be in the middle of it all.  These cars would be traveling our route before parting ways at Kingman, Arizona. They would continue on toward Los Angeles as we head north to the Hoover Dam and Las Vegas.

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We ordered “two out of five star” coffee cake. When the Red Garter folks  asked us how the renovations went at our hotel, we responded with “what year did that happen?”  It was hard to believe that the hotel had been renovated in this century, as it was the worst on the trip. The magic fingers advertised in the lobby were no where to be found.

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When we got to Seligman, the traffic was backed up.  People lined the streets to look at all the classic cars. The town was full of nostalgic restaurants, shops, and motels.  The rented Dodge Charger fit right in with all the other Detroit Muscle Cars and I’d bet money that ours was the only one sporting an authentic bullet hole.

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Between the actual towns of Seligman, Peach Spring and Kingman, Route 66 was nice but barren. If pressed for time, you could check out just the towns and hop on Highway Route 40 instead of Historic 66.  It’s a more direct route and you really wouldn’t miss anything except for the classic Burma Shave signs along the way.  They had clever sayings such as:

– If Daisies are…

– Your favorite flower…

– Keep pushing up…

– Those Miles Per Hour.

Since we were traveling Route 66, we wanted to have lunch at a drive in.  The best we could do was to try a Sonic in Kingman right off the highway.  When I voiced my concern about eating in the Charger and having to endure the wrath of Yolanda in a few days, I was reminded that she’s probably not a morning person, and goes directly to her night job on the streets at 10 pm when she completes her shift at Fox Car Rental.  The Sonic bathrooms were absolutely filthy, in case you were wondering. We were not impressed and were glad that we didn’t go out of our way to get there.

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We went to Big KMart to get some money and then we were on our way to Las Vegas via Route 93.

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A few miles before the Hoover Dam, the landscape along Route 93 becomes more rugged. We saw a sign for the National Recreation Area so we followed an access road three miles all the way to Willow Beach on the banks of the crystal clear Colorado River.  There was a beach, a boat launch and a lot of palm trees.  Very unusual to see this the the middle of the desert.  We got ice cream in the store and the cashier told us that the actual visitors center was located on the other side of the Hoover Dam. She reported the trip across the dam was currently taking 1.5 hours.  It was wicked hot, unlike the time we spent at the Grand Canyon yesterday.

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We returned to route 93, stopped at the police checkpoint and crossed the dam.  Although the crossing only took an hour, it didn’t seem that long because of all the lovely sights.

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On the other side of the dam, we stopped almost immediately at the Alan C. Bible Visitors Center where I got two more stamps for the passport.  One was for the Old Spanish Trail, Boulder City Nevada, and the other was for Lake Mead National Recreation Area. My younger sister is going to be green with envy, as I have so many stamps from this trip that I have lost count.

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We drove through Henderson, Nevada, passing miles of identical-looking houses.  There was a huge casino on the side of the hill that advertised $7.95 steak dinners and $1.00 Strawberry Shortcake. Had I been the driver, the strawberry shortcake deal would cause me to slam on the brakes.  We kept going and stopped at a 7/11 convenience store where we signed onto the laptop and tried to book a hotel room on Priceline.com.  No luck, so we called a few hotels directly. The Railroad Pass Casino offered rooms for $69.00, easily half the price of the cheapest room we could find elsewhere.   We obediently followed the directions provided by Vivian, the warm voice from the GPS.  Would you believe, she guided us right back to the same place that was offering $1.00 portions of strawberry shortcake?  As you can see below, the biggest challenge was trying to locate the entrance to the building. The signage was very confusing.

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We checked in, lost a couple of dollars in the slots and then made a beeline for the buffet.  This was a far cry from the Golden Corral and it’s a shame that Carolina and Oscar weren’t here to whip these people into shape.  And, come to think of it, I never did see the strawberry shortcake. First the Magic Fingers, and now the Strawberry Shortcake?  I was “this close” to calling the Better Business Bureau.

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Immediately after dessert, we thought it would be fun to return to the slots to watch our money disappear. After losing three more dollars, I called it quits.  I am convinced this is what the phrase “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” really means.   (Incidentally, I can’t figure out what is going on in the picture below.  It appears that the cashier is picking up silver dollars with paper currency.)

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Thanks for reading… tomorrow we get to hang out with the locals!

Published in: on May 2, 2009 at 3:40 am  Comments (5)  
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The Grand Canyon – Natural Wonder of the World

We left Holbrook, Arizona, after a breakfast of Kellogg’s Froot Loops at the  Ramada Inn.  Heading west on Hwy 40 toward Flagstaff, we came across this wonderful gem: The Geronimo Gift Shop.

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This was a typical Northern AZ souvenir shop, full of rocks, Navajo Blankets, Indian trinkets, and petrified wood for the bargain price of $15 a pound. 

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What set this place apart was the enchanting Tee-Pee village just outside.  The desert was rather flat in this area, and it seemed like each exit had its own souvenir shop. “The Jack Rabbit” looked like it could be interesting too.  The San Fransisco Peaks were coming into view the closer we got to Flagstaff.  

Our second stop was Walnut Canyon National Monument where we spent about 5 minutes.  We got the Passport to Your National Parks cancellation stamp and viewed the ruins at the bottom of the canyon from the Visitor’s Center window.

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This monument is definitely worth a return trip to explore the trails in the canyon.  There were many pine trees here and it was more mountainous than the terrain near the Petrified Forest.

We saw our first big box stores since leaving Maine.  There was a Best Buy and a Home Depot right across the railroad tracks from the Purina Dog Food Factory which we could smell as we were driving by.  There was also a shopping mall and a Sears. 

We headed north on Route 89,  elevation 7200 feet and climbing.   We took a detour on NF 545 to Sunset Crater National Monument continuing toward Waputki National Monument. We got information and a passport stamp from the visitors center.  The lava flows from the valcano that blew its stack 1000 years ago were amazing.  There were many yellow wildflowers growing out of the volcanic ash.  

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At Watupaki, we stopped at the visitors center for stamp #24.  We explored the pueblo, which was built right into some rocks within a mini canyon (not against the canyon walls like the other ruins we have exporered).  There were two circular ball fields, and a blow hole, which looked like a small well with air escaping. (The cave underneath actually breathes… air goes in and out of the cave depending on the outside pressure.)

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We stopped for gas in Cameron at a place that looked like a refurbished Dunkin Donuts. The woman at the Walnut Canyon visitors center recommended stopping at the trading post in Cameron for lunch, but we decided to head directly to the canyon instead by turning on Hwy 64. Maybe next time.

Before long, there was a turn off for the Little Colorado River overlook. The Navajo indians charged $3.00 a person, so we did a u-turn and headed back on the road the Grand Canyon.  We stopped off at another turn off to check out the things that the Indians were selling to tourists.  One woman claimed she loved Maine, and her daughter went to college there (but she didn’t know the name of the college).

We arrived at the Grand Canyon at 1:00 Sharp.  We had lunch at a snackbar at the Desert View Overlook and got a stamp for the passport.  This is where I learned that there are SIX stamps for the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. We then got our first view of the canyon. We explored the tower, which was actually pretty cool, but was full of busloads of screeching tourists.   Before leaving, I walked along a trail for a moment and was amazed how quiet and peaceful it was, away from the madhouse at the observation tower. 

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The view from the top of the observation tower.

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We visited a few of the turnoffs and it was quieter at these places.  GrandView was pretty crowded though.  We checked out El Tovar, Bright Angel Lodge, and the other visitors centers.  

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The next time I visit, I would leave the car behind and take the buses.  It was a little too crazy for my tastes, but it was possible to find benches and space away from the crowds.  This visit was definitely an accelerated visit.  I would love to come back when I have more time and even hike to Phantom Ranch.  I reminisced riding the dory under the bridge for the Bright Angel Trail many years ago.

It looks like the total for National Park Passport stamps will be a whopping 32 for this vacation alone!

Leaving the park, we headed down Route 64 and saw elk and mule deer.  This route was a lot more lush than the route we took arriving into the park.  Just outside the park entrance are hotels, an IMAX Theater and an airport with dozens of helicopters to take tourists on canyon sightseeing tours.  There are also hotels at the junction of 64 and 180.

When we got to Williams, we saw the depot for the Grand Canyon Railway, as well as other 1950’s style hotels, diners and shops.  (This is historic Route 66… a lot of neon and flashing lights)   

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After checking in at the Arizona 9 Motor Hotel, we headed down the street to “Cruiser’s Cafe Bar and Grill”. 

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They featured outdoor seating and a live band, complete with a gal jamming on the drums with a huge flower in her hair. She looked just like Neicy on the TV show “Clean House”.   People were tootin’ their horns as they drove by.

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What an awesome day… After seeing a natural wonder of the world, two National Monuments and driving 275 miles, winding up in a place like Williams was icing on the cake. 

Tomorrow we follow Historic Route 66 to Kingman, Arizona, across the Hoover Dam to Las Vegas for the final leg of our trip!

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Published in: on May 1, 2009 at 5:14 am  Comments (2)  
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What a day ….

Ok your regular blogger is, ummm .. sleeping. We had another 300 mile day. We were able to visit two national monument sites and along the way were able to pick up a lot more memories. Your regular blogger will update this site soon. Stay tuned to learn about the Navaho people, the cows and horses that run freely in the streets and the sad story of the man who lives at the A&W rootbeer place. Thank you for your comments and suggestions…….

<< Editor’s note:  please click here for an alternate interpretation of today’s events >>

Published in: on April 30, 2009 at 3:47 am  Comments (5)  
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April 3X, 2009, or update to “What a day!”

First of all, thank you to Paul for handling today’s blogging responsibilities.

I will attempt to elaborate on his post just slightly, as he pretty much covered everything in great detail.

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April 30, 2009:

Since we drove only 170 miles yesterday, we had to beat feet to make up for lost time.

We departed the America’s Best Value Inn after partaking in their “Hot Breakfast”.  I wasn’t about to risk a Swine-Flu type episode, so I actually opted for Frosted Flakes.  We said our goodbyes to the moose/grizzly/tortoise combo which remained standing guard and then flew through the “Safety Corridor” toward Arizona.  While everyone was zipping past us, we continued to obey the posted rules: watch your speed, illuminate headlights at all times, and keep an organ donor card close at hand. Ok, so I may have thrown in that last part, but you get the idea. 

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We crossed the San Juan River again and “sailed” right past Ship Rock.

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We stopped for nourishing Apple Dippers at McDonalds.  We figured this technically doesn’t count as “eating at a chain restaurant” as our stop served to answer nature’s call, and we were heeding the advice to eat an apple a day.  Getting back on the main road, we blindly put all of our faith in Vivian, the trusty GPS. At the intersection of Routes 491 and 64, she confidently guided us off the main route and down a dusty road into a neighborhood ending in a cul-de-sac lined with a mix of tidy government housing and trailers surrounded by junk piles.  

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We fished out the good ol’ paper maps, figured out the mistake and got back on the main road. Vivian pitched a fit and squawked “recalculating do a u-turn! recalculating do a u-turn!”  There’s one thing I have learned in my years of outdoor adventures:  have a back up when your instincts are telling you something just ain’t right.

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We entered Arizona, still on 64 toward Teec Nos Pos and then south on 191.   At this intersection, we saw a sign for a Best Western in Chinle, population 5000.  In hindsight we should have stayed there last night, and the park brochure for Canyon de Chelly National Monument also confirmed the availability of hotels. On the other hand, had we done that, we would have missed the gastronomic ecstacy of the Golden Corral last evening. Life is an adventure every day.

We took scenic route 191 south through Arizona.  

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There were many stray animals along this route, both livestock and escaped domesticated pets.

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We cruised through the towns of  Round Rock and Many Farms.  The towns in this area were fascinating, like nothing we had ever seen before. I couldn’t imagine living in such a dry and windy place.  There were dust devils, cattle and horses rolling through town randomly.  This is where we witnessed one of the most horrifying sights of the day: a colt lying by the side of the road and its mother galloping in circles around it. We couldn’t tell if the colt was sick or the victim of an accident.  Fortunately authorities were already on the scene helping.

In Chinle,  there are plenty of hotels and restaurants.  Who would have thought?  Next time we’ll know better and stay here.

We entered the Canyon de Chelly National Monument and stopped at the visitors center to get the passport book cancellation stamp.  Collecting these stamps was becoming an addiction and half the fun was trying to remember how many stamps we had accumulated so far.

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After I stamped the precious book, I noticed that there was a piece of string caught in the rubber stamp itself.  The helpful ranger on duty immediately sprang into action. She painstakingly removed the visible fibers and attempted to make several test stamps on scraps of paper. Mysteriously, each imprint became lighter and lighter. I tried to politely let her know that the ink pad was closed and she was actually pressing on the lid, but she would have nothing of it.  She was completely focused on her mission to resolve the problem.  She cheerfully kept stamping with the lid closed, thinking she was accessing a full supply of the ink.  Eventually she gave up. I flipped open the lid and stamped the passport book again. Much to my chagrin, I then discovered that by fiddling with that string, she had inadvertently changed the date to “April 3X, 2009”.     😦

With all that nonsense taken care of, we ventured just outside the Visitor’s Center to check out this groovy hogan and then drove to the scenic viewpoints.

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Canyon de Chelly National Monument is part of the Navajo Nation and contains artifacts and ruins of prehistoric Pueblo Indians. Anyone traveling in the canyons must be accompanied by an authorized guide with a permit. The hiking trail to White House Ruin is the only exception.

I spoke with some fellow tourists who raved about the guided hikes.  I would love to return and take advantage of one of these opportunities to explore these ruins with a guide.

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Navajo families still farm these sacred lands.

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At the scenic viewpoints, there were several friendly Navajo people selling native crafts.  We purchased a few rock carvings from Chris, shown below with his rock paintings.

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Leaving the Monument, we passed this sign for “The Changing Woman Coffee”.  I have since learned from their website that they offer guided canyon tours and the only triple certified coffee in the area.

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This except from their website sounds like it was written by Paul:

We all know that there are guides who can take you into the canyon mumbling their so-called canyon history, just to be a disappointment. Go with us and you will learn the rich history of the Anasazi that dates back to 420 A.D. You will learn the in-depth meaning of the enemy cultures who clashed and how their beliefs differed from one another. We will also study the timeless pictographs depicting the Spanish conquistadors who passed through in 1541. We will walk together on the path of beauty into the red canyon.

Back in Chinle we stopped for a beverage at the A & W Rootbeer Stand, and the episode was so traumatic that I can’t even describe it here.  It was right up there with the mother horse galloping around her injured colt.

We visited the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site to get a passport cancellation stamp. 

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The information sign below wasn’t much help as we were rather clueless about the time in the first place.  Arizona doesn’t observe daylight savings time, and is an hour off of everything else, and the Navajo Nation is an hour off that, and we weren’t even sure if we were in Mountain or Pacific time in the first place.  Or something like that.

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I really enjoyed this historic site, and the folks running the show were terrific. I’d love to return some day.  We contemplated participating in the house tour but we weren’t certain if we’d have enough time. The Park Rangers here were awesome about explaining the time issue to us, but we knew we still had to squeeze in another National Park stop before day’s end. 

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Entrance to the Blanket and Jewelry Room

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If I had more room in my luggage, I’d be even more tempted to pick up some of these gorgeous Navajo rugs and blankets, but my 40 pounds of National Park brochures already had me tipping the airport scales.

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Handwoven Baskets Suspended from the Rafters

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This is a working trading post, not a mere "gift shop".

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The Hubble Home with The Barn in the Background

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The Hayloft in the Barn

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The Corral and Shed Area

After exploring the Trading Post and grounds and snapping several pictures in record speed, we then took off in the Charger literally leaving the place in a cloud of dust.  We had to bust a move to the Petrified Forest before finding a place to roost for the night.

We continued south on Route 191 to Interstate 40 in Chambers heading west to the Petrified Forest National Park.  The terrain was not as varied as approaching the park.

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The first stop was, you guessed it, the visitors center where we got a whopping 4 Passport to Your National Park cancellation stamps:  The Petrified Forest , Historic Route 66, The Painted Desert, and The Painted Desert  Inn.  We watched the park film to learn how Petrified wood was created and heard the depressing fact that tourists steal an average of one ton of petrified wood from the park each month.  The park has instituted a program to report rock stealers, signage everywhere and there’s a checkpoint on your way out of the park. 

We headed south on the park road, stopped at some scenic overlooks and checked out the historic Painted Desert Inn, where we got yet another cancellation stamp!

The Historic Painted Desert Inn

The Historic Painted Desert Inn

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The Painted Desert

 I was very suprised how colorful petrified wood is. Even the bark has turned to stone. These logs in the Crystal Forest are enormous and once contained amethyst and quartz crystals, removed by visitors of long ago

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 Just as the park was closing, we explored the heavily-guarded museum trail. To enter, visitors must pass through the museum itself and lock the gate behind you as you exit.cimg7786

Just as you exit the park at the southern end, there are two tourist rock shops on both sides of the road. They had gigantic chunks of petrified wood surrounding their parking lots. As we continued to head west on Hwy 180 to Hwy 40 toward Holbrook we saw more petrified wood in parking lots than what was in the National Park itself.

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Holbrook is full of Rock Shops and enormous plastic dinosaurs. This is part of Historic Route 66.

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We stayed at the Ramada Inn on the west side of Holbrook, in a smoke-filled nonsmoking room. We ate at the Mesa Italiana as recommended by the courteous front desk person.

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I conked out as soon as we returned to the Ramada. We drove 300 miles, flew through three National Park sites and racked up 7 Passport cancellation stamps today.

The Hubbel Trading Post and Canyon de Chelly were bonus sites as they weren’t on the original itinerary. We agreed to save Chaco Canyon for another trip as it was too far east into New Mexico and there was the 30 mile dirt road.

For more information on these American sites, check out these links:

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site

Petrified Forest National Park

** Tomorrow we explore the Grand Canyon.  Please click here to witness the continuing saga of the Southwest Roadtrip.

Published in: on April 30, 2009 at 3:40 am  Comments (1)  

Three States, Two Nations and One Ancestral Civilization

Greetings from the 4 corners region of the American Southwest. 

We left Cortez, Colorado, and spent the day at Mesa Verde National Park. Once in the gate, we drove  half an hour along the mountainous park road. 

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At the Montezuma Valley Overlook, Paul channeled the spirits of his Native People.  You could see for miles all the way to the  snowcapped mountains.  We checked in at the visitors center and got the passport stamp, and purchased tickets for the cliff dwelling tours. We drove the rest of the way into the park and spent about 5 minutes at the museum before heading to the meeting area for our tour. 

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Ranger Rebecca met the group and gave everyone the rundown of what was to be expected.  There were ladders and rock steps to gain access to the dwelling called Cliff Palace. She was very knowledgable and informative. Paul, who is one 18th MicMaq Indian, disagreed and said that only 10 percent of her presentation was factual. 

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For example, Rebecca said that the kivas shown below were used for ceremonial purposes. Paul claimed that the entire complex was actually a government center and the kivas served as a communication tool. His people sent smoke signals from the kivas to relay the message “Send Taxes”.

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When the presentation was over,  it was time to climb the five 10-foot ladders out of the dwelling.

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I decided to take an additional tour of Balcony House. This tour featured a 30 foot ladder to access, and a 12-foot tunnel to squeeze through and several other ladders to exit.

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The picture below shows the only way out of Balcony House.  These are the feet of the visitor in front of me.

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After this tour, we drove toward Canyon de Chelly National Monument so that we could tour more ruins tomorrow.  We headed on Route 160 toward the four corners monument (this is where CO, NM, UT and AZ intersect)  We drove on a short dirt road to the gate where we saw $3.00 per person admission.  The place was surrounded  by a huge chain link fence and it would have made Yolanda from Fox Car Rental proud.

We snapped a quick photo, did a u-turn, and got out of there.

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Thirty seconds later we were in Arizona.  At Teec Nos Pos, we tried to call for hotel reservations to no avail.  We decided to change course due to what appeared to be a lack of lodging options in the direction we were heading. Instead, we headed back into New Mexico to stay in Farmington, the closest city. 

Northern New Mexico seemed like “no man’s land”.  There were posted “safety corridors” where headlight usage was required, and speeding fines were doubled.  (But it seemed like we were the only ones following the rules by any stretch of the imagination.)  There were several pawn shops and souvenir shops claiming to be “Navajo traders” along this stretch of road.

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Cruising through the "Safety Corridor" at 70 MPH

We left the Navajo Nation and arrived in Farmingon, New Mexico.  Several creative figures greeted us at the hotel.

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America's Best Value Inn

My personal favorite was the Grizzly/Bison/Tortoise combo standing guard.

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Since we were in the wild west, we appropriately chose to dine at the Golden Corral all you can eat buffet.

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The manager, sensing that we were new to the buffet experience, gave us an orientation tour and explained in excruciating detail the wide variety of offerings. She introduced us to Carolina, our efficient and very capable server, who didn’t hesitate to recommend the fresh dinner rolls from the bakery area.

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Local Law Enforcement - on standby to handle any disreputable persons.

Check out what can be had for 25 bucks: dinner for two including beverages and a mouth-watering steak expertly prepared by Oscar behind the grill.

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The Colonel has some competition!

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This was an exciting day for a leisurely 170 mile journey.  In addition to adding another National Park to our list, New Mexico becomes my 45th US state.  I only have 5 more U.S. states before I get all 50.  Please check out the links below to learn more about this fascinating national park.

Mesa Verde National Park Visitors Guide

Mesa Verde National Park Website

Tomorrow we are heading (again) to Canyon De Chelly National Monument and then on toward Las Vegas. We are running out of time and need to cut a few corners.  Unfortunately we had to remove Chaco Canyon National Cultural Site from the list due to timing and having to return the rental car in one piece.  The site is a 30-mile journey on a dirt road and knowing Yolanda would be greeting us at Fox Rental in Las Vegas again, we are probably pushing our luck.  

Our updated itinerary offered lots of surprises and you can read about it by clicking here.

Published in: on April 29, 2009 at 4:55 am  Comments (1)  
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Leaving Utah and Entering Colorado

One of the rules of this trip was “no eating at chain restaurants”. I have heard that rules were made to be broken. So, after a hearty breakfast Grand Slam at Denny’s we backtracked north of Moab to Canyonlands National Park.

Unlike the other parks, the main road here is rather dull.  When you get out of your car, that all changes.  From those viewpoints, there are amazing canyons as far as they eye can see. You would never know it as you are driving in on the main road.

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The road shown below was used by ranchers to herd their cattle to the bottom of the canyon

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After checking out all the viewpoints, we exited the park and headed south again toward Moab.  

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After filling up the gas tank at a station that had these awesome tee-pees we continued on toward Arches National Park. 

The two parks are practically across the street from each other. We checked in at the visitors center to get a standard passport cancellation stamp, and much to my surprise, a bonus stamp as this is part of the Spanish Heritage Trail.

We watched the excellent presentation in the auditorium, which was literally a television episode from the Discovery Channel about the two parks in Moab. One of the rangers gave me some great advice when I mentioned we were pressed for time.  First stop was Balanced Rock.  It’s only a matter of time before this comes crashing down.

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At the Windows area, I dodged all the tour bus groups and took several pictures.  The double arch below is about a half mile away. 

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The man in the picture below is standing inside one of the double arches that is shown above on the left hand side.

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In an effort to save time, we decided to skip the rest of the park.  We had a long way to go to make our final destination. I will definitely be back.  It would be great to explore the hiking trails and to see Landscape Arch.  It’s the largest arch in the world, as long as a football field. It’s not expected to be around much longer, as a huge chunk fell from it not too long ago and it’s very thin.

We left the park looking for bighorn sheep, to no avail.  We drove through Moab and broke our no-eating-at-chains rule by stopping at McDonalds.   The verdict is still out on Moab. I was expecting something different, but the main drag seemed like Route 302 in Windam, Maine. (The Walmart part of 302). The stretch through here was the first eyesore since we left Las Vegas 5 days ago.  There were a lot of mountain biking and outdoor adventure shops, but it seemed more like folks were into Cabela’s and 4 wheeling. 

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Aside from passing  “The Hole n” The Rock”, we ended up in Monticello 60 uneventful minutes later.  At that point we decided to head east to Cortez, Colorado.  Almost at the state line, the fields were much greener. 

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 We had a steak dinner at a place called Shiloh’s, recommended by the associate at the desk at the hotel.

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Shiloh’s Steakhouse was a great recommendation and the food was delicious.  The furnishings and decor were quaint and make you feel really comfy.  I wondered how long it took Granny Shiloh to finish off these bottles of wine to create this clever wreath.  

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(Debbie, if you are reading this, I can only imagine what you are thinking about today’s meals: McDonalds, Steak and DENNY’s?)

More info can be found by clicking the links below:

Canyonlands National Park

Welcome to Arches National Park

Moab Utah

Tomorrow is going to be a great day, as we explore the Pueblo ruins at Mesa Verde National Park in Cortez, Colorado.  Click here to read all about it.

Published in: on April 28, 2009 at 5:20 am  Comments (2)  
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So Long Bryce Canyon… Hello Moab and Everything In Between!

Today was a very long 300 mile day, and I probably averaged 20 pictures per mile. 

We were out the door at sunrise.  We walked along the Bryce Canyon Rim Trail to see the glowing Hoodoos once again.  I ventured down the Queen’s Garden Trail and hiked part of the Peekaboo Trail toward the bottom of the canyon. The trail surface was very smooth and full of switchbacks, which made it easy going.

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There are no boulders in the way or rocks to hop, unlike the New England trails which head straight up the mountains.  

cimg6982Just after the junction of the two trails there are three small tunnels that allow you to pass through the Hoodoos. 

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This was the most enchanting trail.  Everything was perfectly still and you couldn’t hear a sound.  No wind, no people, not even a bird chirping.

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Around 10:00, we checked out of the cabin and headed east on Route 12.  This goes right across the northern end of the park which provided gorgeous views. This route is a designated US Scenic Byway (it’s not just a “state” thing).  The route weaves in and out of the Dixie National Forest and the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Forest.  Every 10 minutes the scenery dramatically changed, from pine covered mountains, canyons full of hoodoos, and landscapes that looked like the Badlands of South Dakota. There was even a “controlled burn” forest fire. We stopped at a visitor center in Cannonville to get the passport stamp and to mail postcards.  At the post office, it seemed like we were the only customers that day.  The building served as the Post office, Town Hall and Health Clinic rolled into one. There’s nothing better than a postmistress who can multi-task.

About 35 miles later, the Ranger at the Escalante Visitor Center recommended a place called Georgie’s for lunch. You can’t miss this place. The building was bright yellow, with a multi-colored picket fence and an enormous Tee-Pee in the front yard. We pulled into the gravel lot on the side and could see right in the back door.  Georgie herself bounded down the steps and suggested some other places, as she was closed for the day.  Monday was her baking and delivery day.

We drove another 10+ miles and saw a sign on the side of a hill identifying the Kiva Koffee House, which incidentally was recommended by Georgie.  We entered the driveway and initially couldn’t tell where the building was.  When we got out of the car and walked down the stairs, we could see the crescent shaped building that was built into the side of a cliff under the parking lot.  It had the most awesome view of the multi-colored cliffs on all three sides. 

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It had a very limited menu, but it was great to sit down and take in the remarkable view.  A soft-spoken bohemian woman took our order and lunch arrived. 

At Torrey, Utah, we took a left on Highway 24 and stopped at the County Visitor’s Center.  I received a lot of great advice here on the area from the woman working behind the desk.  Back in the car, we approached spectacular Capitol Reef National Park within 10 minutes.  We stopped at the National Park visitors center for the 3rd and final passport stamp of the day.  We drove along the 10-mile scenic road following the “water pocket fold” which is an enormous 100 mile long crevass that cuts through the park and beyond. 

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It looks like the Earth decided to flip inside out and then turn to stone.  After 10 miles, the pavement ended and we continued on the gravel for another mile, as recommended by the woman at the Torrey Visitors Center.  This is where the most dramatic scenery could be found although the road was a little rough.  Yolanda from Fox Rental would not be happy if she knew what challenges we put the Dodge Charger though on this road.  There were a few bumps and several vengeful tumbleweeds rearing their talons as we made our way this area. (If that car can survive a gunshot wound, it can certainly survive a few pot holes and dried out old bushes.)

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The fruit orchards planted along the river by the Mormon pioneers are another interesting feature of Capitol Reef.  The National Park Service maintains the orchards and historic buildings.  The area along the river was an oasis of green fruit trees against an arid and unforgiving landscape. 

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We continued on scenic route 24 all the way to Hanksville, passing a few tiny towns. Fortunately we hadn’t planned to spend the night along here anyway, as it looked pretty desolate. We then headed north on Route 24 and you could see the road straight ahead stretching for miles.  This was a big change from the twisting 150-mile long Escalante roller coaster we had spent the majority of the day traveling.

We took Hwy 70 East to 191 South to Moab, passing the entrances to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.  We’ll visit those parks tomorrow.

We found a hotel in Moab and then went downtown to an Italian restaurant. 

Today was a very long and extremely rewarding day.  I highly recommend a trip on these scenic roads to anyone, as they are truly unforgettable.

Check out the links below for more information:

Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument

Capitol Reef National Park – information about the Waterpocket Fold, the early mormon settlers in Fruita, and flash floods.

Welcome to Utah

Click here to read about tomorrow: our final day in Utah and our journey into Colorado.

Bryce Canyon: No Cell Service, but enough Hoodoos to make up for it

This AM, we boarded the Zion Shuttle for a Ranger Tour led by Becca, a recent Michigan State University Graduate.  This was our 4th trip into the canyon.

Ranger Becca

Ranger Becca

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The Great White Throne and Angel's Landing

The Great White Throne and Angel's Landing

After the tour, we drove out of the park on the Mt. Carmel Hwy which has jaw dropping views at every switchbacked turn. I couldn’t imagine anything more scenic than the canyon tours.  Zion is definitely heaven on earth. We continued on Route 9 to scenic Hwy 89 through the Dixie National Forest which was another pleasant shocker. (And we got two more cancellation  stamps for the NPS Passport book.) The rocks were bright orange, or more of a yam color, and there were a few tunnels to squeeze through. 

Red Canyon - Dixie National Forest

Red Canyon - Dixie National Forest

Onward to Bryce Canyon on Hwy 12. We checked in at the visitors center, where I got another cancellation stamp for the passport book, and then we had lunch at the lodge.

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Everything today progressed perfectly until the “sweet potato fries” incident.  Our awesome waitress, Vickie, practically had a meltdown when she realized that she brought me “standard” french fries, rather than the sweet potato variety that she highly recommended in the first place. My response was that the fries were not important as I was having lunch at one of the most beautiful places on the planet.  I was actually concerned for her well-being as there were so many cliffs within jumping distance of the lodge.  We rated her as “outstanding” in every area on the customer survey and left her a big tip. I am confident she’ll recover from this experience within a few weeks… just in time for the summer rush.

On to the viewpoints.  Paul came up with a brilliant idea of making a beeline to the end of the park road and then working our way back to the lodge area. This turned out to be an AWESOME idea and I would recommend this to anyone visiting the park. The farthest viewpoint was stunning, and as we made our way closer to the park entrance the views kept getting even more spectacular. At Inspiration Point, I practically had tears in my eyes looking over the sheer drop off and seeing thousands of Hoodoos, which are rock spires reaching to the heavens. All the Backpacker Magazine cover photos, and calendars you may have seen of Bryce do NOT do this place justice. It is the most amazing place and the whole spectacle literally wraps right around you when standing on one of the viewpoints. The Hoodoos look small because there are billions of them, but they are actually enormous and look like they are glowing.  There are no words to describe this.

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The Noble Raven

We decided to stay at the cabins within the park.  They were built in the 1920s of logs and native stone and are a five minute walk to the rim of the canyon.

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As the sun was setting and snow was lightly falling, I walked the Rim Trail to see the amazing views. The L.L.Bean Two-Way radios came in really handy here.

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Bryce Canyon is one of the most beautiful places on Earth and everyone should see it in their lifetime. I highly recommend visiting during the off-season, and a stay in the cabins is worth every penny.

There is a wealth of park knowledge in The Hoodoo, last summer’s planner, hiking and shuttle guide.

and here at the official Bryce Canyon National Park website.

Tomorrow begins with a sunrise hike along the Queen’s Garden Trail. Click here for first-hand account of this spectacular American treasure.