leaving for LA, I talked to Aunt Anna and we discussed me
possibly dropping by Phoenix on the way down. It's 600
miles out of the way, but what the hell. I packed up the
GTI and headed southwest on US 285 across South Park
(yes, the South Park), and then west on
US 160 through Durango to Mesa Verde. I'd left Lakewood
around noon or so, so I got to Mesa Verde after dark
(thus no pictures,) found a camping spot and called it a
I was up at sunrise the next morning (anyone who knows me, knows that's rare), but the sun was so low, and the shadows over the mesa so long there wasn't really anything to see. The road up the mesa is long and twisty and was soon to be filled with slow moving tourists, so I opted to skip the ruins and hit the highway.
I popped in at Four Corners, because I'd never been there, and did the requisite walk through 4 states in 3 seconds. I got back on the road in Arizona and headed into the Indian reservation. A big long boring stretch of road with a speed limit of 55.
160 finally meets up with US 89 where I turned south, and headed down to Cameron and then turned on SR 64 into Grand Canyon National Park. I pulled off at various points along the south rim and got pictures.
Click on the image above to see this panorama full size. It's quite large, and quite impressive.
| Click on the image to the
left to see my favorite single image of the canyon. This
one can be expanded for use as a windows desktop
I enjoyed the Canyon, but I've also come to find that I enjoy simply being on the road driving even more; so after a stop for lunch in the park, I hit the road again heading south on US 180 which eventually branches off and heads southeast to Flagstaff.
As I'm bombing along on 180 I caught this picture of Humphrey's Peak, which is the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 ft. Looks like the only high spot in the state. One easily forgets that the south rim of the Grand Canyon and Flagstaff are both 7000 feet above sea level and Phoenix is 6000 feet lower and 40 degrees hotter.
Prior to the trip Anna had suggested that I check out Sedona. So on the way out of Flagstaff I turned off onto US 89A and headed down into Oak Creek Canyon which is a very heavily used recreational area between Flagstaff and Sedona. It was packed from canyon wall to canyon wall with people but still a very nice drive; nice scenery and I'm sure a tad cooler than it would have been out on I-17. I pulled into Sedona at like 4:45 pm (by my watch). I wasn't exactly sure what I was supposed to see in Sedona having only been told it was an amazing place, so I called up Anna to let her know where I was and ask where to go. She said to take some time to check out the famous rocks and told me Brad's birthday party was at 6:30.
Phoenix is still 90+ miles away and it's 4:45. Hmmm.. I hopped in the car and headed south through Sedona looking for "rocks".. specifically big red rocks..
|Ah hah! Found some.
Yes, the colors are a bit saturated, but that's kinda how the place looks. Red reds.. Green greens, and intense Blue skies.
|And if that wasn't brilliant enough, try:
If you're interested, here's a cool church embedded in the rock.
|I didn't feel I had enough time to stop
and explore any of these monuments so I snapped a few
more pictures and headed on out SR 179 to I-17 and then
make up some time getting to Phoenix at somewhat better
than a mile a minute. Somewhere along the way, I found
something I didn't know I'd been missing. Lost
horsepower. In Colorado, when I want to pass
someone on the highway with aplomb, I drop it into 3rd.
Somewhere south of Sedona, I discovered I could do the
same thing in 4th gear, and by the time I reached Phoenix
I didn't even have to shift out of 5th to break the
spirit of the guy playing the "speed up/slow down
game" in the lane next to me. The problem is, there
is 14% less oxygen at my altitude, and that works out to
a loss of about 30 horses from sea level. I got it back
on temporary loan for the duration of my stay in AZ and
I finally rolled up to the Leonard family house at about 6:45. Funny.. no cars in the drive, no people, and Brad and Jonathan are just getting in. Confusion.. See, here's the problem. Back at Four Corners, I remembered that Arizona is weird, and doesn't observe daylight savings time, so I set my watch forward an hour. Ooops.. "Spring forward.. fall back.. " I should have set it back an hour. No wonder Anna told me to spend some time in Sedona. I could have easily spent another hour there and made it to Phoenix with time to spare. Oh well.
Anyway... Brad's birthday party was fun, and I met some of the neighbors and so on.
End of day 2.
The next morning we got on the road at 8 or so. Andrew rode with me for a 50 miles or so to the first rest stop. He played Diablo (a computer game) on the laptop while I admired the scenery of a flat featureless desert. Then we traded off and Anna drove the GTI. On the entrance ramp, these were my instructions,
"Ok, now we're in second gear. Just put your foot to the floor and take it to the redline."
She did.. then missed the 2nd to 3rd shift, ended up in 5th, but that's fine, because 2nd gear runs out of steam at 70 mph so we were already going the legal limit. Whee.. A couple miles down the road, she got bored following Brad and the kids in the mini-van so she stepped on the gas and off we went. Another mile down the road she looks down at the speedometer for the first time and says.
"Ninety!? This is ninety and this is nothing.. This is nothing."
A few miles later, we cruised by a cop at 75 or 80 mph while I explained what all the noisy racket coming from the radar detector was about. :-) Luckily, the GTI looks like a slow econo-box to a cop.
We stopped for lunch in Blythe at the CA border. Anna swapped out for Jonathan, who had already heard all about Diablo from Andrew by now, so he buried his nose in the computer right away and kept it there for the next 200 miles. Of course the laptop had my road atlas software, so Jonathan was also supposed to be the trip navigator. After going about 10 miles toward San Diego after a wrong turn at some particularly important freeway interchange, I realized that my navigator was too busy dispatching monsters to be of much help.
We hit some traffic through L.A. but still rolled up to the Adam household about 40 minutes ahead of Brad, (although I think they stopped to eat or something).
On to the rest of the LA trip.
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