20 May 2021, Chandler, AZ

New territory in Arizona, and a long ride back

Yesterday, I drove around 500 miles from Durango, Colorado to Chandler, Arizona, the major portion of which was at altitudes between 5000 and 7000 feet.

Upon reaching Chandler I took a shower, had a 90-minute massage by Anna at ‘Yo Yo Foot Reflexology & Body Massage’, and ate a sushi dinner, topped off with a pint of ice cream—“Death by Chocolate”.

Other than to experience the scenery which I will discuss below, I had two major accomplishments: I had a breakfast in a good old-fashion American café, and I was able to satisfy my normal human needs for waste elimination despite there being long stretches of road where opportunities for this were nil—at least in private.

My original plan was to drive to Flagstaff, Arizona and stay overnight before returning to my daughter’s home in Chandler, Arizona, a distance of 170 miles. I imagined I would be too tuckered out to continue my trip from Durango, Colorado, around 320 miles, not counting the extra mileage from tooling around trying to find things and places in town. I discovered I wasn’t tuckered when I reached Flagstaff at around Noon. The lady at the desk of Green Tree Inn, Flagstaff was completely accommodating when I told her, in person, that I wanted to cancel my reservation. I ate lunch further on down the highway at a real drive-in restaurant, like the old days, Sonic Drive-in, Camp Verde, Arizona: A Sonic cheeseburger without the cheese, and an iced, sweet raspberry tea. (They had a toilet, also).

The first part of the return trip was on the same road I traveled the day before, US Highway 160 to Teec Nos Pos.

(That’s Durango at the upper right—the dark blue line is the road I traveled).

I wanted to have breakfast in a locally owned café, not a chain outlet, but I couldn’t find one in Durango, so I took my chances, hoping to find one in Cortez, 45 miles on US Highway 160, back toward Arizona.

The drive started in the very early morning, the sun just over the peaks to the east. One always sees thing returning on a road one didn’t see the first time: the sun slanting off snow-tipped mountains, the green of the trees, the passes curving down into broad valleys with rivers and creeks with water in them, unlike those in Arizona and New Mexico.

I found a café in Cortez on the highway, Pippo’s Café, 101 West Main Street. Right away I knew I had found the right place: there was no YOU MUST WEAR A MASK sign at the entrance. And, sure enough, no one in the small eating area was wearing one, nor were the servers. Wooden tables and chairs, décor so familiar I didn’t even notice it, humorous sayings tacked to the wall and support columns, no canned music. I had oatmeal with rye toast and coffee. One sign bragged about the coffee, and the sign was true. It was the best cup, and refill, I’ve had in years. They had a toilet.

It was only 45 miles to Teec Nos Pos, located at the junction of two highways. I would continue, now, on a new road for me, the continuation of Highway 160. I had reached this junction the day before on Highway 64 from Shiprock.

Along the way to Tee Noc Pos I saw the great Ute Mountains in full, in the morning sun. I can see why the Ute Tribe reveres them.

I traveled on highway 160/491, my eyes unable not to gaze, as much as safety allowed, on the north side of the mountain ridge, all in green (two shades), above. I was like another planet, a place where no one could live, but would want to visit.

I passed by the Casino and Four Corners, where I left Colorado and entered Arizona, and then quickly on to Tee Noc Pos.

From this point westward on Highway 160, the greens of the landscape faded away and the reds and dark browns, greys and blacks dominated.

Another planet, again, with the land tending toward red colors, more intensely as I went deeper into the territory. Sometimes I would round a tight bend in the road and come across gullies and canyons and tortured-looking shapes that had no seeming connection to the landscape on the previous side of the bend.  Although vegetation was sparse and sporadic, some places would be black with no vegetation, nor any promise of it.

The whole of the landscape, in all its varieties, seemed shaped by the weather, primarily water. But where was the water? It had to be the sporadic large downfall which quickly drained off and evaporated, over uncountable millions of years. This is the most vivid impression of my experience in this part of Arizona—unimaginable lengths of time, great upheavals from inside the earth and possibly from outside, as in meteorites and, certainly, the constant wind.

When there were broad vistas, the distant mountains and ridges to the north and west often had the peculiar shapes I saw in other parts of Arizona and in New Mexico. The distant ridges were often mesas, like this one I saw nearby at the settlement of Red Mesa:

I was anticipating my arrival at the next larger settlement, a town, where I could possibly have a toilet break. This was Kayenta. There was a Burger King. Mask on, enter, go to the toilet, order a cup of coffee, and off to the road again.

Soon after leaving Kayenta, rocks and formations such as there appeared to my left:

(Credit: Sea of Blush)

Yet another planet.

Seventy-five miles later I was in Tuba City, but I didn’t stop to tour the many shops advertising their Navajo and Hopi wares. I could see now that if I kept on going  I could be in Flagstaff by noon and could cancel my reservation.

The landscape continued to fascinate me; no picture or words can recreate it. This is why I traveled here. I will carry these images with me.

Highway 160 ends shortly after Tuba City where I turned due south on Highway 89 toward Flagstaff. The notable aspect of the landscape was San Francisco Peaks, covered with snow. The pass over this ridge was at 7286 feet, and then to Flagstaff.

On 24 May I plan to go back to Flagstaff, but then turn westward toward California and another adventure.

See you then.

Now to celebrate my daughter’s 58th birthday with her daughter’s family, including her precious granddaughter Quinn—at Benihana’s, a new experience for Quinn.

To see the next journal entry, GO HERE.



18 May 2021, Durango, Colorado

An addendum, three states, four corners, Nature’s monuments, elevations, and luck at the Ute Mountain Casino

An addendum to 17 May 2021, Gallup, New Mexico.

In my emails to Eva, I often include information I haven’t put into this journal, for one reason or another. She suggested I include the following:
Gallup is the town that time forgot (at least the old town). The new town is an abomination of large and huge (Walmart ‘Supercenter’) retail outlets and tourist accommodations. There used to be ‘Route 66‘ that went from Chicago to Santa Monica (Los Angeles County, at the beach). A great and popular song was written about it: Get Your Kicks on Route 66.

The lyrics read as a mini-travelogue about the major stops along the route, listing several cities and towns through which Route 66 passes: St. Louis; Joplin, Missouri; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Amarillo, Texas; Gallup, New Mexico; Flagstaff, Arizona; Winona, Arizona; Kingman, Arizona; Barstow, California; and San Bernardino, California.” (Wikipedia)

Route 66 was replaced by the modern freeway, US Highway 40, which bypassed all the towns that were nourished by the traffic on Route 66 and thereby consigned them to the dust heap. A book was written about this phenomenon, Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon by William Least Heat Moon (yes!) Gallup’s old town is fading away, ingloriously and not attractive in any way.

I was up very early, performed some communication via Internet, then set out for breakfast in ‘new’ Gallup. The info on my ‘machine’ (that’s what I call my mobilfone) told me that breakfasts in Gallup happen at chain fast food places. So I said to myself, “Pav, you have eaten Egg McMuffin with sausage upon occasion; don’t be grumpy and get on down there.” So, I did, but the main dining area wasn’t yet open (I assumed), just the drive in/takeout. I wanted to sit down, so I went a little further up into the big strip mall, to Denny’s. I tried to get in, but the front door was locked. A sign read: “We are now open at 6AM”. Good, I thought, noting the time was 5:55 AM. So, I waited. Waited. Nobody unlocked the door. I went up to the front door and peered in: “We serve takeouts only”. Aha! That’s why McD’s is taking drive-in orders only. The COVID. So, I got my egg and sausage sandwich and coffee, which I ate while parked in the parking lot. I didn’t spill any food or coffee in the car.

Before I take us on the day’s journey, I will show you the elevations of the places I have been and passed through so you can understand (which I didn’t, until late in today’s journey) why I felt tired and sluggish, especially when out of the car walking to somewhere close by.

Place Elevation, feet
Chandler, AZ 1 214
Flagstaff, AZ 6 909
Gallup, NM 6 467
Shiprock, NM 4 892
Beclabito, NM 5 574
Teec Nos Pos, AZ 5 210
Four Corners Monument Entrance, NM ~5 000
Ute Mountain Casino, CO 6 007
Cortez, CO 6 191
Mancos, CO 7 028
Durango, CO 6 522

The name “Shiprock” easily conjures a picture in one’s head. I was prepared to spot the “rock” after which, I assumed, the town toward which I was first headed, was named. “There it is, on the left!”

Uh, no–sorry Pav. This strange peak was not close enough to the town, and as I, much further down the road, saw the real thing there was no way to stop and take an image of it.  I turned left onto state highway 64 and, as the real rock kept to my leftward view, I finally had a chance to pull over on the right and take pic:

This road was like a washboard all the way to the Arizona border (I was going west again) where it immediately improved. I wish I had had the chance to safely pull over to take pix of the amazing rock walls of huge gullies the road bridged over. Once in Arizona territory it was a relatively quick trip, into New Mexico again, and to the entrance of Four Corners Monument (not “National” monument which I had mistakenly reported earlier–and thereby hangs the next tale):

The Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department had closed it due to COVID.

There was another tourist at the entrance, looking at a map spread out on his car’s hood. I walked up to him and commiserated at this turn of events, although not deeply. I could see the spot where the four corners of the four states lay together, approximately, so I counted this as having achieved the objective. Andy and I had a nice chat, I gave him my card so that he might read that I had named him here, and we went on our separate ways.

US route 160, east, immediately enters Colorado from the entrance to Four Corners. Southern Colorado is beautiful. The scenery is exactly what I was hopeful of. Here are Nature’s monuments, spread into the far distance beyond the high plains. No camera can match the experience. I felt full and peaceful, but I still had to drive at high speeds or be run over by the occasional truck. I was able to pull over to view a marvelous ridge of mountains:

Further on, I saw what I believe to be one of the sacred mountains of the Ute Tribe, some of whom still live here:

I had seen signs along the way advertising the Ute Mountain Casino, and as I approached it I could see that it was of significant size and quality. I stopped to rest and play a while. Masks, of course, were mandatory. The COVID had shut down the roulette and 21 tables, but the slot machines were many. I played a while and after having increased my fortune by $60, I decided to quit and have lunch in the dining room.  Good casinos typically underprice their food and it is often quite good. I had steak and eggs. Good–more than I should have eaten. I huffed and puffed a little bit as I, slower than usual, walked 150 steps back the car. I attributed this my full stomach and, possible, being tired. I later saw (above) that the elevation was 6007 feet, the same elevation as at Lake Tahoe in California which, when I visited there, took me a day to adjust to.

It was only 15 minutes to Cortez, after which the highway took a roundabout below the end of a ridge of snow-topped mountains into a luscious green landscape, so different from Arizona and New Mexico. It was almost breath-taking after being surrounded by and immersed in the desert.

I found my lodging in Durango, the Holiday Inn, with comfortable accommodations. It was a welcome change. I haven’t explored Durango but from what I saw, it seemed as a large and bustling city. But, Wikipedia has it at a population of around 19,000! (Source)

After checking in. I immediately set up my IdeaPad to begin the day’s journal. I couldn’t get into the Hotel’s internet for an obscure reason. After trying everything I knew how to try (which is not inconsiderable, because I been computing since the early 1980s) I asked for help. The manager of the Hotel, with the wonderful name of Phoebe Ogden, personally visited my laptop, in my room, and solved my problem. And now you are reading all about it.

For Rebecca and Stefan: Here’s beer I had at dinner:

Tomorrow: Back to Flagstaff.

Go Here: for the next journal entry.