Road Tripping USA #3, Day One

Posted by: elraymundo at 9:51 pm on Monday, July 6, 2009
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Lotus Blossom, Travel, Jeep

I wanted to flip California the bird with both barrels as we crossed the state line into Arizona today. I hoped there would be a “Thanks for Visiting California” sign where we could stop for a photo op, but no such sign existed. My backup plan was to turn around after we crossed into Arizona and drive back across the state line and give the “Welcome to California” sign both fingers, but the Colorado River got in the way and once I was in Arizona I really didn’t feel much like going back into the Golden State. So we drove on through Blythe and across the Colorado and into Arizona, where we stopped for lunch at a Carl’s Jr in Quartzite and watched the outside world melt in 113° heat while we ate our hamburgers.

Quartzite, it seemed, was having a pleasantly cool day. It was 114° on Interstate 10 just outside Rancho Mirage, where we said goodbye to Debra’s parents.

Cactus and Hardpan in the Arizona Desert
View from the Carl’s Jr. Parking Lot - Quartzite, Arizona

Our target for tonight was Flagstaff, which is where we are, shacking up in a Travelodge just off Interstate 40. I’ve never seen so many motels jammed into one area. There are so many that they actually have duplicates from the same chain on the same road. The only thing we can figure is that all the motels accommodate tourists heading for the Grand Canyon, which isn’t far away from here. Either that or they host a lot of conventions in Flagstaff.

We thought it would be fun - and a pleasant change from the monotony of I-10, to take smaller highways up to Flagstaff. We exited California, leaving the dreary, nearly barren moonscape of that part of the Mojave Desert behind and then detoured onto a series of highways in Arizona, which split off I-10 and meander generally northeast toward Prescott, Sedona and Flagstaff. (The route was 60 to Aquila, 71 to Congress and 89 on up to where it intersects with I-40.)

Amber Hills Motel in Hope, Arizona
Amber Hills Motel - Hope, Arizona

Roadsign outside Hope, Arizona
Exiting Town - Hope, Arizona
(Hope is unincorporated and doesn’t show up on Google Maps - but here is a link to it’s location.)

Debra got carsick on an especially twisty section of Highway 89 just southwest of Prescott, so we nixed the original plan to drive backroads to Sedona and instead kept on 89 north to I-40. The series of highways took us from the desert floor, with its sparse, low-growing vegetation dotting the surrounding hills, making them look like low-res pics of distant mountains full of digital noise, up through crumbled cliffs that looked like they were made of Oreo cookies (without the cream fillings) and up through craggy rock outcroppings and mountains blanketed with fir trees. The temperature dropped fifteen degrees and by the time we hit Interstate 40 the air was clean, clear and warm. The drive into Flagstaff was gorgeous, with the roadsides flanked with alpine trees and a fat, luscious moon rising slowly…nearly full…through a thick stripe of violet sky, over which was layered pale pastel layers of pink and orange and red.

The plan tomorrow is to try - against all odds - to get an early start and stop by the massive meteor crater between Flagstaff and Winslow, then drive through the Petrified Forest. From there we’ll most likely head north on Highway 191 through the Navajo Nation Indian Reservation, from which we’ll pick up Highway 160 headed east until we hit Highway 64, which will take us to Shiprock and northern New Mexico. With some luck we’ll end up in Taos for the night. And then we’ll have a full state - Arizona - between us and the stupidity of California.

Oh, we came up with a name for our experience in California. Actually, Debra thought of it and it’s a classic. Ready? Here it is:

The Anaheimville Horror.

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