Into the Cold and Snow
My sister reminded me that many years back, we took a Family Vacation along Highway 40 with 3 irritated kids, a couple of upset dogs all jammed into the backseat of the family K-car. My sister’s memory of such painful experiences is legendary. I usually choose the blocking method – forget everything! But, all these years later, some of the sights we’ve come across on this trip conjure up images of family fun along Route 66 and the high plains desert. (Into the Cold and Snow)
Ursula and I are repeating some legs of that trip. But this time, we’re traveling in a little more comfort, in less of a rush, and have the opportunity to enjoy some of the ‘off the beaten path’ sites.
Interstate-40 is apparently the major arterial path for commerce communications from LA and Long Beach ports to waiting customers along the East Coast and in between. The news reported that the Nation has a distribution problem. I think that would be unapparent if the reporters casually drove along I-40, which is damned near chock- block full, bumper to bumper, with massive 40′ Rigs. These behemoth beasts are scary!
They travel in what looks like a heard of bison stampeding everything in their path at the posted 75 MPH rate of speed and blow away everything traveling slower. In a desperate pinch, my RV can do 75, but only if I wish to incur the wrath of my co-pilot, which I readily, and often, do for a good cause. But saving 30 minutes on the road is not worth the excruciating, mind-numbing pain of constant corrections.
I travel about 62-65 when the roads are level, and the squeaking and creaking inside the RV is bearable. But, that means every time an 18 wheeler passes me by, which is about once a minute, the wind turbulence created by their size and speed bumps me into the shoulder line and over the irksome rumble strips. I find myself white-knuckling the driving wheel and am ready for a beer when finally we reach our RV campsite. It’s enfeebling to one’s peace of mind! But, the flip-side is that I suspect our toilet paper shortage problems are a thing of the past!
Our first stop along I-40 was Flagstaff. After 206 miles, I was eager to arrive and rest for some reason. But as we pulled off the highway and cruised up Route-66 to our RV camp, we noticed the sides of the roads were covered in snow! We Failed! We ended up back in the snow and cold! Bad planning and worse execution! However, Old Town Flagstaff was pretty cool; we enjoyed the touring, imbibing the local brews.
The enchanting Eastern music curios shop was most relaxing where we delighted in the musical chair treatment; a high-back, wooden chair with about 30 harp-like strings fretted to the back. The owner gently strummed the strings and hummed a beautiful Buddhist(?) chant as we melted to the vibrations. I offered to buy one of those for my bride, but she suggested my humming was anything but relaxing.
Running Down the Road
As the weatherman forecasted up to 6 inches of snow the following evening, we cut short our trip and headed to lower altitudes in the morning. For some reason, the Eagles were on my mind. I just could not get one of their popular songs out of my noggin until we stood on the corner in Winslow, Arizona. It was such a fine sight to see. With the obligatory photos out of the way, we lunched at a local ‘hole in the wall’ that lived up to its legendary culinary delights. Then off to the waiting highway, and as we ran down the road, not letting the sound of our own wheels drive us crazy. We landed in that collection of untidy shacks that no polite words can be found to describe, Holbrook.
There we found the perfect high plains RV camp that boasted of no shelter between the parked RVs and hundreds of miles of open scrub brush. The storm’s periphery that dumped snow up in Flagstaff didn’t leave the poor, little old dirt town of Holbrook unmolested. Much like our previous experience of 36 hours of constant thunderous rain and winds, we experienced 18 hours of gusting winds from 25-65 miles per hour. Another night of no sleep as our poor RV was buffeted by high winds all night long. It felt like we’d be torn apart….but, a calm came when I reflected that the RV was designed to run the roads at 65-70 miles an hour and our and survive those torrents of competing winds.
Snow and Cold
Still, despite our valiant efforts to avoid the snow, by morning, the RV was encrusted with ice, the water hose was frozen, as were the black and grey water drains. It was bound to happen as I had just cleaned the RV. It was a mess again. Another Hard knock lesson learned is if it’s going to get cold, real cold, disconnect from ‘city’ water and sewage and stow them for the night. Fortunately, the only loss was a cracked, old sewage hose. With the seasonal storm passed, we packed up and drove the loop to see Ms. Nature’s canvas, also known as the Painted Desert and Petrified Forrest.
Painted Desert & Petrified Forest
Just about every country can boast some unique landscape and grand scenery plopped within their borders by the fate of nature. But, I have to admit, after traveling back and forth across this Nation for a lifetime, and many other country’s along the way, the US has more to boast of than most. When the heavens manipulated the sands, and clays and volcanic ash, with a mixture of rains and snows and deep running rivers, the resulting tapestry of layered pastel colors imbued within the worn down mounds and deep running ravines is stunning.
Photos fail to do the landscape the justice it deserves. To top off the artwork, nature petrified an old forest and sprinkled the landscape with tree-looking rocks of every color in a kaleidoscope. One just is humbled by the majesty of nature and feel gratitude for the opportunity to enjoy the results of millions of years of artistic effort.
The Red Rock
The following evening our planned adventure with a Harvest Host brewery, tasting beers and wines until the wee hours of the morning, was superseded by an impromptu visit to the Red Rock Park. We arrived at the park to take a gander at the red rock and found that the short map description of the park and a red rock failed to convey the grandeur of the sights. Another incredible find, and to top it off, the park had an RV camp with full hook up for $25.
The beer would have to wait so we could hike around the ‘Church Rock.’ I think the hike was on Reservation land, so the typical ‘Nanny State’ over protection found by hikers in National Parks was not evident. We scaled balled-faced cliffs with steps chipped from the stone, skidded down water washes coated with ice and melting snow, and crawled up rock cropping just to stand in the shadow of the Church Rock. Despite warnings of wild dogs, coyotes, and snakes, it was worth it. We stayed the night and then mixed it up with the truckers along I-40 for a foray into Albuquerque,,,, more easily spelled as ABQ, as the locals seem to do.
Another Old Town of the enchanting pink adobe buildings, boutique shops boasting outrageous prices for Chinese imported ‘Indian Art’ and incredibly spicy local cuisine. The visit has set us up well for our next stop further north to Santa Fe tomorrow morning. It’s cold here, really cold. The sun provides enough strength to warm these aging bones up quite quickly if the winds die down. But I think the winds won’t die in this season, the altitude is very high, there’s little to break up the gusts out in the desert, and our planned visit to these two towns will be shortened. There’s something not right about an RV adventure where you have to run the heater all night long.
We love New Mexico, but somehow this is not right; as soon after we make the dash to Santa Fe to see another Adobe Old town covered in Christmas lights and frost, we’re heading south.
When traveling in the desert, have plenty of good music ready to plug into the music system. The roads are long and static-free; good music stations are few and far between.
I’ll offer a second exhortation about getting an RV with the automatic stabilizing and driving systems. The 18 wheeler experience that knocks you all over the road, along with the natural wind gusts coming out of the desert, will make you a believer. We don’t have such systems; I’m a believer.
As noted in the narrative above, remove the ‘City’ water and waste hoses in cold weather and stow them for the night. Make sure your heater works, really! Ensure you have plenty of propane for the LPG heater, as it works better than the electrical heat. Better yet, plan better, and don’t find yourself in freezing weather!
The RV gets smaller every day. Develop techniques to minimize the ever-shrinking home; learn to cooperate with your co-pilot; ignore snubs; and remember that even-thought the RV is getting more tiny, be mindful that you can lose anything in its mist. Somehow whatever you’re looking for finds a convenient place to hide and taunt you into frustration. The joys of travel!
Picture Gallery of Into the Snow and Cold
Snow and Cold
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