A Travellerspoint blog

February 2015

New Mexico

February 11th - 14th

Albuquerque may be difficult to spell, but it is certainly worth a visit to the state of New Mexico, aka The Land of Enchantment. New Mexico is as much a cultural experience as a place to visit with strong Indian, Hispanic and Anglo heritage. In fact, the continent's oldest known Indian sites have been discovered in eastern New Mexico.

We are led to Albuquerque to visit a couple of mates from Penn State. Albuquerque sits at 5,000 feet above sea level and is positioned in the valley between the impressive Sandia mountains to the east and the Rio Grande to the west. Close by, the Petroglyph National Monument has more than 20,000 images pecked in stone - some recognisable as animals, people, and crosses, others more mysterious. All are inseparable from the landscape and are thought to date back to the 1300's. The exact history and meaning of the images is known only to those who created them.







Other than the annual balloon festival held in September, the most popular tourist attraction in Albuqueque is the Sandia Peak aerial tram which has been in operation for almost 50 years. Until recently, the tram ride was the longest in the world and takes riders to the top of Sandia Peak at 10,378 feet above sea level and provides an 11,000 square mile view of New Mexico. The belief around the name Sandia holds that the striped appearance of the rocks or the pinkish reflections of the surfaces of the mountain range at sunset reminded the Spanish of watermelon, hence Sandia is Spanish for watermelon.







Old Downtown includes many original period structures including the San Felipe de Neri church built in 1706. Most buildings though date back to the 1800's with styles from Queen Anne to Territorial and Pueblo Revival and also some Mediterranean are apparent in the one and two storey structures.



Upon leaving Albuquerque we detour to Los Alamos to visit another Penn State mate who is a scientist with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Los Alamos, also known as 'The town that never was' was established in the 1940's as part of the Manhattan Project to specifically build the world's first Atomic bomb and the Bradbury Science Museum has a number of exhibits showing the science and technology used including an exact replica of 'Little Boy' the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945 during World War ll.



Posted by V3USA 09:38 Comments (0)

Petrified Forest National Park

10 February 2015

What does silence sound like? Where do you go if there are no footsteps to follow? How does it feel to be in a place where day and night are the only times that matter? The Petrified Forest National Wilderness Area is valued for its underdeveloped and natural qualities. And we can see why. It is not quite Death Valley and not Quite the Grand Canyon, but it certainly has its own mystique to offer and is well worth the visit. Whilst in the National Park we visit a section of the park that was one of the first to be officially designated, and what we saw before us in the Painted Desert was 43,020 acres. Once again we are greeted with colours that only the natural eye can capture and Mother Nature’s beauty is ours to get lost in, find ourselves in, or simply take in the view. 5725B277AE8923F45A2B86C45F7C43E8.jpg

In another part of the Park we come across the Agate Bridge. Water created the Agate Bridge and will destroy it. The fossilized tree that now forms Agate Bridge grew in a lush subtropical forest 21 million years ago. When the tree died, it washed into a river and its quick burial by river sediments prevented decay. Volcanic ash dissolved in groundwater provided silica, which reacted with the log and slowly crystallised it into quartz. Millions of years later, rivers and streams eroded massive layers of rock strata to expose the fossilized tree. Inevitably, water now carving the small gully under Agate Bridge will cause its collapse. The supportive concrete span, constructed in 191, is a tenuous attempt at preservation. Water will always have its way. 5726C77E9A92A367E4A0E781ECD7BCAA.jpg

Shortly after we arrive at the Crystal Forest. Here we step into the ‘forest’ and enter a mysterious world of ancient trees turned to stone. The brilliantly coloured remnants of an earlier geological age invite us to visualize a changing world. Thoughtless visitors have removed most of the crystals that gave Crystal Forest its name, but you can still walk a 1.2klm loop and take in its remaining expanse of petrified logs renowned for their crystals. 57273E5397AA96559F02E4A351D8009C.jpg

Newspaper Rock is soon upon us. Here on the overlook there are three spotting telescopes to view "over 650 petroglyphs, some as old as 2000 years." The petroglyphs can only be seen from the overlook to protect the petroglyphs for future generations. This was a memorable stop and we would recommend you stop to view these prehistoric graffiti; they are amazing. 57278694CD4D498545FC9B3FC606BF7B.jpg

Petrified Forest National Park is the only National Park that contains a section of the old highway. In addition to the sites we have seen within the Petrified Forest, a 1932 Studebaker exhibit has been installed. The car was donated to the National Park Service by Frank and Rhonda Dobell, owners of Arizona Automotive Service in Holbrook, Arizona. Considered by many as the Mother of Transcontinental Highways, Route 66 is the quintessential representative of 20th century American history and culture. And this old Studebaker just adds a certain charm to the end of our day in the Petrified National Forest. 57264BBDCCA0FBC8FDEE8D8306F74959.jpg

Posted by V3USA 07:28 Comments (0)


5 Feb – 10 Feb

Flagstaff has a bit of a casual, outdoor kind of feel. It is set at the base of the beautiful San Francisco Peaks, and surrounded by national forests, and you can do almost any outdoor activity you can think of here. Nick and I were here in 1999 and liked it so much then that we decided to come back. We even found San Francisco Street and the backpackers we stayed in 16 years ago. From Flagstaff you can do Walnut Canyon, Sunset Crater Volcano and Wupatki National Monuments and so this is what we did on the Sunday.

Walnut Canyon National Monument is about 16k of downtown Flagstaff. The canyon rim elevation is 6,690 ft; the canyon's floor is 350 ft lower. A 1.5k long loop trail descends 185 ft into the canyon passing 25 cliff dwelling rooms constructed by the Sinagua, a pre-Columbian cultural group that lived in Walnut Canyon from about 1100 to 1250 CE. You get a great work out and the cliff dwellings and scenery are beautiful! There are 2 different walks you can do here. If you have to choose one, I would definitely recommend the Island Trail since you get to hike down and see everything up close. These are pretty amazing ruins and makes you wonder how they managed to live in such tough conditions many years ago on cliff walls. 90_20150208_W.._Canyon__6_.jpg

Sunset Crate Volcano
Sunset Crater is a cinder cone located north of Flagstaff. The crater is within the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. Sunset Crater is the youngest in a string of volcanoes that is related to the nearby San Francisco Peaks. Roughly 900 years ago, the eruption of this volcano reshaped the surrounding landscape, forever changing the lives of people, plants and animals. Here you can hike the trail through the lava flow and cinders and at some point, they say the Sinaguas may have grown comfortable approaching the lava flow, and they made an offering: corn. You can see imprints of these ears of corn in hardened lava at the visitor center of Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. These volcanic fields are not moonscapes - they support life. Rivers of hot lava, fire and ash are hard on plants, but it does not take long for life to return. Some archaeologists believe that the buildings at Wupatki were built in the shadow of Sunset Crater after the clans learned they could grow crops there. The cinders served as a mulch, keeping water from evaporating in the hot climate. 90_20150208_S..Pueblos__3_.jpg

Wupatki National Monument
The Wupatki National Monument is rich in Native American ruins. In this part of the National Park, it is one of the warmest driest places on the Colorado Plateau, with little obvious food or water, people lived and others would have visited from far and wide. Continuing on our 60k scenic drive to our final stop was the Wupatki National Monument. This is the site of the Wupatki Pueblo. As you approach the park there is first a small 3 room pueblo on the right. There is a short trail that leads you to the pueblo. Here you are actually able to go inside and explore the rooms and just imagine how it was to live here nearly 1000 years ago. Across the street is the Visitors Center and behind the center is the Wupatki Pueblo.
Wupatki Pueblo is the largest pueblo in the park. Here you can take a stroll around the 100 room pueblo. People gathered here during the 1100s, gradually building this 100-room pueblo with a community room and ball court. By 1182, perhaps 85 to 100 people lived at Wupatki Pueblo, the largest building for at least 80k. Within a day’s walk, a population of several thousand Wupatki people could be found. 20150208_S..Pueblos__9_.jpg

On Saturday we take part in the first annual Flagstaff Chocolate Walk and finish the evening with a BBQ dinner. We are told that Chocolate Walk participants can get a taste of all the chocolate the town has to offer. The Flagstaff Visitor Center gave out "chocolate passports" to mark off while visiting more than 30 participating businesses. We register at the Visitors Centre and Alyssa gets her hand stamped and is given a map and a passport. We then visit businesses on the map, where she can try free chocolate and purchase more for a discount, then collect a stamp. Each stamp is worth a certain number of points, and at 50 points, she could have been entered into a raffle to win prizes (more chocolate we suspect). We didn’t enter the competition, but we had a great time wandering around old town Flagstaff for the day.

That night we went to a BBQ joint (Nick’s choice) in the basement of an old building and tucked away behind a funky women’s clothing store so the clothes smell like BBQ. Apparently Big Foot BBQ has been Flagstaff's best BBQ for over six years. I think we can agree to that statement. It was yummy! bigfoot.png

Posted by V3USA 07:21 Comments (0)

Route 66

getting our kicks!

Commissioned in 1926, Route 66 was unique among other highways with a catchy tune that was ideal for promotion efforts, and with an arcing path across the country. Renowned as the shortest all-weather route connecting the industrial Midwest to the rural Southwest, it helped facilitate the unprecedented transfer of ideas, goods, and people across the country. Traveling through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, it also served as a major corridor for Dust Bowl migrants in the '30s; for important WWII military functions in the '40s; and for thousands of families in the '50s during the emergence of the "vacation culture." Roadside architecture and businesses flourished, changing forever the history and character, and lives of the towns through which the route passed. The arts played a critical role in immortalizing the road through literature, song, and film, which served to elevate the road to a phenomenal, pop-culture status which persists to this day.
Ironically, it was the popularity of automobile travel that ultimately led to the highway’s demise through the construction of limited-access interstates in the 1970s. With the slow, incremental opening of the interstates, travel gradually shifted away from the towns and main streets of Route 66, until the highway was officially decommissioned in 1985. Beloved by many, however, public demanded that the road and its history be kept alive and preservation and tourism movements have since flourished. Almost 80 years since its birth, and nearly 20 years since its decommissioning, Route 66 remains one of the most revered, beloved, and sought out historic roads in the world.

Roadkill Café
Roadkill on the menu! “You kill it, we grill it”. After public works scrapes dead animals off the side of the road, what happens to the remains? Just joking! But with menu items such as Deer Delectables, Bad-Brake Steak, Fender Tenders, Caddie Grilled Patty it certainly makes you wonder. Although we didn’t stop in for a bite to eat, we took the time to take a snap shot of this iconic little on historic Route 66 located in Seligman. 20150218_Route_66__24_.jpg

Wigwam Motel, Holbrook
From the seven original Wigwam Villages, three survive today. So on our journey between Flagstaff and Albuquerque we decided to spend a night in Holbrook in one of the infamous Wigwams. I wouldn’t say the Wigwams contain all of the amenities of a regular hotel room. We stayed in Number 10 Wigwam and on checking in the lady behind the desk quickly added that there was a heater on the right hand side of the room. Naïve as we are, we simply took this information in and proceeded to our teepee for the night. It was already mid afternoon because we’d spent a few hours at the Petrified Forest National Park, so we figured we’d drop our bags off and head out for dinner. When we got to the room, we soon realized why the heater was mentioned. It was probably 5 degrees cooler inside the wigwam. We found the heater and turned it on to heat the room slightly before heading out, but for some reason as soon as it hit a particular temperature, the heater kept cutting out. Perhaps we would be sleeping in the clothes we had on and we definitely weren’t having a shower that night….cue the teeth chatter here. We went out for dinner and by the time we got home the gauge on the dashboard said it was 35 fahrenheit(or around 2 degrees Celsius). You can probably imagine how cold it was inside the wigwam. We entered quickly, put the heater on and again it kept cutting out. Yep! Definitely slipping under the covers with what we had on (including socks). At around 4am, Nick couldn’t bear the cold anymore, so he got up and pressed some more buttons on the heater and it managed to stay on till we got up in the morning. We now think the heater was temperature controlled and heats the room to the appropriate temperature on the dial before it cuts out (kind of an economy setting thing). When we got up in the morning there was frost on the car and we had to scrape ice from the windscreen. The guage on the dashboard was now indicating 28 fahrenheit. At least we have bragging rights of saying we slept in a teepee on our 12 month adventure! 20150218_Route_66__36_.jpg

Jack Rabbit, Joseph City, Arizona is little else than a convenience store and home to the infamous fiberglass jackrabbit. It is a famous stop on Route 66 none-the-less. So we stop, albeit for 5 minutes to take a quick photo. Renowned as being the most famous Stop-n-Go convenience store in the world, for many miles before you get close to Joseph City, the highway is dotted by iconic billboards with nothing more than the silhouette of a jackrabbit. In front of the store is another billboard with “HERE IT IS” written on it as well as a large fiberglass jackrabbit. But guess what folks? That’s is all she wrote because aside from the billboard and the fiberglass jackrabbit, there is only the small unassuming convenience store and little of anything else. 20150218_Route_66__41_.jpg90_20150218_Route_66__29_.jpg

Any Eagles fan will know about the corner of Winslow, Arizona. Made infamous in their song “Take it Easy”. So here we are: slowing down to take a look…..just finding our place to make our stand and take it easy. Here we are standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona. As you stand on the corner, Eagles music is piped into the street, just to give it that authentic feel. All we can say is, “Standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona, what a fine sight to see.” 20150218_Route_66__32_.jpg

Posted by V3USA 07:16 Comments (1)

The Grand Canyon

3rd and 4th of February

Once again Ronnie and I revisit the Grand Canyon. Our goal is to try and replicate our reactions to seeing the Canyon for the first time, so we blindfold Alyssa and walk her to the rim. Her reaction is as expected when we finally reveal the grandeur of Mother Nature’s beauty. But firstly,

You will recall from the last update that we stopped at the Hoover Dam after visiting Las Vegas. Well about 70 miles from the Hoover Dam, and about 50 miles from the nearest town of Kingman, Kenny the Kia (our trusty rental car) blows a tyre. We pull over and thankfully it is the back right so away from the traffic on the Interstate. We replace the tyre with the provided space saver which only allows us to travel at 50 miles per hour (in a 70 zone) and we call Hertz to advise what has occurred. They quickly request that we attend the Hertz office in Kingman where we will be provided with a replacement car. Not long later Kenny is replaced by Donny the Dodge, a little smaller but wonderful service.

Back to the Grand Canyon, which is visited by over 5 million people each year, thankfully mainly in Spring and Summer. As we are in Winter, the head count is relatively low. The Canyon is made up of 7 different layers with the lowest basement rocks believed to be 1.8 billion years old. Other statistics are that it is 277 miles long, 10 miles across and over 1 mile deep.

There is no one specific point to best view the Canyon’s majestic colour – just good places and better places. Although most tourists view the Canyon from the popular Mather point, we decide to get glimpses from a view different locations including at sunset which transforms the canyon’s buttes and points into a beautiful canvas of unimaginable views.

We also decide to take a couple of hikes into the Canyon, firstly on the Bright Angel trail and then a longer hike on the South Kaibab trail to Ooh Aah point. The views from in the Canyon are totally different and worth the slow walk back uphill due to the elevation being 7,000 feet above sea level.

Posted by V3USA 16:39 Comments (0)

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