Sunday, November 20, 2011

Verde Canyon Train Ride

Typically, I plan ahead. That's obviously a precursor to my next phrase....however, on this particular day, I had nothing planned. I gave Chuck several options of things to do and he chose riding the train in Verde Canyon.

What are the odds that they would be completely booked on a Wednesday? Not only were they completely booked in First Class, but they were OVERbooked. We could either ride coach (outdoors) or rent the caboose. Why not? We rented the caboose.

Ferman was our personal naturalist. Although, I could be a bit stuffy and say he was our butler, because, well, he was :-) The caboose is designed to accommodate six adults, but we were only a party of 2, so we had Ferman and the caboose all to ourselves. Ferman pointed out rock formations like turtles, angels, Abraham Lincoln, wildlife, Native American caves, and bald eagles.

The train as it snakes through the canyon

"Abraham Lincoln"

A bald eagle

Chuck outside our caboose.

Chuck inside our caboose.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Red Rocks of Sedona

Next stop....Sedona, Arizona. After leaving the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert, we drove west to Sedona and stayed at the Hilton in Oak Creek. It was a lovely hotel, located about a 10 minute drive from all the action in downtown Sedona. My only mistake...I should have planned to stay 2-3 days in Sedona, but that just means we get to head back there at some point in time.

Here are a few pictures of the amazing Red Rocks.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Petrified Forest and Painted Desert

After a night at the Globetrotter Lodge, we headed out to explore the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert.

Yes, that is the Petrified Forest. There's not much to see. Apparently there has been a lot of stealing from the park. Nice.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Holbrook, Arizona hotel and dinner

After leaving Cortez, Colorado we drove south toward the 'Four Corners;' however after pulling in the gravel parking lot and seeing the plywood sign with spray painted words to pay $3 a person we turned around. I was just a bit turned off, so we headed south through New Mexico and then into Holbrook, AZ for a night at the Globetrotter Lodge.

Once again, I trusted my friend Tripadvisor for some recommendations for lodging and a meal in Holbrook. I typically wouldn't have chosen this town to stop, but goodness the whole western side of Arizona has yet to be turned into a tourist very few hotels. Actually, the northwestern corner of Arizona is Navajo and Hopi Tribal Lands and Reservations.

The Globetrotter Lodge in Holbrook is located off Route 66 across the road from the Wigwam hotel (the concrete teepees). A couple from Austria recently purchased the Globetrotter Lodge, did some remodeling and gave life back to a rundown motel. The rooms are quite eclectic...our had just about every color in the rainbow, with striped curtains made out of colorful Mexican blankets, wild west horse blankets on the bed, yellow flowers in the bathroom area, and some modern decor on the walls. It was weird, but comfortable for $65 a night!

Trusting Tripadvisor, we went to an Italian Restaurant called Mesa Restaurante Italiana. Perhaps when it was #1 only the locals were frequenting the restaurant because it was highly overrated.

Mesa Verde in Cortez, Colorado

After leaving Monument Valley, we headed northwest toward Cortez, Colorado to Mesa Verde. Along the way we stopped at the Valley of the Gods...

And, then we drove to Cortez. Once you enter Mesa Verde it takes another 45 minutes or so to drive all the way to the southern end of the park to actually see the cliff dwellings. But, it is well worth the visit.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Monument Valley

Monument Valley is part of the Colorado Plateau on the Navajo Reservation located in southern Utah / northern Arizona. After exiting the highway, you stop at the visitor's booth and pay an entrance fee and get your map for the 17 mile red dirt road trail. The whole loop takes a few hours, but you can take all day, if you like. We were headed northwest to Mesa Verde, so we tried to keep the tour short.

Here are a few pictures....

East Mitten

Why, yes, that is the moon in the upper left corner.

Three Sisters

The North Window

East Mitten

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A 'Dry' Hotel in Tuba City, AZ

And then we were off to Tuba City where we spent the night before continuing on to Monument Valley in southern Utah.

Originally, I wanted to stay at The View hotel in Monument Valley, but they were completely sold out. So, I searched Tripadvisor for a good hotel 'near' Monument Valley and found the Moenkopi in Tuba City. It looked good and received great reviews, so I booked a village suite.

After driving all day (330 miles)....we started in Phoenix, drove the Apache Trail, then headed north to Tuba City...we were pretty weary travelers. I was ready to take off my shoes, order something quick and easy for dinner and relax.

When we arrived at the Moenkopi, I was told the usual, "no smoking, no pets," which is always a "no problem" from me. But then I'm told, "Please initial here. This is a dry hotel. There is to be no alcohol on premise." After driving 7 hours, Chuck was going to be a bit annoyed that this was a dry hotel. How on earth did I miss that in the reviews...or the hotel website? Oh that's right, NOBODY mentioned it. And, in the description of the room it says, "Microwave and refrigerator at wet bar" I guess wet bar in Arizona doesn't mean the same as wet bar in the midwest.

We drove around back and entered through a side door...and unloaded our luggage and styrofoam cooler. It's a good thing I filled that up prior to entering the Hopi Indian Reservation, which ironically is DRY!

As Chuck was cracking open his first beer, I innocently mentioned that he should take his empty containers out, because it was a (whispered) dry hotel. We had a good laugh, but come was I supposed to even begin to guess that it would be dry?!?!??

Ironically, as Chuck was loading the car the next morning, he opened the door for 3 locals all with open cans of Coors Light in their hands. Nice.

Next stop...Monument Valley

Apache trail

Next stop...driving the Apache Trail.

I was a bit apprehensive that our 2011 Toyota Camry wouldn't be able to handle the "rut filled, pot holes as big as a car" terror stories from previous travelers on the Apache Trail. Well, pshah! They were obviously wimps.

The road up to Tortilla Flats is paved. Our first stop was Goldfield...which was like stepping back into time...the 1890s to be exact. There was an old saloon, wooden water tower, general store, and of course, lest we forget the tourist trinkets and a (gasp) snake show.

A few pics...

After leaving Goldfield, we continued on the paved trail, passing cacti, small lakes, lots of rocks, and then we stumbled upon Tortilla Flats. Blink and you'll pass it up. Just kidding. It's the only thing out in the middle of nowhere AND they have prickly pear ice cream, so you won't blink!

This is the portion of the trail that is not paved, from Tortilla Flats, heading west to Roosevelt Dam.

Tortilla Flats

Prickly Pear Ice Cream is located in the General Store. Chuck ordered it; I tasted it, then opted for chocolate explosion.

The Apache Trail ends at Roosevelt Dam, Roosevelt Lake and the Roosevelt Recreation Center.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Grand Canyon - Southern Rim

Our tour of the Southwest started at the Grand Canyon on the Southern Rim. I debated if we should travel west to the West Rim or if we should try to see the South Rim and the North Rim in the same day. As much as I wanted to go to the West Rim, I was turned off a bit by the cost (per person)...$43 for a legacy pass and another $30 for the Skywalk. This is not part of the National Park system and excluded from the annual pass.

In the end, we opted for just the South Rim, which costs $25 per car and is included in the National Parks Annual Pass.

We left Phoenix at the crack of dawn and after driving for 3.5 hours, arrived at the Grand Canyon Village. We parked the car in Lot B, which is a quick walk to the rim. In a word, WOW!

A few pictures...

Chuck looking for a 'special rock.' At the time I was thankful we had life insurance. Now, I'm thankful we didn't have to use it!

Chuck's a brave, brave, man. I was at least 6' from the edge at ALL times!

Can you see the zig-zag hiking trail in the shadow?

The view...

Someone was capturing the beauty on canvas. Lovely.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Southwest USA - by the numbers

2880 - flight miles (each)

2110 - miles driven

9 - days

4 - states visited

1 - 'dry' hotel (sorry, Chuck)

4 - hours riding in the Caboose

15 - cities visited

1212 -pictures taken

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mike's Pastry (Boston, MA)

There's a reason why the line snakes out the front door and around the building.

As you walk around Boston you see the trademark white cardboard box with blue lettering and white twine. Yep, Mike's Pastry. You'll see people carrying the boxes on the Harvard Campus, on various parts of the Freedom Trail, in Boston Common, the Gardens, in Cambridge....everywhere!

Yes, it is THAT good.