Dena and I believe in taking roads less travelled, off the beaten track and away from the everyday traveller. You cannot see the country from the Interstate. We left Santa Fe for the drive home at 6am MST, and began our long and scenic day. We stopped in Gallup, NM for breakfast at a Earl's Family Restaurant on Route 66. Believe it or not, I had been there before. The place is frequented by mostly Navajo Indians and is surrounded by Navajo artists hocking their wares. After a dirt cheap, filling breakfast we hit the road again making great time for Flagstaff, AZ. We jumped off Interstate 40 at Flagstaff and opted for the southerly State Route 89A towards the incredible Red Rock area near Sedona.
We stopped in Sedona for a quick pee and couldn't really recognize the town. We had been to Sedona ~ 14 years ago and we were doubting ourselves that it was the same place. The highway was surrounded by what basically was a .25 mile long mini-mall on both sides. Crazy touristy for sure, the shops 2 stories high and blocking the fantastic vistas and views that made Sedona famous in the first place. I walked into a shop and asked when this whole complex of shops appeared. The shopkeeper told me it was about 10 years ago and where we were standing used to be highway, just highway. That's what we remembered, highway and not this whole commercialized, touristy shopping area. We were appalled and glad we had come 14 years ago when it was more real. I suppose that's why we're going to Antarctica, the road (or ocean) less travelled.
From Sedona we continued south thru the back country of Arizona to a small little town of Jerome, pop. 400 souls. This is an old 1880's copper mining ghost town turned eclectic artists community now. We had a fantastic lunch at the Flat Iron Cafe. A small cafe with only 3 tables right at the point of a hairpin turn, run by 2 gay guys, transplants from Seattle. The town is very hilly and the little streets wind up the hill in sharp switchbacks. Stairs serve as pedestrian walkways and you can get quite a workout walking around. We bummed around, looked in galleries and shops and Dena reminisced about her visit here when she was a teenager. This really was the reason we stopped as Dena and her family had been here before. She admitted that they didn't stay long as someone was in a bad mood. I wonder who that was?
From there we continued our South Westerly drive over Mingus Mountain, then into Prescott Valley, then up into another mountain range, then down into another valley, and on and on that went for hours, up and down, up and down. I was getting a little tired of all this hanging on for dear life while we went careening around hairpin corners and hung off the side of cliffs but Dena had fun. She drove all day as she loves this type of mountain driving. I would have pulled over long ago for a glass of wine as I get too tired and stressed driving these kinds of roads.
After our over hill and dale trek we hit Highway 71 that marches through some of the most desolate land I've ever seen. Beautiful saguaro cacti all over though, but desolate. Finally we hit Interstate 10 and headed for Palm Springs, CA. We overnighted at our friends Al and Michael's having a nice swim and a couple glasses of wine. What a day.....