It was a cloudy dry day. The threat of thunderstorms never materialized. It was a good day to do some touring in Bryce Canyon National Park.
This is my third visit to Bryce Canyon National Park. On both of my previous visits I focused my touring on the Hoodoos near the entrance to the park. Today I wanted to see other areas of the park. After a stop at the visitors center to watch the movie and tour the gift shop I drove south 18 miles on the park road to the end at the Rainbow Point area. This is the highest elevation in the park at a little over 9,000 feet.
I took a lot of pictures of the views from the overlooks. I started down one of the loop trails below the canyon ridge, but turned around after a short distance. I’m out of condition for hilly hikes particularly at high elevation. I was breathing hard going down hill, coming up hill after a longer hike would have been misery. I’ve been walking on level ground at sea level for the last six plus months. My touring today turned into driving from one overlook to the next and taking pictures with a little walking thrown in along the canyon ridge.
This blog entry is going to be mostly pictures with some commentary in the captions. Tomorrow and Sunday I’ll be back to take pictures and tour other parts of the park. Hopefully, the sky conditions will be more cooperative.
In the two weeks since I departed Florida I’ve been dodging bad weather. My biggest concession to the weather was changing my route to a more southerly route. I also sped up and slowed down my journey west to avoid weather issues. Today the rain finally caught me.
This morning a few brief rain showers interspersed with attempts at clearing were the pattern. Late in the morning it looked like the sunshine had finally won the battle. I used the opportunity to start my touring in the area. As I departed the campground a big black cloud was approaching across the valley. It caught up with me as a thunderstorm very quickly. The rain was so hard I chose to pull into one of the roadside turnouts and wait out the storm. This storm lasted longer than any of the morning rain showers. Eventually I was able to continue up the road.
The rain wasn’t over. After a brief reprieve heavy rain returned. I stopped at the Red Canyon visitors center of the Dixie National Forest to get off the road again. The rain kept me in my car for fifteen minutes before I was able to get into the building without getting soaked through. After touring the exhibits and the gift shop I ventured out again. In the light rain I walked a little ways along a path toward a couple of Hoodoos behind the visitors center. The trail was very muddy but I was able to get to a clear area to take a picture or two before the heavier rain returned.
It was clear that touring in the rain was not going to be a pleasant experience, so I started back to my RV home. As I got near my home base the rain stopped completely. The valley looked clear of rain so I continued past the campground and turned north in the valley. Before I found anything of interest in that direction another big black cloud was moving in from the west. A retreat to the safety and dry conditions of my RV home was in order.
It continued to rain hard with a few brief dry spells all afternoon. My evening the sun broke through enough that I’d call the condition partly cloudy. A little bit of a sunset was even visible at 8:45PM. Tomorrow sounds a little better. The chance of showers isn’t as high and the temperature is forecast to be a little higher than today’s sixty. I really want to hike some of the trails in the area, but I don’t want to slog through the mud.
The cool overnight temperature combined with the extra hour provided by the time zone change allowed me to get up early and get an early start to the travel day. I left Flagstaff at 8:20 in the morning and arrived at the Red Canyon Village RV Park at 2:15, but I lost that hour I gained yesterday with a return to Mountain Standard Time. It was just under five hours of travel.
Today’s journey was one of the most beautiful and one of the most difficult drives on my Rambling Road Trip. The road snakes its way through valleys with high red rock cliffs, across flat deserts with massive red rock buttes in the distance and winds it way up and down the cliffs through cuts in the rock walls. The beauty comes at the cost of lots of elevation changes along narrow roads. I had to pay close attention to the road with two hands on the wheel. There weren’t any places to pull off the road to admire the landscape and I couldn’t safely take pictures out the window as I traveled.
The trip north from Flagstaff to the Bryce Canyon area is not the straightest trip. The Grand Canyon is in the way. Route US89 goes northeast to Page AZ then across the Glen Canyon Dam before angling back west northwest to Kanab UT then north to the Bryce Canyon area. My day started and ended at about 6800 feet in elevation, but in between I climbed to well over 7000 feet and down to less than 4000 feet crossing the Glen Canyon Dam. My campsite for the next five nights is about fifteen miles west of Bryce Canyon. To get to the canyon, I’ll climb a few hundred feet more, but it won’t be with the motorhome in low gear straining to make the climb. The SUV doesn’t take as much gas or effort to navigate the climbs.
The weather here is not as warm as I expected. It didn’t get out of the fifties here today and it is currently raining. Tomorrow and Friday are forecast to be in the sixties with a chance of thunder storms. Saturday and Sunday are forecast to be closer to seasonal temperatures in the low seventies.
The temperature this morning was in the forties. It was difficult to get out of my warm bed. Consequently it was 9:30 before I pulled out of the Route 66 RV Resort. I had planned for an earlier start to get in some miles before the wind got stronger. Luckily, the wind was much lighter today. I only had a few strong gusts to deal with.
Today’s trip was all about ups and downs. The first one hundred miles or so was primarily up as Interstate 40 climbed over the Continental Divide. The next one hundred miles was primarily down hill followed by a few miles of more or less level driving. The last part of the journey was up hill again climbing to the Flagstaff area which is even higher than the Continental Divide area along Interstate 40. I turned off before the road reached its peak. Tonight I’m at 6800 feet more than fifteen hundred feet higher than last night. The Continental Divide was 7,275 feet and the highest point on Interstate 40 just west of Flagstaff is 7,320 feet. Tomorrow night I’ll be even higher at around 8,000 feet.
I arrived in the Flagstaff area at 1:30 Mountain Standard Time. Arizona doesn’t observe Daylight Savings. Today I gained an hour, but I’ll give it back tomorrow when I enter Utah. I’m at the Flagstaff KOA for the night. I picked the campground because it split my travel to Utah fairly evenly, but many of my neighbors are here to visit the Grand Canyon and other area sites. It is just under 100 miles to the Grand Canyon in one direction and about 50 miles to Sadona AZ in the other direction.
The weather in Flagstaff is colder than I’ve experienced since January. The local high temperature was 54 degrees. It is forecast to get down near or below freezing tonight. We are on the back side of the cold front that passed to the east last night.
The temperature was in the fifties when the sun started to warm the day this morning. The peak temperature was only in the mid seventies. Shortly after 9AM the wind returned. It ramped up slower today, but it is still blowing after 9PM as I’m writing this blog entry. The direction is also more from the west which is being more disruptive blowing things around and making more noise. Tomorrow is forecast to have much lighter winds. It is a travel day, so I hope they are right.
I made a big grocery and provisioning trip this morning. It will be more than a week before I have another opportunity. Tomorrow I’m moving west 300 miles to Flagstaff AZ for the night. Wednesday I’ll complete my journey into middle of south central Utah for five nights near Bryce Canyon. Tomorrow’s drive is all on Interstate 40, but it will include some climbing to cross the Continental Divide. Wednesday’s travel will be on winding US89 north through Arizona and into Utah. I’ve been on most of the route before. It will be a long drive.
This afternoon I visited the Casino in front of the campground. I managed to make twenty dollars stretch for an hour and a half. The casino has many newer slot machines that I haven’t seen before along with some of the old favorites. I’m surprised with the number of casinos in this area of New Mexico. I believe I’ve driven by three others while I’ve been touring the Albuquerque area.
Before in got dark tonight I got most of the outside travel preparation tasks completed. In the morning I’ll need to dump the holding tanks and hook up the car. I want to get an early start in case the optimistic wind forecast is wrong. As far as travel time goes, I pick up an hour when I enter Arizona since they don’t observe Daylight Savings Time. Unfortunately, I loose it again the next day when I move into Utah.
The temperature got down into the low sixties overnight. It made for comfortable sleeping. This morning it was a bright sunny day without a cloud in the sky. It was also a very still day. There wasn’t a breeze blowing. Around quarter to ten everything changed. As if a switch was thrown a strong wind started to blow and became the theme for the day.
The wind strength and the gusts continued to increase throughout the morning and the first part of the afternoon. Midway through the afternoon clouds started to move in slowly from the west. Once they arrived the temperature dropped, some rain fell and the wind managed to crank up its velocity a notch or two. My RV home was actually rocking a little in the wind. The wind driven rain didn’t last long and the wind actually let up some, but once the sun returned an hour or so later the wind was back. As the wind front moved east it re-enforced a line of storms in the eastern part of New Mexico. Several tornadoes were spotted in the northeastern part of the state.
I started my touring today in Old Town Albuquerque. It is the site of the original settlement. Many old Pueblo style buildings are filled with stores, restaurants and entertainment. I liked seeing the buildings, but the rest was not my thing. At least I didn’t see any modern day franchise s in the historic area. Starbucks was a few blocks away.
The second activity on today’s agenda was a hike in the Petroglyphs National Monument. I took the Rinconada Canyon hike. It’s a little over two mile hike to the end of the canyon and back. Most of the petroglyphs are on the volcanic rock at the far end of the canyon. The trail is over loose gravel and sand through the desert landscape. I enjoyed the hike, but beyond the proof that people were here long before I was, the petroglyphs weren’t that interesting. They are often hard to identify and unlike other petroglyphs I’ve seen they don’t seem to be indented to convey complex thoughts. The wind was picking up as I finished the hike.
In this area Interstate 40 was built on the old route 66 corridor. On the way back to my RV home I stopped at a relic of that era. The Rio Puerco Bridge is near the RV park. It was built in 1933 and ultimately replaced in 1999 long after the Interstate route had bypassed it. Considering the amount of traffic through this area now, it is hard to envision a time that the narrow bridge would serve the traffic heading west. The span is barely wide enough to allow two way traffic.
It was a bright sunny day in the low eighties. Unfortunately, the wind is back. From late morning on there was a strong steady wind with some strong gusts. This is considered a normal wind day. Tomorrow and Monday are being forecast as wind events. The wind is supposed to be even stronger.
I set out this morning to get the lay of the land. Albuquerque is an area I haven’t visited before, but I’ve talked with people about their visits and read a number of blog posts on the city from other RVers. The mental picture I’d developed was all wrong. My biggest surprise was the location of the Balloon Fiesta park. It’s actually north of the city center. In my mental picture it is south of the city. My second misimpression was the location of the Sandia Tram. It is well to the northeast of the city center. In my mind it originated right in the downtown area. In general the area is bigger than I thought and the elevations to the east and west of the city are higher than I thought.
I found the base of the Sandia Peak Tramway, but I didn’t ride it. Strong winds are one of the things that keep the tram from running. The last thing I wanted was to be at the top of the Sandia range trying to find a way back to my car at the bottom. The other issue was I didn’t have anything I wanted to do at the top other than look at the view. I wasn’t prepared for hiking any of the trails at the top.
I also stopped at the Petroglyph National Monument visitors center. There aren’t any actual petroglyphs at the visitors center. You can get information on the three main trails in the monument and shop at the gift shop. There weren’t any significant informational displays in the visitors center. My timing was wrong to watch the informational video. The new volunteer on duty couldn’t tell me if the next showing was in five minutes or an hour. It was his first day.
When I returned to the campground, I stopped at the “classic” car show in the casino parking lot. There didn’t seem to be any real theme to the show. I saw antiques cars, mussel cars, hot rods and a mismatch of other cars. It did, however, explain some of the strange cars I saw in the campground last night.
Even though the wind was forecast to be light, I got an early start to my travel day to get some miles in before the wind woke up. I pulled out of the El Paso KOA about quarter to nine. Most of my early departure was consumed at the gas station less than a mile up the road. It was 9:20 before I left the gas station.
I got in line at the gas station behind two cars that looked like they were finishing up. The driver of the first car in line finished pumping, then cleaned his windows before getting into the drivers seat. Five minutes later he was still there, but that didn’t matter. The driver of the second car wasn’t even in the car. He slowly walked back from the store and started to pump his gas as the driver of the first car was still sitting in the drivers seat. I’m guessing it was more than fifteen minutes before both cars departed. Once I pulled up to the pumps I understood why the second car’s driver had to go into the store. The display screen on the pump was broken to the point that paying at the pump was a guessing game. I had to go into the store as well. Not wanting to leave my credit car with the cashier while I filled the tank, I prepaid for $100 worth of gas. It was a guess based on the gauge estimate of how much room was in the tank. I was close, but they would have gotten more of my money if the pump display worked. Gas stations can be so much fun.
The trip north on Intestate 25 was a new road for me. I thought it would follow the Rio Grande river valley from Las Cruces to Albuquerque. The river turned out to be in the distance occasionally, but most of the time the road was going up and down over ridges and across canyons after steep drops followed by equally steep climbs. It was not a drive for cruise control. I had to manage the throttle to keep up as much speed as possible. Luckily the wind was not a factor. Yesterday it would have been miserable with a west wind hitting the RV broadside.
The drive was mostly through desert vegetation until I got near Albuquerque. The road got closer to the river and the scenery got greener with more agriculture. Then it was back to big city driving. The turn west on Interstate 40 is right in the middle of the city. The campground I’m staying at is the Route 66 RV Resort. It turned out to be a little further west of the city than I had anticipated, but it will do for the next four nights. Tomorrow I’ll start touring in the area.
After four straight days of travel, today was a day of rest. I have one more day of travel tomorrow before I switch into mostly touring mode for the summer. I have traveled about 1650 miles since I departed the Gainesville Florida area last Thursday. Last Saturday was the only other day I didn’t travel, so that averages out to 275 miles a travel day. Tomorrow will be another 275 mile travel day.
Dodging the bad weather has been the biggest challenge of the trip. If I had taken the northern Texas route I originally planned, tornadoes and rain would have been a real problem. There were tornado warnings in three of the four or five areas I was going to spend overnights and one area was partially flooded by the Red River overflow. The southern route I ended up taking had thunderstorms and strong winds to deal with, but very manageable by comparison.
When I crossed the Mississippi in Baton Rouge the river was already high. It looked to be very close to the top of the levee. Most of the rain that has been falling over the last few days in the mid west drains through the Mississippi River. I think the potential for flooding is increasing rapidly. Other swamps and rivers in Louisiana and Eastern Texas also looked high. Once I got to West Texas and the more arid land, the local weather reporters are talking about the wind. Having multiple days with a strong wind this time of year is apparently abnormal. One or two days of wind followed by periods of calm is more normal. Tomorrow is the first day of light winds forecast in the last six. The weather pattern that is bringing storms off the Pacific into the heartland causes tornadoes in the area known as Tornado Alley, strong winds to this area of the southwest of the Alley and cooler temperatures in Arizona, Southern California and Nevada. Traveling this country seems to be a real meteorology lesson.
I didn’t do much today other than television and internet research. Today’s wind direction was out of the west. It hit my RV broadside and even managed to shake the rig a little. I had to bring in the main slide room too keep the awning topper from making noise. The real fear is the next step after making noise is ripping. The wind goes down over night and is forecast to be a lot less tomorrow.
Today was my third windy travel day. It wasn’t as bad as yesterday. I was off the road at my destination before it got really strong. My stop for the next two nights is just west of El Paso near the New Mexico line. It was only 140 miles from Van Horn.
The short distance coupled with changing to the Mountain Time zone presented a minor problem. I didn’t want to delay my departure from Van Horn because the later in the day it got the stronger the wind would be. I departed just before ten this morning. The one hour time change, less than ten miles west of Van Horn, meant I’d get to my destination around 11:30am. It probably would have been OK to arrive early, but I didn’t want to take a chance. I stopped at a rest area about halfway to my destination for an hour and a half. While I was there the wind arrived. The second half of my trip was a battle against a cross wind.
I know how to bypass El Paso to the north. I used that route coming east in January of 2018, but today I chose to drive through the center of the city on Interstate 10. It was the middle of the day and my destination was a little south of where the RV appropriate bypass returns to I-10. The traffic trough the city was moderate and the buildings blocked some of the wind. Overall it was the right choice.
I’m at the El Paso/Anthony West KOA for the next two nights. It’s within feet of the state line with New Mexico. This is very much a desert campground. It is in a cleared area of the desert that has been graded to provide level areas for RVs. In this case there is no vegetation, just gravel. It is fine for a brief stop.