Blue Ridge Parkway Into Virginia

Day 49: Monday, June 17, 2013
Start: Wilkesboro, NC
End: Salem, VA
Miles Driven Today: 176
Total Miles: 8,550

Today’s adventure continued our trek up the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway. Thankfully, I had picked up a book at the Asheville visitor’s center – Guide to the Blue Ridge Parkway. This book not only gives a history of the Parkway, but mile-by-mile info on the best sights and stops. The descriptions of each of the overlooks, views and historic buildings also come with the origins of the names and any historic significance. Like the Route 66 Guide we used, this has been a little treasure that has greatly enhanced our trip on the Parkway.

Today's open road - Blue Ridge Parkway

Today’s open road – Blue Ridge Parkway

Welcome to Virginia

Welcome to Virginia

Stone Bridge - Blue Ridge Parkway

Stone Bridge – Blue Ridge Parkway

One of the more delightful stops was at the Blue Ridge Music Center. Often hosting summer concerts at their outdoor amphitheater in the summer, the center also has a nice museum that showcases the roots of American music. We stopped to have a nice break from the road; we didn’t expect that there would be any performances on a Monday afternoon. We were wrong. We were treated to the music of the Buck Mountain Band. Banjo, fiddle, guitar, stand-up bass and some traditional Bluegrass music…they got our toes tapping! Of course, the girls enjoyed the music too!

Buck Mountain Band at the Blue Ridge Music Center

Buck Mountain Band at the Blue Ridge Music Center

Everyone's paws were tappin' - Buck Mountain Band

Everyone’s paws were tappin’

We stayed for a little while and then decided to move on down the road. We’ve had nearly perfect weather since we started this trip. We had three rainy days since the start–two while we were staying in Kentucky and one on the road when we were motoring from Colorado to Kentucky. Of course, in the span of the five minutes that it took to get the car, the skies opened up. As we drove down the road, the rain caused poor visibility and fog banks steaming off the ground. This didn’t make sense to us…it was 65 degrees out!

Instant fog - Blue Ridge Parkway

Instant fog – Blue Ridge Parkway

Where are we? Pea soup land!

Where are we? Pea soup land!

We were headed to the historic Mabry Mil, and I was concerned that we’d be rained out. The mill is one of the most photographed areas on the Parkway…I didn’t want to miss my photo op! Well, I was not disappointed. By the time we reached the Mabry Mill a few minutes later, the skies had cleared and the sun was peeking through. Stellar!

The mill was beautiful. While it’s not a working mill anymore, there was a craftsman demonstrating the creation of handmade chairs (historically correct, using the same tools as those used during the mill’s operation). The grounds were very beautiful, and the air was clean and cool.

Mabry Mill - Blue Ridge Parkway

Mabry Mill – Blue Ridge Parkway (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Mabry Mill - Blue Ridge Parkway

Mabry Mill – Blue Ridge Parkway. The clouds parted just for us! (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Moonshine exhibit - Mabry Mill

Moonshine exhibit – Mabry Mill

There were more vistas along the way, but much of it was rained out for us. However, we did stop at Devil’s Backbone (mainly for the great name).

Devil's Backbone - Blue Ridge Parkway

Devil’s Backbone – Blue Ridge Parkway (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Once again, the girls have been great. However, Juliet learned a new trick–jump from the back seat on TOP of the luggage in the back cargo area. Bad monkey! She’s getting bolder every day!

Little angels? Not that cherub on the left!

Little angels? Not that cherub on the left!

Tonight, we’re hunkered down at the La Quinta in Salem, VA (suburb of Roanoke)–a free night due to our frequent traveler points accumulated during this trip! Tomorrow, we’ll finish the Blue Ridge Parkway and traverse Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park (thanks John…we were planning this but your suggestion cemented our plans). We’ll then settle for the night in Winchester, VA and then head to Central PA to visit our friends Bob and Sharon for a night and regale them with our travel stories.

We began this trip visiting Bob and Sharon and the Michels family. It’s so nice that we are able to start and end a great trip with good friends.

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A Day in Yellowstone National Park

Day 37: Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Miles Driven Today: 259
Total Miles: 5,763

Today’s adventure was a visit to Yellowstone National Park. While it was a bit of a haul from Jackson, we’re glad that we decided not to stay in Montana. We’re really enjoying our cabin.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

I hadn’t realized that Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park were so close together. You’re out of Teton for just a few minutes before you hit the entry to Yellowstone. Once in the park, you pass over the Continental Divide for the first time in the park at an elevation of over 7900 feet.

Continental Divide

We encountered the Continental Divide throughout the park

Our ‘must see’ in the park was Old Faithful, so we took the Grand Loop to the West. The scenery (not surprisingly) was magnificent. Tall pines lined our road, sheer cliffs and canyons flanked us to the right. Old Faithful was around 40 miles INTO the park, so it took a bit of time to get there. As we turned the corner, we could see it spouting above the tree line. Uh oh. That meant a 60- to 90-minute wait until the next ‘show’.

We parked in the village and walked around the visitor’s center. There are a number of villages around the park that include a lodge, visitor’s center, groceries, restaurants and gasoline as well as campgrounds and cabins. Old Faithful Village was teeming with people; not surprising since this is the single most popular attraction in the park.

There were benches and a viewing area all around Old Faithful, so we took the pups out in the stroller and sat in the sun waiting for the next eruption. A little over an hour later, the geyser spouted, shooting water and steam over 100 feet into the air.

Old Faithful

Old Faithful

Old Faithful

Old Faithful

We then went on to the Grand Prismatic Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin. The springs and pools around here are uniquely colorful, with brilliant cerulean, orange and ocher rings and boiling, steaming cauldrons of mineral-rich water. The colors are formed by micro-organisms that thrive on the hot water. I found the area to be particularly inspiring; the photos are going to serve my artwork well!

Bubble Bubble Toil and Trouble

Bubble Bubble Toil and Trouble – Excelsior Geyser Crater

At the Grand Prismatic Spring

At the Grand Prismatic Spring

Brilliant color at the Grand Prismatic Spring

Brilliant color at the Grand Prismatic Spring

We went on to see waterfalls, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Yellowstone Lake and so many other vistas. And we only saw one part of the Grand Loop; we would need several more days to see all that the park had to offer.

Base of the falls at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Base of the falls at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Beautiful Waterfall in Yellowstone

Beautiful Waterfall in Yellowstone

Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake

Tom was exceptionally happy that we were also able to see Bison in the wild. We stopped on Fountain Flat Drive and saw a herd of Bison (including young calves) across a river. We also spotted a bunch of Bison in Hayden Valley along with some antelope, mule deer and a number of Canadian geese. It was a good wildlife day. (We also saw some additional bison, antelope and deer near Teton on our way back!)

Field of wild Bison

Field of wild Bison (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Bison

Bison

Big Bison

Big Bison

I couldn’t imagine how congested this park gets in the heart of the summer season. Today’s visit was filled with tour buses and full parking lots, but the park wasn’t at capacity. Once again, we’re happy about our timing, good weather and good fortune.

Today's Open Road

Today’s Open Road

Tomorrow is a ‘down’ day in Jackson. We’ll hang out, do more sightseeing (and perhaps a couple of the local museums) and just relax before heading out on our next adventure. I did find this t-shirt at a gift shop in the Grand Teton National Park. It so fits the trip!

My Motto

My Motto

Bryce Canyon Beauty

Day 33: Saturday, June 1, 2013
Visited: Bryce Canyon National Park

This is our third National Park in a week. We are in awe of all this country has to offer, all the wild and beautiful places that still exist and are being preserved for generations to come.

Today’s visit to Bryce Canyon was as good as could be. We got up early and took the first shuttle into the park. It was quiet and almost empty. The morning was bright and cool. Perfect.

The first shuttle stop was at Bryce Canyon. The bus let us off, and within a few steps, we had reached this magnificent vista. According to the park info, Bryce Canyon is not technically a canyon since it was not carved by running water; instead, the canyon was made by rainwater eroding the stone and, over time, making this unique landscape. I do have to say that I took about a hundred photos today. You can thank me for only publishing a few of them… 😉

Tom and Mahgrit at Bryce Point

Tom and Mahgrit at Bryce Point

Magnificent Vista at Bryce Canyon

Magnificent Vista at Bryce Canyon

Unusual Bryce Canyon strata called Hoodoos

Unusual Bryce Canyon strata called Hoodoos (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

We took the bus to each of the stops and checked out the different canyons and views. I especially liked Inspiration Point.

Hoodoos everywhere at Inspiration Point

Hoodoos everywhere at Inspiration Point

This Hoodoo reminded us of an alien. Could it have been an alien race that carved these canyons? Nah…

Hoodoo or Alien?

Hoodoo or Alien?

We walked along the canyon rim trail from one of the points, Sunset Point, to the next vista, Sunrise point. In between, we visited the lodge. It had great, rustic cabins that were just steps away from the canyon rim. I’d love to stay at one of these someday! The lodge house itself was the original lodge put up by a family that now seems to have the monopoly on lodging and restaurants at Bryce Canyon City.

Bryce Canyon Lodge

Bryce Canyon Lodge

After touring the park through the shuttle system, we went back to the hotel and picked up the car (and the pups). We drove out to Rainbow Point, the furthest driving point in the park, and had a picnic lunch. We then stopped at all the vistas on the way back to the hotel. This part of the park is not served by the shuttle system. However, the shuttle gave us a great overview of the park and allowed us to determine how busy the park was (not) and if we’d have issues driving to different points. We spent the rest of the time exploring on our own. What was surprising was the contrast between the vast forests and the dramatic canyons. Both the Grand Canyon and Zion were less densely rich in forest, while Bryce was a mix of the two. Hence today’s open road.

Today's open road to Rainbow Point

Today’s open road to Rainbow Point

There were more great strata at the different vista points, including this great Natural Bridge.

Natural Bridge - Bryce Canyon

Natural Bridge – Bryce Canyon

We saw a lot of ground squirrels and birds in the park, but our most dramatic encounter with nature was the Pronghorn Antelope that were grazing by the side of the road. We stopped and I got out of the car to take this picture. It didn’t phase the antelope one bit.

Pronghorn Antelope on the roadside

Pronghorn Antelope on the roadside

I do have to say that three National Parks in a week is a lot. By the end of the day’s sightseeing, I was getting a bit jaded. “Oh yeah, another breathtakingly beautiful vista. Click.”

Oh the places you will go...

Oh the places you will go… (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

After a hard day of sight-seeing, we had some down time. I did a little artwork, while Tom and Jasmine surfed Facebook and then took a well-deserved nap.

Tom and Jasmine check out Facebook

Tom and Jasmine check out Facebook

All that sight-seeing makes everyone sleepy

All that sight-seeing makes everyone sleepy

Tomorrow, we start heading North towards Yellowstone. However, we are going to take the scenic route. At this point, is there any other route but scenic?

Touring Zion National Park

Day 31: Thursday, May 30, 2013
Visited: Zion National Park

We spent the day exploring Zion National Park.

Unfortunately, the park doesn’t allow pets on its shuttle system and only one of the trails is pet-friendly. So, we decided to board the girls at Doggy Dude Ranch just a few miles out of town. We’re glad we did. The three-page questionnaire and the detailed questions the owner at the Ranch asked us spoke volumes. Had our two girls been more socialized, they would have had a grand time chasing other small dogs around the outdoor play area, complete with doggy pool. However, we explained the issues with Jasmine and Juliet (especially the sensitive tummies), and they were more than happy to keep the dogs in the house. This is not your ordinary boarding kennel.

With the dogs safely and (somewhat) happily housed at the Ranch, we parked back at our hotel and hopped on to the Zion shuttle. The shuttle system for the park is fabulous. One shuttle goes back and forth through the town of Springdale, enabling park visitors to leave their cars at their hotels or in open parking lots outside the park. The park itself has very little available parking, so this makes great sense. Inside the park, the most picturesque road in the park is ONLY accessible by park shuttle during the busy summer season. Given the lack of parking and the impact of cars, this makes great sense. So, we got to the park and then hopped on the park’s scenic shuttle. All of this is provided at no cost (aside from park admission).

Yesterday’s views were just a precursor to the natural beauty we saw today. From the Virgin River to the Court of the Patriarchs, from Weeping Rock to the Temple of Sinawava…we drank in the beauty of this geological wonder. Here are just a fraction of the photos we took.

Tom and Mahgrit - Court of the Patriarchs

Tom and Mahgrit – Court of the Patriarchs

Zion National Park

Zion National Park – It’s all sandstone

Majestic canyon at Zion

Majestic canyon at Zion

Zion National Park - Carved by water and wind

Carved by water and wind

Virgin River - Zion National Park

Virgin River – Zion National Park

This canyon was carved by Virgin River

This canyon was carved by Virgin River and continues to evolve over time

Love the colors, unusual formations

Love the colors, unusual formations

Mahgrit at Zion National Park

Mahgrit at Zion National Park

Butterfly at the Virgin River

Butterfly at the Virgin River

Mahgrit tires of the paparazzi

Mahgrit tires of the paparazzi

Zion Panorama

Zion Panorama (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

We left the park around 1:30 or 2:00 and headed for lunch. We tried MeMe”s Cafe…recommended by the Doggy Dude Ranch people. This little cafe is known for their crepes. We tried the triple berry crepe with vanilla yogurt and Nutella. WHOOP! Tom had never tried Nutella before. What kind of deprived life has this man led? We also had steamed rice, veggie and chicken teriyaki bowls; we balanced healthy with…um…well, everything was yummy!

Triple berry and Nutella Crepe at Meme's

Triple berry and Nutella Crepe at MeMe’s Cafe

After lunch, we picked up the dogs. They were happy to see us, but it was clear that they weren’t negatively impacted by the Dude Ranch. Everyone was happy, including the persistent Jasmine (pet me…Pet Me…aren’t you going to PET ME?).

Many moods of Jasmine

The many moods of Jasmine. Okay, the ONE mood. PET ME!

It was a fabulous day, and we are kind of sorry that we didn’t book more time here. But we’re off to Bryce Canyon tomorrow…perhaps we’ll be equally enthralled with Bryce as we have been with the Grand Canyon and Zion. After Bryce, we believe we are going to go through the forests and green spaces of Utah, up into Wyoming to the Tetons and Yellowstone. After that, we’re contemplating going back down through Colorado and sprinting across the plains to Tennessee. We have up to three weeks more to meander across the country. We’re really not sure how we’re going to spend the time. But we do know that whatever we decide to do…it’s going to be yet another great adventure…

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!

Very Grand Canyon

Day 29: Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Visited: Grand Canyon, Flagstaff
Miles Driven Today: 156
Total Miles: 4,287

We had a magnificent visit to the Grand Canyon today.

The plan was to get up early and get to the Canyon before the massive hordes of humanity. It worked out well! We were on the road before 8 am, and we reached the South Rim about 9:30. We found the parking lot at the Visitor’s Center about half full…not bad!

The Grand Canyon is one of the dog-friendly national parks. Dogs are allowed on all the trails above the rim. So, Jasmine and Juliet were our companions today. We used the doggie stroller and took them with us to the Canyon rim…and there we saw so much natural beauty that it was hard to fathom.

We visited the lookouts near the Visitor’s Center (crowded), and then started walking the trail above the Center. The crowd thinned out considerably, and we had a lovely, somewhat solitary stroll along the Canyon rim. We chatted with a few people (once again, we were asked about the doggie stroller…I should sell these!), but mainly, we just enjoyed the mild weather and beautiful vistas.

Spectacular Grand Canyon

Spectacular Grand Canyon – Click to Enlarge

Beautiful Grand Canyon Vistas

Beautiful Grand Canyon Vistas

Family picture on the South Rim

Family picture on the South Rim

Juliet enjoying the view from the stroller

Juliet enjoying the view from the stroller (just seconds before she jumped out!)

Grand Canyon, A beautiful day

A beautiful day at the Grand Canyon

Tom enjoying the view

Tom enjoying the view

After a few hours, we decided to get something for lunch. We made our way out of the park and down to the nearest town. We sat outside and ate our sandwiches in the bright, warm sun. It really was a perfect day! We also stopped at a fun Trading Post at the intersection of Hwy 180 and Hwy 64. They had some really cool stuff!

White-tailed deer

We spotted some white-tailed deer on the way out of the park

Double Eagle Trading Post

Double Eagle Trading Post

We had taken the scenic byway (Hwy 180) to the Canyon and went the same way back. It was a lovely drive…very few cars and lots of scenery. The open road pics are particularly inspiring today.

Today's Open Road

Today’s open road.

Today's open road

Today’s open road – what a fabulous view from that ranch house!

When we got back to Flagstaff, we walked around downtown. The shops mainly cater to the younger crowd at Northern Arizona U (right next door to our hotel). We scoped out restaurants and decided on something unexpected–Hawaiian plate lunches at Aloha Hawaiian BBQ! Yay!

Dinner? Without me?

Dinner? Without me?

Chicken Katsu, BBQ Chicken, Spam Musubi at Aloha Hawaiian BBQ

Chicken Katsu, BBQ Chicken, Spam Musubi at Aloha Hawaiian BBQ

Loco Moco at Aloha Hawaiian BBQ

Loco Moco at Aloha Hawaiian BBQ (Rice topped with a hamburger patty, gravy, two fried eggs and some macaroni salad)

Tomorrow, we’ll be driving for around 5 hours to reach our next destination–Zion National Park. We may stop in Kanab at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary if time permits. Dogtown has been one of my favorite rescue organizations for a very long time. I’m not sure if our pups will like Dogtown…but it will be interesting to see how they react!

Today, we crossed off yet another items on the ‘bucket list.’ And it was well worth the trip!

On the Road to Flagstaff

Day 28: Monday, May 27, 2013
Start: Albuquerque, NM
End: Flagstaff, AZ
Miles Driven Today: 333
Total Miles: 4,131

Today we motored from Albuquerque to Flagstaff in preparation for our visit to the Grand Canyon tomorrow. We looked into staying at one of the lodges at the Canyon, but they aren’t dog-friendly; that would mean having to kennel the dogs during our visit. Not acceptable! The Grand Canyon does allow pets on the trails above the rim, so we won’t have issues with bringing them with us. So Flagstaff won the hospitality battle.

The drive from Albuquerque to Flagstaff was a straight shot on I-40. Not much to see for long distances, but we did still enjoy the ride.

Overpass in Albuquerque

Overpass in Albuquerque

Tom loves this town

Tom loves this town…or, at least, the name. How do you pronounce this?

Fort Courage of F-Troop Fame

Fort Courage of F-Troop Fame

We crossed the Continental Divide while still in New Mexico and then decided to stop at the ‘historic’ Richardson’s Trading Post in Gallup. This ‘historic’ post turned out to be closed, but even if it hadn’t been, we wouldn’t have stopped. It was a large pawn shop with heavy grates across the windows. Thanks, but no thanks.

We did, however, stop at the historic El Rancho hotel on Route 66. This hotel has seen a host of stars over the years, and their upper lobby has signed photos from most of those who have stayed at this legendary lodge. We stopped in to check it out. It was pretty cool!

El Rancho Gallup Lobby

El Rancho Gallup Lobby

It was also cool to be back on Route 66. In New Mexico and Arizona, a lot of Historic Route 66 is now I-40…not too quaint. At 75 mph, the landscape just whips by…I miss our meandering.

Welcome to Arizona

Welcome to Arizona

As we were driving along, I saw that Winslow, Arizona was on our way. I couldn’t remember why the town was familiar. I Googled it, and nothing came up. But as we were driving along, we saw billboards advertising the Meteor Crater. Tom mentioned that the crater was in a movie…Starman! And then it hit me. I knew Winslow because that’s where Jeff Bridges was trying to reach in the movie! Of course, we had to visit the crater.

The Meteor Crater now has a visitor center, walking paths and lookouts on the rim, and guided tours. Of course, all this comes with a cost–$15 per person. Eeek. But we went anyway. The dogs stayed in the car (it was a cool day today) as we visited the crater. It was ENORMOUS. The visitor center, especially the ‘movie’…AKA an informercial for B612, an organization striving to protect humanity through a meteor early detection and defense system, was cheesy, but the crater…spectacular. You can see my panoramic photo, below. It was well worth the stop. We thought about stopping at Bearizona, a drive-through animal park, but the bad reviews made us motor on by.

Incredible, Enormous Meteor Crater near Winslow, AZ

Incredible, Enormous Meteor Crater near Winslow, AZ (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Great sign near the Meteor Crater

Great sign near the Meteor Crater

As we approached Flagstaff, we decided to get off the increasingly busy highway and to (once again) drive Historic Route 66. It was the right choice. Empty roadway, a spectacular open road, and passing a vintage Howard Johnson’s Inn and Restaurant along the way…special! We reached our hotel after passing a bit of the downtown area and are now comfortably settled for the evening.

Today's Open Road - Route 66 outside of Flagstaff

Today’s Open Road – Route 66 outside of Flagstaff

Back on Route 66

Back on Route 66

Tomorrow, we get up early (Tom says, “Um, HOW early??”) and go to the South Rim of Grand Canyon. But for tonight, we’re relaxing after a long and happy driving day.