Friday, September 20, 2019

Crazy road trip ends

September 5, 2019:

I get up at daybreak and go across the street to the Cracker Barrel Restaurant for a hearty breakfast.  I then take another pass through downtown Flagstaff, get fuel and head out on route 17 south for Phoenix, Arizona.  I decide that I can play for a couple of hours and still arrive home in mid afternoon so I take the exit for scenic route 89A to Sedona, Arizona.  This is a beautiful drive, much slower but worth the effort.  In Sedona, I go to a parking area for the Cathedral Rock Trail.  I decide to limit myself to one hour on the trail and soon that it is a steep climb up slick rock.  I was wanting an easy scenic walk, not a stress test, so I ambled up part way to where there was a decent view and turned back.   

The Cathedral Rock trailhead

The trail follows the cairns, but that's only a suggestion 

Steeply uphill at this point and slippery

This is about where I stopped and took in the view

Nice views in all directions

Another direction

Afterwards I drive through the excessive maze of roundabouts that have been constructed in Sedona.  The Sedona area is so beautiful that it should have been saved as a National Park. Instead it’s a huge wealthy gated community for the privileged with a cheap touristy downtown mired in traffic congestion.

Back onto route 17 I do the long steep downhill glide down into the Phoenix area, then the rat race through Phoenix, (not so bad at noon time) and then onto route 10 south for Tucson, Arizona.  I make a couple pit stops along the way and arrive at the house about 3 PM in100 degree temperature.  The good news is that it is starting to cool off a little.  

During the course of this (95) day trip I managed to put 8,940 miles on the van (snowflake) with no breakdowns and my van interior modifications held up better than expected.  I didn’t do all that I had planned or expected to do, (I never do).  I did no dispersed BLM camping and very little hiking, but much more urban wandering / walking.  There were lots of museums, old Spanish missions, the California sea coast, Native Indian country, a few state capitals, an overdue visit to a daughter in Portland, Oregon and a visit to an old friend in Minnesota. 

I stayed overnight (94) nights in (53) different towns, of which approximately (74) were overnight on the street.  I didn’t stay anywhere long enough to attract much attention, usually only 1-2 days which I must admit became tiring.  This was an urban camping trip primarily.  I only spent $10 on a campground and that was the first day in a National Park, but I did stay at (8) motels.  I stayed at no private, county, town, or state campgrounds.  I crammed a lot into each day and was constantly on the move as the list below shows;

Looking back on this adventure, many people don't quite understand the allure of this "living on the street" lifestyle.  My son even told me that when he was talking to his sister, she said: There's something wrong with Dad, this isn't normal ! 

 In order to justify this, we converts like to wax poetic on the "Freedom of the Road".  A van doesn't have the restraints of an RV, a van can be parked almost anywhere and no campground is necessary. When you tire of driving, you just pull over into a reasonable parking space and spend the night.  Of course if you have a fancy conversion van or have modified your van to look like a camper, then you have lost the "stealth" capability somewhat.  

The major shortcoming of the van is the lack of four wheel drive
to get into remote back country areas.  There is no easy fix for this short of spending megabucks or going the truck camper route.  But, I do have an idea, how about putting a van body on a 3/4 ton four wheel drive pickup chassis.  It could be like a Monster Truck !

Twinkles says my daughter may be right ?  Twinkles would also like to add that this three month trip was too long for me to be away from her and that I will have to settle for a maximum of two months in the future. 

This will be the end of this blog for a while, I need a break, hope you enjoyed it.     

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Flagstaff, Arizona

September 4, 2109:

I go for the free continental breakfast at the hotel in Gallup and use the internet until about 9 AM and then check out and get onto route I-40 west.  I make a scenic stop in Concho, Arizona on old route 66 with several Indian trading posts with interesting murals and signs.

It's an easy exit off I-40, how can you drive past ?

The scenic background alone is enough reason to stop for

I'm confused; my GPS says I'm in Concho, Arizona

I then continue to the Petrified Forest National Park where I exit the highway and drive through the park.  I make several short stops at viewpoints, but keep moving for the most part as I have seen this before several times.  

This is the Painted Desert area

These colors are amazing

Same photo from a different perspective

A few rock hood's by the side of the road

It is hard to imagine this area once being a tropical forest

Petrified wood is everywhere you look 

Driving across an open plains area

The park road brings you out onto route 180 where I head towards Holbrook, Arizona.  In Holbrook, AZ, I stop to buy a souvenir piece of petrified wood.  I am thinking that downtown is looking slightly better than I remember it.

The Indian Rock Shop dinosaurs are still standing guard

The Wigwam Motel is also looking good

I then continue on to Winslow, Arizona, where I stop to watch the tourists stand on the corner, take photos and buy souvenir tee shirts in the adjacent stores.  I actually do a little of that too, silly as it is.,_Arizona

It does have to route 66 vibe

The Eagles music is blaring at all hours here

The best promotion idea the folks in Winslow ever had ?

Murals in an alleyway on a nearby block

Navajo rug pattern designs abound here

Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy

Winslow is another railroad town

The real attraction in Winslow is the La Posada Hotel. I had skipped lunch up to this point in order to have lunch at the Turquoise Room at the La Posada Hotel.  The dining room is beautifully decorated with many woven Navajo wall hangings and historic photos.  I had the Navajo Taco from their lunch menu.  It was beautifully presented on old Harvey House dinnerware by a real Navajo waitress.  It was about a perfect lunch !  I then explored the premises which are equally interesting with lots of art work and beautiful furniture.

La Posada Hotel entrance

Beautiful gate and gardens

Place map depicting the locations of the original Harvey Hotels

Stained glass adds to the lighting effect

The Turquoise Room

The seven stages of drunkenness were displayed in a hallway

The Grandiose stage

The Comatose stage

A very touching note from the LaPasoda's co-owner

Painting of Ruby and Dorothy by Tina Mion

Another room in the hotel with objects of art

It's then another hour drive to Flagstaff, Arizona where I stop at the Museum Club for a beer in their beautiful rustic wooden cabin.  This is about the most ultimate place for a band to play, but I sensed an overly country vibe that I wasn't comfortable with.

The Museum Club's dance floor

I then went to downtown Flagstaff to wander around, needing to walk off some of my excessive lunch.  It's been a few years since my last visit to Flagstaff and it seemed somewhat different, but much the same if that makes any sense ?

The Hotel Monte Vista and the Babbitt Brothers store are Flagstaff icons

We need more people thinking this way in these times

Huge interesting mural on the side of the Orpheum Theater

The iconic Monte Vista sign

Another nice mural

A biking theme mural

A mural for the Northern Arizona University football team called the "Lumberjacks"

I saw a sign at the historic Monte Vista Hotel for a band in the cocktail lounge at 9 PM.  I decided to rest a while, have some soup and check it out.  As is often the case, a start time doesn't mean much to aspiring musicians.  I sat there until 10 PM when they played one song, more of a sound check and then took a break. I knew it wasn't going to be much of a session so I called it a night.

I then headed to a roadside area across from a Cracker Barrel Restaurant where I had earlier seen several campers parked.  It was a near perfect overnight location.  I had visions of the Cracker Barrel for breakfast as I went to sleep.

My home base in Tucson, Arizona is next. 

Gallup, New Mexico

September 3, 2019:

In the morning, I take a walk along the San Juan River and take a few photos of the thermal springs and resort. After fueling the van, the ice chest and me, I head out on route 160 west for Durango, Colorado. It's a pleasant drive through the southern edge of the San Juan Mountains.  After a few miles I come upon Chimney Rock National Monument but feel the need to keeping moving, I think I've been there on a previous trip.

A shaky photo of Chimney Rock through the side window 

As I come into Durango I consider a stop there also, but there is much traffic congestion and I am not feeling the love.  I turn south onto route 550 towards Aztec, New Mexico.  At Aztec, I had spent considerable time in this area last year visiting the incredible Aztec Ruins National Monument and felt no desire to stop again.  

I then get onto route 64 towards Shiprock, New Mexico and Navajo country.  Near Waterflow, New Mexico I see an old decaying Navajo Trading Post on the side of the highway, I remembered this from a previous visit and had passed it by at that time.  I couldn't let this happen again so I did a (possibly) illegal U-turn and went back for a photo.  There is also a sign that explains the geology of this very distressed looking landscape known as the Hogback.  The old trading post is very sad, it appears to have been something very special in past days, but for whatever reason was neglected and will soon be a pile of broken rubble.  It felt good to save a remembrance before its demise.

The Earth is moving beneath our feet
The remains of the Hogback Trading Co. 
Another quick stop near Shiprock, New Mexico at a Navajo welcome sign

Nearby is another neglected building with a vibrant mural

A truly great environmental mural

I then turn south onto route 491 across about 100 miles of Navajo country, with wide open spaces and virtually no development.  The road was bone jarringly rough for about half the distance and I was wondering why this road was so poorly maintained ?  It is a US Highway and the only one directly between Shiprock and Gallup, New Mexico.  Eventually I came upon a newly resurfaced section that was smooth sailing which I expect with eventually extend the whole way.

The road is straight as an arrow

Nothing but wide open spaces on both sides

I have made a motel reservation for the night in Gallup to get cleaned up somewhat before my homecoming in Tucson.  I am on track for check in at about 3 PM and go straight there on arrival.  As I arrive I see a Walmart just down the road and across the street is a Cracker Barrel which both allow overnight camping.  It would have been real easy at either one of them and I feel like a wimp getting a motel room the night ?
As I park I see a small teardrop camping trailer, one of those small cute ones like a bed on wheels that are popular these days.  I thought, I guess they like me and enjoy the luxury of more space once in a while.   After checking in I go back out to get stuff out of the van to see them sitting in their folding chairs on the edge of the parking lot reading books with drinks and snacks just like they are at a campground, too funny !

I head to downtown Gallup in early evening to take some photos in the good light and enjoy a meal at the Coal Street Pub.  As I am walking around a Navajo man greets me on the street and we have a fairly interesting conversation.  He says he  has been hitching rides to various towns for a while, but is now headed back to his sheep.  This seemed very odd to me, but he also seemed very genuine.  It made me a little uneasy when he demonstrated how you hold the sheep in your arms while you slit its throat to kill it.  He told me how he once went to school for visual arts in Phoenix, but I don't expect that worked out.  He wanted me to take his picture and tell a story, but there isn't really much of a story to tell.  He seemed to have too much pride to ask for a handout, but I gave him a few bucks on departing, he said I was a good man and I felt better for talking to him.

Gallup is real Indian country, latter when I stopped at the local Walmart I would estimate that 80 % of the customers were Navajo.  I really felt like a foreigner in there.  I like Gallup, I find it very artistic, colorful and interesting on the positive side but on the negative side there is much poverty.     

The sidewalk view outside the Richardson Trading Company

They have an amazing inventory of jewelry, art and rugs

Lots of native Navajo, Hopi and Zuni art in Gallup

Painted trash receptacles in Gallup

The El Morro is beautiful

American Bar in Gallup

My storyteller

Great Navajo trading post mural

Frequent long freight trains run through Gallup, Amtrak also makes a few passenger stops

This is Rodeo country too 

Route 66 and all your smoking needs here to

Jerry's parking lot

Jerry's Mexican American Cafe

My next and final stop on this adventure will be Flagstaff, Arizona.