Roadtrip #4 - New Mexico and the Albuquerque Balloon Festival - October 2008
It's that time again ladies and gentlemen... I've been planning another roadtrip for Fall 2008, which is more or less revolving around the opening weekend of Albuquerque's Balloon Festival in early October.
I will once again subject my folks to another desert/mountain run. This trip looks like it will cover about 2,500 miles. We've already made our hotel reservations for October 3rd-6th in Albuquerque, so that's the only "schedule" we really have to follow. We can be flexible with the days leading up to or away from this timeframe.
I do have a brain teaser for the local Arizonians. The mom has been reading this "Arizona Highways" magazine, and she pretty much wants to go see every darn thing in the book, hahaha. I've read the various Arizona articles on RTA and got some destinations in from that, but my question is: are there any "secret" highway roads we could take for excellent scenery? It doesn't necessarily have to be National Parks or Monuments, since 1) we've seen a lot of those in Arizona already, and 2) I've planned for a few more on this trip.
Before you answer, here's our tentative itinerary. This schedule is my typical "speed run" fashion but this time I have the option of extending 3-4 days in either direction if necessary.
From San Juan Capistrano, CA:
Day 0 - Take I-8/I-10 (through Yuma, AZ) to Tuscon, AZ
Day 1 - Continue via I-10 to White Sands National Monument, NM, then down to El Paso, TX
Day 2 - Take Hwy 62/180 to Guadalupe Mountains NP and Carlsbad Caverns NP, then up to Roswell, NM
Day 3 - (Friday, October 3rd) Tour Roswell, then Hwy 285/I-40 to Albuquerque, NM
Day 4/5 - (October 4th-5th) Balloon Festival stuff, tour the nearby things during the day
Day 6 - (Monday, October 6th) Take I-40 to Petrified Forest NP, then Arizona Meteor Crater, then to Flagstaff, AZ
Day 7 - Using a whole bunch of highways, eventually get back to I-10 for the drive through Joshua Tree NP (entering through south Cottonwood entrance and exiting out through the west) for the return home
There's plenty of time to inject other things into this route and extend it a few days if necessary. We don't have to take I-8/I-10 east and I-40 west if there's some smaller highways on the way that provide better scenery. I'm also going to have to figure out how to get from Flagstaff to Joshua Tree. I'd rather not take I-17/I-10, but maybe something more direct (through Prescott?). I've also never been to Lake Havasu via Hwy 95 so that may be another option. I could easily stick another extra day in here if there's something worth going to see.
What say the Arizona folk? (Or anyone else for that matter?)
Arizona('s Few) Highways
The truth of the matter is that, like much of the west, Arizona actually has very few through paved roads, and they're all on the map. So there are no secret highway roads to tell you of. Besides, you're going to be trying to cover over 900 miles and see a National Monument in the two days eastbound to El Paso during which you go through Tucson (note the spelling). In any event, I-10 through Tucson is under construction and all entrances/exits in the city are closed. On the day that you plan to drive from Flag to San Juan (475 miles), while it's no secret AZ-89 down through Oak Creek Valley, Sedona, Tuzigoot National Monument, Jerome, and Prescott should give your mom more than enough photo ops. AZ-71 and US-60 will then put you back on I-10. Now if you could add a day going to El Paso, then you can look at a swing south of I-10 east of Tucson on AZ-90, Charleston Road, and AZ/NM-80 with stops at Kartchner Caverns, the San Pedro Riparian Preserve, Tombstone, Bisbee and Douglas.
Thanks for the notice about the I-10 closures at Tucson. (I've spelled it right everywhere else except this one thread... typical me). Will those closures still be in effect in early October? How do the locals get around without access to this major artery?
I am definitely curious about that Hwy 80/90 through southeast Arizona, and I can definitely extend an extra day to see what's down there. Any highlights to those areas besides the Caverns and Preserve? And what's better, the 80 through Tombstone or the 90 through Sierra Vista?
I'm also pretty sure I want to use Hwy 89 through Prescott on the way back. The folks have been on that route before (although not for 30+ years) and I of course have never seen it, so that's definitely in the works. I might also want to steal another day and detour to the Lake Havasu area, if that's worth doing.
Our budget is sort of strained this year so we don't want to be gone longer than 10-11 days, since the lodging in Albuquerque has already taken a big chunk, but so far it looks like we are well within that limit.
Yes, the construction will continue through this fall on I-10, and through this winter, and through next spring,...., for the next two years! There is no access between Prince Road and 22nd Street. Through traffic can use the highway, local traffic must divert to the frontage road. It is a mess, especially for commuters who live northwest and southeast of the city and rely on I-10 for their daily drive to work.
Rather than choose between AZ-90 and AZ-80, I'd recommend the compromise of my last post. Take AZ-90 to Kartchner Caverns and Sierra Vista. SV is a military and retirement town and is a good place to gas/stock up and eat. Then take Charleston Road (sorry, it's un-numbered, you'll have to ask directions or get a good map) to Tombstone. At Tombstone, the best attraction is the Bird Cage, a saloon once owned and operated by Wyatt Earp. From Tombstone, take AZ-80 southeast through Bisbee (take a walk around town, and the mining and historical museum) and Douglas (the Gadsden Hotel) until it becomes NM-80 headed northeast back to I-10.
Given everything else you're doing, I'd probably give Lake Havasu a pass. Ersatz London in the desert didn't do much for me when I visited.
A few updates to this trip
So after doing some more extensive research, we decided to stay in Sedona for a few days, immediately following our weekend at the Balloon Festival. Apparently that's a sweet spot for the parents and they very much want to go back there. Dad did about 3 days of research and found an excellent resort to rent for less than $100 a night. It's amazing that even with relatively high prices for most places in Sedona, quite a few of them have sold out already, and it's not even during a weekend.
I'm now also going to aim for hitting the East and West areas of Saguaro National Park in Tucson, since somehow I missed that when plotting my route the first time. As the I-15 freeway access will be limited at that time I'll have to be very creative in figuring out how to get from one side of town to the other. I don't plan on spending more than 2-3 hours at each division of the park, but even with this I'll have to extend the trip 24 hours, as I'm pretty sure I can't squeeze in White Sands NM the same day and then drive to El Paso. I'm not that crazy, hehe. We'll probably get as far as Las Cruces, NM.
I may sacrifice southeast Arizona (Hwy 80/90) in order to experience Saguaro NP and keep to our schedule/budget, and we're definitely axing Lake Havasu. But who knows, I'm open to changing my mind if time and money allows.
So it looks like September 29 - October 8 is our new range. We haven't added any extra mileage, so it will definitely cut down on the "speed run" scenario I'm oh-so used to.
Let's Not Forget 66
Don't forget to get on the Mother Road for some of the way.
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