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Day Ten: Have You Seen the Desert Anywhere?

Arizona has been good to me so far. Today was a simple, easy day. Left Show Low not too early, not too late and had a nice leisurely drive to the Painted Desert National Park. I had a vague inkling of what I was getting into from my research, but the reality more than matched the expectation...

Basically, there's a huge beautiful desert.
Some of it used to be a forest and has tons of petrified trees. Other parts are very sandy. Other parts are very rocky. Other parts used to have a river and a prehistoric town. Other parts have rocks with petroglyphs on them. Other parts have volcanic rock. Other parts are rock and sand from red mud... it's boggling! You basically ride down this road in the middle of nowhere (yep been there a few times lately) and every couple miles there is a little side road for a mile or two that takes you to an overlook where you get to see something completely different. At every stop you're overwhelmed by the sheer amazing nature of it. This happens a solid 8-10 times.

It's really quite an experience. As you can see from some of the pictures, I got to the point where I stopped taking off my gear at every stop because it was just too much of a hassle! Really, the only downside to the whole thing was that it was fairly cold, otherwise it was pretty bloody incredible. Who knew there could be so much character and variety to the desert?

One thing that really struck me was looking at the remains of the prehistoric town and the size of all the rooms. The largest room, a "large ceremonial chamber" (called a kiva) was maybe ten feet by ten feet. Thinking back, the Gila cliff dwellings were very similar. It made me wonder - at what point in our evolution did we start caring so much about having our own personal space to live in constantly instead of spending our time outside in the world? These people basically used their houses as shelter and sleeping quarters - that's it! Anything else to be done was done outside. Such a simpler way to live.

So, with the Petrified Forest done, it was time to plan my route - head towards a bigger city (Flagstaff) and Meteor Crater, or off into the wilderness? Well, based on the weather I decided the former. So I cranked it up the Interstate again (ugh!) to Meteor Crater. Almost skipped it, but decided, hey let's do it.

I kinda have mixed feelings on it! I didn't like the fact that it is commercialized, with a "museum" and a theater showing fancy CGI recreations of the impact, and speakers telling you all about it from the parking lot... oh, and TWO Subway sandwich shops inside! Blah blah blah. Not interesting to me, sorry. I was especially peeved that I had to pay $15 (most expensive "thing" I've done on this trip so far) to cover the costs of all this lame stuff... oh well.

Now, the crater itself... holy kaboolie! It's HUUUUGE. Just, splat, a giant crater. As you ride up to it you can see this thing rising up in the middle of the desert and it seems like a hill, but at the same time it doesn't quite look right. I don't know if that's because I knew it or what, but it really looked unnatural. Then when you walk out from the museum and see it... poof, it's HUUUGE! The pictures do not do this place justice. It is pretty wicked. I mean, it's a huge hole in the ground from a meteor, wicked cool but what else can I say about it?

After that, on to Flagstaff. Grabbed a motel right near the city (unfortunately big mistake since this is a very touristy area, with 89 to both Grand Canyon Rims as well as Historic Route 66 rolling through here), expensive but better than the cold. Rolled out to a nearby mall that I spotted hoping to find some gear, no luck. Rolled the other way and hit historic downtown, which was kinda cool. Couldn't find anything neat though, so started to head back. On the way back I spotted this hiking/camping/hunting gear store though! Sweet, u-turn and walked up in there... and yep they had exactly what I needed.

So I grabbed a pair of North Face cold weather pants (for the record, I noticed when I got back to the motel that I accidentally picked up W instead of M - but hey, they fit well and show off my girlish figure so...) and an inner fleece top. $200 gone but that should rock things out - the dudes at the store agreed, the pants especially should help. I also found out while I was there that apparently they are expecting it to snow on the North Rim this Sunday... so, uh, gonna have to check that out and figure out my plans!

Fat dinner, probably ate a billion calories. Now I'm gonna crash and get some sleep. Plans for tomorrow? I'm still not sure...

Option A: Hit the Grand Canyon South Rim, then ride up to Grand Canyon North Rim on Sunday (eep! snow?). Grab a motel Sunday night then check out the Rim itself on Monday.

Option B: Hit the Grand Canyon North Rim tomorrow, will get there mid afternoon at the earliest. Grab a motel afterwards, then roll back around to the South Rim for Sunday/Monday.

I may also look at hitting the South Rim, then heading further west and back up around that way to the North Rim... hrm hrm. Ah well, I'll play it by ear as always.


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