How We Roll
We definitely want to visit again, maybe from the North Rim. There are places near the park where you can camp and we’d like to stay close enough to it that we can spend several days exploring it (where we stayed this time it was a 50-mile drive to the South Rim). It would be fun to be able to ride bikes to the canyon and not have to take a vehicle at all.
I’m sure the rest of Route 66 has many attractions too. When we get around to doing the sections we missed, maybe I’ll spring for a guidebook…and the map series…and of course we’ll have to watch Disney’s Cars again…and maybe download our favorite Route 66 songs…and buy some souvenirs. :)
Once we got situated at the campground we drove to the Grand Canyon. Words can’t adequately describe that place and neither can the beautiful photos I have seen. You really need to see it in person. The word “awesome” is continually overused, but its true meaning (inspiring an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear; causing or inducing awe) is perfect to describe the Grand Canyon.
We only walked about 5 miles to various points on the South Rim, but there are many trails you can take if you want to see more. You can also ride bikes on some of them. From one viewpoint, we saw some hikers down in the bottom of the canyon and they looked as small as ants. You need a wilderness pass to do what they were doing.
The New Mexican landscape along Route 66 is rugged: windswept hills and mesas covered with scrub brush; hardy grasses entrenched in red soil. The same rugged landscape continues into Arizona. At this time of year (spring) it’s hot in the daytime and cold at night. And we’re told they have blazing hot summers and frigid winters. I can’t imagine living in such a harsh location, but it is starkly beautiful.
We stopped at Petrified Forest National Park (near Navajo, AZ) for a couple of hours one day. The park is huge: over 85,000 square miles. It includes the Painted Desert, the Teepees (large light-colored sedimentary formations shaped like teepees) and Jasper and Crystal Petrified Forests. The petrified logs have intricate, colorful patterns (from different blends of minerals) and there are acres of logs.
When we got to Flagstaff, our intention was to stay in a Wal-Mart parking lot one night and then find a campground where we could leave the motor home and drive our car to the Grand Canyon. What we discovered was you can’t park overnight in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Arizona. (Arizona is very independent and has its own set of rules including refusing to use Daylight Savings time.)
So we drove on to Williams, Arizona and found a campground there. Williams is “The Gateway to the Grand Canyon.” It also has a street downtown that is all about Route 66: historic restaurants, bars, and of course souvenirs. We didn’t spend time there other than to drive through it, but we might want to come back to this town and the Petrified Forest again, so we’re keeping both on our to-do list.
We had driven the first leg of Route 66 when we left Chicago, following it south through Illinois. And since we caught up with it again on I-40, we’re only missing the part between Illinois and Texas (through Missouri, the southeast tip of Kansas, and across Oklahoma) and the final stretch where it leaves Arizona to go through LA and end up at the Pacific Ocean. Those sections are now on our to-do list.
Route 66 is not for people in a hurry. You will travel long, winding, two-lane roads through rural areas where hurrying doesn’t seem to get you there any faster. The part of I-40 we traveled through the Texas panhandle featured tumbleweeds, pump jacks pumping oil, windmills, and a LOT of open sky.
Once we got into New Mexico, we headed toward Albuquerque. We stayed one night at a campground near there and drove our car into Old Town Albuquerque; it is REALLY old…settled in 1701. If you like graceful adobe structures, silver and turquoise jewelry, beautiful pottery, or artwork made by native craftspeople, and enjoy delicious Mexican food, you should visit Albuquerque. (And it’s really fun to spell). Even their freeway bridges are beautiful; colored salmon pink and turquoise.
We needed to get from Texas to northern California and decided to go north to I-40 rather than stay south on I-10, mainly to bypass the LA area because of all the traffic there. Happily, we discovered that I-40 through the Texas panhandle and across the width of New Mexico and Arizona is part of Historical Route 66. It was known as America’s Main Street and John Steinbeck called it “the mother road.”