What a feeling to realize that by nightfall Bozo and I will be back home in Arizona, sleeping in our own bed, at last! We packed up in record time, got a quick breakfast in the lobby, and were soon out on the road.
New Mexico is an interesting state. It has the “oohh” factor because of Santa Fe and Taos, but driving through the state you inevitable run into very aggressive drivers, and a lot of roadside breakdowns. The Highway Patrol is never in sight, but the appear out of nowhere in a heartbeat. We kept the needle on the speed limit all the way through. The scenery is pretty, but when you get in the towns you get a feeling of sadness and unkemptness that is not really attractive. I had been in NM back in the 90’s and had been caught up in the oohh factor in Santa Fe, but very disappointed in Taos. Now I felt disappointed all around.
We passed the Continental Divide, and I couldn’t help but think once again of all those people who came over the land on donkey, horse, foot or wagon. What an undertaking. So many dangers on the road, but they stuck to it. Then, there was the Arizona border. Oh my god. After 6,500 miles, there we were, in shouting distance of home. Feeling rather giddy about our progress, we stopped off at the Painted Desert/Petrified Forest National Park (and there we used Bozo’s Senior Park Pass to get in for free). Lots of view stops, several trails we walked, and even a walk on the old Route 66. Lot of history there. Petroglyphs on Newspaper Rock, The Santa Fe train barreling through the valley, it was all spectacular. A good number of people in the park, too, which was nice to see.
But trouble was brewing on the horizon – cloud buildup in the west, which was the direction that we were headed. Having exited the Petrified Forest through the south (Crystal) entrance, the 180 took us back to the I40, where we thought we might stop in Winslow to see the “Standing on the Corner” park and get a bite to eat. It rained cats and dogs from Holbrock to 10 miles inside of Winslow. The park was about all there was in the town, which is pretty run down. There was no place open where it looked safe to eat, and the town itself was pretty deserted. Eery, in fact. Well, Flagstaff was not too far off – all we had to do was survive passing through the remaining rainclouds and we’d be home free. We got through another downpour, but could see the sun ahead.
Students were returning to Northern Arizona University so there was a lot of activity in the town. Parking was easy, and we were soon in a great pub called Charly’s, which is located in the Weatherford Hotel. What great food, Arizona beer, I had a ton of hot tea, and a fabulous Indian Vegetable Taco (that would be fry bread). Bozo had the french dip sandwich which he said was one of the best he has ever had. This place is definitely on the list and worth a repeat visit on a day trip in the future.
By the time we were done with our meal the sky was drizzling on us as we made it back to the car and the last miles of the trip. 7,000 feet in altitude meant a descent to 2,000 feet within a 3 hour drive. At this point we were driving out of the rain as we flew down the mountain to the valley. When I saw my first saguaro, I knew we were home. Things started to look familiar. We could smell creosote in the air. Pulling into the driveway was like pulling on an old pair of comfortable jeans.
Yes, Auntie Em, there’s no place like home.