The thing about this journey is no two days are the same and the events of the day are rarely predictable. This morning was one of those unexpected occasions.
We started by driving through the town to have a look at Grants. It was larger than we had thought when we arrived, exhausted, last night. The main road through the town is the old Route 66. I find it rather sad in a way. The old infrastructure is slowly rotting. What were once prosperous motels are empty and abandoned, as are restaurants and fuel stations. The new I-40 has taken away most of the traffic and with it the business. We overnighted at Motel 6 and next to it were a number of chain hotels. These have helped to take trade from the small, independent motels. They thrive due to the tourist trade which visits because of Route 66. I wonder how long this will continue. Will the younger generation have the same interest in this historic route? Will there be anything left to see in a few more decades, or will it all have completely crumbled away?
The Sat-Nav had been programmed to take us to Show Low (very odd name!) This is about half way from Grants to Sedona, where we are aiming for, but is too far to travel in one day. We expected the Sat-Nav to take us back on the I-40 to the junction with the 153. She had other ideas though and we branched off on to a tiny road out of Grants. In no time at all we were driving through a canyon. This became more dramatic as we progressed and we were very soon onto a gravel road. Dennis and the Land Rover were, of course, ecstatic. As we climbed a hill we came across a lone cyclist. As we passed Dennis called out to him and asked him how he was doing. A Kiwi accent responded! Neville from Te Anau, on his first long ride. The conversation continued as he rode up the hill and we drove slowly alongside. Neville had started his ride in June in Jasper, Canada.
Once we reached the top of the hill and had climbed out of the canyon we were in pine forests. Pine trees of all descriptions. We continued on the gravel for 23 miles before we joined H-153. This was a dream after the last few days hurtling along with trucks constantly passing. Very little traffic and we can just poodle along at around 55mph. It’s amazing how different the countryside is when you drive through on small roads. From I-40 it looks pretty boring. However, up close the hills and cliffs are full of odd and varied formations caused by erosion which you cannot see from a distance.
Soon we reached the El Morro National Monument and stopped to pay a visit. It is a 200ft stone outcrop with a deep pool at the base. It is not a spring. The water comes from snow melt and rain during June/July/August. It is over 12ft deep and never completely dries out. For millennia it was an oasis for travellers. The rock has also become known as ‘InscrIption Rock’ due to visitors having carved their names in the rock face over the centuries. From early petroglyphs at the top, to elaborate inscriptions by Spanish conquistadors and Anglo pioneers. A unique historical record.
On the way in to the Visitor Centre at El Morro, we stopped to read some information signs. A German couple from Cologne were parked next to us. A conversation developed, which soon became quite lively when it turned to Brexit!
We proceeded to the Visitor Centre which had an interesting little museum. Some exercise was needed, so we took the half hour walk to the pool and to view some of the inscriptions carved into the rock face.
Back on the road we passed through Zuni Pueblo. The Zuni are noted for their intricate inlaid silver work. We stopped for lunch under a large tree for shelter on the edge of the settlement. We didn’t visit any of the shops to look at the silverware. Just in case I might have been tempted!
Continuing on to Show Low we crossed the border into Arizona during the afternoon and gained another hour. We thought we would try and find camping in Show Low and have an early stop. Visiting a supermarket, Dennis used their wifi to look for a campsite, while I went for some milk. Setting off for the place he had located we came across a Walmart. Another stop, this time to buy a card reader, as we are now having trouble downloading photos from my camera.
The campsite was more of an RV Park when we found it and the office was closed. We drove around looking to see if there was a place for us to stay. It was completely full, but we stopped to ask a large gathering, if they knew of somewhere we could camp.
They were a friendly bunch, with plenty of banter and advised us of a place called Scotts Reservoir, just a bit further out of Show Low. We are camped there now. It is basic but has shady trees, toilets and, best of all, is free. Today has been slightly cooler and this evening is very pleasant. I hope it will continue like this.