There has been so much going on since we got on the road in mid December, learning as we went along, starting our YouTube channel and social media, figuring out how to live in limited space, cooking in a tiny kitchen and outside, where and how to boondock between destinations, even homeschooling on the road….. I could go on and on. It has been a lot of fun and some chaos as you can imagine with seven children but we have all enjoyed it and grown as a family.
This is the reason why it took us so long to get going with this blog and why we are starting in the middle of our journey. After spending the Christmas and the winter in Florida we made our way to Texas in the beginning of March. We flew through Alabama but stopped in Mississippi and Louisiana but did not spend nearly enough time there.
Texas was very dry when we arrived and we really started enjoying it properly once we reached the Hill Country, San Antonio and the Northern part of the state.
We have bunch of videos on YouTube if you would like to follow us there.
In the middle of May we started heading further West to Arizona where we are staying in the Sedona/Verde Vally area.
Amarillo, Our First destination
Our first destination was Amarillo, but we left Bay Landing late and only traveled a couple of hours. We took 287 and stopped halfway at a rest area to spend the night. As we are storing the bicycles in the trailer when we travel we have limited space, but still enough for everyone to sleep comfortably. The generator provides enough power to run the A/C and the fridge as well. In the beginning it was a bit strange to sleep in a rest area but now we don’t mind at all.
By the way, our favorite rest area is on I75 near Tampa. We stayed there on several occasions while moving from on park to another.
After a quick breakfast, which could be bagels and egg or baguette and ham and some reading and math for the children, we got back on the road to go to Amarillo. We stopped at Cadillac Ranch and the children had fun spray-painting the 10 cars.
The Ranch, located west of Amarillo on the old Route 66, is an example of hippy art and was started by an art group from California that called themselves Ant Farm. It is supposed to be a tribute to the evolution of the Cadillac tail-fin. Ten successive models were buried halfway in the ground front facing down.
Today each car is covered at least an inch thick with graffiti. It was the first of a few stops on the mother road that is the old Route 66. after our visit at Cadillac Ranch we drove along a small part of 66 and then went to Palo Duro Canyon State Park.
By that time it was already late and we did not have enough time to see as much as we would have liked and as the canyon deserved. We would have stayed but did not have reservations nor could we as there is absolutely no cell phone signal.
We still had enough time to take in some of the rugged beauty and vastness of Palo Duro. As I am not very good with heights I was very nervous about the kids running along the edges of the cliffs. They don’t seem to have any fear. We spend a couple of hours before we left as the park was closing to the public. It is definitely a destination we recommend to anyone and will come back to visit.
Next Stop Santa Fe
After our visit in Amarillo it was time to carry on toward Arizona where we had reservations at the Thousand Trails RV park near Sedona. We headed down Route 40 and again stayed at a rest area near Albuquerque. After 2 months we had exited Texas. The next morning after some home schooling, we headed to Santa Fe to visit Loretto Chapel and saint Joseph’s stair case. Andrea and I fell in love with the city, it’s small houses built in the style typical to the area, like the houses of the puebloans painted in the reddish clay color, it’s small roads and the vegetation. Mountains are all around the city. The whole drive through New Mexico lead through a dry countryside with little vegetation so it was nice to see grass and trees. The city is small for being a state capital, very clean and there are lots of little colorful shops. At 7200 feet it is very high and it got cold at night. It was quite unusual as we had to dig deep to find clothes appropriate for the weather. It had been hot everywhere we stayed but because of the altitude it was colder.
We found a place to park at the rodeo through the app Campendium and got full hook-ups. So we took advantage and had showers and cleaned up.
The next morning we headed back to the city and visited a few churches. On our way to Loretto chapel we stumbled across another church, San Miguel Chapel, Americas oldest church. It was built in 1610 and is still an active church. Right next to it was one of Americas oldest houses. It is used as a museum and a gift shop.
From Mission San Miguel we had to walk a couple of blocks to get to the Loretto Chapel. It is now privately owned after it was handed over by the Sisters of Loretto to a private family to prevent it from being demolished.
As the story goes after the church had been built there was no staircase to get to the choir loft. The sisters of Loretto prayed a novena to Saint Joseph the carpenter, the foster father of our Lord, to help with the building of a staircase. After the novena was finished a man showed up with a few simple tools. He built the staircase by himself without the use of glue or nails. What makes it so unique is that there is no central column to support the structure. Architects are still baffled to this day how the structure still stands to this day when it should have collapsed as soon as one put his foot on it. The man who built the staircase disappeared as soon as he was finished without being paid. The wood he used is not from the area. Many believe Saint Joseph built the stairs himself. Regardless, there is a lot of mystery surrounding the staircase, so much so that we had heard of it and decided to visit.
Another church we decided to visit was the shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was closed however so we went back home for dinner after which we headed back to Route 40 to make some headway get to Arizona.
The next day we wanted to visit El Morro National Monument, a place of natural beauty and site of the remains of pueblo culture. Because of the heat and drought and the danger of wild fire the park was closed however and we were not able to visit or hike as we had planned. On our way through the area we crossed the continental divide at 7800 feet high. I had not noticed that we were that high, I did not want to drive that high with our rig but in the end it was not a problem at all. I guess it depends on the road and there were no big descends.
After getting back on Route 40 we decided to follow the old 66 and stopped at Gallup. We were hoping to see some remnants of the historic road but were disappointed. There was not much left of it and what we saw was not very pretty. We left a little disappointed and headed towards Arizona. That night we decided to visit the Petrified Forest National Park the following day. We were not sure at first as we did not know what to expect but we were not disappointed. It was one of the most impressive stops we had made since we got on the road.
The Petrified Forest
After breakfast and and home schooling we left for the National park. We did not have to drive far as we got close the day before. We entered through the South gate and stopped at the museum and gift shop. The museum’s exit led to a trail with all kinds of logs and sections of petrified wood. The color spectrum is quite incredible and with some of the trunks it was hard to believe that the wood had been petrified. The views throughout the park are incredible but seemed to get better, the further we went along in the park.
After we had finished walking the trail we got back into the car and followed the road. We stopped on several occasions and saw more petrified wood, Jasper Forest, Blue Mesa, Petroglyphes, remnants of a pueblo village, a memorial to the old Route 66 with an old car, a plaque and even some of the poles that ran along the road, the most stunning views at a variety of pull overs, the Painted Desert Inn and walked a couple more hikes.
The night before we were seriously contemplating not going to the park but thankfully made the right decision. We spend probably 8 hours but on occasion rushed through and could have easily spend more time. The park closes at 7:30, so we got back on the road after exiting close to route 40. Our next destination was Flagstaff with a few stops along the way first. On our drive in the night we must have passed Winslow so we did not get to stand on the corner. But we took the exit to Winona and saw the Rocks Creek Bridge.
We also stopped at Two Guns, a ghost town established in the early nineteen hundreds. Way before then a massacre happened when apparently Navajo Indians killed some Apache Indians in a cave. Billy the Kid and his outlaw gang spent a winter in a ruin across Diablo Canyon near Two Guns
In the early nineteen hundreds a businessman purchased the land and built a shop near the cave where the massacre had happened. He sold some land to another business man who built the gas station, a shop and a restaurant.. again another businessman leased some land and built a Zoo. There are still ruins from that time and on one of the exhibits you can read Mountain Lions. It was quite a walk from the exit of route 40 but very interesting to look back into the past. the walk along the cliff where there had been some of the cages was very pretty, too.
The gas station close to the exit was sprayed with graffiti and the smell reminded me of Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo because of the spray paint. After about 45 minutes it wwas time to get back on the road. We stopped quickly at Two Arrows, a gas station that had two giant wooden arrows stuck into the ground in front of it (one of which was lying on the ground). The gas station was in ruins but the pumps were still standing and one could walk through the building which was again covered with graffiti.
Our plan was to also stop at Walnut Canyon National Monument but because of construction we missed the exit and as it was already later in the day we decided not to turn around. Instead we drove along the Old 66 in Flagstaff which was definitely one of the nicer and better kept parts of the old road and much nicer than what we had seen in Gallup. I would like to stop at Seligman which is supposed to be very a great memorial to 66.
While we were driving through Cottonwood and Clarkdale we saw some beautiful reminders of the historic 89A something I expected from Route 66 in a lot of locations.
Later that night we made it to our camp ground near Cottonwood. We had to descend from Flagstaff some 3000 feet with a descend of up to 6% for 16 miles.
After some white knuckle driving in the dark, at least I was not distracted by the breathtaking views along the way, we made it down the mountain and arrived a day earlier than planned.
Now we have 2 weeks in the area and can enjoy some of the nicer RV parks and sceneries of our journey.