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SW Winter Trip: Day 2

Arches NP, Monument Valley, Flagstaff

sunny 20 °F

Both Chris and I are terrible sleepers, so we were up at 6:30am. We headed for the BF room next to the front desk. They had waffles, oatmeal, cold cereal, toast, donuts plus hot/cold beverages. I chose oatmeal, waffles, hot chocolate. Chris went with the waffles, yogurt, coffee. After BF, we cleaned up and were on the road back to Arches by 7:30am. We drove straight to the Landscape Arch trail-head and got ready. It was really cold, 4 F (-15 C) according to my car. We both had good parkas and I had gloves, but my ears were taking a beating. I pulled the collar up as far as possible and started hiking. I had a cortisone shot for my knee right before Christmas, so my knee was not hurting like it has been for many years. When we got into the sunny part of the trail, it got better. Still cold, but at least we were in the sunlight. Landscape Arch is probably the best known arch in the park. There were only 4 others on the trail at 8am so we felt we had the place to ourselves. We got our shots and started back.
There are 2 other arches on the way back. We never did hike over to them in the summer, so we got off the main trail for Pine Tree Arch. Nothing special but worth a 10 minute detour. Same with Tunnel Arch. A few shots and we headed for the car. It was good to get out of the cold and warm up after about an hour of walking. We stopped at Skyline Arch for a few shots and then on to Sand Dune Arch. It is a narrow canyon and not sure it is worth the effort. You can walk under it very easily and it is probably the lowest arch we saw. We agreed that we had enough photos of Arches and we headed for the Visitors Center.
We passed on it yesterday and both of us needed the restroom. We did not go into the VC this summer, so it was worth some time to walk through it. Nice gift shop, small museum, Ranger Desk. 10 minutes and we were ready to hit the road again.
We headed back to Moab, loaded the car with gas and headed for Monument Valley. We stopped at Wilson Arch on 191, about 40 minutes South of Moab. Got out to stretch and pop a few photos. The snow makes it more interesting than our summer photos. We hit Monument Valley around 2:30pm, paid the $10 entrance fee and headed down the loop. The road is dirt, but is in decent enough shape to take my Avalon over it. Just go slow and you won't have any problems. At least in winter. Maybe after a rain it might make sense to take the tour. Not the day we were there. However, we were disappointed how little snow was left. It had been 3 days since it snowed and most of it was gone by the time we got there. We spent about an hour, stopped for a few shots and headed out. We did stop at the MV Visitors Center for a bathroom break and tour the gift shop. I decided to help the Navaho's out and bought a travel coffee cup, $10. I will use it for hot chocolate in the room tonight.
We left MV and started driving for Flagstaff. Unfortunately we were heading almost due West on 160, driving straight into the setting sun. It was a real chore to see the road. The sun was below the sun visor and I was using my hand to block it. Not fun I can tell you. Finally 160 turned enough South that the setting sun was not a problem anymore. We hit Flagstaff about 6pm and were ready to eat. Chris voted no on Denny's so we picked Pizza Hut. Large pizza plus salad bar was $8 each. Chris went to Univ. of Oregon and they were playing in the Fiesta Bowl against K-State. We watched the game while we ate and just relaxed after a pretty long day of driving. Oregon crushed K-State, so Chris was happy. Next up was to find a room. There were several motels around the Pizza Hut, but all were close to $100. I thought we could do better than that so we kept driving on 160. We saw the Luxury Motel stopped to priced it. They did not have many guests so the lady was willing to bargain. She quoted us $50 with an AARP card. The room was not nearly as nice as the Super 8, but good enough. It had wi fi so Chris was happy. He spent the next couple of hours editing that days photos. I showered, watched some TV, read my book and called it a night at 10:30pm. Day 2 of our winter adventure was over.

Posted by vegasmike6 19:38 Archived in USA Tagged parks Comments (0)

SW Winter Trip: Day 3

Grand Canyon NP, back to Vegas.

sunny 20 °F

Chris did not sleep very well and turned on the lights at 6:15am. He likes to shower in the morning, gets him going I guess. Since the Luxury Motel does not have BF, we were out the door about 6:45. We drove straight to Grand Canyon NP. We hit the entrance station just after 8am, showed my Senior Pass, got our maps and headed for the Visitor Center. Closed. It does not open until 9am. We walked to Mather Point. Just a 5 minute walk from the VC. Plenty of snow on our side of the canyon. Nothing on the North Rim side as it gets direct sun most of of the day.
We got what we could and hit the VC at 9am and talked to the Ranger. We decided on heading to Pima Point, stopping at the overlooks along the way. We saw 3 deer just off the road as we approached Trailview Overlook. They were on Chris's side, so I handed over my camera. There was plenty of snow on our side of the canyon, nothing on the North Rim side. Got a good shot of the Bright Angel trail below us. Next up was Powell Point. Out for photos, on to Hopi Point, then Mojave Point. It was now apparent that all the overlooks would be the same. Snow on our side, nothing on the North Rim side. Chris was a bit discouraged that there was so little snow. We agreed that we had all the photos we wanted of the canyon and started back to Vegas.
I stopped at the Planes of Fame Air Museum at Valle. I thought it was worth a photo and stopped for a minute. We made it to Kingman before stopping for a bathroom break and gas. Chris figured up our expenses and I owed him $20. It cost me about $130 for 2 nights lodging, food, gas. Not bad for 3 days of driving through the Southwest. We hit Vegas around 3pm and mom was glad I was home in one piece. Our 3 day SW adventure was over.

Posted by vegasmike6 00:04 Archived in USA Tagged parks Comments (0)

SW Adventure: Day 1

Las Vegas, Kingman, Route 66, Holbrook AZ.

semi-overcast 85 °F

Chris is back from Pattaya and wants to go somewhere. He bought a new Nikon D800 and a new laptop. He has a much thicker wallet than I do! We decide on Route 66, Canyon de Chelly, Four Corners, Mesa Verde and a stop at Arches NP on the way back. We are taking Chris's Mercedes so I get over to his house at 7am. We head out and first stop is Kingman AZ. This is the start of Route 66 for us. We go into the small Historic Route 66 Museum to chat with the lady behind the desk, get a map, a few photos and head out on 66.
First stop is Hackberry. The Hackberry General Store is why everybody stops. We walk around and see plenty of Harley Davidson's pulling in. I chat with one guy and find out he is from France. A group of them had leather jackets made and came to the US to ride Route 66. They rented the bikes in San Francisco, $200/day. Down the Calif. coastline, over to Vegas, now riding Route 66 East. They spoke OK English and were going to spend a pile of money to make their Route 66 dream come true.
We got our outside shots, went inside and popped a few more. I had been here before with Allan & Gail, UK TP members that I drove to the Grand Canyon years ago. Chris had never been on Route 66 so he wanted to see what all the fuss is about.
After Hackberry, we head for Grand Canyon Caverns. We discuss going on the cave tour, but after talking to the guide and a few that have been on the tour before us, we pass. It is a dry cave and not that much to see. I don't need the stress on my knee unless it is worth it. They do tell us about the largest, oldest, deepest, darkest, quietest motel room in world! Since Chris was not excited about going on the cave tour either, we head out for Seligman.
There is a small Inn & restaurant by the turnoff that has been set up to look like Radiator Springs, from the movie 'Cars'. I pop a few pics and we head for Seligman.
Seligman is probably the best place to spend your time while on this section of Route 66. Plenty of buildings from the 50s and several places to eat. The famous? Roadkill Cafe is here as is the Snow Cap Drive-in. Started in 1953 by Juan Delgadillo, the Snow Cap has been feeding and entertaining customers for almost 60 years. Jokes and attitude with your food. Behind the Snow Cap is Juan's Garden. Plenty of old cars and kitsch. The Delgadillo brothers were given movie credit for helping on the movie 'Cars'. We walk around Seligman for 30 minutes, get our photos and head for Flagstaff.
I thought we should stop at Williams, but Chris was not interested in the train depot and I have seen it all before. We gas up in Flagstaff and Chris wants to eat. I pass as he picks Chipotle Mexican Grill. I have a granola bar and just keep him company. I don't eat Mexican and can wait until we get to Holbrook. Back on I-40, we hit a real thunderstorm a few miles out of Flagstaff. The motorcycle guys would need to slow down or find shelter. It really came down hard for about 10 minutes and I would not want to be on a bike in that downpour. We pull into Holbrook and look at motels. I made a list of those under $50 and we head over to the Econo Inn. Using my AARP card, we get a room for $50 with tax. Chris wants to go back to Jim Gray's, the petrified wood store we hit last time were in Holbrook. Well, we have plenty of time as were are not going to the Petrified Forest NP this trip. I take plenty of photos and look at the prices. One table was $4,500, one chair I saw was $3K. A bit out of my price range. Chris buys a nice piece of PW for his display case.
After the store, I suggest we stop at Denny's for dinner. Chris is not hungry, but I have eggs & pancakes for $6. Hard to beat Denny's IMO for decent food at a decent price. Not for everybody, but I get what I want and don't spend very much. Back to our room, I shower and watch the Olympics. Chris would rather edit his photos on his new laptop. At about 11pm I had enough and called it a night. Day one is over.

Posted by vegasmike6 23:20 Archived in USA Comments (0)

SW Adventure: Day 2

Canyon de Chelly, Four Corners, Cortez.

sunny 90 °F

Day 2
We got up at 6am and head over to the office for BF. Pretty basic, but they have cereal, donuts. I fill up on both and hit the room to clean up and pack. I would not recommend the Econo Lodge in Holbrook. OK, but you can do better for the same price. We are off by 7am and head for Canyon de Chelly (CdC. We are there by 8:30 and go into the Visitor Center. CdC is a unique NP. There is no entrance fee and the canyon remains on Navaho tribal lands. You can drive around the North & South Rim for free, but if you want to visit the canyon, you must have a Navaho guide. There is a group tour at 10am for $55. I talk to them but they need 8 to go and have 2 when I call. While I was on the phone, an Spider Rock Tour Jeep pulls into the parking lot. Chris goes over to talk to him and we get good news. Oscar quotes us $50 each for a 3 hour tour. That is a bargain as it is usually $75. I guess business is slow because of the hard rain the day before. We jump at his offer and Chris goes inside the VC with Oscar to sign the contract. I pay Oscar and he calls another one of his guides. 10 minutes later Charlie shows up in his 4 wheel drive and off we go. It is very muddy and pretty good flow of water going through the canyon. Charlie tells us that they could not tour yesterday due to the rain and high water. It is pretty dicey in several areas, but we plug along. There are Navaho's still living in the canyon and their property is fenced off from vehicles. One stop shows some of the petroglyphs that are in CdC.
Everything is going along according to plan until we get to a washed out hill. The rain yesterday has eroded a steep section of the road and it is now impassable. There are 4 vehicles stopped and all the guides get out. They grab their shovels and start trying to fill in the eroded area. It takes about 15 minutes and then one Jeep tries it. He makes it after several attempts. Charlie has a hard time of it as his SUV has a longer wheel base than a Jeep. Both Chris and I get out for this part and after the 4 or 5th attempt, Charlie gets it up the hill and we continue on with our tour.
CdC is pretty, but the Indian ruins are mediocre at best. It is a pleasant day, plenty of water flowing, not a bad way to spend 3 hours. Not very exciting, but would recommend it. Once. I won't be returning to CdC anytime soon.
Back to the VC, we tip Charlie $20 for his time & expertise. We take the North & South rim drive, stopping at all the view areas. Several require a bit of a hike and after 4-5 of them I had about enough. The White House view area is the last one on our list and we get lucky. One of the Navaho girls from the VC is at the view area. We chat a bit about CdC and Chinle.
We heard from both Charlie and the VC girl that Chinle has a real drug problem. I guess it is mostly boredom, but they agree that many of the Navaho kids use drugs. Charlie told us that he won't send his kids to the Chinle schools because it is so bad. There is a school at Many Farms and that is where his kids go to school. Chris is hungry and so we stop in Chinle. There is an A&W on highway 191 and that gets Chris's vote. I pass as I had a granola bar on the tour. A few of the school kids stop in the A&W and I see what they were talking about. It is such a small town, 5K, that there is not much for a teenager to do. They all grew up together, so not many secrets in Chinle. We were happy to leave and head for Four Corners. We take US 191 and in about an hour we are there. Chris and I were in this part of AZ during our winter trip to Mesa Verde. Unfortunately it was after 5pm and Four Corners closes at 5 during the winter. Not a problem today and we pull in. $3 each as it is on Navaho tribal lands. The Navaho's must make a small fortune during the summer as it was packed. Chris and I go down to the monument and wait our turn. Plenty of families are ahead of us and they all take turns posing with feet & hands in different states. I get lucky and 6 girls jump on the spot for their photo. Dad has a tripod and sets up the timer. I like the one w/o him, so included that one. Now it is my turn, but standing their alone is not much of a shot. Chris cannot be bothered so we are there perhaps 10 minutes. We both have short attention spans, so it is not a problem.
We are going to stay in Cortez, so we head out on 160. Before Cortez we spot a sign at the Ute Mountain Casino offering rooms for $40. This is less than any motel in Cortez, so we pull in and head to the registration desk. There are only 3 rooms left so we grab one. We find our room, and leave our stuff. I am hungry and we head for the casino. We walk through the casino and find out just how small it is. They have a small coffee shop and I get in line. I start chatting with others in line and find out it is going to be at least a 45 minute wait. That won't do so we ask what else they have. A very small snack bar is the only other option. We abandon the coffee shop line and head over to the snack bar. Bad timing on our part as a security guard is the only one there. It seems the lone worker at the snack bar has left for supplies and the whole thing stops until she return. 5 minutes of small talk with the security guard gives us another option. There is a truck stop next to the Ute Mountain Casino. We drive over there and Chris fills up. I go inside and find a 4 table snack bar. Oh well, we are not going to drive into Cortez, so I order a grilled cheese sandwich with fries. Not a very good choice, but it is a very limited menu for a veggie. Back to the room, I unpack, shower and call home. All is well and I watch the Olympics while Chris edits his photos on his laptop. It seems our a/c is not working very well so the room is hotter than we would like. Not many options at this point, so we make the best of it. We call it a night around 11pm. Day 2 is over.

Posted by vegasmike6 10:11 Archived in USA Comments (0)

SW Adventure: Day 3

Cortez, Mesa Verde, Moab

sunny 85 °F

Neither one of us got much sleep due to the a/c not working very well. We got up at 7am, packed up and headed on US 160, through Cortez and 15 minutes later we were at Mesa Verde National Park (MVNP). We hit the Entrance Station right after 8am and drove to the Far View Visitor Center. We talked to the Ranger selling tours and decided on the Long House (LH) Tour. $3. We got a 10:30am tour slot and took the road over to the Wetherill Mesa Information Center (WMIC). We got there right behind the Rangers and watched them set up for that days visitors and tours.
The Pony Fire in Aug. 2000 burned 21,000 acres in MVNP but did not affect LH or Step House (SH). We had almost an hour before our tour so we walked down the SH trail. The Ranger was heading down to her station and we went with her asking our questions. We got to the view point of SH and we both decided not to hike down. We would need our energy for the hike to LH. The fire might have been 12 years ago, but there was not much evidence of new growth.
Back to the WMIC, Ranger Peter was giving his safety speech. I needed to sit so I started listening to his 5 minute lecture. There are ladders that you need to climb and Peter wants all to know that some might not be up to it. LH is at almost 7,000 ft elevation and can be difficult for those with breathing issues. LH also a protected site and are told: touch nothing. The 10am tour is called and the tram loads up. Lucky for us, it is not full and Peter allows us to jump on board. It is a short tram ride over to the starting point for our hike to LH. Peter again informs us of what we are going to see and what the rules are. Off we go and I let most of the crowd hustle on by. I am not going to try and walk at the pace of the younger hikers. We stop several times to learn more about the Anasazi that once lived at LH.
Plenty of photo ops on the way and it is not long before we have a view of LH. We all take turns climbing the ladder up into LH and we then have a lecture on the people that built this and the other structures in MVNP. Peter was HS teacher before retiring and is fully informed on all things MV. Plenty of photos and then we all can leave LH when ready.
I start off first as I know many will catch me before reaching the tram pick up spot. There are benches in the shade and I gratefully sit and wait. Chris, Peter and most of our tour make it back before the next tram arrives. The trams run a closed circuit and will take visitors to other places of interest plus back to the WMIC. We get on the tram and are quickly back to our car. Back to the main road, we decide to take the Cliff House Loop. We are not going to hike anymore, but there are overlooks of Cliff Palace and Balcony House. We get our photos and head out of MVNP.
Back on US 160, we go back through Cortez. They have a Denny's and I have BF. Now we have some serious driving to get to Moab UT. We turn off 160 in Cortez and take 491 towards Moab. 491 ends in Monticello and you head North on 191. There are a few nice photos before Moab and we get out to stretch and pop a few pics. Church Rock & Wilson Arch are a good place to get out for a few minutes.
We hit Moab around 4pm and start looking for a room. I have my list of places under $100 and we look for them. It seems Moab is busy all summer long with the off road bike crowd plus the hikers heading over to Arches NP. We check 5 motels and cannot find anything under $100. One owner suggests JR's Desert Inn and we check it out. JR's quotes $77 and we take it. Huge sitting room, kitchen and separate bedroom. Good value and will stay at JR's again if I need a night in Moab. Chris wants to go over to Arches NP for some sunset shots. My knee hurts, I am tired of riding in the car, so I vote no. I get a shower, have a few granola bars and watch the Olympics. Chris gets back after dark and starts editing his photos on his laptop. We watch the Olympics, I take some Tylenol PM and get to bed around 11pm. Day 3 is over.

Posted by vegasmike6 21:52 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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