It is time to head on towards Flagstaff for the Overland Vehicle Expo. So another session of map planning – we always look for back roads and scenic routes – we find one – a section of Route 66. But first is an awesome drive through dry sandy desert, crazy plants & weird escarpments. Finally off our back roads and onto the main motorway: Rte 40. When we reach the Colorado River, we turn off the motorway onto our historic route. This section is a bit rough & deserted, but by the time we reach Oatman we find the tourists. The town is straight out of the mining days- with old time shops, mock mines, tourist tat, burros (donkeys) & even a shootout on the main road. After lunch in the local bar we head into the Black Mountains – a very scenic, narrow part of route 66. At Kingman we stop to tour the museums, especially the Route 66 one. Then on to find a spot for the night. Fifty trains go past every day so we want to be a bit away from the railway line – end up not far from the road, but most of this flat area is farmed.
That evening we check out camping details for the Expo and discover that we were expected today (Thursday) or by 8am tomorrow as we are (VIP Traveler’s). Woops, we are still over 200km away. We wake early – mainly because it is so cold & a bit noisy - so decide to head off. Back to the motorway as soon as we can. The road starts to climb, and we see why the night was cold. There is lots of fresh snow, with more to come. Traffic slows down & only one lane is clear. As we reach Flagstaff we see snow ploughs heading out. We reach Mormon Lake (where the show is) before 8am. The grounds are pretty waterlogged – we find our soggy site & settle in. John heads off to explore while I stay nice & warm inside catching up on some computer work. Eventually I head out for some talks. In the evening it is way too cold to head to the outside fireside chats. That night it snows!! Brrrr. The place looks magic covered with snow, but it doesn’t take long to turn into massive muddy puddles. Despite this we go to lots of forums & presentations, see lots of overland vehicles & meet lots of people – including a few Aussies in their vehicles. We really enjoyed the expo with many likeminded folk and lots of interesting vehicles.
Sunday the show winds up with a BBQ. We decide to stay put for the night. Lots have left – lots have to be towed out. Monday morning we head back to Flagstaff to replenish our supplies. We spy an appliance repair shop, so drop off our washing machine (which we still haven’t been able to repair) and head off to meet our friends Johan & Anne who we met in Alaska last year. The rest of the day is spent with them – we even sleep outside their Wyndham unit for the night. (Guess what kids – we even went to a Wyndham presentation!)
Heading off the next morning we are “back on the road”. First stop Sedona (very highly recommended by Elizabeth). The drive descends through a glorious canyon to a landscape full of brilliant red escarpments that get more jaw dropping as we head into town. Sedona town is a lovely tourist strip full of many ways to part with your money. There are heaps of tourists & heaps of hotels. After loading up with more paper from the info centre we head off to explore. There are numerous scenic back roads – mainly dirt – that we explore. The other tourists are doing the trip in open back jeeps. It is a full day with lots of driving, trekking & sightseeing before we end up in a BLM area to disperse camp for the night.
Back to Flagstaff. Our washing machine can’t be repaired, so we collect it & head on to Walnut Canyon National Monument. We walk down many, many steps to look at some of the Indian cave dwellings perched under ledges of rock. There are 100’s of them here. Then back up those stairs for a well earned lunch in GR2. Next stop Meteor Canyon. As this is privately owned our National Park pass doesn’t work, & it costs $16ea (even as seniors!) So we make sure we see the movie, go on the guided tour (was that “Baaa” you said John?). As usual the day has raced by & we had planned to tour the Petrified Forrest as well. Oh well, we carry on and are suitably pleased to see a free camping ground at the entrance. What perfect timing. We stop beside Aussies in their RV. What a small world.
We thought we would just buzz through the Petrified Forrest – how wrong we were. Lots of stops, lots of walks before the better part of the day is over. Obviously we enjoyed it more than expected, especially the Painted Desert. By 2.30pm we are back onto the motorway and into the Indian Reservation area. There are so many red rock formations I have to stop myself taking too many photos. They are amazing. Find a great spot beside a lake to camp, but decide to carry on as the weather is so gorgeous - We are heading to Canyon de Chelly National Monument. As we approach the landscape is flat with lots of scruffy plants. We head down to the first vista point and wow we are blown away by this canyon. It is truly gorgeous. We stop at all the lookouts & even glimpse lots of cliff dwellings, before evening approaches. My Lonely Planet says there is free camping near the visitor centre at Chinile so we head there for the night.
Another day dawns bright & sunny so we head off early to have breakfast at one of the many lookouts on the south side of the canyon. There is a walk down into the canyon, but as it takes 2 hours (probably much more with John prodding me with a stick) we decide to head on. Back in town we restock with food & stop at the local flea market – more trash than treasure, before heading on through Indian farming/reservation with untold red rock formations. Our planned destination is Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. Because it is Indian owned our National Park card will not work. So in we head at $20 per vehicle. The signs say no RV’s or trucks on their road around the monuments – as it is a rough Indian road. We head off on the 18km drive. The other poor suckers who can’t drive on it have to pay out for a trip on the back of a jeep – all open air. And the drive is pretty dusty! We spent the rest of the day exploring – amazing. There is an RV park inside the grounds, but at $45 a pop – we head on out. Further down the road we pass Mexican Hat – an interesting rock formation. There is a little road to it – so we head off and find a magic spot for the night along with a few other campers. On our way here we have crossed the border – Utah coming next.