The Square Peg -Ain’t It Just Grand?
© S. Bradley Stoner
Yeah, I know, I’ve been gone a while. So, sue me. I was on an adventure. Actually, it’s kind of our annual adventure. Yep… road trip! Heck, going on a road trip in our family is always an adventure. You know how some folks have to have an itinerary? Got to get to point A by such and such a time, then point B, and so on and so on. Not us. Sometimes we have a general idea of what we want to see, but most times not. Usually we just pack up, wet a finger, stick it in the air, and go whichever way the wind is blowing. This time it was blowing northwest. (I didn’t want to tell my Sweetie, but that’s the direction the wind blows most of the time in San Antonio). I’ve got to tell you, I was happy as a clam in mud. The mountains are northwest of here, and I’m a mountain boy at heart.
So off we headed on I-10 West. If y’all haven’t been to Texas, it’s a BIG state. From Houston to El Paso its roughly 745 miles. That’s about 50 miles less than from El Paso to Los Angeles. No matter which way we go from San Antonio, it takes about a day to get out of Texas. And our highways have 80 mph speed limits. You can see why. Of course, being a Texan I go a bit… um no, I’m not going there. You never know who might be peeking at this blog.
Anyway, we made Las Cruces, New Mexico the first night. From there… well, if I gave you a blow by blow, it’d take forever. Suffice it to say we wandered toward Arizona, exploring along the way. I should have taken my hiking boots… I damn near wore out my good pair of cross trainers. Of course, it would have helped if some of the trails were marked better. We turned one one-mile round trip jaunt into a two-mile round-trip jaunt. It wouldn’t have been so bad, except it was hotter than lizard’s butt and we didn’t take water with us. Heck, it was only a short hike. By the time we got back, we were both drier than the desert we just traversed.
We did find a beautiful scenic byway between Clifton and Springerville, AZ… I don’t recommend it for the squeamish. Let’s just say it’s steep (more than 8% grade in a lot of places) with more switchbacks than a sidewinder. Recommended speed in most places… 15 mph. Of course, being a Texan… oh, never mind. But what a refreshing change, at 11:30 local time it was 59°. Oh, and it’s in the AZ mountains! Gotta love that! Spent the night in Holcomb, AZ, and boy did we need the rest.
Early the next morning, we grabbed breakfast and headed west, aimed at the Grand Canyon. Of course, traveling with my Sweetie is a guarantee that the route will never be direct. Nope, there was a sign for Sunset Volcano… right in the middle of a sprawling volcanic field that was active as recently as 1,000 years ago. Yep… took a turn and went to look that over. An hour and a half later, we were back on the road to the Grand Canyon. We spent dang near the whole day there. We didn’t have to pay a dime to get into the park… I bought a senior lifetime pass two years ago, and man did it pay for itself on this trip. I had three cameras with me… one digital and two 35mm film cameras. I burned a lot of film that I need to get developed.
From Grand Canyon, we headed for Utah. FYI, there aren’t a lot of hotels on the Navajo Trail (U.S. 160), so we had to make Kayenta, AZ before we found a Hampton Inn… it was nice and they had a great restaurant. Navajo tacos… yum! The next morning on to Utah. Wandered around a bit, and went over to Natural Bridges National Monument, wandered back to 191 and made a brief stop at Arches NP near Moab (we’d been there a few times, but wanted to get some new pictures. The roads are under construction and everybody has to be out of the park by 7:00 p.m. We got into the park at 5:00 p.m. after waiting in a looooong line and made Green River that night.
We wanted to see the petroglyphs in Nine-mile Canyon, so off we went up U.S. 191 to Wellington to find it. BTW, Nine-mile Canyon is some 60 miles long, dirt road part of the way, and the petroglyphs had been vandalized except in one location. It was a pretty drive through the canyon, but what a disappointment on the petroglyphs. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Sego Canyon is much better… and shorter. After toiling our way through the Canyon and coming out at Myton, we stopped for a late lunch in Roosevelt, then wound our way up to Vernal and spent the night there.
Dinosaur National Monument was next. Went right past the road to the Utah Visitors Center where the exposed dig area is and trundled on the Colorado Visitor’s Center. Oops. Had to backtrack about 24 miles to go see the bones. We had been there when the boys were young and had planned to visit it on our twentieth anniversary, but it was closed for rebuilding. The buildings were built on bentonite and had sunk to the point of being unsafe. It didn’t reopen until a couple of years ago. Did some shopping there and brought home a few trinkets and a cast of an Allosaurus skull to add to our collection. (For our anniversary last June, I got my Sweetie a life-size resin replica of a Saber-toothed Cat. What else would you get for the woman who doesn’t wear jewelry?).
From Dinosaur we headed for Cortez, CO for a little rest before hitting Mesa Verde the next day. That’s another park we had been to years ago, but wanted to revisit it since there were some hikes I couldn’t do last time we were there. I did ‘em this time. We spent most of the day there, then headed to Durango and south on CO 139 to I-70 back into Utah for a brief stop at Sego Canyon where I burned more film, and then back to Green River for the night.
By this time our vacation time was winding down, so we headed south again and went to Canyonlands National Park. Another one we had not been to. It was spectacular! In fact, I thought it was better than Grand Canyon (of course, fewer people may have had something to do with that). Made it to Albuquerque around 8:00 p.m. and stopped at a Best Western to see if they had a room. Nope, they were full up. It seems Alabama was in town for a concert that night. Disappointed (hey, I was road weary by this time) I started the car and was about to head out when the desk clerk came running out shouting to my wife, “Ma’am, ma’am! Wait! We just had a cancellation…” It’s uncanny. The same thing happened to us in Gunnison, CO on our trip last year. Grateful, we got it the room and zonked out.
Only two days left until we needed to be home. We headed southeast to Socorro for what seems to be an annual visit to the Very Large Array (VLA) in the New Mexico high desert, and arrived in Las Cruces for our last night on the road, before heading home the next day. Well, that’s about it. We’re home safe and sound now. We did lasso a storm in New Mexico and dragged it back with us. You’re welcome San Antonio!