Wandering to Zion, Part Three

Our road trip adventure continues…only two more installments and then I’ll be back to writing sparkly + snarky commentary.
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Confession: I’m a great co-pilot traveling companion. You would LOVE to have me in the passenger seat with you, I promise.

I keep the snacks flowing, conversation is stimulating, and I even throw a few dance moves in with jazz handskitty-jazz-hands at appropriate moments. Jazz hands are the BEST.

Kitty jazz hands are even better, don’t you agree?

We compiled a bunch of music for the road; stuff we both like; Frank, Ella, Nat King Cole, stuff I like; Adele and Christina Perri, and music hub enjoys; Coldplay, U2, Nine Inch Nail, Com Truise.

The next morning we hit the road to explore the Petrified Forest National Park and Painted Desert. We walked pretty much throughout the whole park at every stop and trailhead. The sky wasn’t as blue as the day before so the colors weren’t as vibrant as they might have been.

Of course I compelled my tugboat man to accompany me to a gift shop for local wares, and we chose geodes, petrified wood, and a petrified sand dollar!aquageode hotpinkgeode petrifiedsanddollar petrifiedwood

It’s hard to believe this was all under the ocean a zillion years ago. Evidence of early human occupation (13,000 years ago) is readily visible with petroglyphs and potsherds.

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Our plan was to journey on the Highway 40 — old Route 66 — to Natural Bridges National Monument in southeast Utah, between Hanksville and Blanding. It’s rather remote and not close to other parks so is not so heavily visited. Unlike Arches National Park with over 2,000 classified arches, there are only three bridges here though the monument also contains Anasazi cliff dwellings, pictographs and white sandstone canyons.

But…when we got back on the road, my tugboat man noticed that one of the dashboard gauges indicated that we were losing power.

Things didn’t look good.

We were pretty much in the middle of nowhere.

Although he packed a lot of tools, the one thing we needed most, something called a volt meter, was still at Casa de Enchanted Seashells.

Lucky for us (unlucky for lots of other cars that must break down on that road) we saw a hand painted sign for Mike’s Auto Repair and took the next exit.

Mike was like a lot of people we came in contact with in Arizona — sorta friendly, sorta not — and all business. He had a volt meter, and he and hub figured that our problem was either a bad battery or a bad alternator — or both.

We gave Mike a “donation” for the use of his diagnostic tool which ensured that our tires remained unslashed, and drove forty miles back to Holbrook, where there was an O’Reilly Auto Parts Store, just like there was in Payson where we had a less urgent car repair issue.

I was nervous the whole way — being stranded didn’t sound like it was any sort of adventure that I wanted to experience.

In Holbrook, we bought a battery which hub installed in a few minutes.

Everyone at O’Reilly (and hub)  thought that would/should solve the problem…and brushed aside my BRILLIANT and soon-to-be prophetic suggestion that we also purchase an alternator “just in case”.

We’ve gone on a lot of road trips and we’ve never had any problems, and so far this was our second mechanical failure in three days. For someone who has absolutely NO idea about what makes cars tick, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to stock up on parts that MIGHT break, right?

Can you guess where this is going?

We hadn’t gone more than one mile when the battery gauge indicated a problem in the electrical system  —  again.

Obviously not the battery this time, but hub said that somehow the battery wasn’t charging.

Yup.

The alternator or the voltage regulator was probably at fault. Apparently, everything decided to fail at the same time. We immediately turned around back to O’Reilly and lucked out that they even had the right part in stock or we might still be there.

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There’s a Dollar General on pretty much every corner throughout Arizona and I picked my way between broken glass and plastic bags across a trash strewn empty lot for a little retail therapy while hub was doing his best MacGyver impression. I went up and down every aisle but came away empty-handed; nothing caught my discerning eye. Oh well. I guess it wasn’t meant to be.carholbrook

Once again we settled in for a long ride. Because we had lost most of the day, we decided to change direction, skip National Bridges National Park and forge ahead to the Vermillion Cliffs at the The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah  – wandering ever closer to Zion.

Driving down Highway 40 — Old Route 66 — we both sang along with Nat to “Get Your Kicks on Route 66” I mean, how can you NOT, right?

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Along the way, on the side of the road, were a couple of Navajo women selling jewelry. I screeched, “Pull over!!” to hub, and jumped out of the car. The tables were packed with handmade jewelry — turquoise, hematite, juniper beads, and baskets. I asked before I snapped, and got a big smile for the camera.jewelryNavajo

A pretty good haul, don’t you agree? I got a basket too, but forgot to take a pic.navajojewelryArriving in Page too late to locate a campground, we had our worst night EVER at Motel Sucks Six in Page, Utah at fake Lake Powell. Apparently, this was a busy time for Page, as all the hotels were booked. The fact that Motel Six had any room available was NOT a good sign.

My travel tip to everyone is to avoid this Motel Six if at all possible. Especially Room 239. 

You’re welcome.

Next stop: Vermillion Cliffs!

 

 

Wandering to Zion…Part Two

Wandering to Zion, Day One: Princess Rosebud and her Tugboat Man
Part One and a Half…Wandering to Zion
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We were meandering; taking our sweet time getting to our ultimate destination of Zion National Park.  Zion was so crowded that we figured it was the perfect excuse to explore lesser known parks.

That’s how we roll, me and my tugboat man. This was the most relaxed road trip we’ve embarked upon; no stress or pressure — no deadline.

Moving on, literally…we left Payson, Arizona and drove to Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. We hiked to the largest travertine bridge in the world — 183 feet high with a tunnel width of 150 feet and length of 400 feet.

There was a bit of scary, slippery rock scrambling with a moderately steep drop; not one of my favorite things to do, but the view was worth it.

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Our next stop was the nearly 700 year-old Salado cave dwellings at Tonto National Monument. To get to them, there’s a steep but paved one-mile round-trip trail that ascends 350 feet to the Lower Cave Dwelling.

Built in the early 14th century, this village was part of a vast multi-cultural network that extended from the Four Corners region to Northern Mexico. While remnants of thousands of similar villages dot the Southwest, this well-preserved building represents one of the last Salido cliff dwellings. Local springs provided water for Paleo-Indians who lived here over 10,500 years ago.

There was so much to see and be amazed by —

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t am so in LOVE with Saguaro cactus — those arms that dot the landscape all over Arizona. We don’t have that variety of cactus in SoCal. I got a package of seeds and hope they sprout.

Saguaro cactus

Along the road, whenever we saw something that looked cool, we’d stop and follow a trail or hike to a monument or a site.

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It began to get late and we couldn’t find a campground again so we stayed at a Howard Johnson in Holbrook, Arizona. There was a quaint little Italian restaurant in walking distance with great pizza and decent chianti.

I’m not overly fond of hotels — I always make hub check for bugs and bring my own sanitizer — but it’s nice to take a shower and wash off the dust at the end of a long day. I don’t care if it’s a a five-star hotel, either. Have you seen those TV shows that expose the dirt and germs? So much ick, right?

Side note: Only in California do all public restrooms provide seat protectors. There needs to be a Federal law that make seat protectors mandatory. I HATE going all old school with toilet paper lining the seat — but I NEED that barrier between me and the rest of the world

Next time, Part Three of Wandering to Zion with Princess Rosebud and her Tugboat Man.