Saturday, October 24, 2009
Wild West Trip: Day 6 - On the Road to Lake Powell
The next morning we headed towards Lake Powell in Page, Arizona. Lots of great red rock scenery along the way. Will let the photos speak for themselves. I was tempted to take a detour to the Grand Canyon for another visit but we were on a schedule.
That's me with the toothy grin.. Lake Powell is a beautiful lake, with more than 2,000 miles of shoreline to explore.
From our site at Wahweap RV Park at Lake Powell we had a great view of the lake, with just a short walk to the store and the beach across the street. Entry into Lake Powell is $15, which does not include your stay. Could see lots of houseboats on the water.
We took a ride back into town to eat at a Mexican restaurant and look around. Coming up, a long day hiking at amazing Antelope Canyon.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Wild West Trip: Day 5 - Flagstaff, AZ
We then took Route 66 into Flagstaff, taking photos along the way. Established in 1931, The Museum Club is an icon roadhouse where many country stars have played. We just missed Sammy Kershaw playing there. Old neon motel signs still line the streets promoting color TV and air conditioning harkening to the days when the Mother Road was a true adventure. One sign that is over the skyline for the Motel Downtowner promotes rooms at $5 a night. Flagstaff gets lots of tourists who are headed to the Grand Canyon. We didn't have time to make the trip there this time. It is one of my favorite National Parks. Saw an interesting site in town where someone was carrying a large moose head in the back of their truck ready to be mounted on their wall.
After driving around for awhile, we decided to try out Himalayan Grill for some Indian food. The lunch buffet included selections from India, Nepal, and Tibet, plus some great naan. Naan is an oven baked flatbread. Ate later at Granny's Closet Restaurant. Was attracted to it as it has been in business since 1974, had a vintage tractor out front with Paul Bunyan statue, and promoted home cooked food. Was NOT impressed. Food was mediocre and it was very loud with a kid's soccer team and crowds watching football on a large screen. The apple pie is definitely not the best on Route 66 as promoted...It was pot pie sized and a disappointment.
Next up we went up to Lowell Observatory to see some stars. The Moon was shining bright and there were several amateur astronomers who brought their large telescopes for people to see the Moon, Vega, and other stars. Founded in 1894 by Percival Lowell, the large telescope is still in use today over 100 years later. Through the large lens in the Clark Telescope Dome in the photo above we viewed Jupiter, which had streaks, and could see a large dot which we were told was where an object had impacted the planet. Only a few people are allowed within the Dome at one time, and flash photography is not allowed. The telescope was built for the large sum of $20,000 back in 1896, and amazingly is still in active use today. From another large telescope here Pluto was discovered in 1930. There are interesting exhibits, a Space Theatre, and a store on the campus, including a meteorite fragment found near Meteor Crater just down the road. It weighs 535 pounds and includes traces of diamonds, nickel, gold, platinum, and silver, but is mostly iron. This rock was part of a large meteorite that fell to Earth with a bang some 50,000 years ago, creating a hole 570 feet deep and 3/4 of a mile wide known today as Meteor Crater. For many years it was on display at the Meteor Crater store until the store closed in 2008 (the last family owned business in the National Park system), and was moved to the Lowell Observatory.
After a long day of sightseeing, we rest up and head next to Page, Arizona and an adventurous tour of amazing Antelope Canyon.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Wild West Trip: Day 5 - Walnut Canyon National Monument
Along these canyon walls over 700 years ago lived a peaceful people who lived here over 150 years along the sides of the canyon. They dug caves underneath overhanging rocks and built walls of limestone to separate and enclose for living quarters and food storage. These dwellings were built at different levels along both sides of Walnut Canyon. The estimate is that from 75 to 400 people lived here during this time. They had crops along the Rim and collected water from Walnut Creek as part of everyday life. Imagine the trek that was made along the cliffs in doing everyday tasks, and how physically fit they must have been. Maybe it was a drought that caused the Sinagua people to move on. The creek waters today are mostly silent in the canyon as they have been diverted for use by the city of Flagstaff. Other peoples had inhabited the area of Walnut Canyon long before, including the Anasazi (who also inhabited the Grand Canyon). Designated as a National Monument in 1915, we took a hike along Island Trail to see inside the Walnut Canyon cliff dwellings up close and to see how the people lived.
The pale wolfberry still thrives in the Canyon. Had rather a tart taste to me. Other plants we came across along the trail with descriptions included Mormon tea, rockmat, mahonia, Arizona walnut, mountain mahogany, and alligator juniper, many still used by Native Americans and now by herbalists for various purposes.
While going through the shop I picked up a hiking medallion to add to my collection.
An interesting demonstration was being conducted by Stephanie Lomatewama who explained the process of making Hopi baskets while Horace Kayquoptewa carved ornate katsina dolls from cottonwood at the Walnut Canyon National Monument. Stephanie is a member of the Hopi tribe and belongs to the Badger clan, and teaches in Sacaton. Horace is also a member of the Hopi tribe and carves fulltime. As part of the tradition passed on, as a Hopi child matures, they get a new doll to herald their advancement in stages to adulthood. The Hopi Indians are descendants of the peoples that inhabited Walnut Canyon and is one of the reasons why it is viewed as sacred.
From here, we will venture 10 miles up the road and take Route 66 into Flagstaff where we drive around town, grab a bite, and see Jupiter up close at Lowell Observatory.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Wild West Trip: Day 5 - Route 66 Haunts
Today was another jam packed today of seeing the sights. First, we spent a few hours scouring over the ruins at Two Guns along Route 66 just down the road from Meteor Crater. Two Guns was the perfect tourist trap, complete with shops, gas station, lunchroom and zoo which included coyotes and mountain lions. What could be more fun than that? Cages were located throughout the property, some over deep caves or next to the canyon cliff. The property used to be fenced off but had a gate down so we proceeded. Keep in mind that this is private property.
Note the rickety wooden bridge, below it is a deep cave. An original Route 66 bridge is in the distance that we walked over and found to be still in good shape.
The 1946 Guide Book to Highway 66 describes Two Guns as follows:
One establishment, offering gas, lunchroom, and curios. At the rear of the building is a small zoo exhibiting western animals. In previous years, US 66 ran behind this building, and some old Apache Caves in a canyon there were great showpoints. They can still be visited if you care to walk a few hundred yards back."
The campground in the distance has seen better days. From the highway can still be seen the sign beckoning all to see "Mountain Lions." Maybe someday someone can fix up the property to what it used to be for so many years along old Route 66.
Coming up, we venture onward later in the day to explore the cliff dwellings at Walnut Canyon National Monument, Flagstaff, and see Jupiter up close!
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Wild West Trip: Day 4 Part II - Arizona Route 66 Views
After departing Gallup, NM, we head west on I-40 towards Arizona. At Holbrook, we took the opportunity of driving along Route 66 again. There are numerous vintage motels and businesses that line the street with old neon signs. Here's an old one for Dairy Queen. We drove past Joe & Aggie's Cafe. Homemade chili is the forte here along with much more on the menu.
The Wigwam Motel caters to the young and young at heart, with individual tepee rooms and vintage cars parked all around. The rate are quite affordable if you happen to be passing through it will be a unique experience for you. We had to venture on as our fifth wheel had a site it was hankering for at Meteor Crater RV Park next to Route 66.
Since we had seen Meteor Crater when we were here several years ago, we opted to drive up the rough road next to the RV Park to see the old Meteor Crater Observatory and take photos. Now mostly ruins, Meteor Crater Observatory used to have a curio shop with model of Meteor Crater. From the tower could be viewed the crater.
Back at our site we took in another beautiful Western sunset.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Wild West Trip: Day 4 - Hotel El Rancho, Gallup, NM
We ate breakfast at Hotel El Rancho in Gallup, NM. Steeped in history, signed photos line the hotel walls, with a one-of-a-kind lobby with Western and Native American influences evident throughout with a large stone fireplace and vintage furnishings. All the great movie stars have stayed here while filming nearby since the hotel opened in 1937, from John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Jackie Cooper, Spencer Tracy, Kirk Douglas, Errol Flynn, Gregory Peck, Alan Ladd, Humphrey Bogart, Katherine Hepburn, Jane Wyman, and many more. While eating, we saw some British couples who were touring Route 66 and had brought over their vintage cars to drive it first-hand.
After our breakfast of pankcakes, eggs, bacon, and breakfast tacos, we toured the Presidential Suite where Presidents Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower have stayed. The large room had a Western motif, with the bathroom a purple framed mirror, sink, and shower with rock walls. Each room within the hotel has the name above the room of a famous movie star who stayed there.
Each August in Gallup the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial is held, a tradition for over 60 years, with rodeos, pow-wows, arts and crafts. Just a short drive from many national monuments and sites, Gallup also contains many signs and businesses along Route 66 to remind you of how the highway used to be.
From here we head to Meteor Crater to explore more of Route 66 and Flagstaff.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Wild West Trip: Day 3 - Canyon de Chelly National Monument
The next morning we departed from the RV park at Dancing Eagle Casino headed along I-40 towards Gallup. Along the way we could see some sections of Route 66 that paralleled I-40.
After we got unhitched at USA RV Park, we took a side trip over to Canyon de Chelly just across the Arizona border on the Navajo Indian Reservation. Along the way, the land changes and turns into a dense forest. Noticed several Navajos that had stopped their vehicles along the road to pick pinyon pine nuts, highly sought after for their great taste. We stopped in at the historic Hubbell Trading Post. John Lorenzo Hubbell and his family conducted trade with the Navajo here for over 90 years starting in the late 1800s. The Hubbell Trading Post today has the authentic feel, down to the creaking floors, fresh bread, groceries, Arbuckles Ariosa coffee, Navajo rugs, baskets, and jewelry for sale.
As we drove through the town of Chinle we saw loose cattle milling about. The terrain gets more rugged as you enter Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Watch out for sheep along the road... On the way back down the road near sunset we saw three wild horses running loose near us so keep alert here.
At the first big scenic overlook there is a trail that ventures into a side canyon. I talked with the Navajo artist Terry Yazzie displaying examples of his paintings on sandstone and rock and purchased one.
History runs deep here. On up the road we stopped at an overlook where we could see cliff dwellings in the distance on the other side of the canyon. Several examples of pictograph rock art can be found along the sandstone canyon walls here that were first painted by the Anasazi, a prehistoric Pueblo people who lived here from A.D. 1 until 1300. The Navajos settled in the area about 200 years later. Areas such as Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly and the surrounding area of Arizona and New Mexico that are a part of the Navajo Nation are sacred to the Navajo, with deep symbolical meaning. The Navajo word for their homeland is "Dine'bikeyah." As pioneers inhabited the West, the Navajos were forced to move from their homes by the U.S. Army during the Civil War to Fort Sumner in New Mexico. Villages, houses, and property was destroyed. The conditions at Fort Sumner were severe, with lack of food and deplorable conditions. When this became known to officials in Washington, negotiations were led by Grant that led to the return of the Navajo in 1868 back to their homeland that is defined today as the Navajo Reservation comprising parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. This area contains many historic and recreational sites, with over a dozen national monuments.
After a day at Canyon de Chelly, we stopped in at the Junction Restaurant in Chinle for some authentic Navajo food. My beef soup and fry bread were delicious and a perfect way to end the day.
Friday, October 09, 2009
Wild West Trip: Day 2 - New Mexico
Our trek took us over into New Mexico, along I-40 with a wide sweeping
plain and never ending billboards attracting tourists to stop and shop.
We visited Clines Corners, a longtime attraction that dates to the 1930s and Route 66's heyday. Lots of touristy stuff, a restaurant, and motel, with many interesting Native American pottery and dolls.
As we traveled further along I-40, I began to look for traces of Route 66. There are still remnants, small sections of the original highway that were not covered by I-40. Look for the signs where you can exit and see an old motel, or signs of when the Mother Road had it's heyday.
Some curious scenes can still be found along the highways. This camper made me think of the movie The Grapes of Wrath for some reason.. As the sun set, we were amazed again at how beautiful the sunsets are here out West.
We stopped in for the night at Dancing Eagle Casino, where we parked in their RV Park for the night with hookups and wireless Internet for only $10 (after getting their Player's Card). In addition, they had a 2 for 1 special on their prime rib dinners ($10) which was quite tasty.
For dessert, we shared a huge dish called the Avalanche, consisting of layers of brownies, chocolate syrup, strawberries, and ice cream. After devouring, we decided to call it a night.
On Day 3, we venture further along and explore more of Route 66 in New Mexico.
Wild West Trip: Day 1 - Texas is a big place...
Our trek out West had us explore interesting places in Texas, New
Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. I will detail our adventures on a
daily basis here in the blog. In time we will also be updating our state
sections with new feature segments.
On Day 1 after getting our truck hitched up to our 37 foot Titanium fifth wheel, we headed out around 11:30. Our route took us along 183 as we passed many interesting Texas towns: Lampasas, Lometa, Goldthwaite, Mullin, Early, Rising Star (and don't forget Zephyr!), and Cisco. Lots of signs for ranch land, goats, horses, donkeys, even old wagons for sale. On our journey back (future post), we decided to stop at a few of the more rustic towns.
We took a "shortcut" on Highway 283 on the way which turned into a gravel/dirt road from construction (we still have dirt caked up on our truck and fifth wheel).
We then ventured onto I-20 and saw huge windmills around the Sweetwater area (a big project of T. Boone Pickens), and made our way to Lubbock by nightfall. Boondocked our fifth wheel at the Flying J and checked our email via their wireless Internet ($4.95 per day) and cranked up our generator for some added power before turning in for the night. Didn't bother with our two slideouts as we were just there for the night. Flying J also has special parking for RVers. If staying, bring along some ear plugs and a sound machine, as we heard planes, trains, trucks, and automobiles...
On Day 2, we will make it on into New Mexico.