We got off to an early start on Monday and right after heading north on AZ 60 we stopped for a photo opp with some saguaro cactus and ocotillo plants. This was a long haul through lots of towns with household names; Vicksburg, Harcuvar, Salome and Aguila.
From there it was onto 89A, the famous Mingus Mountain Highway, with 158 curves in just 12 miles. The road climbs from 3500 ft to 6500 ft and then drops back down to 3500 ft in Jerome, the touristy copper mining living-ghost town from the turn of the century. There is a great mining museum there housed in the home of one of the mining magnates from the time.
We left Jerome around sunset and headed down to Cottonwood for the night. The next morning we drove out to Tuzigoot National Monument. It is a 110 room stone citadel like structure built by the local inhabitants starting around 1100AD. The excavated and somewhat reconstructed ruins are full of matates and the room at the top of the structure has been reconstructed.
From Cottonwood it is a short drive into Sedona. With the plethora of pink tour jeeps and such, it is the ultimate in trendy Southwest living. We wanted to go on the UFO Energy Vortex tour but we didn’t have time.
From there we drove on historic 89A up one of the steepest and windiest sections of road to Flagstaff. The valley is centered on a fault line and the opposite valley sides have shifted by 300 feet in height from side to side.
After a quick lunch stop in Flagstaff we hopped on I-40 for an 80 mph run to the Meteor Crater 30 miles east. There is a 3/4 mile diameter meteor crater created 50,000 years ago by a bus size iron meteor traveling 26,000 mph. The ensuing blast was the equivalent of a 20 megaton bomb and decimated everything within 30 miles. We got to pose next to the largest known fragment of the meteor; it was found 2.5 miles from the impact site.
The crater has a trail the circumnavigates the rim but it is no longer open due to moron tourists that can’t stay on-trail on keep from getting hurt, so we took the 1/3 mile escorted tour to a nice viewpoint.
We got off to a late start as the temps were in the mid 20’s. We rented a car for the day and headed to the Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monuments. This is a nice view of the San Francisco Mountains from the NE of Flagstaff.
Final stop for the day was the Grand Canyon. Pictures never do it justice but we got some great views at the Little Colorado Canyon branch and then at multiple locations along the Grand Canyon within the National Park.
Then on to Laughlin, Nevada. We stayed at the Harrahs Laughlin Casino and Hotel where we experienced the infamous Harrah’s room reservation bait and switch. These sleaze balls take unlimited reservations for whatever room type you desire and then give you whatever room they have available. They also remind you at checkin that all room reservation choices are merely “preferences” and subject to availability. No picture for those putzes.
Out of Laughlin and onto Searchlight for a quick breakfast (no spending at Harrahs). Our next interesting stop was near Nipton; the site of the the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. We’ve watched this facility being built for the last few years and it is now up and running and generating over 30% of all the solar thermal generated electricity in the US. The glow from the 170,000+ mirrors is awesome.
We drove down through the Mojave National Park and stopped at the park headquarters at the old Kelso Train Depot. This is a bit of a ghost town from the 1940’s when WWII iron production supported a huge train repair and switching station here.
We eventually made it to Joshua Tree, CA where we met Rick and Karla’s friend Miriam for dinner. Early the next morning we headed out to Joshua Tree National Park for some hiking and bouldering adventures.
After a long drive out through the south entrance of the park we headed down towards Salton Sea through the Mecca Hills Wilderness on Box Canyon road. What a route! The road goes right down the middle of the wash between tall mud hills and obviously gets pretty messed up with any measurable rain.
We covered over 1300 miles on the bikes over 7 days. We did less than 150 of those miles on Interstate Highways and for most of those miles the posted speed limit was 75 mph; use your imagination there. The temperatures varied between 27 deg to 75 degs and Rick was the only one warm the whole time with his Cycle Gear armoured riding suit. I’m sure I had more fun than anyone else but it was an adventure for all.