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.