I looked at the plan for the day and was concerned. I had planned to get us from Tuba City, AZ to Winslow, AZ. The total distance between those two places is only 130 miles or so. If we ate a late breakfast and drove straight there we would get to Winslow with more than a half a day to spare. We needed to find some things to see along the way. We were way more successful than usual. It turns out we covered a lot of history – some from millions of years ago to 1000 years ago to 40 years ago. We followed quite a timeline.
We were staying at the Quality Inn and RV Park in Tuba City, AZ. It also had a Navajo history museum on the property. I don’t usually associate RV parks with Navajo history but somehow they made it work. There is a special section dedicated to the Navajo code talkers of WWII. These guys were a vital part of the allies success. OK – this history is from about 70 years ago (WW-II).
The QME was loaded, the loading bays were closed, and the moorings untied. We headed south on US89 one of the great roads in the west. There was a spot on the map that looked interesting – the Wupatki National Monument. Not sure what it was but I had the handy National Park Pass in my pocket so in we went. (If you want to see this area, make sure you get an annual National Park Pass otherwise, you’ll spend a lot of money just to get into places.) I wasn’t sure what a Wupatki might be or why it got a national monument. It turns out the Wupatki were a native American tribe that lived in this area. One of the items that is still standing today is the Wupatki Pueplo that sits inside this national monument. This building housed a community over 900 years ago.
The other end of the loop drive brought us to Sunset Crater – the remnants of a volcano that erupted around 900 years ago. That might explain why the Wupatki tribe moved on and left a perfectly good pueblo. The area around the volcano showed distinct lava flows. It also showed how slowly the recovery process can be for nature after an event of this magnitude.
We moved on from our 900 year old history lesson and found another 1000 year old site called Walnut Canyon National Monument on the outskirts of Flagstaff. It turns out that this area had a community of cliff dwellers who lived in man-made caves high on the cliffs overlooking a small creek. They must have been brave souls to live like that.
There were multiple signs to see the “Meteor Crater”. There were enough signs that it felt like the Wall Drug thing all over again. By the time you get close, you can’t just drive by. You have to stop. We did. The meteor supposedly measured 150 feet across and created a crater that is over mile wide. It was good to see this but I’m not sure the value was there given the $18 per person entry fee. (This one is not a National Park Service site so the pass is no good.) History from 50,000 years ago when the meteor hit the earth.
The QME then moved on to Winslow. I’m sure there are some pretty cool things in Winslow. It did sit directly on Route 66 (history from 65 years ago). The problem is that the Eagles made this town famous because of a song lyric – “standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona. What a fine sight to see – a girl, my lord in a flat bed Ford slowing down to take a look at me”. Yep – we took pictures at the “Standin’ On The Corner Park” (history from 40 years ago). We then set sail for the Best Western on the east edge of town.
It was only 3:30 local time. It was a little early to call it a day even for me. One more look at the map revealed that the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest were only 50 miles away. At Arizona highway speeds (75 mph) we could be there in under an hour so off we went. The Painted Desert was less dramatic than I expected. I’m sure under different lighting and various weather conditions, the colors are brilliant, Today the colors just weren’t there. We buzzed from the north end of this loop on south to the Petrified Forest. It has a lot of trees that have now been turned into rock over a few million years (million year history).
The daylight was almost gone and we had covered enough history for one day so we steered the rudder back to a westerly heading and back to the Best Western in Winslow. Dinner was at an authentic Mexican restaurant across the parking lot.
I’m not sure what tomorrow will bring as we really start to wind down our vacation. Every time we travel out west I leave a little piece of me out here. Something keeps telling me that I belong in this part of the country. Maybe that’s tied to my history somehow.