Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tuba City, Arizona to Monument Valley to Cortez, Colorado

(Our southwest trip started May 1. All of my posts were written as the trip went along but were not posted live until we returned. If you want to read all the posts related to the trip, click on "southwest" in the label section below).

Our destination after the Grand Canyon was Monument Valley. I did not have a hotel reservation which did turn out to be an issue. It was Memorial Day weekend and I could not find availability in Monument Valley at either The View Hotel, which is actually on the Navajo reservation or at Gouldings, located across from the entrance to Monument Valley. Another alternative was Kayenta, AZ, about 20 miles southwest of the valley. No availability there either.

We ended up spending the night at Tuba City, AZ, a very non-memorable place and further from Monument Valley than I wanted to be. With no place appetizing to eat, except for a McDonald's and a place like 7-11, we ate dinner out of the cooler.

Our drive from Tuba City to Monument Valley was quite interesting. Essentially we drove through desert and a lot of nothing except strong winds, driving the sand across the road to a point where visibility dropped to about 5 car lengths. Getting in and out of the car was miserable. We would have to take turns opening the car door because if doors were open on both sides of the car, the wind blew in sand and blew out anything not tied down. The sand got into our hair and clung to our skin. It was pretty awful and I was not a happy camper.

We finally made it to Monument Valley and, after paying our entrance fee, had a choice of doing the valley drive ourselves or taking a guided drive. The woman who took our money at the entrance looked at our car (an SUV w/ decently high clearance) and said we should be just fine.

Well, we were but it was an incredibly nerve wracking drive. We had been forewarned by a friend whose son had visited recently and the road was just as horrible as he had described. Huge ruts. Big holes. We are convinced the road is kept in this horrid condition so the tourists will sign up with the guides if they really want to see the park.

The self-drive starts out as a two way road, and then becomes a one way loop. The beginning of the two way road is steep and the ruts were so bad I was afraid I'd bottom out and/or get hung up. While we considered what to do, we watched a truck head down the steep road and the driver safely navigated this section by zig-zaging back and forth across the road. Knowing the secret I decided to give it a try and we successfully made it to the end of the two way section.

At that point my husband nixed our going on the one way loop ... suppose we came to a section that was even worse and I wasn't comfortable taking my car through? So we returned the way we had come, having 'seen' Monument Valley.

According to my itinerary, we had another day in this area as I thought it would be much more scenic. Instead, we backtracked to Kayenta and headed east to the four corners monument. Being on Indian land, there was a fee to enter. The monument looks pretty new, with a disk in the ground marking where the corners of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah meet. Surrounding the monument were flags and craft booths, with lots of Indian made jewelry and artwork.

By this point we had enough of the wind and the desert and the sand and were ready to move beyond this type of terrain in a hurry. We looked at the map and took the shortest route possible to Cortez, CO, very ready to get into the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado.

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