Route 66 - Day 14 - Gallup, NM to Winslow AZ
Google mileage: 139
Actual mileage: 207
Total trip miles: 1931
Today was intended to be a steady day with approximately a 140 miles planned, but we managed to pack in so much more than we thought possible.
The weather was a little overcast throughout the morning and we watched showers cross the horizon for much of the day.
We were once again following the railroad. Due to the hills and mesas of the local landscape the road swung from one side of a cliff edged valley where the railroad ran only to swerve across to the opposite side where the Interstate ran.
Riding alongside the cliff, we came across some of the more sizable Indian trading posts, a couple of which we visited. With little room on the bikes, we decided against buying any trinkets but had a good look around the jewelry and 'art' for sale. As expected the places we visited were all tourist traps and didn't really inspire us.
After a short stint on the interstate, we pulled off just outside Holbrook to visit our first major sight of the day and our first US national park, the Petrified Forest National Park. The park features a 28 mile route that takes in scenic views of both the painted desert and the petrified forest itself. The forest is made up of the remains of fossilized trees - it's more impressive than it sounds.
Once at the park we paid at the toll booth. Here we were given the option of buying a park pass which gets you into all the parks for a year. We figured we would only hit a couple of parks on the trip and it wouldn't be worth it.
We acquainted ourselves with our first bits of petrified wood in the gift centre. Before we get to see any it's natural habitat (so to speak) we would drive through the painted desert.
The initial loop through the desert provides several places to stop and take in the views of the odd landscape as well as the famous Painted Desert Inn where you can take a break, seek some shade on a sunny day and check out the small museum.
After stopping to take photos at least twice a mile, we moved out of the painted desert and into the area where the petrified wood can be found. The day's overcast weather turned to rain as we arrived at the first of the viewing places.
As we pulled in to a car park area we spotted a couple riding BMW adventure bikes with off road tires. It turned out that Sara and Daniel were a couple of months into a mammoth trip. You can find out more about their journey at Worldwideride.ca. They told us a little about their trip and advised us to go "a few miles out of our way" to visit Zion National Park. At that point the heavens opened and we went our separate ways.
As we had spent longer than planned in the park, and now that the rain we had watched on the horizon throughout the morning had caught up with us, we decided to get a move on to Holbrook where our guidebook promised a couple of good cafes/diners.
By the time we got to Holbrook we were cold and wet and in much need of some nachos, hot salsa and warming chili at Joe and Aggies Cafe.
Holbrook has made the most of the nearby national forest. There are shops selling petrified wood all over the place. Some even have dinosaurs outside to tempt the kids.
Once you go into the places though, you are basically looking at a pile of rocks. It looks great when it's cleaned up, but probably doesn't do a lot for your luggage allowance at the airport. Also you are not permitted to take rocks from the national forest so I've no idea how these places are able to get it.
Other than dead wood, Holbrook is famous for being the home of one of the original Wigwam motels. You can still stay the night here, but we wandered round the vintage cars and took some photos before moving on.
From Holbrook we headed towards Winslow, AZ where we would stay the night at La Posada Hotel.
On the way we stopped off at the famous Jack Rabbit Trading Post for some photos of the sign. To do this we travelled some of the old road that had been heavily patched up with over banding.
We finally pulled into Winslow at about 4:30 in the afternoon. We checked in and unpacked the bags. We also checked our guidebook and saw that the famous Meteor Crater was not far away. Given that we had a long day planned for the following day we decided to get back on the bikes and visit the famous crater while we had time and light in the evening.
On the 25 or so miles to the crater, we watched a big rainstorm crossing the horizon. The sky had become an eerie color and we heard the occasional crack of thunder. As we crossed the plain we could see a hill in the distance. This, the only feature on the landscape, was the outer rim of the crater.
The geek in me has always wanted to visit Meteor and I was excited to catch my first glimpse. The museum and crater do not disappoint and we spent the best part of two hours walking round and taking lots of pictures. I felt like a little kid wandering around and wondering what it was like when the rolling rock hit the ground here.
The full sized versions of the panoramas above are on my flickr here and here and an interactive photo synth taken on my iPad here.
Finally we saw some lightening and had to leave the crater as it's the highest point for miles and therefore a lightning risk. The rain we had watched cross the entire horizon homed in on us as we got back on the bike to leave. We rode back to La Posada for the night watching lightning flashes in our wing-mirrors. We were ready for a good meal and comfy bed after another day out on the road.