Car Wheels on a Gravel RoadMay 20 in the United States
For the first time this trip I feel like we spend more time in Taffy than out. The day is all about the wheels . . . motoring from camp to Monument Valley, bumping around the Valley’s scenic “road,” and driving hours more to Page, AZ for the night. Throw in some more time zone confusion and Patty and I are . . . well, a little driven.
Let’s start with the confusion. Utah is on Mountain Daylight Savings Time. Arizona doesn’t recognize Daylight Savings Time, so it is on Mountain Standard Time. Except the Navajo Nation, on whose land we spend much of the day, doesn’t follow Arizona practice. The Visitor Center in Page has two clocks. . . one for local time (MST), the other for Utah and the Navajo Nation (MDT). This all has a sort of Alice in Wonderland feel . . . when you arrive depends in part on where you arrive.
But as I said, the day was mostly about driving, and the driving was mostly about our experience on the Valley Scenic Road in Monument Valley. For those of you our age, you might remember that Monument Valley was the stage for many of the classic John Ford and John Wayne western movies from the 1930s and 1940s. The highway leads straight as an arrow to the iconic monuments and the entrance to the Tribal Park. A variety of jeep-equipped tour guides stand by, waiting to drive us around the valley for a price, but no . . . I am determined to put Taffy through her paces.
Still not sure that this is the wisest choice I’ve ever made.
The road . . . and I use the term loosely . . . is 17 miles of dirt, sand, and rock. It is described as passable by most vehicles, and I suppose it is since we made it out . . . but passable is a relatively low bar for road quality. We bounce and sway and shake and rattle and slide our way for nearly an hour and a half, with an occasional glance away from the obstacle ahead to take in the sights around us. Which are stunning. But my heart really isn’t in the viewing at the moment . . . it is entirely focused on not getting stuck.
There is one particularly rough spot, at the foot of the last hill before returning to the parking lot, that weighs heavy on my mind the entire loop. It was bad coming down . . . imagine a 3’ wide by 6’ long by 2’ deep sandbox, filled with the finest, slipperiest sand . . . and can only be worse going up. We arrive at the crux hoping we might have the road to ourselves to maximize our maneuvering flexibility, but no, a massive pickup truck fills the other side, so we have no choice but to barge straight through. Taffy shudders, spins, and slips, seemingly on the verge of stalling . . . I have visions of our trip ending here . . . before gathering herself for one last valiant push to the top. Success!
Except for possible kidney damage.
Be that as it may, we still have a hundred miles to go before the day ends. We interrupt the drive with a short detour to the Navajo National Monument where a short walk takes us to a distant view . . . I mean really distant, like maybe a half mile away . . . of a well preserved cliff dwelling in an alcove across a canyon. I might appreciate the place a little more if I were a little closer.
We arrive in Page by mid-afternoon . . . by whatever time zone . . . in need of showers and down time. We manage the former, but not so much the latter . . . I can’t seem to sit still. So we walk to nearby Big John’s Texas Barbeque for an early dinner . . . a sampler of only average brisket, pork, sausage, and ribs . . . leaving before the live music gets cranked up.
I feel like I could use a day with less Taffy right about now, but we head to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon on Monday. It will be our last night camping, a sure sign that these two weeks are coming to an end.Read more