So on October 27th, the four of us flew from Dayton to Phoenix where we planned to embark on an ambitious tour of the Southwestern USA. We arrived in Phoenix and rented a car. Armed with our guidebook and a roadmap of the United States, we thought we were ready for everything.
We had a half-planned itinerary, and some hotel reservations along the way. The rest we would make up as we went along. We arrived in Phoenix late in the evening of Friday October 27th, so we got our rental car and drove straight to our first hotel in Phoenix. We planned to spend the night and in the morning we would hit the road.
[[image:us32.jpg:Map of Arizona:center:0]]
From Phoenix, we planned to drive north on the I-17 and at Flagstaff, head east on the I-40. We had reservations at a hotel in Gallup, New Mexico (just east of the Arizona border on the map).
This is Vin’s and my bedroom at the Hampton Inn Phoenix Airport South:
[[image:us33.jpg:Our bedroom before it got messy:center:0]]
[[image:us34.jpg:In the morning hanging out with Mak:center:0]]
We availed ourselves of the complimentary breakfast:
[[image:us35.jpg:Mak, Abah and Vin at breakfast:center:0]]
Then promptly at 8:00 AM, we set off! Vin drove:
[[image:us36.jpg:Our driver for the duration:center:0]]
Mak and Abah relaxed in the back:
As we left Phoenix and headed north, we saw a ton of saguaro cacti:
[[image:us38.jpg:The view through the front windshield:center:0]]
[[image:us39.jpg:Saguaro photo taken by Abah:center:0]]
Not far north of Phoenix, we decided to take a quick rest stop. The rest stop we picked, fortunately, was a very scenic one. So we ended up getting water and root beer to fuel our morning, while enjoying the lovely scenery.
[[image:us40.jpg:Vin and I at the scenic overlook:center:0]]
[[image:us41.jpg:Mak taking a picture of us:center:0]]
[[image:us42.jpg:Mak and Abah relaxing at one of the picnic tables:center:0]]
[[image:us43.jpg:Mak striking a pose for the professional cameraman:center:0]]
We realized that the closer we got to Flagstaff, the higher the elevation. We were approaching 5000 feet above sea level and seeing foliage like this pine forest around us (what a change from the saguaro ridden desert, to the semi-desert little scrub trees we’d been seeing earlier).
At Flagstaff, we turned east on I-40. As we saw snowcapped mountains in the rear window, we discovered that we were still at a high elevation (5000-6000 feet above sea level) but the terrain was flat. Flat flat flat as far as the eye could see:
[[image:us45.jpg:Unending electric (or telephone?) poles:center:0]]
[[image:us46.jpg:The road stretching flat out to the horizon:center:0]]
Eventually we started seeing more craggy outcroppings:
[[image:us47.jpg:Cool rock formations:center:0]]
Before long, our stomachs started rumbling and we were ready for lunch. Consulting the handy-dandy roadmap, we decided to get off the highway at a small town. We picked Holbrook, Arizona. As you can see, with the horizon in our view, we didn’t think we should leave it to chance that we would find a restaurant right off the highway anytime soon. So we stopped at Holbrook. As we got off the main interstate I-40, we saw that we were getting on a portion of the historic Route 66:
[[image:us48.jpg:Got our kicks on Route 66:center:0]]
We found a mexican restaurant that looked moderately busy (never eat at an empty restaurant if you’ve never tried it before!). Here we are perusing our menus – this is Mak and Abah’s first time having mexican food.
[[image:us49.jpg:Studying the menu:center:0]]
Vin and I helped Mak and Abah order their lunch and we ended up with Jalapeno Poppers, Huevos Rancheros, a Bean Burrito, and Cheese Enchiladas with extra orders of spanish rice. We started the meal with corn chips and salsa, and boy that salsa was really good! Much better than the salsas we get in Ohio (no offense Ohioans..).
I think they liked the food:
[[image:us50.jpg:Mak and Abah all kenyang now:center:0]]
Tar pau some more, ok?? 😀 After our lunch, we took pictures by this piece of petrified wood right outside the restaurant:
[[image:us51.jpg:Vin, Mak and Abah by the petrified tree in Holbrook, AZ:center:0]]
Remember last christmas’s Northern California petrified wood adventure? Well, similar to the process in Northern California, but these trees in the elevated desert of the Southwest lived millions of years ago (much older than Northern California), and due to volcanic ash, the trees wood cells gradually became replaced by volcanic ash and eventually turned to stone. So basically, stone that look like trees. There were pieces of it for sale at the gift shop attached to the mexican restaurant.
Thus, fortified, we went on our way. We had decided to make our major scenic stop for the day the Petrified Forest National Park, and begin on the northern end (by I-40) where we would hit the Painted Desert visitor center. Sort of a two-for-one deal – get to see some petrified wood, and the Petrified Forest National Park borders the Painted Desert.
[[image:us52.jpg:Dinosaur museum being advertized:center:0]]
[[image:us53.jpg:Abah and Vin at the Painted Desert visitor center:center:0]]
We paid our $10 per car fee to enter the Petrified Forest National Park, and drove south on the road. After the Painted Desert visitor center, we headed south and made a couple of stops including the Painted Desert Inn/Kachina Point, where we could view the awesome Badlands:
[[image:us59.jpg:Did you know there were Badlands in Pakistan? Yop, did you see them?:center:0]]
Here are some views of the Badlands, also known as the Painted Desert (for real reason as you can see). The colors were so red and vivid and beautiful. Abah’s excellent camera was able to really capture the colors while my little point-and-click did not do as well. See if you can tell which photos were taken by Abah and which were taken by me:
[[image:us54.jpg:View of the Painted Desert:center:0]]
[[image:us55.jpg:Mak and Abah at the Painted Desert:center:0]]
[[image:us56.jpg:Vin and I at the Painted Desert:center:0]]
[[image:us57.jpg:The gang’s all here!:center:0]]
[[image:us58.jpg:Master photographer at work:center:0]]
[[image:us60.jpg:Mak and Vin wandering about the grounds of the Painted Desert Inn:center:0]]
[[image:us61.jpg:One more view of the Painted Desert:center:0]]
After we drank in the magnificent vista, we kept on driving for a little bit more, stopping to take pictures by this old car. This road going through the Petrified Forest National Park is part of the now defunct but yet still hallowed Route 66, and this antique car is one of the picturesque things you could take a picture by:
[[image:us62.jpg:Abah by the antique car on Route 66:center:0]]
After driving a little ways, we found ourselves out of the Painted Desert and more towards the Petrified Forest, and given that sundown (Maghrib) came early, we decided it was time to push on to Gallup, New Mexico where our next hotel reservation was. So that was the end of Day One of the Southwestern Road Trip.
I leave you with my first attempts at photostitching, first the view at the scenic overlook just north of Phoenix:
[[image:usph01.jpg:Scenic Desert Overlook, Arizona:center:0]]
And one of the Painted Desert Badlands:
[[image:usph02.jpg:Painted Desert, Arizona:center:0]]
Much more Road Trip pictures to come!