It’s been over a month since posting on here and that’s because we haven’t been sitting around long enough to type this stuff down. Time has now arrived to give it a crack…
We sat in 1024 East for a few days whilst Mark eyeballed dream bikes and mused over cliffs rides and enchiladas (the Moab kind). Reality struck and a plan to at least ride Durango was made. As a warm up, a spin on the Road Apple in Farmington and the Alien Run in Aztec were conducted. Whilst some have blogged that these are just big BMX tracks, I love them for it, and after seeing Durango and Moab (below) I do prefer the fast flowing single track – must be missing the speed as I’d normally have with engine power!
Durango was next: time to get into the hills – well, let’s call them mountains – and do some riding. Surprisingly the 10,000ft elevation was not too difficult though as Murphy’s Law would have it, a flat occurred on the first ride. Turns out the Stan’s ‘no flats goo’ had expired after 3 months! Engineer Mountain trail and Molas section of the Colorado trail were ridden and are amazing. By far the most amazing bit was the Alice in Wonderland flowers that grow above head height with the trail weaving through them.
Moab also had to be tried and after the usual bike choice delays we hit the MOAB trails and then Slickrock. My lasting memory will be the first proper hill at Slickrock that is about 10m high with 40 degree off camber rock, turns out you can just ride down it but a few minutes were spent psyching up for it. The rest of the trail had similar hills to go down and up and is a great experience that all MTBikers need to complete. The other achievement for Moab was getting out to the delicate arch after missing it on my previous 4 tries. Even got some photos of it!
Vegas: The target was to get Lacey out to Zion Canyon and do both Angels Landing and the Narrows. Our hire car was the first experience, a Mercury Grand Marquis, apparently a 2009 model that looked like it was out of the 70’s and had a boot sufficient for at least 2 bodies. Whilst we can bemoan the fuel guzzling V8 power, it makes for a smooth ride and a car that can dispatch speed bumps that way has to be tried to be believed. We only made it to Angels after a travel distance miscalculation, but it did mean we were back in town for a Black Bear Diner feed and some hot tub relaxation.
California: It’s a busy place and needs a different approach as there are no quiet corners. We tried Sequoia Park – it has big trees (as you’d expect). We missed Kings Canyon due to delays and swung through Yosemite again. California has a bear on its flag – I was a bit skeptical about this choice, but whilst taking some photos in Yosemite Valley (where the camp sites and hotel are) a bear and its cub wandered past the bridge we were on and continued on down to the campground! Guess they can justify the flag.
The drive from Vegas west was to meet Lacey in the Napa Valley. She was flying over for Opening the Kimono, an entrepreneurs event held at the Meritage Resort. The resort worked well for me as I could spa, swim and laze around, which was what I needed after 10 weeks on the road. Unfortunately, the Meritage food met Americans standards of quality requiring trips into Napa to eat. Luckily some great food is available in town, look up the tapas on main if you are there. My Napa highlight was hearing a big block again: it has been a few years and there is no better sound than big pistons spewing fuel out truck pipes. See my favourite car of the show below.
After a couple of warm-ups (Ouray and Santa Fe) it was time to hit the road on Tuesday 21 June for the Filipich Road Trip. Adam had been planning for weeks, and Mario and Jeneen were relishing the opportunity to see some of the diverse landscape of the States. The map below roughly shows the trip, minus meanderings, mistakes and repeats:
Yep, it was HUGE! Here’s the key stats:
- 6,000+ miles (Google tells me it’s 4750 miles, so we must have done a fair bit of wandering off the track)
- 2 cars (first one broke)
- 2 countries
- 15 states
- 2 land border crossings
- 2 public holidays (Canada Day and Independence Day)
- 16 national parks – Yellowstone, Glacier (USA), Kootenays, Jasper, Banff, Yoho, Yosemite, Grand Canyon… the list goes on
- 25 hotels/motels (or maybe more… they all blend into one another after a while)
- Too many amazing sights to name (or count!)
In fact, there were so many sights we decided to split them up into 4 separate posts that follow this one, be sure to check them out:
- Flora and Fauna
- Lakes and Mountains
- Moving Water
Here’s the stuff that didn’t fit into those posts:
Okay, we’re exhausted just looking at these photos! It was a truly epic adventure. We farewelled Jeneen and Mario on Wednesday, and four hours later welcomed Mark – so there will be more travels to come. We promise to update the blog more promptly next time…
Wow, this is so long and so many miles ago, I’m gonna have to work hard to remember what happened… mental note: update blog more regularly!
We welcomed Jeneen and Mario (Mum and Dad to Adam) to Farmington on Monday. The week was spent exploring the local area and getting over jet lag, with enough time for a trip through the gorgeous hills of Durango, Silverton and Ouray. We took advantage of my Friday off for a slightly longer trip down the arty end of New Mexico: Santa Fe. We’d heard great things about the state capital and purely by coincidence managed to pick the weekend of the Arts and Crafts festival. Bonus! We spent a fair bit of the weekend wandering the streets admiring the local architecture.
We did some of the obligatory tourist things – walked around the markets, ate delicious food, drank tasty margaritas, and generally soaked up the laid-back vibe. There was plenty to see – too much in fact! After the 10th jewellery stall, I gave up looking for something to buy, and after the 20th I stopped looking at jewellery full stop and just started admiring the weird and wonderful stuff instead…
We visited the old church in town to admire the miracle staircase – pretty funky, though it originally looked much more impressive without the bannisters. Seems the nuns were too scared to traverse it without them, so they were added a couple of years after construction. Don’t be fooled though – it’s a self supporting structure of two full spirals (hence the ‘miracle’ part of the name).
By Sunday, we were arted out and ready for the mostly-not-arty Farmington. From there, one day of rest to prepare for the epic road trip…
Albuquerque (Al-boo-kir-kee) is roughly 165 miles south and slightly east of Farmington. We decided to head down this weekend at the last minute when we learned the biggest Pow Wow in the country was on. It’s called the Gathering of Nations, and more than 140 Native American Nations from the USA and Canada congregate at The Pit (University of New Mexico’s basketball stadium) for a few days of what might be compared to the Ekka or the Royal Show. There’s dancing, drumming, the crowning of Miss India World. The costumes are fantastic, as is the atmosphere with the drums pounding.
Unlike the Ekka and Royal Show, there’s no Sideshow Alley or showbags. There are, however, over 800 vendors selling their wares. The coolest stall by far was Hawkquest, where we got to see this national icon up close:
Her six foot wing span was pretty awe-inspiring. As you’ll notice, she’s not actually bald. This is a classic case of misinterpreting the local language; in this instance we misunderstood the word ‘balde’, which means ‘white’.
We had lots of tips on places to visit, particularly on the food front (thanks Nikolai and Jason!) In my mind, Albuquerque will forever more be the place of the Elvis milkshake – peanut butter and banana – at Route 66 Diner. It was a serving so big I only managed 75% of it, and couldn’t face dinner four hours later. At 11am the next day, I still wasn’t hungry. The diner was a great experience in itself – black and white tiled floor, Pez dispensers everywhere and wait staff in dirty ’50s outfits.
Other dining highlights included El Pinto (New Mexican) and Il Vicino (Italian). We did manage to fit some non-gastronomic events: on Saturday morning we decided to head up the ‘hill’ (a mountain by our standards, 10,378ft) on the Sandia Peak Tramway as we got some good weather. It’s the world’s longest cable car system: one of the spans is 1.5 miles between towers! It was a short but sweet visit – Albuquerque is flat and lacks definition when you’re 4,000 feet above it so there’s not a lot of looking to do. I wasn’t exactly equipped to take advantage of the beautiful hiking trails: went up in my flip-flops, temp was around 27 deg Fahrenheit. Planning fail.
Turned out it was a good think we picked Saturday – Sunday was freezing! The drive home was far more interesting than the drive down: it was snowing for at least half of the journey!
Albu-Quirky: we’ll miss your food. We’ll definitely be back for the Balloon Fiesta in October, and we’ll starve ourselves for the week prior so we can partake of all you have to offer.
Another stunning Saturday, another chance to hit the road. This time, Adam had planned out a 300+ mile route which would take us into four states and some spectacular scenery. The first major attraction was the Four Corners – it’s the only place in the US where four states meet at a single point. We queued up for the obligatory shots (see below), bought some very impressive jewellery, and that’s about it for that stop.
Adam had planned the journey well. We wound our way through the mesa (which can get rather repetitive, so I won’t put in another photo). We followed the San Juan River from Farmington through the first part of the journey, and it has created some amazing land formations. Occasionally while driving, we’d spot cavernous canyons and jutting formations that looked like the land had simply been cut in half and one side lifted. This place is a geologist’s wet dream. Nothing was quite as awe-inspiring as the view that awaited at Mulie Point… The San Juan snakes its way through the landscape, creating what’s known as the Goosenecks. From above, they’re beautiful, if hard to understand (where are those geos when you need them to explain something!)
We ate our lunch sitting on the edge of the cliff. The fractures are perfectly straight and quite astounding – there are rocks several tonnes each perching precariously which are the shape of boxes. It seems impossible until you see it.
We made our way down the hill – more switch-backs and sheer drops – to see the Goosenecks up close. Its’ hard to believe a river would take such a long, meandering path (it must be at least three times as long as the distance between it’s start and finish) but the effect is nothing short of stunning.
From there, we headed south towards the Utah/Arizona border, through Monument Valley. We didn’t exactly pick the best direction or time of day (into the sun at around 6pm) but the effect was still incredible. How these formations have remained after millions of years of rain, wind and snow, I have no idea. We drove through the Valley with our jaws hitting the dashboard.
As we turned around to head home, we saw a town called Mexican Hat on the map. We’ve had a lot of entertainment looking at the names of towns in this area – we will definitely be visiting a town in New Mexico called “Truth and Consequences” simply to get a photo of the sign (and hopefully an explanation of the unusual choice of name). We didn’t realise that Mexican Hat has a namesake:
Nine hours in the car altogether, but definitely worth it.
It’s been 16 days since we jumped on the plane in Sydney and I think we timed our arrival just right: we flew into a desert town sitting in a water-carved groove in the bare and inhospitable mesa, and now we’re looking at trees covered in green leaves and colourful blooms. Spring is definitely on the way.
The days have been variable – we’ve had sandstorms, heat sufficient for thongs (the Aussie kind), shorts and a t-shirt, rain, freezing conditions – and the nights have been cold outside (sub-zero on occasion) but of course, lovely and warm inside. It promises to be a hot, dry summer. I’m learning not to dodge the tumbleweeds as I drive to work, even though some of them are higher than the bonnet of the car!
The town is around 50,000 people and very spread out. The town is mostly Navajo and Hispanic, so we stick out like sore thumbs. The people are (I’m told) typical small-town folk; we’ve found them very friendly and laid back, though most of them seem to spend a significant portion of their free time shopping. For a town of its size, it’s got incredible facilities for the consumer:
- Not one, but TWO (!!!) 24 hour Walmarts (they’re both like walking into a Coles, Kmart and Bunnings under one roof – immense!)
- Multiple department stores – there’s the equivalent of 3 Myers just in one mall! – scattered across town
- Acres of car dealerships – one of them is the size of all Perth’s car yards rolled into one
And stuff is CHEAP! Secondhand vehicles less than 3 years old are selling on the corner for less than $3,000. You can fill a shopping trolley to the brim with groceries for less than $200, and, like everything else we’ve seen, the trolleys are HUGE!
We’ve found a cute house to live in – 3 bed/2 bath so plenty of room for visitors, hint hint – and have spent the week enjoying having our own space and not having to cook in a microwave.
The food’s… reasonable. I guess anything was going to be a letdown after 3 months in the south west wine region 🙂 No shortage of restaurants to try though, and by far the best service I’ve ever experienced (must be the $8/hr waitresses and bar staff get paid). Good thing too, because the beer sucks.
One of the best things about Farmington is its location. Yes, it’s 1100km from the nearest beach, in a desert, at 1700m above sea level… but we’re within 6 hours of the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon and Arches National Park. Its called the Four Corners region because we’re less than 30km from the point where New Mexico meets three other states – Colorado, Utah and Arizona – and less than an hour from a gorgeous town called Durango (will post about our adventures there shortly).We can fly direct to a number of places, albeit in a plane that seats 24.
Let the exploration begin!