Thursday, December 25, 2014

From Flagstaff to Cottonwood Arizona

Leaving Flagstaff, we headed down I-17. A beautiful drive outside the city, it starts it's southward journey towards Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun. Keep in mind, Flagstaff sits at a 7,000 foot elevation and Phoenix at about 1,100, so there's going to be a downgrade to be reckoned with. I-17 does not disappoint, with nearly 20 miles of downgrade. Most of it is a relatively easy drive although there are some 6-7% grades. Most of these are separated by stretches of level ground so it's not a straight downward drop. Our destination, Cottonwood, is about halfway between Flagstaff and Phoenix, off the Camp Verde exit and sits at 3,300 feet. Weather is perfect with temps in the mid 70s.

Seeing the above sign makes one wonder about the trip down. It's not too bad really, stay off the brakes and let 'er drift, use the engine brake as necessary and enjoy the scenery, it's outstanding.

There are many places to pull off, let your brakes cool down, your nerves settle and enjoy fantastic views while having a bite to eat.

Despite weather reports of possible rain, we didn't experience anything but warming temperatures.

Unfettered, we arrived at Thousand Trails Preserve at Verde Valley. This campground sits on the banks of the Verde River. As kids, we used to tube down this river every summer. Sure brings back memories.

They do have javalinas that roam the park, so walking at night with your dog is not advised.

If boondocking is your thing, there are tons of spaces outside the park where you can park your rig and enjoy Mother Nature at it's finest.

We use Verde Valley as our anchor while visiting in this area. Within an hours drive is Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon, a casino, Montezuma's Well and Castle, Tuzigoot ruins, Jerome Ghost town, the Verde Valley Railroad and many other worthwhile adventures. For those not Thousand Trails members, Dead Horse State Park is just down the road and is recommended.

The town of Camp Verde is a small yet quaint town that also is home to Fort Verde, a State Historic Site. The fort sits on 10 acre site and houses period 19th century housing and barracks. They often stage re-enactments of the wars with the Apache Indians of this area.

Continuing south on I-17 we are approaching Black Canyon City which is just north of Phoenix.

We will be spending Christmas this year at our winter home in Mesa.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Northern Arizona

After leaving the snow and cold in New Mexico and Texas, we cruised into Holbrook, Arizona under clear sunny skies with temperatures in the high 60s. Perfect weather for this time of year. We stayed at the Holbrook KOA which we think is the best campground in this area. From this vantage point, you can visit the Petrified Forest, Painted Desert, Wigwam Motel, Meteor Crater and other nearby attractions. We planned only an overnight stay before heading to Cottonwood Arizona for two weeks.

The short drive from Holbrook to Flagstaff is outstanding. The road travels through indian lands, mainly Navajo tribes.

This is the Continental Divide where it crosses in Northern Arizona. The Continental Divide wanders back and forth from north to south across the United States. From this point water flows westward towards the Pacific and eastward towards the Atlantic. Earlier this year we crossed it in Southern Arizona.

Much of this area was formed many years ago and consists of sandstone cliffs which show off their colors depending on the orientation of the sun.

As stated earlier, much of this area is Indian land occupied by many Navajo tribes. They make outstanding turquoise jewelry.

Not all of Arizona is desert and cacti. Most of Northern Arizona is grazing land consisting of desert grasses. This area was formed by erupting volcanos eons ago.

As we neared Flagstaff, the San Francisco peaks were bathed in clouds. The peaks offer snow skiing in  the winter and excellent hiking in the summer.

The San Francisco Peaks are the remains of a stratovolcano, which contains a aquifer within the calderon. This aquifer supplies much of the water supply to Flagstaff. Humphreys Peak, seen here shrouded in clouds rises over 12,000 feet and is the highest point in the State of Arizona.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Texas, New Mexico and on to Arizona

As previously posted, we left Amarillo, Texas while getting a smattering of snowflakes. The road out of Amarillo wasn't bad and we decided we would continue west to Albuquerque but we would continue on if the weather didn't hold. My idea of a good time is not driving in snow and today would be no different if I could avoid it. I've driven is snow enough to despise it. Enjoy the pictures.

The snow flurries abated for a bit. The roadway was still clear and we were making good time. However, the skies ahead were dark and threatening.

The snow continued to accumulate along the roadway but the road surface was clear and dry....for now.

Then the skies opened up and Mother Nature decided she'd let me know she was still in charge. We hoped it wouldn't get worse before we reached Albuquerque.

After that brief but intense flurry, the snow let up briefly and once again we could see the roadway clearly. The coach handled wonderfully. The tag kept us stable and made driving easy.  Of course, our weight of almost 48,000 pounds helped too.

As quickly as it came, it went, leaving behind some snow remnants alongside the roadway.

It also left the desert landscape looking surreal. 

I think it looked beautiful, cloaked in white splendor.

As we approached Albuquerque, the weatherman was predicting more snow for the area. We decided we didn't want to get stuck there for several days, so we stopped for lunch and continued westward.

West of Albuquerque looked promising so we sat back and enjoyed the scenery. The following pictures need no dialog. The desert is beautiful at any time, but after a rainstorm, it's especially gorgeous. Some feel it's desolate but I love it's diversity.

Enjoy it's beauty.

We are leaving New Mexico and entering Arizona, land of sunshine!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

From Oklahoma to Texas

We left Oklahoma behind and headed west again toward Texas. We were a bit concerned about the weather as WeatherBug was predicting cold, windy conditions with rain a real possibility. Our goal was to reach Amarillo and stay for a few days. We had previously visited Amarillo but were looking forward to exploring the area more fully.

We are headed west, about an hour and 30 minutes outside Amarillo. Today is a short trip of about 2 hours 45 minutes. We are looking forward to setting up for the night.

We took a short side trip onto U.S. Route 66 through the town of Shamrock. This is the U-Drop Inn. The bldg was originally built in 1936 and was designed to be a Conoco gasoline station, a store and a cafe. The store was never completed as that space was used as a ballroom due to the cafe's popularity as a meeting spot.

You may recognize it from the movie C.A.R.S. It was an automotive shop owned by Ramone, a 59 Chevy Impala low rider.

After leaving Shamrock, we returned to I-40 and continued towards Amarillo. This area of Texas is desolate yet beautiful.

Of course, everything is Texas is BIG. Here we passed the Big Texan Steak House, where they serve a delicious 72 oz. steak, cooked to your taste. If you can finish the entire meal of steak, potatoes, and salad, it's on the house. I pulled out my recent health check, looked at my cholesterol level which was perfect and decided to leave it that way.

We finally arrived safe and sound at the Oasis RV Resort in Amarillo. The skies were clear but it was definitely cold. It was breezy but not too bad. This is a Winnebago that appears to be buried in the ground as the nearby Cadillac ranch.

I awoke early the next morning to flakes of white stuff falling from the sky. I grabbed my laptop and with the help of Google, I was horrified to find out this 'stuff' was called SNOW!

By the time we'd finished our morning coffee, things didn't appear to be getting any better. We decided Amarillo would wait until another trip. We were heading west immediately!

I unhooked the coach while Debi cancelled the reservations we had and we were back on the road headed towards New Mexico. Our next stop was Albuquerque, depending on the weather. You can see some small collections of snow along the edge of the roadway. We were good....for now!