As I crossed into Arizona from New Mexico on US70 I was treated to beautiful displays of pale green grasses dotted with yellow and purple flowers. God’s sky also was on full display: broken clouds, patches of blue, and many rainbows. The clouds hugged nearby mountain peaks but occasionally allowed last night’s snowfall to show through. It was a gorgeous drive! As I continued toward Apache Junction the weather vacillated between sunshine, rain showers and a patch of snow-mixed rain. US70 became US60 as I continued west. Together, these solid roads made for a wonderful drive, and I was glad I’d left early enough to miss the brunt of the wind and enjoy the last fringes of the winter storm as it blew eastward. I’m tagging this route a wonderful road! And I lifted a prayer of thanks for safe travels and for the opportunity to enjoy the Creator’s fine work.
The Apache Junction KOA got us by. Pretty disappointing site but not the end of the world. Brad & Jonathan joined me Wednesday night (well, at midnight!). We enjoyed good times at the Rangers/Cubs game Thursday—including the biggest bestest Chicago Dog ever. Sunday we drove miles & miles to Surprise Stadium for the Dbacks/Rangers game. ‘Twas a more interesting game but the long drive made the visit to Sloan Park a little nicer. We took a couple-hour drive into Tonto National Forest Monday before I ran the boys back to the airport across town. Nice drive; the picture credits go to Brad.
Tuesday brought a nice 3-4 hour drive up I-17 and AZ 89A thru Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon. The road sign disallowed trucks over 50′ on the road north of Sedona but since I was not a “truck” per se, and measure just 53′ from bumper to bumper I fudged it and went ahead. Beautiful drive but. yep, tight turns. NTL, made it to Flagstaff and settled in for a few days at the attractive KOA on the north side of town. Some winter weather is forecast in a couple days and I’ll hang here until Saturday to catch the first couple rounds of March Madness. More later… …
It’s now “later”… A few snow showers Wednesday night & Thursday during the day. Made for pretty views outside Majerle’s sports grill where I watched a few Madness games. I also found my newest favorite brewery—Mother Road. They’ve got an excellent lineup of IPAs, including Tower Station and Lost Highway, plus a bourbon barrel stout which I’m going back for Friday.
Sunset Crater Volcano & Wupatki National Monuments
Gotta admit, I didn’t know these National Parks were here until I saw the road sign. They are just up the road from Flagstaff and turns out, they’re really cool. Sunset Crater Volcano is raw beauty. Stark. Powerful. Rugged. Fragile. It draws you in.
I took a couple short hikes, enjoying the lava rock trails and surrounding snow-capped mountains. As I was finishing up I encountered Eric, a parks volunteer. Nice old guy (I suppose I need to be careful how I say that!) who shared some info about the park and its geology. And he gave me a good restaurant tip for when I’m in Boulder, Utah in a week or so.
Continuing on toward Wupatki, the drive was incredible, overlooking Arizona’s Painted Desert. Not sure what I expected but the puebloan ruins were really interesting. Nice to see such old (circa 1100 A.D.) structures preserved. The day had warmed from the low 30s to the upper 40s and by the time I’d finished visiting the two parks I was ready to taste another of Flagstaff’s fine breweries.
After refilling a propane bottle (I’m blowing through them pretty quick in this long-enduring winter) I headed into historic downtown and Dark Sky Brewing where I had a flight of five tasters. The Magnum PI’s Pilsner was very good; I had my first Grisette; an interesting Kook Juice IPA featuring pineapple & coconut (good but a taster is enough); and wrapped up with their west coast Strength in Numbers and Send Me an Angel, both very good IPAs. Another favorite brewery discovered! Side note: their music comes from a vinyl LP player (Brett, that’s for you!).
Dinner was a great change of pace, visiting with my friend Maryann, who I hadn’t seen in (yikes!) about 25 years. We had a really good time chatting and catching up. Good friends, good times!
The Grand Canyon
After attending 121 “camp church” online, I headed into Williams for my ride on the Grand Canyon Railway to The Grand Canyon. I kinda feared the event would be a little skitchy but it wasn’t bad. The old west characters were actually entertaining and Annette, our purser, was great, sharing insights and some humor. The two-hour ride to Grand Canyon went by quickly.
I’d been to the Canyon before and it still impresses and amazes! Beautiful, stark, grand beauty. I walked the rim trail 3½ miles from Mojave Point to the El Tovar hotel where, given I only had about 30 minutes before needing to board the train again, I had a Tower Station IPA in the iconic lodge. The train was cool but it sure limits time at the park (about 3 hours).
I didn’t get down into the Canyon—my stupid knee would only gripe at me for the downhill. So seeing the creation from the rim had to do. (I just wish people knew how to get outta the way and walk to the right! It just ain’t that hard. All-in-all ’twas a good day topped off by an excellent Carne Chile de Molcajete at Fiesta Mexican Grill in Williams. Worth returning for that dish!
And with that, Arizona is done. Headed down the hill to Kingman then up remote US-93 to the Las Vegas area for a week. Gonna hang with Julie & Pam!