A few weeks ago I went on a cross country road trip with my brother Ed. I wish I could claim that I came up with the term Ed-venture, but I’m afraid that honor goes to my sister-in-law.
Ed was moving from the D.C. area to the Grand Canyon as part of his change in jobs. He picked me up in Illinois and from there we basically followed the old route 66 mother road (the one that the kids movie Cars is centered around).
We passed over the Mississippi river and into Missouri.
Later on we dipped down into Arkansas so Ed could claim his 47th visited state and my 37th.
Our family has a little competition to see who can visit all 50 states first. Flying over a state or just being in an airport doesn’t count. Here is my current map. [Thanks mom for reminding me that I had North Dakota]
I’m definitely a dark horse to win the competition as I’m still missing states in every cardinal direction.
Anyway, getting back on topic, in Arkansas we visited the original Walton’s drug store. If you know your history you probably know the big box store that came about because of Walton’s.
The bits and pieces of Oklahoma that we saw were very industrialized. Oil refineries and coal power plants seemed to dot the landscape.
One of the highlights of the trip was actually in Oklahoma City. There is a private museum called the Museum of Osteology (bone museum).
I would highly recommend stopping for anyone age 2-200.
Continuing on towards Texas we spotted this funny leaning water tower.
Apparently it has been like this for years because I was able to find other accounts of it on the internet dating back to at least 2007.
When at all possible we tried to eat at Mom & Pop joints instead of chains. The ambience and food is generally better and with tools such as Yelp.com and UrbanSpoon.com it is increasingly easy to find the local hangouts in a city you have never been to before.
Coyote Bluff Cafe was a good example of a fun restaurant that would have been easy to drive by if we weren’t looking for it. I always like seeing uniformed men and women eating at a local place, that’s how you know it is good.
Back on the road we made a quick stop at Albuquerque’s National Nuclear Museum.
It would be a good stop for school aged children or adults interested in learning more about the domestic and military applications of nuclear energy. The 1950s uranium prospecting kits sold by Sears and other stores were the most interesting exhibits in my opinion (because I didn’t know much about that beforehand).
Another hole in the wall cafe provided some more nourishment and interesting people watching/hearing.
It’s probably not a bad idea to check fluid levels on an 11 year old car when you are taking it cross country.
Forging further west, we made a short stop at El Malpais National Monument to stretch our legs and explore lava tubes.
The countryside around here just seemed so incredibly peaceful. I could have set up a tent and been content to sit and look out over the landscape but we had more driving to do.
Arizona, the last state on our Adventure rolled up on the morning of Day 4.
We stopped again to stretch our legs, this time at Petrified Forest National Park.
A long time ago a large forest thrived here before being covered up with mud and silt. The trees could not decompose because there was no oxygen available for bacteria to use to breakdown the wood. Over time, silica laden water replaced the wood fibers with rock. The end result is petrified wood.
The park is having a hard time with visitors illegally removing petrified wood. It is a crime to remove material from a National Park or Monument, so please don’t help yourself to a five finger souvenir.
After stopping in Flagstaff for lunch and an informal meeting, we reached our destination.
This was my fourth time to the Grand Canyon. The first time was when I was four years old and my family did a summer vacation to the north rim. I barely remember that trip. The next time was my senior year of high school spring break. I went with a friend and his family out to Phoenix and we made a short trip to the canyon as part of that trip. The third time was in college when I spent a week camping out on the south rim of the canyon with two other students.
I had never visited at this time of the year, so it was a different perspective, and much smaller crowds :-).
The view from the rim was extra spectacular on the night we arrived.
The next day we geared up for a hike down into the canyon. There are multiple trails down into the canyon and each one is no joke.
Proper footwear is an absolute must. We both had hiking boots with plenty of ankle support. Flip flops, crocs, or really any type of sandal are not acceptable foot wear for hiking into the Grand Canyon. You should also have a clear idea of where and how far you are going. Most trail maps will have a maximum day hike turnaround point. You should not venture beyond that turnaround point unless you know what you are doing.
Having a trail map is also important. We ran into one individual at Santa Maria Spring who was looking for the Dripping Springs Trail.
Dressing in layers is important. The temperature at the rim will be cooler than the temperature at the bottom of the canyon because of the elevation change. A waterproof, windproof outer layer should cover an insulating layer (like fleece or wool). We put on and took off clothes frequently to avoid shivering or sweating.
Finally, you will want to pack enough water and food to last your hike. Many of the trail maps have suggestions for how much of each you will need.
While hikes may be daunting, they are rewarding. There are some things that you just cannot see from the rim and experiences that cannot be had without getting a bit cold and wet.
I really liked this part of the trail. It reminded me of something you might see along the Mediterranean (granted I’ve never been there).
When we reached our turnaround point, I turned on my phone’s GPS tracking and recorded the hike up and out of the canyon. At one point, it didn’t get a satellite signal, so some of the data is missing.
After a day in Flagstaff shopping for groceries and household supplies, I parted with my brother so I could return to the Midwest.
In true frugal fashion, I had booked a red-eye flight from Phoenix to Chicago for $63. The downside of course was that it left at 1:30am. I made it to the airport around 11pm and went ugly early. By that I mean, I didn’t waste anytime going through security and staking out a good place to lay down and try to get some sleep. I looked for a relatively quiet area with low light and low foot traffic. By the time my alarm went off other travelers waiting for their red-eye flights had not been so fortunate. One college aged girl was attempting to sleep right by the entrance to a bathroom where people were constantly walking in and out of.
From Chicago I took the train back home, so I guess you could say it was a planes, trains, and automobiles ‘vacation’.
A big thank you to my mother-in-law who came down for a few days to help Shae out and watch Frugal Boy while I was gone. Also a thank you to my brother for inviting me along on a fun trip!