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.

Canyon de Chelly

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.

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

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. What a fabulous journey you guy’s have travelled.Waited with baited breath to read the latest blog.Steve you complaiined about Vivian taking you off route.You must realize that Vivian probably …. You guy’s did not let her rest. You kept charging onward. Guess she told you. Loved the Hogan You leave me in suspense. What happened at the Root Beer place??? Loved the Trading Post. Would love to explore the sites that you guys travelled. I did the next best thing Enjoyed from my easy chair The petrified wood was amazing So interesting I could go on and on. Loved the journey but Welcome Home


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