Sitgreaves Pass

If you continue on former Route 66, now CR 10, out of Oatman towards Kingman, you find yourself on a twisty-turny loop of roadway that continues up into the Black Mountains and afford you some awesome views.

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The speed limit is mostly 20 mph, with curves taking it down to 10-15 mph.  And it is best to stick to those speeds because most of the curves are blind and there are those who don’t agree with the speed.  Eventually, we found one large pull off, where we were able to see the terrain we had crossed.  Plus, others who had been through had left cairns, or rock mounds, to mark their passage, I suppose.

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I didn’t leave once, since, knowing my luck, I’d try to pick up the rock hiding a momma rattlesnake.

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Once we passed through Sitgreaves Pass, it was all down hill from there.  Altitudinally speaking.  We did hit one other place that required us to pull over and take some more pictures.

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We were greeted by the gentleman working there who informed us that the place’s claim to fame was being blown up in the Jean Claude van Damme classic, Universal Soldier.  Then, it was used as inspiration for a scene in Disney-Pixar’s Cars.  There were some eclectic items on display.

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The shirts advertised were once men’s 4x shirts that were cut up and braided together.  Supposedly, if you dipped the shirt in water, the braids would hold on to the water, keeping you cool in the 113 degree desert weather.  Since neither Mom nor I had any plans to hike out into the desert, we passed on them, though we did get a few pictures before we hit to road again.

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Oatman, AZ

Up in the Black Mountains of Mohave County, Arizona lies the old gold mining town of Oatman.  Named after Olive Oatman, a young girl from Illinois who had been captured by the Natives during their journey westward before being sold to the Mohave Indians and made one of their own, the town was built during the gold rush, but by the mid 20th century, the mines were shut down and they turned to tourism to make their money.

This town saw its share of Hollywood stars and was used as a backdrop for several westerns.  It was also where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard had their honeymoon after getting married in Kingman.  The original Route 66 wound through the hills from Kingman on its way to Needles, CA, but the drive was so steep and twisty, it was soon rerouted for an easier drive.

Luckily, there are several tours out of Laughlin, NV, across the Colorado River from Bullhead City, AZ, which has brought back the tourists.

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One of the big draws are the wild burros, descendants of the original pack animals brought in during the gold rush, but left behind when the miners left.

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You can easily see the town’s pride in their wild inhabitants.

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And yes, they are wild.  While most every shop has ‘burro food’ (small blocks of hay or bags of carrots) for sale, the animals are no longer domesticated and have been known to get a bit rowdy.  Plus, it was asked that no one feed the babies, since they were still getting their meals from Momma.  They even had warning stickers about this.

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There is also a shoot out between a bank robber and the sheriff in the middle of the street at least twice a day.

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The shops are full of quirky items and friendly people.

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The town does have one or two rules, besides the burros.

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The shops had everything you could possibly want from an ex-mining, burro infested, cowboy shootouts daily type of town.  Just make sure you watch where you step.  Burro droppings abound.

 

Got Our Kicks on Route 66

Less than an hour outside of Bullhead City lies Kingman, AZ and the Historic Route 66.  While we had traveled next to it and on it for about a mile after visiting the Petrified Forest, we devoted this ride to seeing some of the sights along Route 66.  Also known as the Mother Road and the Main Street of America, Route 66 connected the country by starting in Chicago, IL and ending some 2400+ miles away in Santa Monica, CA.  Originally opened in 1926, it served as the major thoroughfare between the East Coast and West Coast, until being bypassed by the Interstate system. In the 1960’s, a song was even dedicated to this road, used mainly by vacationers traveling to Los Angeles.  There was even a TV show centered around the highway.

Nowadays, the highway is mostly incorporated into some of the interstates or is managed by local states and counties.  Even though most of the traffic is gone, it still retains some of its quirkiness.

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You never quite know what you might see as you ride down the road.  Perhaps an homage to a certain movie from a part of the Mouse House that involves automobiles?

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Or a bar with a singer out front?

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Or a locale where the building seemed to be held together with bumper stickers and an object from a bygone era-a pay phone.

Whatever you see, it is sure to be interesting.  Time might not have been kind to Route 66, but it has held on to its off-beat charm and will continue to do so for a long time.

Lake Havasu

About an hour and a half south of Bullhead City lies Lake Havasu City, AZ.  In order to get there from here, we had to drive through California for a bit down I-40.  Having to leave one state and go through another to get somewhere within this state was a bit surreal, but also rather interesting. After crossing back into Arizona and driving through miles and miles of hills and desert, we found ourselves back in civilization again.

We tried to find the London Bridge visitors center, but kept getting turned around, so we ended up at the Lake Havasu History Museum.  Two older ladies were working the small museum and seemed just tickled to have us come in.  Another couple of people wandered in and we were treated to a 20 minute DVD about the local area, starting with the Native people who used to live there, through the area’s use by the military as a recreation area, up to the purchase of the land by Robert McCulloch to test his outboard motors, then to build his own city.  We then toured through the rest of the museum.

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Mom had found a bracelet in their little gift shop that she liked and as we were checking out, we asked about finding the London Bridge Visitors center.  The bridge that McCulloch bought from the London mayor and brought over to be the main tourist attraction to his new city wasn’t the bridge that everyone thinks of when they picture London Bridge.  That bridge is Tower Bridge and still firmly settled in London.  This bridge was brought over with carefully numbered stones and had been built in the 1800s, but couldn’t withstand motor vehicle traffic as it was.  When it came over, they built the stones around the steel infrastructure of the bridge, then built a channel under it so that it created an island to span to.

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We were told that due to construction, you had to park your car in the casino boat parking lot and walk down to the visitors center.  And since we were going that way, take these two coupons that would get us a free boat ride that would take us somewhere for lunch.  Since it was lunch time and we were hungry, we got on the boat going to the undisclosed location to eat at a place that was never named.

Some of you are probably wondering why we would do such a thing and the only answer I have is…we were hungry.  Luckily, the boat simply took us to the other side of the lake, to California, to the Havasu Landing Resort and Casino.

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We had a delicious lunch.  I had a cheeseburger and Mom had the Chemehuevi salad, named after the local Native tribe, which was served on traditional fry bread.  Since the boat only runs from the casino back to Lake Havasu City on the half hour, we had some time to kill and played a couple of the slots.

But then it was time to head back.  The boat took us back across to Arizona and we were finally able to see London Bridge.

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If you’re driving from Laughlin or Bullhead City, expect to make a day trip out of this.  We did and we were very happy to have done so.

Grand Canyon South Rim (Grand Canyon Part 2)

After arriving in the Grand Canyon Village, we jumped on the bus for the Freedom Tour, included with our railway package.  This hour and a half tour takes you to 3 of the main overlooks on the South Rim.  Our driver was friendly and rather easy going, making certain not the leave the stragglers behind and dropping those of us who were staying overnight directly at our hotel.

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The views were astonishing.  We came here when I was a teenager, but there weren’t really any guard rails or security measures, so last time I got out of the car and that was as far as I went.  This time, with my camera securely blocking out the heights, I was able to get right up to the rails and take some pictures.

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Crows and other birds played on the thermal currents, swooping down and then back up.  Those same currents made it a rather breezy day, keeping things tolerable up at the top.

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Last time we were here, my younger brother climbed out on this rock and posed.

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I opted to stay firmly behind the low wall.  Mom, though, found another tree to befriend.

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Soon, we were at the Maswik Lodge, getting checked in.  We grabbed lunch and dinner from the food court at our resort before walking back to our room.  They don’t have bottled water in the park, but they do have bottle filling stations.  They can be found at the resort and at the visitors centers and other locales throughout the park.  It reminded me of drinking from the water hose in the summer as a kid.  Ah, metal.

The next day, before boarding the train back down to Williams, we decided to ride the complimentary shuttles throughout the park.  We stopped at the main visitors center and watched the 20 minute movie about the Grand Canyon.  We rode to the Geology Museum.  We ended up at the Bright Angel Lodge and had lunch in the Cafe, which featured items from its original menus back when it was run by Fred Harvey.  That lunch was delicious.  I had their club sandwich and Mom had chili con carne in a sourdough bread bowl.

But then, it was time to board the train back down to Williams.

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We kicked back in our seats and watched the scenery slip by.  Once again, singing cowboys wandered the cars and then those wily bad guys tried to rob the train.  They wanted money, jewelry and a woman who could cook.  They eyed Mom’s wrist and all her bracelets, but luckily, neither one of us is known for our cooking abilities and thus we were safe.  Just as the sun was setting, we pulled back into Williams.  Our bags were once again waiting in our room and after filling up at the buffet for dinner, we got cozy in our room, planning our drive to Bullhead City, AZ, our next stop.

Grand Canyon Railway (Grand Canyon Part 1)

Upon arriving in Williams, AZ, we checked into the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel.  We had purchased the 3 night Discovery plus package, which included one night in the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, one night in Maswik Lodge in the Grand Canyon and our last night back in Williams in the GCR Hotel again.  It also included dinner the night of our arrival, breakfast before the train departed the next day, dinner when we got back to Williams and breakfast the day we checked out.  This was on top of the trip up to the Grand Canyon and the afternoon train back.

The hotel is a 2 story building that sits next to the train depot and has a pub on site as well as a restaurant next to the train depot.  The depot has its own gift shop as well.  It was a comfortable room and they took our luggage to the Grand Canyon and brought it back for us.

But back to the train.

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This is an active train yard and they have more than just the Grand Canyon trip going through here.  Amtrak also makes a stop and they have their own Polar Express and Pumpkin Patch trips as well.

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Prior to boarding the train, they have a 20 minute skit involving a gang of hungry bad guys and one lone sheriff.

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One bad guy, Old Dutch, has the joy of being made a victim of twice.

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We had purchased the upgrade to First Class, so we had bigger seats and more leg room, plus snacks were included on the 2 hour ride up to the Grand Canyon.  There were strolling singing cowboys and lots of information about what to do while up at the South Rim.  We didn’t have to worry about our luggage, as it would be waiting for us in the room after we checked in.  Definitely the best way to get up into the National Park.

Meteor Crater

On our way from Winslow, AZ to Williams, AZ, we decided to stop at Meteor Crater, just off I-40.  While on the family road trip 20+ years ago, we stopped here as well.  Back then, it was mainly a large hole in the ground, where they took you around the rim and talked about what they thought created it.

In the intervening 20 years, they have created a multi-level museum, gift shop, tour stop with movie center.  The site is privately owned and was, at one point, a mining center.  It is not a National Park, since the government would have to own it, but in 1967, it was named as a National Natural Landmark.

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It is believed that the crater was created about 50,000 years ago, during a time when the Colorado Plateau would have been much cooler and wetter.  The area was likely inhabited by wooly mammoths and giant ground sloths.  Due to erosion since the formation of the crater, it is believed to have lost between 50 and 60 feet of height at the rim, but it is still rather formidable.

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The museum also has on display items from NASA, including one of the Apollo modules.

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I asked Mom if this is how she got to Earth.  For some reason, she didn’t find this funny.

It really is an amazing sight that should be viewed if you’re traveling through Arizona.

Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Parks

Sorry for the long wait between posts.  We were on the road to the Grand Canyon and then in it and wifi was pretty much non-existent until today.  So, let me tell you about Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park.

Most of the Painted Desert is part of the Petrified Forest National Park.  It was named by Coronado during his quest in 1540 for the cities of Cibola.  After finding the cities and discovering they weren’t made of gold, he headed back to the Colorado to get more supplies and passed through the area. It is easy to see why he called it “El Desierto Pintado” or Painted Desert.

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After crossing over I-40 and Route 66, you find yourself in the part of the park known as the Petrified Forest.  It was declared a national monument in 1906 and became a national park in 1962.

If you are expecting towering trees and woodlands, think again.  When my younger brother and I were in our teens, our parents drove us cross country and brought us here.  We were expecting trees.  We found…rocks.  Let’s just say, for a 19 year old and a 13 year old, this wasn’t our favorite stop.

Luckily, I’ve grown up since then and find the process of how the trees from 225 million years ago became solid rock.  The park is also known for its fossil finds, dating to the late Triassic period.

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For $20, you get a 7 day pass into the park for your whole car and those who are in it.  There are signs everywhere reminding you NOT to take home any rocks or animals from the park.  Everything within the park is Federally protected.  There are many pull offs and trails to hike, for those who want to get a bit more into the scenery.  It is a lovely place, but remember, don’t miss the trees when you’re looking for the forest.  They’re all around you.

The Road to Telluride

The other day we were talking to one of our AirBnB hosts, Janette, and mentioned that it had been 14 years since we experienced fall and its corresponding foliage.  She suggested that we take the road up to Telluride to see the colors.  So this morning, Mom and I hopped into Red Rover and hit the road, camera at the ready.

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We crisscrossed over the Delores River a couple times as we wound our way up the mountains.

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The sky was getting darker as we continued up, but the view of the mountains called us forward.

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We even passed by an alpine lake, though we began to notice precipitation starting to show up on the windshield.

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Eventually, we realized that the precipitation was actually something we haven’t had to deal with in 14 years.  Snow.  Big, chunky snowflakes were falling all around us.  So, we made one last stop at an overlook for a couple more pictures before heading back down the mountain and back to our AirbnB to get ready for the next adventure.

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Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

In 1882, the Durango-Silverton line was opened between the two cities, so that the gold and silver flowing from the mines could be taken down the mountain before being transferred to other trains for transportation around the country.  Because of the terrain, special, narrow-gauge train rails and cars had to be used.  This line has been in continuous use since 1882, though now it is used to carry passengers up and down the mountain for some spectacular views.  Because snow is a consideration in this area, the train only travels all the way to Silverton from early May until late October.

We opted for the Skyway Tour, which is the train one way and motorcoach the other.  Our option had us going up on the motorcoach, climbing up the San Juan Skyway to Silverton.  It was a beautiful day and the ride went smoothly.  We strolled around Silverton and did a bit of shopping.  The city is only a few square blocks, so you could get from the train depot to anywhere in town in a matter of minutes of walking.  The elevation, 9,318 feet above sea level, gave me a slight bit of trouble, but not enough to ruin my trip.  Just meant we took more sitting breaks to enjoy the view.

Then it was time to board our train to head back down the mountain.

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The current locomotives were built between 1923 and 1925.  They have been fully restored, along with the train cars that are pulled.  There are several different classes to chose from, but they all are wonderful and there are bathroom facilities on the trains.

These trains go through some very narrow passages through some very spectacular scenery.

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You can see how close together the rails are, which is why it is called narrow gauge.

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The water flows down from the mountains from snow melt, creating the Animas River.  The train goes down before heading back up another mountain before going down again into Durango.  The passages through the mountain can be quite close.

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Prices vary according to which options you choose.  Whether you take the bus one way or do the train round trip and which class of service you choose.  It can be as high as starting at $219 for Presidential class and as low as starting at $55 for Standard class and everything in between.  Definitely plan for it using most of your day, but it is worth it.  It is an amazing experience that you will never forget.