We left Monument Valley early April 13th with the intent of spending a couple nights in Chinle, AZ. This would give us a day or two for exploring Canyon de Chelly National Monument. The monument is managed by the National Park Service, but the canyon itself resides on Navajo land. The Navajo currently live within the canyon, farming and raising livestock. It is said that the canyon has been inhabited for over 4,000 years.
As we approached the monument we noticed that it was surrounded by a small city that didn’t give us a warm feeling of safety. Furthermore, Charlie remembered that he had read that there had been some break-ins in the campground located next to the park entrance. Considering this we decided to just make it a short visit and then continue onward to Santa Fe.
We parked the RV at the campground near the visitor’s center, which offered day parking for $5, and unhooked the Jeep. We then began our tour of the Canyon’s South Rim. There are 7 overlook stops along this particular rim. We headed out to the farthest one and worked our way back. We found the canyon to be stunningly beautiful and majestic.
We bumped into a group of professional photographers who were also enjoying the beautiful landscape with their large format cameras.
Unsupervised access within the canyon is restricted to the rim overlooks and to a single trail down into the canyon, leading to the White House Ruins. For all other trips into the canyon a Navajo escort is required. The ruins date from about 1200 and are some of the oldest in the canyon. It is a 600 ft hike down to the ruins. We decided not to do the hike due to our limited time and the fact that I was still not feeling well.
Once we were back on the road we called the Santa Fe Skies RV Resort. We had a reservation with them, but were not due to arrive for another couple of days. We couldn’t get anybody to answer the phone so we decided to just head there and hope for the best. In the end, we were able to get their last available spot. We were quite relieved since it was nearly 7pm when we arrived. The resort is nice. It sits on a hill, just south of Santa Fe, with expansive views. From our site we were able to see both sunrise and sunset.
We stayed at the Skies RV resort for 8 nights. It was the longest period of time we had stayed in one location for the entire trip. I had grand plans to see many things in the area. However, because I wasn’t feeling well we took it easy for most of the time we were there. We did venture out for a few road trips.
On Easter Sunday we took a ride to Los Alamos. This was the site of Project Y, the top-secret atomic weapons laboratory. We toured the museum and learned a little about how the secret city came to be and how some of the smartest scientists in the world came together to create the most destructive bombs known to man.
On another day, we took a day trip to the Abiquiu area, including the Georgia O’Keeffe Ghost Ranch. It is a beautiful area, as illustrated in many of Georgia’s paintings. For some interesting info on the Ghost Ranch, and Georgia O’Keeffe, check out this link: https://www.ghostranch.org/explore/georgia-okeeffe/
There are towering white limestone rock formations, known as the Plaza Blanca – the “White City,” just outside of Abiquiu. This was another area of painting interest for Georgia O’Keeffe.
I can see why so many lovers of landscape and solitude migrate to this area. It is very peaceful and beautiful. We really enjoyed having the opportunity to see it.
On another day we took a drive to Taos. It is about an hour and a half north of Santa Fe. You can take major roads to get there, or you can take the High Road to Taos, a 56-mile scenic, winding road through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The road winds through high desert, mountains, forests, small farms, and tiny Spanish Land Grant villages and Pueblo Indian villages. We opted to take the major roads to Taos and then take the High Road back to Santa Fe.
While in Taos we had lunch at a fantastic restaurant called Bella’s. It was Mexican cuisine like none other I had ever had. I had the Chile en Nogada – fresh fire roasted poblano chile stuffed with ground beef (they use filet), tomato, almonds, raisins, apples, and jerez. It was topped with a cream walnut and pomegranate sauce. OMG! Each bite was full of complex flavors. For dessert we had a fried banana sundae. OMG too!! The restaurant has a nice outdoor seating area. During lunch we were visited by a very colorful pigeon during lunch. Fortunately, he minded his own business.
We enjoyed strolling through numerous shops, including one that was reminiscent of an old five & dime store. We loved the colorful and artistic architecture found within the town.
We couldn’t leave Taos without stopping by the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. It is quite majestic.
We also couldn’t leave without getting a picture of the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church. Georgia O’Keeffe described it as “one of the most beautiful buildings left in the United states by the early Spaniards.” Construction of the church began in the late 1700’s and was completed in 1816. The exterior of the Adobe walls is made of mud and straw. Citizens of Ranchos de Taos, parish members, and visitors gather for two weeks each June to re-mud the exterior. It is certainly a unique piece of architecture.
As we traveled along the High Road to Taos we felt like we were back East, out of the desert and back in the woods. It was a very scenic drive.
Before ending our week in Santa Fe we had to do some shopping. I was successful in finding a few gorgeous pieces of Native American jewelry. It didn’t hurt that my birthday, and our anniversary, was just a week away.
Below is a picture of the Plaza in Santa Fe where one can find great deals on authentic hand crafted Native American Jewelry.
Below is a picture of me sporting some of my new jewelry.
After leaving Santa Fe our plan was to park the rig at Charlie’s sister’s house in Rio Rancho, a suburb of Albuquerque, for a couple of nights. Sometimes our best intentions don’t end well. Charlie backed the RV into what looked to be an optimal spot. However, once we got almost in we found that the RV started to sink in the soft sand. By this time we were in a position that would require Charlie to make a 90-degree turn to get back out of the driveway. A combination of this turning requirement and the soft sand led to us having to call in a tow truck. Fortunately, with just a tug and pull we were back in business.
We found an RV park just 10 minutes away, in Bernalillo. The Stage Coach Stop RV Park worked out perfectly. After a couple days of visiting family and friends in the Rio Rancho area we headed over to the Turquoise Trail RV Park in Cedar Crest. This is just on the other side of the Sandia Mountains. It wasn’t our favorite campground, but the location was excellent, as I have friends just 10 miles from it. I spent the next couple of days visiting with them while Charlie flew out of Albuquerque to New York for a business trip.
On Friday morning we left Albuquerque and drove nearly 12 hours. We were working our way to Red Bay, Alabama. We were watching the radar and knew that storms were brewing behind us. We kept pushing forward, hoping to stay ahead of them. We ended up in Sallisaw, OK. It was a good thing we did as the campground we had just left in NM had gotten over 10” of snow by Saturday morning and Oklahoma City, just a couple hours behind us, got hit with tornadoes, hail and flooding. We left Sallisaw, OK early Saturday morning and by mid-morning they had tornados and flooding. Again, we were very fortunate. We made it to Red Bay, AL mid day Saturday, relieved.
In Red Bay we were happy to reconnect with friends whom we hadn’t seen since last summer. These friends are our neighbors at Mountain Falls Luxury RV Resort in North Carolina, and were instrumental in the crazy process which led to us making MF our RV home.
By Monday mid-morning we were in a service bay, getting our warranty work completed by Tiffin. What we thought were minor issues grew to bigger issues and what we thought might be big issues turned out to be minor. Fortunately though, by Wednesday afternoon all of our work was done. Storms were approaching so we made the decision to hunker down for the night and leave early in the morning for Atlanta.
It is now Thursday morning and we are just a couple hours outside of Atlanta, concluding our 3-month road trip. It is amazing to think of all the places we have visited in the past 12 weeks. We’ve enjoyed sharing our trip with you and hope that you have enjoyed the stories.
Until next time……