If you're still following the trip, I hope you're enjoying the ride. At least your sleep isn't being disturbed, your pocketbook being drained, and your butt cramping. So let's try one last, and shorter, day.
I slept through until 8:00, or 9 central. There's one more hour to be gained, later today, but even with the extra sleep on the tail end, I'm drained. Plans that sounded feasible, even interesting, last night now have lost their attraction. I had thought about stopping at Albuquerque's Old Town area with its pueblo cultural center, another possible source of real pueblo pottery. It was only a few blocks away from the motel, but right now it was more of a challenge than I wanted to handle. Perhaps another time through.
Likewise with a possible stop at the Petrified Forest park's Fred Harvey Store. I've found that if they have something interesting, the price is reasonable. They might not have anything I'd be interested in anymore, however, now that my tastes have been educated.
Loading my car, I noticed how full the parking lot still was. Usually folks in motels are out early for wherever they're heading. Only one fellow was putting something in his car. Apparently I lucked into a whole bunch of night owls. Thanks for last night, guys. Not! I was feeling late. This was after all three hours later than my start on Saturday.
I had gotten a brochure with one of my recent pottery deliveries for a place in Milan, NM. It turned out to be right on 40, adjacent to Grants. His quality was good and prices rock bottom, so I had called before starting out to find out his hours on Mondays. The reply was, "Call when you leave Albuquerque. We know how long it takes and we'll have somebody at the store to meet you."
With consideration like that, you can bet if I would do only one non-potty stop today it would be there. I called, got voicemail, left my message with my cell number. About 15 miles down the road he called, asking where I was? I read the upcoming mile marker, and he decided he had enough time to give somebody the ride they needed. Between road construction and "indigestion" I was able to give him plenty of time to get back and wait for me.
Oh, and let's not forget stopping at Laguna Pueblo, which happens to be on 40 as well, and checking out their authentic local pottery. Most was Acoma, but there was some actual Laguna stuff as well. By a couple of famous potters, even. Just, nothing that appealed to my tastes or pocketbook at the moment.
In Milan, the door was open when I pulled in. I explained who I was by reminding him what I'd already bought from him. Did he have more from that potter to look at? No, she was due in but hadn't stopped by to drop off more for a while. I was still looking for a couple specific designs, specifically the parrot and the deer-in-his-house. He showed me three parrot ollas, two by well-known artists, one who made a pot I've already collected, another by her daughter. The prices were so low I broke down and picked my favorite.
I also picked up a Hopi ant pot. These are usually about 1" x 2", or even just 1" x 1". The design I've seen is a ring of ants playing flutes - think Pied Piper - around the outside. Honey is placed in the pot and it is set outside away from the house to keep the ants from coming in without having to kill them. I've seen these on eBay for $100 - $200. This was really cheap and he gave me a markdown besides.
I'll be back. He had some nice deer-in-the-house pots as well. It's Kachina Country if somebody's interested, right on Route 66, west of exit 81.
Now I was really feeling late.
I don't think it is possible to feel neutral about New Mexico. I can see people hating it. It's so vast, empty, arid, lonely. I can see people falling in love with it. It's so many-colored, so much vertical in the terrain, so majestic. The wide vistas one drives through are surrounded by mesas, mountains, and red sandstone cliffs, the latter tilting up in layer beyond layer beyond layer, a visual proof of geologic upthrusting and tilting. Black jagged lava flows cover the landscape for miles. Mount Taylor rises close enough to the freeway for you to see the spiderwebbing of snow remaining at the peak. For all those things, I chose to love it, at least to drive through.
Gallop shows a change in terrain, as if Arizona is spilling over onto this state the way New Mexico appeared to spill over the Texas border. Red is gone. Black is gone. Buff rules. It's kind of a between landscape. One compensation is there's finally a Wendy's, exit 26. Since Emporia, a total of 4.
Pulling out of Gallop, I'm reminded of where the moving truck broke down last October. Remembering how it ended in Subways for all while we waited, I've gotten my next meal idea. Italian herb and cheese, 6", pepperjack cheese, tuna with onions, spinach, tomato and green pepper. Yummm!
Arizona brings another change in terrain at the border. The cliffs on either side have huge but shallow caves in the walls. One is big enough to be turned into a souvenir shop. As the walls fall away, the crosswind really picks up. Speeds are reduced while I struggle to keep in my lane. Dust columns rise in the distance in every direction, faintly tan against the sky. Curious, I check them out with and without the polarizers. With, lots of detail. Without, barely visible at all in most cases.
This also brings the first elevation sign I've seen this trip. Mile marker 346, elevation 6000.
Holbrook is time for gas. I don't want to fill in Flagstaff, the most expensive spot in the state last fall. Phoenix should be reasonable (not so much I see later), and I can easily make it on a full tank from there. Priced here actually beat New Mexico's typical prices. Problem is, the wind pushes my car door so hard I can't get it open. I debate driving around to the other sice of the pump, but on that side the wind would actually fling my door open so hard it'd knock into something. Hard. I've got enough micro dings in the door. I don't need any macro dings in it, thank you vary much. Push harder. Use those feet! Once standing, get out of the way fast!
After Winslow signs start announcing Meteor Crater. I know what to look for. Once I'm 10 miles east of it, looking southwest I can see it rising above surrounding land, It's visible that way for only a couple miles. Otherwise the road or rolling hills block the view. Just before the exit, there's a rest stop. It's punctuated with piles in groupings of red sandstone boulders, carved by wind over eons. I think what a marvelous playground they'd be for an active kid after being in the car too long. But there's a bit of a hitch: a sign warns of fines for defacing or writing on the rocks. I'm sure somebody would be stuffy enough to find climbing the same as defacing.
While spending so much time looking for the crater, I haven't noticed what I should have seen long since. The thick dust is also to blame. Suddenly ahead of me are the San Francisco Peaks, my favorite natural feature of the whole state. (Man-made, it's Wukoki ruins. Not going there today.) Puffy clouds try to cover the peaks, coming in from the south, but generally stay just above them. There's still a lot of snow in the Snow Bowl, very bright in reflected sunlight. The closer I get to Flagstaff, the more they rise above the horizon, until just before Walnut Canyon when the foreground starts to obscure the view.
At 2:10 I hit Flagstaff and start south on 17. Ponderosa pines are thick for miles, giving way to cedars of some sort before I've actually noticed the change. It's downhill all the way, until the bottom of the Verde Valley. For once it's green enough to live up to its name. Cottonwoods are well leafed out, showing watercourses. The roadside rest stop is closed, due to lack of water. Rather than putting up a sign and barricades, they actually hire a guy to stop people from entering the building. Well, there are two towns in the valley with businesses having usable facilities. Or another rest stop along the way.
But signs now say otherwise. First, the next rest stop is closed as well, due to construction. Further, we can expect delays from 60 to 90 minutes when they are blasting. OK, so when to they do the blasting, huh? Now I really better make sure to stop, so I pick the McDonalds just before the road heads uphill again. Camp Verde.
Oh hey, there's a sign for Wendy's! Uh, 12 miles thataway after you come to the stop. Nevermind. Pulling into McDonalds, I do a double take, then tripple. Gas for $3.94?!?!? Not Diesel, either. Unleaded. Captive audience, I guess. Really reeeeally glad for that stop back in Holbrook.
One more long climb, and then it's really downhill all the way. Downhill for the mood as well. I finally tune into an accessible public radio station, preset on my dial from last fall. There are stories of a bombing at the Boston Marathon. Awww jeez! My first guess is some creep who wants to do it bigger and worse than one of those school shooters like at Sandy Hook, should he in fact ever be caught. Obama promises the full weight of justice. Bring it on!
Meanwhile, saguaros appear, then flowering mimosa trees, and things start to get familiar. I recognize landmarks, make well known turns, and finally pull into... home! And hey, Wendy's all over the place!
And what happens next is nobody's business!