Charlie and I revisited a few of our favorite locations and explored some new spots during a “short” 6-week road trip in April-May 2021. We had four primary destinations on our agenda: the Grand Canyon, Sedona, AZ, Santa Fe, NM, and Angel Fire, NM. Because we made numerous stops along the way I’ve decided to make this into two separate posts. The first, this one, will cover our road trip from Hiawassee, GA to the Grand Canyon, as well as our stay in Sedona, AZ. The second post will cover our stays in Santa Fe and Angel Fire, NM, as well as all our stops along our return route.
We began our trip with a one-night stop near Nashville, TN to visit friends. It is always nice when your RV trip takes you past friends that you haven’t seen for years. A great opportunity to catch up.
Next was a 2-night stay in Atkins, Arkansas. We utilized our “Harvest Hosts” membership and stayed at Paw Paw’s Pecan farm (free dry camping). This farm has around 6,000 pecan trees and a stunning Antebellum-style house. Our hosts, Billy and Charlotte, designed the house, patterned after the Oak Valley Plantation home, located in Vacherie, LA. They were kind enough to give us a tour of their beautiful home. The interior, just like the exterior, is gorgeous! Charlotte is a talented quilt maker. She had some beautiful pieces for sale. She also makes great fudge, and of course, the pecans were delicious.
Normally, you stay at a Harvest Host stop for just one night. However, Billy and Charlotte allowed us to stay an extra night so that we could spend a day down at the Petit Jean State park. Petit Jean SP was on my Arkansas bucket list, as a great place for outdoor activities and scenery. We took a couple of hikes in the park, enjoyed long-range views from the mountain top and explored the historic Mather Lodge. In the future, I would love to camp at the park and spend more time exploring the trails.
(Click on the photos to enlarge)
Our next stop was Oklahoma City for 2 nights. This gave us a full day to explore some museums. We spent some time in the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial sits where the Murrah Building once stood, as well as the surrounding area devastated by the attack. It is a beautifully crafted memorial with the Field of Empty Chairs and a reflection pool. Each chair represents and memorializes a person killed in the Oklahoma City bombing of April 19, 1995.
The Memorial Museum occupies the west end of the former Journal Record Building. This building withstood the bombing. We took the self-guided tour which takes you through the story of those who were killed, those who survived, and those changed forever by the bombing. I found the tour heart-wrenching. The museum, in my opinion, does a great job of telling the story and making you feel for those who suffered.
We took quick tours of the Oklahoma History Center and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. We liked, and would recommend, both.
Heritage and Cowboy Museum:
Our next overnight stop was in Amarillo, TX. We did the obligatory visit to Cadillac Ranch. It was quite the tourist attraction. We found a lot of people there doing what we were doing, spray painting cars.
Since we were in Texas, we thought it would be appropriate to get a steak dinner. I tried to get Charlie to participate in the 72-oz challenge. He declined.
The next morning, we made our way over to Albuquerque, NM to visit friends and family. We also took a scenic drive along NM-4, through Jemez Springs. It is a beautiful mountainous area.
Following Albuquerque, we stopped for a couple of nights in Holbrook, AZ so that we could visit the Petrified Forest National Park. I find the petrified wood to be amazing. Hard to believe that an old tree can turn out to be so colorful and hard as granite. We thoroughly enjoyed driving through the park. We stopped frequently to hike, explore, and of course, take lots of pictures. It is quite an interesting landscape.
We had heard a lot about Winslow, AZ. Well, maybe it was just familiar to us because of the Eagles’ song, “Take it Easy.” Whatever it was, we wanted to stand on a corner in Winslow, AZ so we headed on over there for an afternoon visit.
There really isn’t much to this town on old Route 66. We browsed through a few shops which were filled with Route 66 and Eagles memorabilia. As we got to the end of the main street, we found ourselves at the La Posada Hotel, otherwise known as the last Harvey House. We did not know anything about it but are very happy that we stopped by to take a stroll through it. It was designed by Mary Colter, as a large Spanish hacienda, and was opened in 1930. The hotel closed in 1957. The building was then used by the Santa Fe Railway for offices. When the railroad abandoned the building in 1994, it was slated to be torn down. Fortunately, it was bought and restored into a quaint hotel. You feel as though you’ve jumped back in time as you stroll through the building, walking past many old photos and furnishings. Surprisingly, we found the second-floor walls to be covered with very interesting, and modern, artwork. Turns out, the artwork is from Tina Mion. Tina and her husband, Allan, own the hotel. Her artwork has been exhibited at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C., as well as many other esteemed museums.
If you find yourself in Winslow, you should check out the hotel. https://laposada.org/history/
After 10 days and 1,900 miles we finally made it to the Grand Canyon. This was our second visit to the Grand Canyon. I was a little nervous about staying for a full week, afraid that we’d get bored. It turned out to be a perfect amount of time for us. During the first few days it was very cold, especially in the mornings. We’d catch the 5:00am bus to a spot on the ridge for sunrise. We put on multiple layers of clothes, warm hats and gloves only to freeze out on the ridge. Wind gusts were upwards of 20mph, and temps were in the 20s. Brrrrrrr! During the day it often got up into the 40s but would remain windy. Fortunately, it was sunny. Although, one night we did get snow.
It warmed up during the second half of our stay. We enjoyed walking along much of the rim road, taking in the spectacular views. They never grow old.
We enjoyed biking from the campground (Trailer Village) to Yaki Point, which is along the rim in the eastern direction. We also biked along the rim road to Hermit’s Rest, in the western direction. We took a rim mule ride one morning. It was not my favorite activity. I wouldn’t do it again. I’d rather be hiking or biking. We thought we would be exploring areas where we wouldn’t otherwise be able, or inclined, to get to. That wasn’t the case. But hey, we can now say that we did a Grand Canyon Mule Ride.
We enjoyed many sunrises and sunsets. One sunset stood out as spectacular as a storm was fast approaching. We could see the clouds building and I thought for sure that sunset would be uneventful. However, just as the sun was setting, the clouds broke apart and allowed the sun’s rays to light up the canyon. It was beautiful. After that, the rain came!
After our week at the Grand Canyon we headed down to Sedona, Arizona for a week. We were looking forward to warmer temps! We met up with our good friends, Dave and Sarah. They were celebrating their one-year anniversary on the road as full-time RVers. We were both able to get into the Rancho Sedona RV Park, as we made our reservations a year in advance. It is the only RV park within walking distance of downtown Sedona. We highly recommend it.
Notable hikes during the week included the Soldiers Pass Loop with Caves and the West Forks Oak Creek Trail. The Soldiers Pass Loop was our favorite, due to the stunning red rock views, and the fact that we climbed up into a cave. Fortunately, it was not overly hot for our 7-mile shadeless hike.
The West Forks Oak Creek Trail offered a lot of shade and 13 river crossings. While it did not have the beautiful long-distance views of Soldiers Pass, the trail was pretty in its own way and crossing the river numerous times was fun.
We also took Mo (our Jeep Wrangler) out for some off-roading on Schnebly Hill Road. This road requires a high clearance vehicle and a small amount of rock maneuvering. We passed a few Pink Jeep tours and a fair number of ATVs. The views along the road are spectacular. The road begins just outside of the RV resort in Sedona and can be taken all the way to I-25, at which point you can go north or south on the highway and loop back to Sedona.
Sedona has a large number of fantastic restaurants and if you ever plan a trip there, I highly recommend making your dining reservations at the same time you make your lodging reservation (at least a month in advance). One restaurant was booked out for 3 months! We were fortunate enough to clear the waitlist and get into the Elote restaurant. Everything was fantastic. Highly recommend it.
My next post will cover our stays in Santa Fe and Angel Fire, NM, as well as our stops along our return route to Lake Toxaway, NC.