Zion National Park: A ‘HOLY COW’ Moment

Day 30: Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Start: Flagstaff, AZ
End: Springdale, UT
Miles Driven: 263
Total Miles: 4,550

Today was an absolutely incredible day. We have seen so many amazing sights thus far, but today’s roads and vistas just blew us away.

There are so many beautiful places in this country, and I really consider Tom and I lucky to be able to see so many of these gems in this trip. We’re now a month into the journey, and we are neither tired of being on the road nor particularly in a hurry to return home. Yes, packing and unpacking is a pain. But the daily discovery of the wonders in our country…this is the trip we always dreamed of.

Anyway…on with today.

We started out going up Route 89 from Flagstaff. As we motored along, we started to see some incredible vistas. Little did we know that these views were just the beginning of a spectacular day.

Route 89

Route 89 – One of today’s open roads

A little while in to the trip, we saw a sign for Tuba City. We decided to make an impromptu stop there, and we were glad we did. While the vistas from Route 89 were great, Route 160 to Tuba City went through the heart of the Painted Desert. Rich red mesas and rock formations surrounded us. And a few miles down 160, we saw a sign for Dinosaur Tracks. Again, we decided to make a detour. And once again, we weren’t sorry.

We pulled up to some impromptu roadside stands and parked. We were immediately greeted by a young man, Dale, who began talking about the area and the incredible fossils there. We saw our first fossilized footprints in a matter of moments. Dale told us about the history of the area, showed us different areas of interest and different fossils and wowed us with the sights. The ‘guides’ work only for tips, so we gave him some cash and thanked him for his great tour. It turns out that this area could be one of the largest dinosaur track sites in the country. Judging by the hand-painted sign and the humble stands, it’s a pretty well-kept secret. Again, the road less travelled…

First dinosaur tracks

A few feet away from the parking area, you see your first tracks

Tom compares prints

Tom compares prints

Fossilized partial dinosaur skeleton Dinosaur Tracks

Fossilized partial dinosaur skeleton

Tom vs T-Rex

Tom vs baby T-Rex. T-Rex would squish Tom in one step!

Our guide Dale

Our guide Dale

Back on the road, we wound through some incredible country. High mesas, red canyons, massive rock formations, open prairie…we saw it all. Then, we reached the Glen Canyon area and the bridge over the Colorado River. Again, another unplanned stop…and another spectacular view.

Colorado River - Glen Canyon

View from the bridge across the Colorado River in the Glen Canyon area (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Back on the road, more wonderful views…more jaw-dropping moments like this:

Scenic View

Scenic View (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

We then made it to Utah! Of course, the first town across the border was Kanab. And as you may know, one of my favorite animal sanctuaries is in Kanab. Thus, our next unplanned stop occurred at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

Utah State Border

Utah State Border

If you’ve ever watched the National Geographic Channel’s show “Dogtown,” then you’ve seen Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. They rescue, rehabilitate and adopt out animals from cats and dogs to horses, pigs, goats, rabbits and birds that may have been otherwise euthanized. Aside from their notoriety from the TV show, Best Friends is also known as the rescue organization that took in the Michael Vick pit bulls. Unfortunately, we were too late for a tour. But we did get to see the incredible canyon that is home for these animals and we got to chat with the people working at the sanctuary. And of course, Jasmine and Juliet were MORE than welcome in the visitor’s center and gift shop!

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

We soon said goodbye to Route 89 and hello to Route 9 to Zion.

Welcome to Zion National Park

Welcome to Zion National Park

Getting to our hotel in Springdale meant driving through Zion National Park. And all I could say when I saw the landscape was WOW!

WOW!

WOW!

HOLY COW!

HOLY COW!

And of course, as we were driving with our jaws on our laps, we were brought back down to earth by a local resident. He made us chuckle as he stopped traffic so he could go eat the flowers on the OTHER side of the road.

Munch Munch

Mmmm…those flowers look goooood!

We used Tom’s National Park Senior Pass again (FREE ENTRY FOR LIFE!) and reached our hotel. It’s by far the nicest La Quinta I’ve seen. And what a spectacular view from our balcony:

View from our balcony

View from our balcony

We walked to dinner–we’re close to everything. Tom had to try the Polygamy Porter (Why Have Just One?).

Polygamy Porter

Polygamy Porter – Why have just one?

It has been a long day of driving and “Holy Cow” moments. Tomorrow is promising to be even more inspirational! Of course, all this activity has just exhausted the girls. Juliet is particularly tired due to her digging through the doggie bag in the back seat and ALMOST breaking into the kibble bag. This little girl is going to be trouble…

ZZZZ

ZZZZ–All tuckered out from being bad!

Route 66: Into Santa Fe

Day 18: Friday, May 17, 2013
Start: Tucumcari, NM
End: Santa Fe, NM
Miles Driven: 201
Total Miles: 3,053

Today’s voyage was more Interstate than back roads, but we made a couple of side trips off the Mother Rode that made the travels very worthwhile. Much of Route 66 is either impassable, rough road or under I-40 from Tucumcari to Santa Rosa. So, first thing out, we sped down I-40 near the speed limit. We reached Santa Rosa and drove around the downtown area…not much to see so we moseyed on.

Along the way, we paced a freight train. For whatever reason, in this setting, even a train is dramatic!

Train

Racing the train

We soon came to the Highway 84 (Route 66) turnoff towards Santa Fe. It was a long, straight highway with little traffic and dramatic views of mesas and desert. We loved it! We reached I-25–our turn-off to Santa Fe–but instead of heading South towards Santa Fe, we decided to go a bit North to visit Las Vegas. No, there isn’t a casino or glittering signs. It’s a small town of less than 15,000 people. Established in 1835, it’s the ‘original’ Las Vegas.

The Original Las Vegas

Vegas Baby! Well, the ORIGINAL Las Vegas.

Our route today also put us on the Santa Fe Trail (I-25, today) as well as the Old Pecos Trail (in Santa Fe). We were just steeped in history today!!

Santa Fe Trail

On the Santa Fe Trail

We really liked Las Vegas. It was a charming little town. We walked around the town square, and voila! There was a quilt shop! The ThreadBear Quilt Shop is owned by Ann & Michael Siewert. However, today, a nice lady, Martha, was there to chat (and sell me fabric, of course!). When I was getting ready to leave, Tom came in with the pups. Of course, Martha swooned over them. It turns out that she had Dachshunds when she was growing up.

ThreadBear - Las Vegas

Whoop! Quilt shop! ThreadBear Quilt Shop in Las Vegas, New Mexico

Martha

Martha, the kind clerk at the Thread Bear!

Las Vegas was a satisfying stop. We got our fix of small town America and sweet people (Tom chatted with a guy while I was in the quilt shop). We then hit the open road again. While I-25 was speedy, it was still magnificently beautiful. It was a far cry from the Texas Panhandle. When we were experiencing our open road driving the Panhandle yesterday, it was a dry and desolate drive. Tom said to me, “Hey, there’s oncoming traffic!” I looked down the road and said, “It’s a building, honey.” Today’s drive was a bit more…picturesque. 🙂

Today's open road

Today’s open road

Driving up I-25, I noticed a big green space on my GPS. It turned out to be the Pecos National Historic Forest. We decided to make a second side-trip to take a look-see, and we’re very glad we did. We stopped in the Visitor’s Center where Tom was able to use his National Parks Senior Pass and get us in for free (WHEEEE!). We learned that there had been a huge Pueblo here, now in ruins. We watched the short film describing the history of the Pueblo and then went out to see the ruins of the Church that was built by the Franciscan Monks to try to ‘save’ these doomed pagans. Fascinating stuff!

Church Ruins - Pecos National Forest

Church ruins at the pueblo at the Pecos National Historic Forest

We got back on the road and headed for our destination for the next few nights, Santa Fe. We booked a room at the Eldorado Hotel and Spa in the heart of Old Santa Fe. We’re just a block from the Georgia O’Keefe Museum! While the location is nice and the room is comfortable, I have to say that we had MUCH better and FRIENDLIER service at the Drury Hotels. I am not really impressed by the lack of staff here and the cold, rather snooty service. However, I am looking forward to exploring Santa Fe and to my Spa treatment on Sunday! 🙂

Pups

The pups make themselves at home at the Eldorado in Santa Fe

As usual, the pups have made themselves at home here in Santa Fe. Juliet continues to amaze us with her change in demeanor and her real progress in socialization. She’s finally becoming less timid and is more willing to explore and greet other dogs.

We had a nice dinner at the Blue Corn Cafe–just a light dinner of soup and salad tonight. We plan on hitting Tia Sophia’s for breakfast tomorrow and going museum hopping! I also found a REAL rubber stamp store about a block away. I haven’t seen one of those in years!

Blue Corn Cafe

Balcony view from the Blue Corn Cafe

We plan on staying in Santa Fe until Monday. It will be fun exploring this town and tasting the lively cuisine here!