Standing in front of the desert’s Blue Mesa.
I visited the Petrified Forest National Park and Arizona’s Painted Desert the day after visiting the Grand Canyon. I’m a busy lady with a penchant for parks.
Confession: I liked the Painted Desert better than the Grand Canyon. The latter is stunning, but here’s why I feel this way:
Grand Canyon National Park
I drove up to to Grand Canyon National Park on Memorial Day thinking, “This is going to be crazy, it’s a holiday weekend and I’m going to one of the most visited sites in the world.”
There is nothing quite as high quality as taking a picture with a camera phone through a car window.
I saw a lot of tours for the Grand Canyon while staying in Flagstaff. Didn’t see a lot for Sedona. Thought that was odd, but went anyway.
Sedona was the finale of my three-part Sunday visiting Jerome and Montezuma Castle. By the time I reached the rocks I wasn’t so much in the mood to hike up a rock, particularly given the day’s heat, but the vortexes they supposedly have out there were calling my name.
Montezuma Castle National Monument’s main attraction is this first large structure along the path, which is said to be more like an apartment complex than a castle.
I’m frugal. I think frugality is what divides the middle class from rich folk. Studies show that the richer people are, the more discerning they are about where and how they spend their money. One day I plan to be extremely discerning, get my drift?
Somewhat unrelated, I decided to spend my money on a National Parks Annual Pass last weekend. This pass grants unlimited access to all national parks and monuments for one year, and I can bring up to 3 people for free. Because I’m frugal (back to that now), I’m determined to get to most out of the $80 I just spent.
And then I drove ten hours to see a small town.
Had I never met Matt, my then-23-year-old neighbor when I lived in La Jolla, I wouldn’t have known to visit this mountaintop town. One day I told him that I liked road trips, and he told me on a next day that I needed to visit Jerome.
It’s on steep hillside with amazing views, he said.
And I thought, when will I ever drive ten hours to see a small town?
Driving into Flagstaff, Arizona
I spent my first night away from San Diego on a friend’s couch in LA. It was a sort of gradual departure into this road trip, as opposed to one big “here I go!”
On my second night I arrived into Flagstaff, Arizona. Initial thoughts were: it’s cold, I’m too old (at 28) to hostel, will all the hostel guests be hippies, and so on and so forth.
Me, hanging out with a very pregnant wild burro more interested in cribbing the boardwalk than saying hello.
In Oatman, Arizona wild but friendly burros roam the streets. Or rather, “street.” Oatman is an out-of-he-way ex-mining town with all of one way through, and it would no longer exist if it weren’t for tourism. It is tiny.
It’s a park-anywhere kind of town with a plethora of gift shops geared toward visitors. Lots of janky junk from China with a few finds in between. I counted two restaurants, no bar and no Starbucks. The U.S Post Office at the end of the town looked like it needed to be condemned (but out here people make it work).
A rough sketch of the miles to come.
One more day before I begin my solo road trip across the Western United States! Somehow I’ve whittled the packing down to a trunk-size wardrobe that will carry me through coastal, desert and mountain climates.
- 60 driving hours (without traffic, and not counting side trips such as national parks)
- 4,000+ miles
- 10+ cities through 7 states
- countless small towns, national parks and side treks
- several headaches