Sunday, March 13, 2011

Gallup New Mexico to Flagstaff Arizona

We woke up at 6:00 AM Mountain Daylight Saving Time this morning. I set my watch ahead before I went to bed last night. After the usual cereal and blueberry breakfast, during which I felt the Earth shake as the Prevost pulled out, I unhooked the services. This time, I remembered to take to 90 degree water fitting off the RV first. If Sandy hadn't caught me, it would still be sitting on top of the electrical hookup box in Gallup. My routine still needs refining.

When we got rolling, we saw white patches on the north side of the hills not far above us. Sure enough, it was snow.

There's snow in them thar hills

The red cliffs, white cliffs and grey cliffs were beautiful. The Colorado Plateau has the most spectacular scenery I have ever viewed. Yet despite all this beauty, the settlements visible from the highway also show a deep poverty among many of the locals.

Not far down the road, we crossed the Arizona border and immediately pulled in at the Welcome Center. We picked up some brochures, signed the guestbook and found that Arizona didn't do Daylight Saving Time. Back went the watch and I realized we could have slept in that extra hour. A poster in the center illustrated all 13 types of rattlesnakes found in Arizona. Lucky for us, the prairie rattler was the only one in this part of the state.  But we aren't staying here.

Arizona Welcome Center

Kind of makes you feel all warm and fuzzy

Now officially welcomed to the the Grand Canyon State, we cruised west on I-40. Although over a mile above sea level, it was very flat up here.

Not a hill in sight along I-40

But today was not going to be just a day of grinding along the Interstate. We had a short way to go and a long time to get there so we pulled off at the Petrified Forest National Park. As we were getting out of the RV, an older motorhome with Ontario plates pulled in. Mom, Dad and four pre-teen boys (including a set of twins) were from Exeter Ontario and heading for California in her brother-in-law's motorhome.

We went into the Visitor's Centre and I stamped my National Parks Passport book. Then we proceeded to the park gate where we paid $80 for a National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Annual Pass. With the travels we have planned this season, it should pay for itself. Pass in hand, we proceeded to the first stop on the 28 mile road through the park, an overlook of the Painted Desert.

Scenes from the Painted Desert

From the first lookout, we moved a short way to the Painted Desert Inn. This building was originally build out of petrified wood but the CCC during the Great Depression covered the outer walls with adobe. I liked the original better.

RV at the Painted Desert Inn

Wall mural at the Painted Desert Inn

A portion of the original wall

The Exeter gang caught up with us

From there, we continued on the road over I-40 and on to the Pueblo Puerco Ruins, alongside the dry Puerco River. We had lunch and then hiked a short trail to see the ruins, settled about 800 years ago, and petroglyphs.

Pueblo Puerco Ruins

Petroglyphs at Pueblo Puerco

More petroglyphs

Sandy at the ruins

We continued south on the park road and Sandy managed to take some interesting photos as we rolled along.

Random Roadside Photos From Petrified Forest National Park

The next stop was the Agate Bridge. The water flow washed the soil out from under this petrified fallen tree. Somewhere along the line, they reinforced the tree with concrete. Today, with a policy of non-intervention, they would have left the tree alone and let nature take its course.

The Agate Bridge

From there, we proceeded to the Jasper forest. Erosion over the millenia freed the petrified wood that had been buried and it all ended up resting at the base of the cliffs.

Sandy at the Jasper Forest

It looks like real wood

But I bet it doesn't burn

Next came the Crystal Forest, which allowed us to get up close and personal with the petrified wood. Although it was tempting to take a souvenir, that is a very serious federal crime. So we just admired it from up close. We didn't take the whole walking loop, just went up to the first exhibit.

The Exeter RV caught us again

Logs strewn about at the Crystal Forest

Looks like wood from the outside

But not the inside

We made one last stop at the Rainbow Forest Museum where we admired some Triassic dinosaur and crocodilian bones. The differences between the two are quite subtle. They were very old, dating to some 220 million years ago (the same as the trees). We bid farewell to the Exeter family and headed for the exit. Before leaving, a very cute ranger at the gate named Jessica asked if we had taken any rocks. We said no. It isn't likely we would have said yes even if we had taken some.

Turning northwest on the two lane Highway 180, we bounced along.  The road wasn't rough but it had some noticeable dips and humps in it. We arrived in Holbrook where our old friends Jack and Barb live but Jack had told me they hadn't expected to be in town and I got no further information, so we got back on I-40 west. As we moved along, we could see the San Fransisco Peaks in the distance. This volcanic range rises sharply out of the high desert and marks our destination at Flagstaff.

Wigwam Motel in Holbrook Arizona

Cholla Power Plant west of Holbrook Arizona

San Fransisco Peaks

We made a brief stop at a Flying J in Winslow, humming an Eagles song as we did. I phoned ahead to the KOA in Flagstaff and reserved a site. Their system is good. I give them my five digit KOA card number and they have all my info plus I get a discount and accumulate points towards a free stay. They aren't cheap but they are usually pretty nice.

We saw this at the Flying J in Winslow Arizona

West of Winslow, we took the six mile road to the famous Meteor Crater. When we got to the crater, we parked in the RV lot next to another 30' majestic from Texas. We walked up the steps to the main lot, up the steps to the ticket booth, up the steps to the plaza and up still more steps to the theater where we were just in time to see a film on meteors and asteroids striking the Earth. Living in the Sudbury Basin, we are well aware of the power of these heavenly bodies and the inevitability of getting hit again.

After the film, we walked down some steps to the observation platform. Then we had to walk back up again. The large hole in the ground was created about 50,000 years ago by a meteor estimated to be 150 feet across. We spoke to a few of the staff who had heard of Sudbury, the second largest known impact crater on Earth. All in all, this is a first rate facility built to show off a world class landmark.

Interestingly, Meteor Crater is not named for the crater. The nearby town of Meteor City is named for the crater. The US government names landmarks based on the nearest Post Office, so Meteor Crater is named for Meteor City which is named for the crater.

Two Majestics at the Meteor Crater

The Meteor Crater Visitor Center

The Crater

The other side of the Crater

Me at the Crater

Sandy pretending to be at the bottom of the crater

We headed back to I-40 and drove the last 32 miles to Flagstaff. The fuel gauge was showing that we had a good day. The lack of headwinds was probably a big factor but we won't know until we gas up tomorrow.

Our reflection

We pulled into the KOA in Flagstaff in daylight. Sandy and I stayed here two nights in a tent in 1978 and this time we were assigned site number 78. This is a well treed campground but level spots are at a premium. We used the leveler blocks for the first time and still are at a bit of an angle.

KOA Flagstaff

After supper, I worked on the blog, including sorting 150 photos, while Sandy watched TV and fell asleep on the couch. I either have to teach her to blog or to drive:-))

We head for Mesa Arizona tomorrow and will stay in that area for six nights. I still need to get the broken bolts removed from the bike and then hope we can get some riding done.

Today's Route (220 miles):

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