Desert Southwest ~ Road Trip

 

Not sure why this hasn’t happened before now but finally a Road Trip to the Desert Southwest got scheduled.  The plan is to depart Gig Harbor, Washington for points south and east toward southeastern Idaho then south towards Arches, Moab and The CanyonLands, Utah; The Mesa Verde in Colorado and on to Crown King, Arizona

The route

before heading south of the border to Puerto Penasco, Mexico.  From Mexico a short return trip to Phoenix, Arizona to meet some friends, drop off the car and fly home.

As the day to leave got closer, the packing and “to do” list grew with all the small conveniences that are handy to have but you can live with out and things to do and get done.  Sometimes the getting ready for, the planning and thinking about it is as much fun as the trip itself.

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Bad weather in Idaho

The trip begins and great weather waited for us on the majority of the trip but it did start out a little stormy.  Once through this part of Idaho and shortly after arriving in Utah the weather cleared and the landscape opened up to reveal the beauty of the Canyonlands.

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A geologic rise along The Colorado River

Mark, my best friend and travel companion, approached this trip with a feeling of relaxation, no schedule and no specific agenda other than knowing we had a return flight to catch from Phoenix, AZ in 11 days.  So we had enough time to see and do what we wanted at a relaxed pace.  Well, mostly relaxed, we did encounter one day that was far, far less than relaxed and in fact had us fearing for our lives.  More on that later.

The Canyonlands area of Utah is stunning.  The color, the geology and the feeling you get standing and being amongst these colossal and ancient formations is overwhelming.  Photographing them is awesome but doesn’t reveal the magnificence of this place.  It’s a must see if you can.

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Grand Canyon

From the Canyonlands and the Grand Canyon we continued south to Arizona, through Monument Valley, the Painted Desert and to Jerome, Arizona.  Jerome is another place that hopefully can make it on your list of must see places.  Really cool location, great history, nicely preserved with good food and accommodations.  The day after our stay in Jerome we decided to travel to Crown King, Arizona.  A place where my friend Mark had visited quite a few years before and wanted to see once again.  Crown King is in the mountains and hills south of Prescott with only two ways to reach it by road.

I’ll just say, the easy road and the road absolutely no one should or does use, Senator Road.  Except for us and we decided to ignore all the verbal warnings from people we spoke to about getting there and as if that wasn’t enough we decided to also ignore all the Arizona State signs warning that this was a dangerous road, un-maintained road and only for “high centered” vehicles.  Of course we’re driving a Lexus GS with about 7″ ground clearance, but Mark decided that all that warning stuff was to just discourage the use of the road. Well, yes, it was the point, but we elected to ignore the warnings and take Senator Road.

That was a mistake.  Thirty three miles to Crown King on the “correct” road would have put us there in about an hour, but this short cut that Mark knew of might get us there a little sooner.  It took us 5 hours to go the 33 miles.  But the fact that we got there at all is whats remarkable.  And, to the wonderful folks of Crown King (population 30), they could not believe that we made it at all and especially in a Lexus Sport, which then brought several of the town folks by to see the two ‘city boys’ that just came over Senator Road in a Lexus.  Yes, we were offered up as the laugh of the day.  But these kind people were instantly available to help us with our flat tires and a place to stay.

We moved on from here to Phoenix where we spent one night before continuing on to Puerto Penasco, Mexico, aka Rocky Point.  I have to say I didn’t think much of the town of Puerto Penasco, but the beach was beautiful.  Miles of sandy beach and warm water in the Gulf of California.

From here back to Phoenix to meet up with family and friends, turn the Lexus over to family and jump on a flight back home.

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Mark with his Grandson Zach and his son, Bret

11 days, 6 states, 2 countries and 2,628 miles.  It was a great trip.  Would we do it again?  Absolutely.  Maybe take a little more time and for sure pay more attention to warning signs.

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Balancing Rock

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Yours Truly

For more pictures from this trip go to;  Photos from The Desert Southwest Road Trip

Astoria, Oregon

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Astoria, Oregon is the city connected to Washington State by this beautiful bridge.  It’s also the city we Washingtonians drive right through on our way to Oregons beautiful west coast.  It’s not a city that many people stop in because you’re almost always on your way to somewhere else.  After too many years of doing just that I decided to go to Astoria just to see Astoria.  What an absolute pleasant surprise that turned out to be.

After getting there and checking in to one of the friendliest hotels I’ve ever been at, The Atomic Motel, Dan the proprietor gave me a quick verbal walk through Astorias sites, restaurants and bars. That gave me enough information to get me started on a truly wonderful walk along “The River Walk”, through downtown and to a couple of really nice brew houses.  No shortage of great brews in this town.

Along the way I met people who live and work here, recent transplants from both Portland and Washington, met people just visiting, had really good food and felt charmed by the entire experience.

My understanding of the city is that it’s been beat up pretty bad over the years and doesn’t do so well economically.  Although looking around the neighborhoods it appears that the residents of this small town have a lot a pride in how their city looks.  It’s clean and well kept.  There are a few abandoned commercial buildings in the core but there is also a new life, a new culture coming to this town.  You can feel the vibe talking to the people who live here.

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View of Astoria, Oregon from The Aster Column

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Nicholas.  Bartender at The Fort George Brew House.

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Upstairs at The Fort George Brew House

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Fort George Brewery
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Street Fourteen Cafe.  Great place for a wonderful breakfast and coffee
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There are plenty of restaurants that will appeal to every level of taste.

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Sunset on Astoria, Oregon

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Friends in town visiting and taking out bikes for a ride along Astorias “River Walk”.  A really beautiful walk along the Columbia River.  Bikes are courtesy of The Atomic Motel.

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Astoria Column

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The wreck of the Peter Iredale at Fort Stevens State Park.  A 15 minute drive west of Astoria.