To the Bears Ears

Finally back on the road my primary destination this summer is the East Coast — by way of the Southwest. I’m picking Julie up at Las Vegas airport the last week of May and then we’re going up to Pahrump to visit Pam & Billy.

But first I planned to visit a few places I’ve missed so far.

The first hurdle is to get through North Texas. It’s such a beatdown drive with simply nothing to see. I do like Caprock Canyons State Park in the Texas panhandle but for a stupid reason state parks were still closed due to the Corona virus farce. So I spent the first two nights in unremarkable Lubbock and North Albuquerque KOAs.

Day 3 took me to a Harvest Hosts location—Mancos Brewery, where I stayed last year. It’s a cool spot in a sleepy Colorado mountain town but, of course, they could only sell food and beer to go thanks to the Corona virus farce. Still, good food and a free night with a solid view is a deal.

Monument Valley
Monument Valley
After watching church Sunday morning I drove to Monument Valley Utah and pitched camp early, throwing a rack of baby backs on the grill. The lazy afternoon included visit from a small herd of sheep and then ended with a beautiful sunset across the mesa.

My layover day gave me the opportunity to visit a couple areas I’ve missed in past trips: Bears Ears National Monument and Natural Bridges NM. Like other massive national monuments, Bears Ears is managed by the Bureau of Land Management while Natural Bridges is part of the National Park System. The entire area with its bluffs, monoliths, arches and bridges is beautifully raw, bold and intimidating. I love it!

Bears Ears is named after an Indian legend:

One of the more popular Navajo stories is that of Changing-Bear-Maiden, who was very beautiful and desired by many men. She would have nothing to do with them. However, Coyote, the trickster, persuaded Changing-Bear-Maiden to marry him in spite of her brothers’ warning that the union would bring evil.

Changing-Bear-Maiden began to change and by winter’s end her transformation into a mischievous bear was complete. Realizing that the only way to save her was to change her into another form, her brother killed Changing-Bear-Maiden, cutting off her ears and throwing them away. They became the buttes seen today.

Ok then.

The area includes Monument Valley and is quite remote. I was impressed that the campground had reliable power and good water. And while I know it defies physics, cell and internet coverage seems to vary with the wind, of which there was plenty. Another interesting feature is the Moki Dugout, a two-mile section of steep, narrow gravel road between two paved state highways. It ascends/descends an abrupt cliff face so I guess would be pretty expensive to widen and pave. It’s kinda cool… Anyway, check the photos below for this period of the trip. They don’t do the landscape justice but you’ll get an idea of why I travel. And with that, and a thin layer of dust throughout my rig, I continued on toward the north rim of our Grand Canyon. Stay tuned!

Two Holes in the Ground

Miffed about the Rift

Welp, my intent to visit the Grand Canyon North Rim was foiled by our country’s overreaction to the #}~*&$!€ Covid threat. So very stupid at this point. Open. The. Damn. Country.

So I hung at Jacob Lake on the Kaibab Plateau, 40 some miles from the canyon rim. I could’ve gotten to the rim by way of forest service roads but they were rough and a 3-hour drive each way in an F250 didn’t fire me up. I’d had done it in an ATV…

The cold, windy weather made it tough to stay outside so it turned out to be a lazy couple days listening to the pine trees sing.

Another Hole in the Ground

When I passed through southern Utah last spring Cedar Breaks National Monument was inaccessible because the roads were still closed. This time I made it! The scenic road had opened just a few days earlier. Thankfully.

Cedar Breaks - Sunset View Overlook
Cedar Breaks – Sunset View Overlook

I dropped Synko at the KOA in Cedar City and then drove the 60-70 mile loop around this really cool, beautiful geological display. Similar to Bryce Canyon, the Breaks displays maybe a dozen layers of rock and sediment types. Very cool. Very pretty. Very impressive.

My added reward for a few extra miles of driving was stopping into Policy Kings Brewery downtown. I’d visited here last year and this time was great too. Soooooo nice to be able to actually sit and enjoy a couple brews, Covid be dammed. Their Chai Saison and Azzaca IPA are both very good. I like this family-run place; they always change up their beer selections, as they run a nano system making very small batches. Kinda like Bonfire in Eagle Colorado. Good stuff.

Friday I dropped in on friends Ed & Kathryn; we visited Snow Canyon state park, Tuacahn Center for the Arts, and then Coyote Gulch for a remarkable dill Havarti burger. (Scratch adjective remarkable; superb is a better descriptor.) Good scenes, a good burger, a good brew, a good venue and good friends made for a really good evening. Thanks to Ed & Kathryn for their hospitality. I’d missed them last year when I was in the St. George area but they away. Glad to have it work out this time!

I made the short drive to Las Vegas better by detouring through the Lake Mead Recreation Area and Valley of Fire state park. Much better than boring I-15. The couple hour drive wrapped up with a quick visit to Blue Beacon Truck Wash to knock the bugs out of Synko’s teeth. It was an $80 bill but the ol’ girl looks much better.

Only Slots in Vegas this Time!
Only Slots in Vegas this Time!

At the Vegas KOA I spent hours cleaning the Utah red dust from every nook & cranny of Synko’s insides. That stuff gets everywhere. My truck got the same treatment. Tedious cleaning—but it’s not like I was distracted by any gaming action. The only slots playing today were the laundry machines! Stupid Corona.  Scratch stupid Corona; stupid Coronoa overreaction is a better descriptor.)

Next up: a week in Pahrump hanging with Pam & Billy, and Julie—a scenario for times unreportable? Oh yeah, here comes the heat tooa few days north of 100 forecast this week. Dang, kinda early ain’t it?… Check back in a week or so for whatever’s reportable from Pahrump and then my 5-day run across country to Nashville the first week of June.

Past Houses Farms & Fields

Pahrump was fun! Julie & I had a blast hanging with Pam & Billy, enjoying the company of their family and each other. Can’t say we really did a helluva lot but they were good times! A few days were stupidly hot but the week ended in beautiful weather. All-in-all, we had a great time!

Julie and I headed out from Lakeside Casino RV Park Monday late morning and an hourish later I dropped her off at McCarran airport to catch her flight back to DFW. I kept rolling, planning to spend the night in Flagstaff. Anxious Arizona changed that plan, as they had enacted a statewide nighttime curfew. With no place to hang for a brew or dinner I just kept heading east until I reached curfew time near Petrified Forest National Park.

The Great State of New Mexico’s Roads
The Great State of New Mexico’s Roads

That couple-hour mileage gain put me ahead of schedule for the next day and my original plan to reach Las Vegas, NM was completed by about 1pm so I just kept going eastbound and down, bouncing across northeast New Mexico, a corner of Oklahoma and into Kansas.

 

The unremarkable stretch of southwest Kansas into Dodge City rolled slowly by. I noticed all the grain silos were on the west side of the highway. When I mentioned this Shelley suggested it was because railway tracks were on the west side; finally made more sense than mere coincidence. After a long drive of 12.5 hours I backed into a mediocre site at the Dodge City KOA. It was good enuf for a quick overnight.

Wednesday was truly a day spent “rolling past houses, farms and fields” as I crossed Kansas on US400. Good road overall and got pretty nice winding through a few hills as I neared Missouri. With rain clouds in my mirror I pulled into the heavily wooded Springfield KOA and let them deliver a pretty decent pizza to my site. Early morning storms threatened to throw tree branches onto my rig but the ones that did fall thankfully missed me.

My eastward trek contributed through the Ozarks into western Kentucky and the pretty Kentucky and Bartley Lakes region. I overnighted at at campground I had stayed at before on the east shore of Lake Bartley. Synko got a bath but my clothes did not, as Kentucky apparently is one of the states that overreacted to corona; the campground laundry facility was closed. In the end that gained me about $25 as I griped that they had not informed me of the loss of that amenity. (I also griped about the narrow site they gave me and the flaky power that they had to fix. Management was good to honor my request and I’ll return to that nice campground,)

After a short 90 minute drive Saturday into Nashville I settled into the KOA resort near Opryland where Shelley & Brett joined me in the site next to mine. And that’s where the trip currently finds me this beautiful Sunday morning. Church online is on in 30 so I’ll sign off here and pick up in a week or so after we’ve searched out a distillery or two! Cheers!