Albuquerque to Flagstaff
29.04.2013 - 09.05.2013 25 °C
Day 19 on the road in America: Albuquerque
On the way out of Amarillo, we stopped along the highway to check out the Cadillac Ranch on Route 66. This place is far more than just an bunch of cars half buried in the ground. It is ten Cadillacs from 1949 - 1963 half buried, at the same angle as the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. They are sitting in a cow paddock and its free to enter and you can spray paint them to your hearts content!
It took us 4 hours to drive to Albuquerque with no problems. We stayed slightly outside the city on a golf course at a B&B called Inn at Paradise. It was pretty true to its name - it was peaceful, quiet and the B&B had a lovely garden with our room facing the golf course.
Our first stop was the Puelbo Museum in Albuquerque. It was quite small and had an interesting room or two but didn't have as much focus on the culture and historical way of life so we were a bit disappointed. We got a salad on the way home and sat out the back looking over the back of the golf course and gardens for the next couple of hours.
We started the morning with a walking tour around the old town which took just over an hour. The most interesting thing about downtown (and Albuquerque/New Mexico in general) is the Adobe houses. The buildings themselves look like a cross between a Spanish house and an a Native American Pueblo. It was only in the 19th century (I think, bad memory) that they converted a lot of the Victorian style houses in town to flat roof adobes. No matter when it was done, it feels like it's very own part of the world.
On the way to our pretty average Mexican lunch we stumbled onto a shop called Candy Lady that makes the blue meth used on the Breaking Bad tv series. I thought about doing a Walter White but decided I should just stick with a couple of teenth bags. Lucky I did, turns out its only sugar! I'd never make money as a drug lord. I(Blake) got a haircut, bought some dinner and tried to take a ride on the Sandia Park Tramway- the longest in the world. It was closed for maintenance during the day so we returned at 5pm for the evening ride up. We took the 2.7mile (4 1/3km) tramway up to the top of Sandia Mountain. It was a good 15minute ride each way giving us great views on the way up and when we arrived. When we got their we thought we lost all motivation to take a big hike so just took a walk on one of the paths for an hour. We didn't see any Mountain Lions or Bears but saw all of the chairlifts and skiing equipment waiting for next winter. We headed back down and went back to the B&B for another evening on the porch.
Day 21: Jemez Mountain
It took us 1.5 hours to drive to Bandelier National Monument (still in New Mexico) where we bought our National park annual pass (only $80). Each park's individual entry is from $10-$25 and we have at least seven parks planned so we went for the annual. Bandelier was an area that was inhabited by the Ancestral Pueblo People. They settled in an area and tended to live in that one place for generations rather than move around from month to month. The Pueblos that settled in this area chose it because the soft volcanic tuff of the cliff faces were easily carved into small caves for shelter (well as easy as carving a hole in a cliff can be). There was also another structure built by the Tyuonyi people which was a large three story plaza. The entry to the rooms was via the roof but that was quite hard to see from the remaining structure...
Once we were done at Bandelier, we drove to Jemez Mountain (kinda back-tracking) and checked into our awesome B&B in Jemez Mountain called Jemez Mountain Inn. The owners even gave us a complimentary bottle of wine for the night. How nice of them. We had dinner at the saloon across the road, not that we had a massive choice- It was the only place that was open for dinner. The inside of the saloon looked like a hunting lodge with animals on the walls and huge wooden rafters. Their special for the night is rib, so we had that and Blake also ordered a Mexican style open burger. The food wasn't the best but it was cheap and so was the beer ($3/pint!).
We hiked up to Spence's Spring which was less than 1km from the car park. Along the way, we did a quick stop at Soda Dam. A quick look around and we continued on to Spence's Spring. The spring was quite busy but had enough room for the two of us to fit in. There was a couple in the spring that were all over each other. He kept saying "call me papi" and she kept asking it him to...
Unfortunately Michelle wasn't too keen sitting in the spring surrounded with algae so she went to the Giggling springs located next to our B&B which only cost $18/hour. She apparently had the whole place all to herself. I (Blake) went for a 3km hike up to McCauley Springs. In all my wisdom I decided to take a small shortcut off the marked track. Think I ended up on the old track and it probably saved me about 15minutes. When I got there there was nobody in any of the three pools. I decided I'd try the lowest and coolest pool as I was pretty hot from all that hiking. It was probably only 30 °C but I had a great view of the Ponderosa pine forest on the mountain opposite me. I was sitting in the spring for about 5minutes before I noticed that the small fish were biting me. I was a bit freaked for a second until I realised that they were similar to the doctor fish that eat the dead skin off your feet at day spa's. After 20 minutes here, some guy decided to hop into the spring totally naked, so i decided it was time to head back down. I met back up with Michelle at the B&B and we just chilled out for the rest of the day.
Day 23: Farmington
On the way to Farmington, we stopped over in Aztec (in New Mexico) to check out the Aztec Ruins. It took 2.5hours to get there from Farmington. Aztec ruins is an excavated Native American settlement built in the 11th and 13th centuries. It has one of the only reconstructed Kiva's around which was absolutely massive. The Kiva looked large from outside but most of the building is underground so it was absolutely massive when we went inside. We spent an hour walking around the area and then headed to Farmington, just down the road.
A quick stop at a drive thru atm, and we're on our way to Farmington to check into our motel - America's Best Value Inn. The cheapest accommodation we could find in town, which turned out to be pretty decent. After we were all settled we decided to check out The Three Rivers Brewery. The Arroyo Amber Ale and Papa Bear’s Golden Honey Ale were both excellent along with the steak and the Salmon! Definitely worth a stop if you're nearby.
We decided to take it easy today. Road tripping takes a bit more out of us than train/bus travelling as you can fit so much more in. We just walked around the shops and had a taste of America's version of Greek food which was alright. I had a moussaka (with beef mince not lamb) and Blake had a lamb shank. After that we went to the movies to watch Pain & Gain. Not the best movie in the world but the cinema tickets were only $6each! 1/3 of Perth prices.
Day 25: Zion
We checkout out of the motel before 10am and started our 6.5 hours drive to Zion National Park in Utah. Along the way, we saw a group of tourist at the visitors centre at the Glen Canyon Dam, so we thought we join in and check out the dam and the canyon view which is amazing. If we had extra time we would have done some boating in Lake Powell or on the Colorado River, looked like a great place to be out and about.
We continued on to Zion. We had to drive through Zion National Park to get to our motel and the view was just spectacular. We stayed at the Zion Pioneer Inn which is way better than a motel. The place is surrounded by the National Park - the view was amazing! We went out for dinner at a really average Thai restaurant and called it a night.
Day 26: Bryce Canyon
After breakfast, we drove 1.5 hours from Zion national park to Bryce Canyon (still in the state of Utah). We got slightly lost along the way as Mr Tom Tom didn't know where he was going. Lucky for us, Mr google on the iphone saved the day. Blake had booked a horse riding (or should i say mule ride) tour that takes us through the canyon. Even with our detour in the wrong direction, we still made it there in time.
I think Blake has officially given up taking to Americans because they just can't understand his accent. He had rang to book the tour yesterday using his surname but the guy on the phone could only understand as far as the letter D. So he tried my three letter surname with no problems. However, when we got to the lodge today, apparently the guy on the phone had heard Blake spelt it as BAHE!! Not only alphabets were a problem to understand. The guy had booked us for 3 people when in fact Blake had said for 2. Poor Blakey..
(It's lucky that my (Blake) accent isn't any stronger, I'm certainly not the most Ocker sounding bloke around!)
Anyhow, the tour took 2 hours, luckily the rain hold off while we were out and about in the canyon, only hailing down on us just as we got back to base camp. We were shown around the place by our cowboy tour guide, dressed in his whole cowboy outfit with his boots and jacket. I (Michelle) had the laziest horse (or should i say mule)- he kept sleeping along the way and i had to give him a good whip and Blake once again had a really farty horse/mule. This is only our second time on a horse, and once again it was great fun and pretty scary at times when the mules walk along the edge of the cliff!!! I just kept my eyes close and hope for the best when going up and down the edge of the cliffs!! Next time, I'd rather walk than horse ride through the canyon. Though, we would not have been able to adventure that far into the canyon if we were hiking.
Day 27: Zion National Park
Even though the weather was stormy and raining, we decided to hike the Angel's Landing trail (the least strenuous of all of the strenuous trails) in Zion National Park. This is the most beautiful park that we've seen on our trip. Its a mix of rugged mountains, rivers and semi-jungle.
This is Angel's Landing below. If you look closely you can see people climbing the mountain to get to the top (mostly freehand with chain to hold onto in some sections). Unfortunately, we when got to the base of it, we were pretty much shitting ourselves so we decided not to go any further. We could hear the thunder and it was about to rain on us so we decided to head back down before it rained. We still hung off a bit of chain so we weren't too disappointed.
Day 28: Flagstaff
After checking out, we drove to Page to check out the lower Antelope Canyon. We've seen postcards of it and it is truly amazing. Unfortunately, the tour itself was twice as long as it needed to be. We spent most of the time waiting for people to keep up as they were too busy taking photos!! It took us an hour and a half to walk about 200m.
We continued on to Flagstaff which took nearly 3 hours with a detour.
We did a day trip to the Grand Canyon, which is only 1.5 hours drive from Flagstaff. We decided not to do any hiking since there was free shuttle buses that take you around the different view points around the canyon. We'd been pretty active the last few days so that suited us just fine.
The Grand Canyon is so much bigger than we thought. From memory it's on average 16km wide and looking down at it just seems to play tricks with our eyes. On a different note, we saw heaps of Juniper trees on the way out, so now we know where the Gin berries come from! What a brilliant tree.
To be continued..