Around mid-day on October 2, 2020, we checked out of our Albuquerque hotel and headed south on Interstate 25 through the bumpy desert landscape, with gray-brown hills in the background in every direction. We were intrigued by the signs announcing our entry into a town called "Truth or Consequences" and couldn't resist a drive through the town center. In 1950 the town formerly known as "Hot Springs" took up the challenge offered by the popular radio game show to change its name in celebration of the show's 10th anniversary. The change was approved by a special election - 1294 to 295 - and the show was broadcast from there on April 1, 1950. It was no April Fools' joke...the name persists today,
On September 30, after exploring the Petrified Forest in eastern Arizona, we set out for a 4-hour drive to Albuquerque New Mexico around mid day. We settled in at our hotel for a two-night stay and then discovered Rudy's Country Store & Bar-B-Q - a remarkably good chain that we'd come to favor as we moved into Texas later in our journeys. We got a kick out of their T-shirt slogan.
The skies were a bright blue as we headed south on our way to Tucson AZ the morning of September 28. The contrast between the vermillion cliffs of Sedona and the tree-studded hills and valleys along Interstate 17 was dramatic. We stopped for a hearty breakfast at Matt's Big Breakfast in Phoenix, once featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.
Inspired by our friend Laura, we set out on scenic route 89A on the blustery morning of September 26: from Flagstaff AZ, through the Oak Creek Canyon, and into beautiful Sedona Arizona. The early morning sun lit up the cliffs that screamed "Welcome to Sedona".
"36 Hours in Sedona" from the NY Times recommended breakfast at The Coffee Pot. It was clearly a popular place, but the wait was reasonable and the food was just what we needed to fuel a vigorous hike along the Teapot Trail to see the namesake of the restaurant - the Coffee Pot Rock..
We set off around noon on September 23 for the Grand Canyon - top on Richard's list of National Parks to visit. The GPS says we'll arrive around 3:00 - a nice short hop! Ugh..not so fast - Arizona doesn't observe daylight savings time! We settle in for the 4-hour drive and enjoy drive-by views of the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument that seems to go on forever along US-89.
Our amazing drive along Utah's Scenic Byways on September 22 ended with a breathtaking ride along the Mt. Carmel Highway - the winding road that starts at the East Entrance to Zion National Park. We enjoyed views of massive sandstone cliffs of cream, pink, and red that soar into a brilliant blue sky as the sun set before us.
As Richard packed up the car on the morning of September 21, Nancy found a quiet bench outside our hotel to have a coaching call. As she wrapped it up she noticed a middle-aged couple packing their copper Harley Davidson touring bike - talk about traveling light. “Would it be weird to say that’s the most beautiful motorcycle I’ve ever seen?” Nancy asked the wife. “Not at all! That’s why I bought it for his last birthday!” A lively conversation - safely distanced - followed and, before it was over, our planned route from Arches to Zion would avoid the interstate and instead follow Utah’s State Routes 24 and 12 - arguably two of the most picturesque roads in the country.
Still on a high from our unplanned tour of Mesa Verde National Park, we got back on the road on the afternoon of September 21, 2020, and headed for our planned destination - Arches National Park in Utah. The Mesa Verde visit set us up for a perfect arrival time at Arches - it was just after 5:00 pm and the sun was bathing the amazing rock formations in striking afternoon shadows. We set a strategy to drive through the park, stop at just about every lookout, snap some photos, and stand in awe of the unique and sometimes whimsical terrain that typifies this place.
On September 21, 2020, we headed out of Santa Fe bound for Arches National Park in Utah. The sun, shrouded in wispy clouds, rose from behind the mountains as we headed north on US 84. Every 10 or 20 miles we encountered a different landscape: scrub desert replaced with verdant rolling pastures, the mountains in the distance a beautiful constant. A couple of hours into the drive we were almost to the Colorado border and there was little sign of civilization, cell service was spotty, and it was getting well past breakfast time. We took a chance at the tiny roadside "Fina's Diner" in Chama NM, and we were rewarded with hearty biscuit breakfast sandwiches to go.
We take a pause from our travel blogging to wish everyone the very happiest holidays and a Fascinating New Year. 2020 certainly has been a year that we won't miss in many ways and will long remember in others. After the New Year we will resume our sharing of visits to a slew of National Parks and our stays in Austin TX and San Diego CA. For now, we offer you this video of Richard performing one of his favorite Christmas songs. Blessings to you all.
"Some Children See Him"
Music by Alfred Burt, Lyrics by Wihla Hutson
Piano Arrangement by Dave Grusin
Richard Curzi, Piano, Vocal, and sound / video engineering.
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Nancy McCabe &