We were packed up and ready to roll out of the La Plata County Fairgrounds in Durango, Colorado before 10am Wednesday. Our first stop was only a few miles south of town as we made a short detour on US160 west to the Giant Travel Center. They have a free dump station there, so I dumped and flushed our holding tanks. I’d filled the freshwater tank before we left the fairgrounds. Full fresh water and empty holding tanks – that’s how we like to roll. While I was at it, I stopped at the pumps and topped up our fuel tank – they had a good price on fuel – $3.15/gallon.
Our route took us south on US550 to Aztec, New Mexico. This route follows the Animas River. At Aztec, we hit NM516 to Farmington. I attempted to make a stop at the Walmart in Farmington for provisions but the lot was fairly full and trees made it a challenge to maneuver through. We rolled on south on NM371. In hindsight, I wish we would have taken US64 west to Shiprock. The route south on NM371 entailed a shortcut through Navajo land on BIA5. You know what the deal is with shortcuts – they’re never easy. If it was easy it wouldn’t be a shortcut – it would be “the way.”
BIA5 had little traffic but the surface had some serious frost heaves. It was so severe that launching over a frost heave flung all of the clothes in our closet off the hanger rod! Eventually we hit US491, which is a good road, and made our way to Gallup. There were elevation changes along the way, mostly rising and falling between elevations of 5,000 and 6,000 feet above sea level. The wind picked up out of the west-southwest. We made our Walmart stop in Gallup – it had a much easier lot for us to park in.
From Gallup, we headed due west on I-40. This is high desert country – mostly scrub land with distant mountains and rock formations. Like most desert areas, it isn’t as flat as it appears. You travel through a series of basins – gently climbing out of a basin only to start dropping into the next one.
We gained an hour as we crossed the Arizona border. At this time of year, Arizona time is the same as Pacific Daylight Time. When the clocks change back to standard time, Arizona will be the same as Mountain Standard Time – Arizona doesn’t change their clocks.
We stopped for the day at the Elks Lodge in Holbrook. Holbrook isn’t the most scenic stop – it’s more high desert scrub. For some reason I was picturing Holbrook as more mountainous with pine trees – I guess I was thinking of Heber-Overgaard. We were the only rig there and had a quiet night. This Elks Lodge wasn’t very active.
We pulled the slides in around 9:30am Thursday morning. Ozark the cat had already assumed her new favorite traveling space under Donna’s seat. Ozark takes note of us making the coach ready for travel and hides under the passenger chair. We left her there for last several weeks as we travel and it seems to be less stressful for her to ride where she’s comfortable.
We made a stop 30 miles west at Winslow. Again I topped up the fuel tank at the Pilot/Flying J there, then we parked on the street by the historic La Posada Hotel. We took a walk through the historic district and I bought a breakfast burrito at Las Marias cafe – it was disappointing as it was mostly filled with potato. It had very little chorizo and I couldn’t find any egg in it.
Historic downtown Winslow
Second Street, pictured above, is the old Route 66. When I came through here in 1976 – hitchhiking my way from San Diego to Longmont, Colorado – this was the highway across Arizona and into New Mexico. I-40 didn’t exist here at that time. I remember the town as a small settlement maybe three or four blocks wide with a truck stop, a few shops and lots of Native American people.
Now Winslow relies on tourism and has gone somewhat upscale. I think it’s a little sad that the town’s claim to fame comes from the 1972 Eagles hit song “Take It Easy” written by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey. Here’s a short excerpt from a Wikipedia post:
According to Frey, the second verse of “Take It Easy” refers to a time when Jackson Browne’s automobile malfunctioned in Winslow, Arizona, during one of his trips to Sedona, requiring him to spend a long day in Winslow. In 1999, in responding to the lyrics that made it famous, the city of Winslow erected a life-size bronze statue and mural commemorating the song at the Standin’ on the Corner Park.
Of course photo ops abound around the park.
Donna taking it easy
Me, standing on the corner
We continued west on I-40 and as we neared Flagstaff, we were finally in pine forests. Off to the northwest, we could see Humphrey’s Peak – at 12,633 above sea level, it’s the highest point in Arizona. People think Arizona is all desert with saguaro cactus, but the north part of the state along the Mogollon Rim is high country with forests.
We crossed the Arizona Divide at 7,335 feet above sea level and pulled off I-40 at Williams. The main road through Williams is again part of the old Route 66. Williams is surrounded by the Kaibab National Forest. Our intention was to find dispersed camping on public land here. Donna found a reference to a camping area at the Benham Trailhead. We found it, but there were several rigs in close proximity there. We locked up the coach and walked across Perkinsville Road to another forest service road called Dogtown Road. We found a few likely sites there.
Dispersed camping in this area is free and you can stay up to 14 days. You are supposed to camp within 30 feet of established roads and can’t bushwack your way into the forest. As we walked back to our coach, a guy camping near the trailhead offered some advice. He said the trailhead area was noisy – we figured as much with so many rigs there. He said to go down Dogtown Road and look for a site on the south side of the road. He told us that cars and ATVs travel the dirt road during daylight hours and kick up dust – which the wind carries across the north side of the road. We followed his advice and found a good spot. There was a small trailer already parked in this particular spot, but the woman traveler it belonged to invited us to pull in as she would be leaving in the morning. She and Donna had a nice chat yesterday afternoon and said their goodbyes this morning. We plan to stay for a couple of nights. We’re at an elevation of 7,200 feet above sea level.
Our spot in the Kaibab National Forest
Meadow view from our window
I’ve mentioned the Bright Line Eating plan that Donna’s following. The night before we left Durango, Donna grilled turkey burgers. I had mine on a toasted onion ciabatta roll with avocado slices. This is what a Bright Line Eating plan turkey burger looks like.
Donna’s turkey burger salad
Last night, Donna made blackened tilapia and served it with sauteed veggies. She added a serving of spaghetti alfredo to my plate. Even when we’re roughing it dry camped in the forest, we still eat well.
Blackened tilapia, sauteed veggies and spaghetti alfredo
After dinner, we sat outside. I puffed a cigar and we stargazed. There isn’t much of what astronomers like to call light pollution, so the sky was filled with many more stars than you’ll ever see in a city. The temperature dropped fairly quickly – the overnight low was in the upper 40s.
Today’s forecast calls for a high of 81 degrees. The wind will pick up throughout the day with gusts over 20mph this afternoon. Tomorrow should be more of the same after an overnight low around 50 degrees. I think we’ll move on to Lake Havasu City tomorrow where it’ll be warmer, but we’ll be on full hook-ups and can run the air conditioners.