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  1. Default North by Northwest Road Trip July 2015

    North by Northwest 2015 Report Preliminaries

    This report is about our July 2015 road trip thru TX, NM, AZ, CO, UT, NV, CA, OR, WA, ID, MT, WY, SD, ND, IA, NE, MO, KS, OK, and back though TX. 8100 miles, 21 days, averaged 400 miles a day.

    Who we are - My wife and I are veteran travelers of all types of trips over the last 30+ years. Necessity travel, destination travel, cruises, road trips. Domestic and international by air, car, train and bus. Road trips with just the two of us are now my preferred vacation mode. We are “devil-may-care” Seniors mid-60s and late 50s. At this point in our lives vacation time is not really an issue nor is money (within reason) – we consider making memories the best investment of our available funds. We travel by car and do no camping.

    My credentials - I am the family vacation planner and get almost as much fun out of planning a trip as I get out of going. During the trip my wife prefers to drive and I like to navigate and provide tour commentary mostly from Wikipedia about anything and everything around us.

    My next post will be about planning for the trip. Then I will post each trip day as time allows.

  2. Default North by Northwest 2015 Trip Report -Planning

    North by Northwest 2015 Field Report Planning

    Our trip planning principles: 1) Life is a journey, not a destination. 2) “ The plan is nothing, planning is everything” Dwight D Eisenhower. 3) No road trip plan ever survived first contact with the asphalt – paraphrase of Helmuth von Molke. 4) The reason we have a plan is so we can change it. 5) To travel hopefully is better than to arrive – Chinese Proverb.

    Every trip begins with an idea. For us the conception of this trip was a discussion about moving to a smaller town (we live in San Antonio). I did research on “best places to live” and in a subsequent conversation we reviewed the bidding and decided Corvallis Oregon was our first pick and that we should “check it out.” That was six months before the trip.

    Trip goals – in the Spring I began to identify trip goals. 1) get to Corvallis and get home. 2) include States we had not visited - ID, MT, WY, ND, SD. 3) identify through the NPS site (State by State) potential Parks, Historical Sites and Monuments 4) identify through each State visitor website attractions, parks and things to do. 5) avoid Interstates if possible and always choose routes and locations we had not been to before. 6) plan on no more than 400 miles a day to allow time to stop at sites. 7) Avoid crowds and traffic. 8) Don’t drive after dark. 9) After reviewing the first eight I realized that a great goal for the second half of the trip was to follow the Lewis & Clark Expedition route home from Astoria OR, up the Columbia River, across ID, into MT to the source of Missouri River and along the Missouri as far as Kansas City (we had already traveled along the Missouri River from Kansas City to St Louis). 10) At the end I added the goal of visiting every State West and North of Texas in the continental US.

    Our interests: Roads less travelled, scenery, ecology, wildlife, geology, hydrology, economy, agriculture, infrastructure, astronomy, demographics, history, local culture, local foods and beverages, wineries, distilleries, farmer’s markets, films, authors & literature and others. Probably easier to list “no interest in” things.

    Putting it together – With goals and interests in mind I begin poring over map apps (I use several). For route planning I use inRoute for which I purchased the upgrade that allows 100 waypoints per trip. Glancing at the trip planner on this site it looks very similar. With experience I have become very adept at eyeballing 400 miles on a map. I move across the map placing waypoints in towns approximately every four hundred miles.

    First time I go through the route with no time restraints. Then we discuss time constraints – for this trip the start day was fixed by family commitment, then end date - when my wife had to be back to work (Educator). We allow one day of post-trip before work etc. We review the unconstrained trip length and discuss options on what to cut. We review what I’ve found to see and do and get my wife’s input on preferences and other places/things she is interested in.

    Second time thru I take out portions we agree to cut to get the trip to fit allotted time. Then I review day by day potential visits and put down tentative waypoints for those stops. Then I go through and put down waypoints at intersections to get us off the Interstate everywhere I can, along scenic routes, and on roads we have never been down before. For each day I dial in start times and lunch stop/attraction visit times and the review milage and arrival times at stop locations, tweaking where necessary. I also keep track of days of the week and what days attractions are closed.

    Now I go on Pinterest (50 billion items, mostly pictures – I have never looked for a picture of anyplace or thing on Pinterest that I did not find pictures) and look at what I propose to see, the scenery and towns I plan to be in and alternatives in the area. I am looking for charm, history, etc and looking to avoid the “tourist traps” etc. I work with Pinterest and Wikipedia to decide between route and stop options. I make waypoint changes as needed. I continue to tweak as new info comes to light. For this trip I got to this point at the end of April after about 6 weeks of on and off planning. I usually do this while watching TV with my wife which allows instant feedback when making decisions.

    This is a lot of work but I have the time and enjoy it. To go back to the beginning, the plan is nothing but planning can avoid a lot of grief and help you get the most out of your travel funds.

    Next post will be about our travel prep for this trip.
    Last edited by adh3; 05-03-2016 at 12:58 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Part of the fun !

    I, along with many others here, would agree that the trip planning is a fun part of the trip as a whole. I absolutely love 'hunting down' lesser known places. Of course it doesn't have to go to plan and you won't get to see all you have found, but knowledge is not a burden to carry. Then there are those 'magic' places that you just stumble upon, boy I need to start thinking about another road trip !

    Looking forward to reading more.


  4. Default

    What a nice compliment to have a post inspire a new trip. I see already that I have fallen in with kindred spirits. Among our family and friends everyone is of the opinion that we are out of our minds to travel like this.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Hear, hear!

    My kind of planning, especially #4. It is the sort of trip on which I am just about to embark.

    I too am eagerly looking forward to reading this report. Tell your friends that I think they are out of their minds not to travel like this.


  6. Default North by Northwest 2015 Field Report Voyage Prep

    [/B][/B]This site is chock full of great advice that I’m sure includes the preparation stuff in various threads. Other sites and books too. I include it here because this is my first field report on this site so I’m going to commit to a soup-to-nuts approach of our distilled travel experience for comparison with others. In future reports, if I get this type of question I can refer folks here.

    Do you have a reservation? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Depends on season, location, day of the week, uniqueness of the lodging. For this trip I made reservations for the first four days and after that just called ahead on the day of arrival. For our upcoming trip this Summer to New England, Canada and the upper Midwest it won’t get dark until 10PM most of the time and there are many popular locales so I’ve got a reservation for every day. In some cases 90+ days in advance was too late for first choices and in one case I had to revise the trip over three days because of reservation issues. Not only lodging but some attractions as well. All except two are no deposit, cancel without penalty 24 hours in advance.

    Who Knows What When – We are not paranoid but we are superstitious. We keep upcoming trips strictly on a need-to-know basis. Talking about them raises our own expectations and sets us up for disappointment if plans fall through. Once the planning is done we turn to other things and forget about the trip until about 10 days from departure. If other invitations or conflicts are proposed by others we just say “that doesn’t work.” A week or so out we brief two neighbors on our plans, we give one neighbor a key. We tell the credit card banks what our itinerary is to the detail they wish (it varies). We tell the home security company the dates we will be away and update contact info. We fill out the Post Office hold mail notice online. We give our itinerary to one of our children, my wife’s best friend and one of her sisters. We have a modest online personal presence but make no reference to travel plans before or during the trip. No one who does know would make reference to our plans on or offline. I will write elsewhere about the value we place in unplugging.

    Does our carriage await us? Get the vehicle inspected and serviced before you leave. Standard stuff. We know nothing more than the basics about vehicle maintenance and repair. We are fortunate to have a great mechanic that raises the BS flag if some dealership tells us we need three new tires and $800 worth of parts. For this trip we drove our 2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. I met with the mechanic, reviewed the length of the trip, expected climate, road conditions, altitudes expected, how much mountain driving and how much city verses highway driving. He took all that into account, inspected the vehicle, tires, brakes, ran the computer diagnostics, changed the oil and said we were good to go. He was right. One note, our Hyundai has no spare, but we have roadside assistance through our insurance.

    Meds – I have a number of “not optional” prescription meds. I met with my pharmacist in person three weeks before departure (his recommended time point) and reviewed status of refills. He reviewed each prescription and refill date, discussed which needed refilling during the trip, contacted the doctors concerned and my insurance to get permission to refill early and I had what I needed within a week. Before traveling I count out how many pills of each prescription plus 5 additional pills just in case. I travel with my pills in their current prescription bottle. I put excess pills in previous prescription bottles. My pills are always in my “carry on” luggage.

    Why did we bring…? A lifetime of travel and we still can’t resist the temptation to overpack. Both of us. For every type of trip, weekend getaway to 6 month polar expedition. Turns out there is a Walmart even in small towns. If we need something we don’t have we can buy it. We do have some budget constraints but our imaginary roadside destitution is a perpetual fantasy. Maybe it costs a little more than buying it at COSTCO by the gross, but the alternative is perpetually digging around in car and trunk looking for a particular thing. Then there are decisions each night what to load and unload. And the paranoia that we not forget anything we unloaded when loading the next day. For this trip the post-trip remorse was over packing a full size cooler, our own coffee and condiments, our own liquor, our own bar set-ups, our own pillows and blankets, three times more clothing and shoes than we needed, music CDs (we have satellite radio and listened to one CD in three weeks) and a box full of outdated print travel guides. We hope to do better with less this coming trip.

    Your papers please… We take our Passports even when traveling within the US, also military ID (retired USN), drivers licenses. We clean out wallet and purse and only carry three credit cards and one debit card between us. We bring Park Pass, AARP, rewards/discount cards. We bring hard copies of reservation confirmations, credit card 800 numbers, a list of current meds with doctors and phone numbers.

    Grooming the TV – As Baby Boomers we watch TV on our cable provider VCR. We don’t watch TV or listen to the news on this type of road trip. But we un-record daily shows and thin out recorded shows to get the percentage of memory down to a reasonable level. A small thing but important to us.

    Pulling the plug – Over the years we have come to realize how important pulling the plug is to us psychologically when we travel. We each have a pay-by-the-month cell phone and a tablet. My iPad has cellular coverage. If someone we care about needs to get in touch, they can call, text, or email. We don’t call or email personal or work related stuff except rarely. For us traveling is about the here and now with each other. Yeah, I’m a hopeless romantic, I thought my wife might get sick of me after three weeks in our cozy sedan. But as we approached home on this trip we both admitted that, unlike more hurried vacation, we were both willing to just keep going if we didn’t have to stop for “real world” reasons.

    As I said at the beginning, routine for veteran travelers. But perhaps a newbie road warriors may get something here.

    Next post I’ll cover Day One.

  7. Default Day One

    North By Northwest FieldTrip Report Day One

    Departure was set for 5 AM Saturday July 4 2015. At T minus 40 hours Murphy’s Law paid a call. The water heater tank cracked and flooded the utility room. We have a house maintenance contract so we called in a report. They called a plumber, but by terms of the contract the plumber had 48 hours to get in touch. We tried to get the maintenance company to declare our utility room an emergency to over ride the 48 hour rule but they wouldn’t. It wasn’t an emergency. But hey, no harm in asking. What are the chances of getting a plumber on the 4th of July? The plumber came on Monday and replaced the water heater. We spent the weekend mopping up the utility room and bringing in fans to dry it out. We called our home insurance and filed a report just in case we later developed a black mold problem in the sheetrock.

    It’s a testament to our experience that this situation did not fluster us. In fact, we recognized it as a miracle. We had not planned to turn off the hot water or the water to the house and if this had happened after we left we would have faced major remodeling when we got home. The insurance would have covered it but a friend went through a similar event and had their house torn up with construction for six weeks. Lesson learned, turn off the hot water heater and perhaps water to the house. We already raise the thermostat to 85. When we got home we changed Home maintenance contractors. The one we had fulfilled their legal obligation in this case but their “bedside manner” was unsat.

    The reason we have a plan is so we can change it. The original route took us to Artesia NM (overnight) then back into Texas to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, then West along the Texas NM border, across NM on IH 10 (a necessary evil) and into southern AZ thru Douglas to Bisbee (overnight). Day three was leisurely poking around to the West in southern AZ seeing many of the sites so nicely reported & pictured by Pat in her NM and Texas Field report with our third overnight in Ajo, AZ. Day four was moving North thru central AZ, bypassing Tucson to Sedona in time to explore that area before fourth overnight there. Fifth day plan was to travel NE thru Monument Valley, see Four Corners and on to Cortez CO for 5th overnight.

    New departure time 5 AM Tuesday July 7th 2015. A dozen waypoints deleted on the route map and three reservations cancelled and days two, three, four and five are wiped off the map. New plan: Artesia NM (on), North through Eastern NM to Albuquerque (on), North to Farmington NM and West along San Juan River to Four Corners, Monument Valley and Cortez CO for 3rd night. We lost three days at the beginning, but ended up banking 2 days because we have travelled extensively in NM and had little new to see there. We tentatively added a day in Portland and a day in MT but there would be more changes later in the trip.

    So, four paragraphs down in the Day One report we leave the garage. First we must pass through the zone of familiarity. We’ve lived in San Antonio 23 years. Our zone of familiarity has a 300 mile radius in every direction. This calls for breaking the Interstate rule and heading up IH 10 lickity split. My wife, who prefers to be our driver, likes the watch the light change as we drive through the dawn. I used to be a morning person but my meds have changed that so I slept for 200 miles to Ozona.

    At Ozona we turned North on State Highway 163 and then Northwest on State Highway 137. Back when I was planning I had used Google Earth street view to take a 360 degree view of this intersection just for the fun of it. The fence, scrub brush, and highway sign were still the same as Google Earth showed them four months before. We continued NW on 137 merging with US 190 West a couple of miles then turning North following 137 thru Big Lake and Stiles to the intersection of State Highway 158 where we turned NW and entered SW Midland. We got on IH 20 West across Midland and turned North on the Midland Loop 250 on the West side.

    We turned West on access road of State Highway 191, made a uturn to the eastbound access road and stopped for lunch at the Clear Springs Restaurant, a large local roadhouse café with good reviews. I indulged my travel-mode gastronomically-incorrect menu preferences by having chicken fried steak, A reasonably-priced lunch stop with friendly service.

    Before we get back on the road a couple of points. First, I will post some pictures. Some of our own and some from Pinterest. We don’t put as much emphasis on taking pictures as we use to. We use our tablets to take pictures. Whatever we see there is always a better picture of it on Pinterest. I’ll use pictures just to flavor the report. Sometimes I’ll mention and show a picture of something we didn’t see in the area but I mention in case others are interested. The second point is that I will write a paragraph each day about something related to our travel that is nonspecific about the day’s route and sites. Today’s topic is our navigational aids.

    Navigation - I never cease to wonder at the power of the internet. I’ve come to think of my iPad as a magic mirror I can ask any question of and its answer is drawn from the collective knowledge of humanity as of “today.” Of course it IS the internet and in the past twenty-two years I have come to know that it is a powerful but dangerous beast. I have to pick the right, reliable link of multiple possible answers. When it comes to the internet I follow Reagan’s advise about arms control treaties – trust but verify. Our Hyundai has satellite GPS. We set in intermediate destinations as we travel daily. Sometimes we let it talk to us. Sometimes we like to see how far it will go in telling us to turn around at every service road and go back to the last point we deviated from. That gets old quickly though and the great thing about taking computers is they don’t sulk when you tell them to stick a sock in it. Its not AI. If we depended on it we would get lost locally and on long trips many times. My iPad has Wifi and cellular connectivity. I estimate we had a signal about 95% of the time on this trip. To supplement the car GPS I use several navigation apps. On this trip I used Apple Maps, Google Maps, Waze, and inRoute. I always had one or more of these apps open in my lap. For hard copy back-up I had a 1998 Rand McNally Atlas.

    Heading NW out of Midland we took State Hwy 158 through Goldsmith headed for FM 181 North. A couple of miles West of Goldsmith we realized the possibility of finding gas in the next 100 miles was slim and the miles to empty was 60. We got 35 mpg on this trip. We turned around and went back to Goldsmith. A small husk of a town with two out-of-business stations on the highway. Midland was 15 miles back. We stopped at a convenience store and asked about gas. Turns out there is a unique fueling stop for farm and ranch trucks and equipment on FM 866 on the east edge of town. Turn South on FM 866 and it is a couple of blocks on the right. No sign to tell what company (turns out to be a local coop or something). Two pumps unlike anything we had seen. We had to ask directions and in the end a young rancher had to come over and help. We paid inside with AMEX (our gas card) and were on our way. Gasoline, its not just at gas stations any more.

    This is Permian Basin oil country and we were surrounded by rocker pumping stations. The price of oil had not collapsed yet and most were bobbing merrily doing their thing. This is what we used to call “boring” scenery. But with the internet at hand we have discovered layers of interest unseen before. I already used my free paragraph today. Tomorrow I’ll write about using the iPad information witch to find interesting things where they are not apparent to the unknowing eye.

    West of Goldsmith we took FM 181 North to Texas 176 and turned NW to cross into NM near Eunice NM. For those who don’t drive in Texas, its State and FM roads are excellent and can be travelled at speed. Seeing other vehicles is rare. Texas countryside driving courtesy is to maintain speed and move right partially onto paved shoulder when others come up from behind to allow the other driver to pass even if no oncoming traffic is present. A wave in the rear view is the response from passing driver. Its not as common as it used to be. In other places I have tried to use this courtesy but it does not seem to work. The approaching vehicle slows down and follows me. Perhaps assuming that I am drunk, high, texting, talking, watching movies, reading email or any other of the countless ways I can exercise by my constitutional right to ignore my responsibility to maintain control of my vehicle and maintain situational awareness. Now I’ve got that off my chest.

    From Eunice we turned north on NM 16, took NM 207 into Hobbs and turned southwest on US 180. Our intent was to cut NW on NM 529 to US 82 and then west into Artesia. But 529 was closed for paving so we had to follow 180 SW into Carlsbad before turning north on US 285. It was not that much of a detour. But my inner navigation sense is delicate and starts throbbing if I am required to go even a few miles in a direction I don’t want to go. In the spirit of road-tripping I keep this impulse in check when traveling. But at the end of the day my homing instincts take over and I am focused on getting to the “barn”.

    I had initially looked to stop in Carlsbad on day one. We saw the the caverns decades ago with our kids. There are a lot of motels but come to find out they all have been rode hard and put away wet. The online reviews were uniformly bad. Noise, unmaintained, unclean, unwelcoming, and expensive. Turns out that in addition to heavy cavern-visitor traffic the oil boom has brought in lots of West Texas roughnecks who live in Carlsbad hotels on a semi-permanent basis. But every cloud has a silver lining and the Carlsbad hotel wasteland took me to Artesia, a charming but limited alternative. So Artesia was the day one stop from the beginning of planning.

    Driving north on US 285 from Carlsbad to Artesia we followed the right bank of the Pecos river. I never knew my right bank from my left until a park ranger in Montana told us that you face in the direction the water is flowing to figure out which bank you are on. I like rivers. The Pecos is interesting hydrologically, the geology it flows through is interesting, and a lot of interesting history has takin place in its drainage area. Down at the confluence with the Rio Grande it has cut a narrow but spectacular gorge a few hundred feet deep. Its not the Grand Canyon, but that area has been inhabited for a very long time. We have friends who are amateur archeologists who made repeated trips to the mouth of the Pecos to look for arrowheads and artifacts. Anyway, the Pecos between Carlsbad and Artesia was pretty but tame. A couple of small dams.

    Artesia is a beautiful small town whose downtown has been completely restored by Permian Basin oil money. Not in taxes, but by a corporate or individual good Samaritan. Not Old West but first half of the Twentieth Century. Lodging is limited but the pick of the litter stands out. The Heritage Inn beats all other choices by a mile. Occupying a three story building right off the main intersection. Owned at the time by I believe the Good Samaritan, it was managed by a couple from Syracuse NY who lived on the top floor. There is only one room on the ground floor along with a large rec/TV/breakfast room. The “lobby” and all other rooms are on the second floor. We were very pleased with our room and enjoyed sitting on the newly build redwood deck out back on the second floor. No view but a quiet spot. BBQ grill also. We had our daily adult beverage there in the evening light and we took our continental breakfast out there. The managers returned the night we arrived from a road-trip to Syracuse NY. They came out on the deck to greet us and we talked for 15-20 minutes. They were negotiating with the owner to buy the Inn and had lots of ideas to add and upgrade. They have a good website. I highly recommend it.

    There were a couple of interesting small restaurants. We ate out of our cooler for dinner and ate the continental breakfast at the hotel. We walked around downtown in the evening and were quite charmed. It was very quiet. With Carlsbad just to the south, Roswell just to the north and the Lincoln National Forest, Cloudcroft, and Alamogordo/White Sands just to the West, Artesia is a great base from which to explore this corner of NM. At the end of the trip we voted Artesia one of the top three places we stayed overnight.

    No pictures today. You can google or look on Pinterest if interested in places mentioned. As you see, I am long-winded. But I have the time, like to communicate by writing and take comfort that posting on the web is not relating vacation stories to a captured audience at the water cooler.

    Tomorrow will be day two.
    Last edited by adh3; 05-04-2016 at 03:04 PM. Reason: typo

  8. Default Day Two

    Wednesday, July 8, 2015

    It occurs to me that if I’m going to be so wordy it might help busy folks to figure out if there is anything they are interested in each post. So I will start each day’s post with a summary.

    Day Two Summary: Artesia NM – Cloudcroft NM – White Sands National Monument - Alamogordo NM – US 54 North – Trinity Site - Albuquerque NM.

    This day was too long. Or perhaps we had yet to get our road trip legs. Or because we went to 8600 ft at Cloudcroft and down again. Anyway, we got to Albuquerque after dark and hungry.

    We had our hotel provided Continental breakfast at the Heritage Inn on the back deck described in day one. We loaded up and set out West on US 82. Because I knew the altitude of Cloudcroft, I had asked the managers of the Heritage Inn about the road to Cloudcroft and possibility of fog. Road was great and not treacherous and the possibility of fog in July was insignificant.

    Our house is at 1, 000 ft. Artesia is at 3,380 ft, Cloudcroft 8,600 ft, Alamogordo is at 4,336 ft. Altitude interests me. Cloudcroft in on top of the Sacramento Mountains. The climb from the east was shallow grades and few curves. I don’t remember any sweeping vistas on this side, but perhaps they are apparent going east. Cloudcroft is a tiny artist’s colony and because it is on top there is no sense of altitude (except perhaps if you are a heavy smoker or have health problems. We didn’t feel the altitude but we only stopped for 30 minutes before starting down.
    The village is settled in what seems like steep wooded hills. There are no vistas. It was around 9:30AM. We were the only one’s there. I wandered into a souvenir shop that a lady was opening. I said howdy, looked around and decided to splurge on a $3 little bear. (Cloudcroft is in the Southern Unit of Lincoln National Forest. The black bear cub that became Smokey the Bear was rescued from a fire in this forest back in the day,) Anyway, I take my trophy bear back to the counter and strike up a conversation with the proprietor. Turns out she lived in San Antonio. So we talked for 15-20 minutes. She reminisced about San Antonio and I asked about Cloudcroft. My wife came in and said hello. At the end I presented my credit card. She was having a hard time opening her register for the day. It was something new and electronic. I said I’d get cash from my wife. She said no, just take it. I asked if she was sure. She wrinkled her nose, smiled and gave a little wave. Its fine hon, she said, I sell lots of them every day. I just love small towns!.

    Below, Cloudcroft NM –our picture.


    The drive down the mountain to Alamogordo is dramatic. We went through a short tunnel and the vistas began intermittently. 4,000 feet below, Alamogordo, Holloman AFB, White Sands – brilliant in the morning sun.. Initially a narrow arc of view but widening as you go down so that passengers feel like they are looking out a plane window. The driver should be encouraged to keep their eyes on the road. The drop off is to the right. It is immediate, precipitous and deep. But there is a low stone wall and we had no sense of danger. However, I’m sure a 2012 Hyundai Sonata, given sufficient fuel motivation and a poke in the right direction, could get us to the bottom of the cliff in a timely fashion. We’ve been on a lot of narrow, winding mountain roads in our day where we held our breath. This was not one of them. The grade was sometimes as steep as 5%. Road engineering interests me. There are only two or three “scenic view” turn outs on the right. They are large but they come with little notice. Other than these points, there is no place to stop off the roadway.

    We drove straight through and out to White Sands, arriving about 11AM. The National Park Service and all they oversee is a national treasure. They are understaffed and their parks, monuments and historical sites are under-maintained and increasingly unable to handle increasing crowds at popular locations. Please write your congress person about this issue. Informative visitor center about the monument. This monument’s name is misleading. This is not sand as at the beach or desert. It is gypsum flakes that feel like powdered snow. It is brilliantly white and has its own ecology of plants and animals. It is the largest of this type of geologic formation in the world. In a breeze it blows like snow and in high winds the Park Services closes the Monument (Visitor Center stays open) due to low visibility on monument roads. It also closes occasionally due to test firing at the adjacent White Sands Missile Range. Check the website ahead of time. The Park Service rents bobsleds to sled on the dunes. I thought we should go sledding. My wife thought we should not get gypsum flakes in her car. We stayed in the car. For us it was a memorable stop.

    Below, White Sands NM – Our Picture

    We went back to Alamogordo for a late lunch. Holloman AFB is the home of state of the art fighter squadrons. Current military hardware does not interest me as much as it did when I was in the Navy, The fighters are not visible from the highway that I could see nor did I see any fighters in the air. In Alamogordo we went to “Memories” on New York Ave for lunch. It was OK.

    Todays general road trip paragraph is about the roads beneath our wheels. Roads interest me. During this trip I learned that every US and State Highway, every Interstate and every Scenic By Way has its own Wikipedia page. There are many famous roads. Route 66, The Natchez Trace, The Blue Ridge Parkway come to mind. But every road has a story and is a part of our lives when we travel. Today, for the first time, or at other times and other places in our lives. For instance, turning south onto US 83 in Minot ND fills me with wonder and brings back a flood of memories. Built (designated) in 1926 it runs for 1894 miles from Brownsville TX to the Canadian Border in the middle of North Dakota. I first travelled this road as a newborn in 1950 when my parents brought me home from the hospital. I’ve travelled every mile of it between Kansas and Brownsville. The Texas portion of US 83 has its own Wikipedia article.. At 895 miles it is the longest highway in Texas, 16 miles longer than IH 10. Every State portion of an Interstate and some other highways have thier own Wikipedia page.

    The Wikipedia page “Portal:U.S. Roads” is an excellent resource for Interstates, US Highways, State Highways and Scenic by-ways. This portal is a subset of a much larger portal with many other portals. In the “roads” sub-portal alone many other counties are discussed including Canada, Mexico, Australia etc.

    On the second day of this trip we rode on US 82 ( 1934, 1,609 miles from Brunswick GA to Alamogordo NM), US 54 (1926, 1,197 miles from El Paso to near Griggsville IL. Until the ‘70s the northern terminus was Chicago), and IH 40 (2,555.10 miles from Benson NC on IH95 to Barstow CA on IH 15). At Carrizozo we crossed US 380 (this auxiliary route of US 80 was designated in 1926 and runs 673 miles between Greenville TX at IH 30 and San Antonio NM AT IH 25. So on this trip, and on future trips, each highway, interstate or byway we drove on or intersected with we consulted Wikipedia, reviewed basic stats and reminisced about when and where we had travelled each road before. Road history, and railroads are other topics we discuss. You get the idea.

    We drove North on US 54. Because we have been through NM so much, I am bypassing so many sites and activities in this area we have seen or don’t have reason to visit. Especially recreational and outdoor stuff. This is an under-visited and under-appreciated area.

    In researching this trip I came across a very interesting site that is only open to the public once a year. Trinity Site, the location of the first test of an atomic bomb in the summer of 1945. The Manhattan Project interests me. It is a National Historical Landmark and on the List of National Historic Places. It is several miles south of US 380 which crosses US 54 at Carrizozo NM. It is on the White Sands Missile Range. Visitors who attend the one day annual open house (one day in April as I remember) see a historic ranch house connected to the event and visit the obelisk that marks the place of the explosion. Those who spend one hour at the site during the visit receive one half of the radiation a US adult receives in one day from natural and medical sources. I was amazed that the first open house was in 1954 and attended by 650 people. It was designated a landmark and historical site much later. Wikipedia has a long article and the NPS site gives official info.

    Below, two pics from Pinterest.

    As we drove North toward IH 40, the desert ecology transforms into farms. Lots of horse raising around there.

    We arrived after dark in Albuquerque where we stayed in an unimpressive chain hotel and ate late at an unmemorable chain restaurant.

    Next - Day Three.

  9. Default North by Northwest Field Report Day 3

    Thursday, July 8, 201

    We had stayed at a Fairfield Inn at the intersection of IH-40 and IH-26 the second night. I have no memories of it so I assume it was unmemorable, which is ok. We ate their continental breakfast, loaded up, and headed north on IH 25 about 8 AM. Although we have been through Albuquerque many times, we have not ever stopped and looked around. There is a lot to see and do, but this trip was about avoiding cities.

    Going north on IH-25 we turned left on US 550 at Bernalillo NM, crossed the Rio Grande River and continued NW to Bloomfield NM which is on the right bank bank of the San Juan River. Bloomfield is 170 miles north-northwest of Albuquerque. I note in passing than in planning for this trip I learned there are number of places of interest further north off to the left of IH 25 and the right of US 550. Between the interstate and US 550 are the Jemez Mountains with peaks 11,000 feet. In these mountains are Bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos, and
    Valles Caldera National Preserve. I had made the difficult decision to by-pass those for time reasons. Further northeast are Santa Fe, Taos, and Angelfire. We have been to those and they are first class destinations. As I said in the day 2 post, NM is under appreciated as a travel destination.

    We turned left at Bloomfield on US 64. We stopped in Farmington NM for lunch at a Tequila’s Mexican Restaurant which was good. Mexican food in NM differs from Mexican Food in Texas or other places in The US . They use Green Hatch chiles here and the taste difference is significant.

    After lunch we continued west on US 64 following the San Juan River. To the north the San Juan Mountains still were well capped with snow in Southern Colorado. This is the first snow we had seen. To the south, Shiprock dominates the landscape for miles around. Shiprock is on the Navajo Nation and cannot be visited without special permits I believe.

    To get to Four Corners National Monument from the east we entered AZ, turned right on US 160, reentered the extreme NW corner of NM and turned left on 4 Corners Monument Rd. This monument is also on Native American land. There is a parking fee ($6 I believe). The 4 Corners marker is about 20 yards NW of the parking lot. There was a semicircle of souvenir stands and people around the marker taking pictures. We decided this was memorable only in a vaguely negative sort of way, declared geographic victory, and drove on.

    We backtracked southwest into AZ and turned right on US 64 headed for Monument Valley. From US 64 we had two choices for seeing Monument Valley: 1) turn right on US 160 and enter UT, then left on US 163 after crossing the San Juan River. Follow US 163 along the river then recross the river to the south and approach Monument Valley from the north. 2) Turn north on US 163 from US 160 in AZ (most logical if traveling east). You can drive south on US 163 and pass through Monument Valley traveling north. If you don’t go clockwise around the 20 mile route in option 1, I recommend you at least go 5 miles or so to the north and take pictures from the small hill unpaved view turnout west of the highway. From here the view is iconic. However, I recommend following option one because you come to the valley from a distance which is more impressive with all buttes seen simultaneously. With option 2 you come upon the first butte suddenly and closely and don’t sense the majesty of the place until you drive through and out some miles to the north. Monument Valley is an iconic filming location and seen in many westerns among others.

    Returning to northern AZ on US 163. We turned left on US 160 and, passing the intersection of US64, we continued past the 4 Corner Monument and into southwest CO. Of interest, the intersection of US 160 and US 64 is the western end of US 64. From that intersection US 64 runs 2,326 miles east to the outer banks of North Carolina.

    We followed US 160 to Cortez CO where we spent the 3rd night at the Best Western Turquoise Inn & Suites which was good. I never realized that economy of SW CO was so agriculturally based.

    Next time day four.

  10. Default North by Northwest Field Report Day Four

    Friday July 10, 2016

    Summary: Mesa Verde National Park – Canyonlands National Park – Provo Utah

    Today was one of the highlights of the trip. From Cortez we drove east a few miles to the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park. We stopped at the Visitor Center and then drove south to Cliff Palace. Sometime sites don’t live up to your expectations and sometimes they exceed them. Cliff Palace definitely exceeded our expectations. Much bigger than we had appreciated from pictures. Amazingly located behind a curving peninsula of rock, it is hidden from almost every angle. This accounts for the fact that it was not “discovered” until the early part of the twentieth century by two cowboys looking for stray cattle.

    From Mesa Verde we backtracked west to Cortez on US 160 and turned northwest on US 491 which lead us into Utah. At Monticello UT we turned North on US 191 toward Canyonlands. Arches National Park is across Highway 191. We didn’t have time for both parks and chose Canyonlands because the NPS website said Arches was crowded the day we were there. We were pleased with our choice. The road that leads to Canyonlands (313) is quite scenic. We visited the Island in the Sky portion of the park. We stopped at the visitor center and then drove a number miles south to the Grandview overlook. As we drove south we were on an increasingly narrow peninsula between the Colorado River valley and the Green River valley. Vistas of these valleys opened with increasing frequency. There were viewing turnouts on both sides of the road. Grandview itself was jaw-dropping. Not nearly as deep as Grand Canyon but spectacular never the less.

    We versed course and exited the Park, turning north on US 191. We continued north to IH 70 where we turned west to Green River then continued north on US 191 to the intersection of US 89. We followed US 89 down off the plateau we were on, through the mountains to Spanish Fork UT. Although US 89 was four lane on this section and the curves were gradual, the road was 6% at some places. In the twilight this made for a thrilling ride since he traffic was moving at 50 mph or so.

    We stayed overnight in Provo at a Super 8 across the Street from Brigham Young University.

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