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.
We headed off on September 19, excited for 2 days in Santa Fe NM. On the ride from Amarillo we streamed "A Celtic Soujourn" - Brian O'Donovan's Saturday afternoon program on WGBH radio. It reminded us of the stark contrast between the lush green countryside of Ireland and the brown, dry plains of New Mexico. A bit further along the topography shifted dramatically, with mesas rising in all directions. We imagined the harsh and challenging existence of the early settlers here - and we're griping about spotty cell service.
We crossed the Mississippi River from Memphis into Arkansas and we quickly discovered that tractor-trailers ruled the road on Interstate 40 - Nancy remarked that the trucks looked like a traffic "fjord" as we cautiously weaved between them. We were on our way to one of the lesser-known National Parks - Hot Springs: the second smallest National Park and the oldest one maintained by the National Park Service, which earned it the honor of being the first to be featured on a US Quarter for the "America the Beautiful Quarters" coin series.
Our journey west took us through two Tennessee cities renowned for their live music scenes - Nashville and Memphis. Sadly, with the onset of COVID-19, both of these towns are temporarily "on mute" - their live music venues shuttered. Still we had memorable visits that encouraged us to return in better times.
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Nancy McCabe &