American Locations 49 – Dodge City

The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.

Dodge City, Kansas

The next morning we continued east on Hwy. 64, which took us quickly down out of the mountains. Very quickly, it was more like plummeting. A lot of fun.

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We followed a creek down, seeing cascade after cascade. Another great drive.

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Much too soon, we were back on flat land. We stopped at Cimarron to see the historic St. James Hotel. It seems like every colorful figure from the old west you could think of had stayed here. It was another place that proudly displayed every bullet hole inside their walls.

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We drove east on Hwy. 412, where we saw a herd of elk.

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They raced us for nearly a mile. Of course I drove slow enough they could keep up and got a good movie of them running. We continued east to Interstate 25, which we took south to the next exit at Springer. There we were back on Hwy. 412 heading northeast to Boise City. Where we got on Hwy. 56 and headed northeast out of New Mexico into Oklahoma. I didn’t see much of Oklahoma. The fog was so dense I couldn’t see beyond the shoulder of the road. The going was very slow because of the reduced visibility. It was so wearying we pulled over at a rest area for a relaxing lunch. That was strange, sitting in the fog barely able to see vehicles passing by on the road. That was the only time I’ve been in the state, and to this day I couldn’t tell you what Oklahoma looks like. We continued northeast on 56 out of Oklahoma into Kansas, where we lost the fog. What I remember of this part of Kansas, with Hwy. 56 following a rail line, is humongous silos and huge feed lots jammed with cattle, and windmills. Kansas has really committed to wind power, you see thousands of wind turbines across the state.

 

We arrived in Dodge City late, so we went directly to a campground. We planned to stay the night, see the historic part of town the next day, then continue on. But Mother Nature had other plans. That night and all the next day we were inundated with rain. The campground was flooded. My wife made a footbridge out of the large orange plastic blocks that we use to level the motor home so we could venture out.

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So we stayed an extra day to see Dodge City.

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Doc Holiday is waiting for someone to play poker with.

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This was the actual jail.

 

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Boot Hill. Note the toes sticking up out of the ground. Those are there for decorative purposes, but the graves are real.

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A saloon and music hall.

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There were a lot of saloons.

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There were other places besides saloons. This looked like a combination barber shop and dentist office.

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Also there were churches.

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And homes.

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The old town looked good.

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Dodge City was the last stop on our road trip. The next morning we weren’t sure we could pull out of the flooded campground. But we did, with no difficulty. Our camp site looked like a swamp, but it had a solid foundation beneath it. So we drove northeast on Hwy, 56 to Hwy. 183, which we took due north to I-70. From there it was a dash home. We headed east on I-70 out of Kansas into Missouri, then across the state nearly to the Illinois line. We stopped for the night at a small campground next to the interstate, then the next morning we continued east on I-70 out of Missouri through Illinois into Indiana to Indianapolis. Indiana has the worst roads of any state I’ve traveled through. They will beat you and your vehicle to pieces. At Indianapolis we turned southeast on I-74 out of Indiana into Ohio and back home to Cincinnati.

We had been on the road for 2 months. It’s always a relief to get back home after a long trip. This took place in the spring of 2017. In the fall of that year we embarked on another 2-month trip. I’ll begin posting about it sometime next year.

 

Next trip is from New River Wilderness Area, West Virginia, to Stinking Creek, Tennessee, by way of Long Key, Florida

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American Locations 48 – Taos

The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.

 Taos, New Mexico

After visiting with my wife’s sister for three days, we drove south from her ranch outside of Arboles, Colorado, around the western side of the Navajo Reservoir into New Mexico. These back roads were some of the roughest roads we traveled on the entire trip (except in Indiana – more about that later). We bumped up and down and around mountains as we went around the west side of the reservoir. Here is a good shot of the reservoir, with the snow-capped Rockies in the background.

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We crossed the Navajo Dam at the southern end.

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We continued south to Turley, where we turned east onto Hwy. 64. Another interesting drive. At first we passed through desert. Then we climbed high into the mountains. We passed an open gate. Which meant this highway was closed at times due to significant snowfall. In Colorado, even the interstates are gated. So we knew we would be gaining quite a bit of altitude, as we were starting our ascent from the desert floor. We wound back and forth up the mountains to such a high elevation we reach snow.

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We descended in the same fashion, and were soon back in ninety degree heat on the desert floor. Fascinating. We continued east on 64 to the outskirts of Taos, where we came upon a collection of artsy houses built mostly with recycled materials. It looked like a Dr. Seuss wonderland.

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Continuing east, we crossed the Rio Grande River, which at this point went through a deep gorge.

1954_Rio Grande Gorge

I parked at the end of the bridge, then walked back out to the middle to take pictures. On both sides there were phones. They were connected to a suicide hotline. So this bridge must be a popular place for people to jump from and kill themselves. The height and the rocks below would definitely do it. Those phones wouldn’t be there unless there was a need. Our next stop was Taos Pueblo.

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This is a World Heritage site.

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It is the larges adobe structure still being lived in. Although updated for modern convenience, such as a kitchen where this woman could prepare fry bread, which was delicious. As you can see she posed, which means I asked her permission. I always ask before taking someone’s picture.

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She did this in the modern way rather than the old-fashioned way.

1957_Taos Pueblo

The integrity of the structures has been maintained.

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1974_Taos Pueblo

1975_Taos Pueblo

Once we finished there, we drove quickly through to actual town of Taos. Not much to see there you couldn’t see in any number of touristy hot spots. We followed Hwy. 64 east into the mountains. Another beautiful drive, twisting and turning through the trees. We stopped at the eastern edge of  the mountains at Eagle’s Nest campground. Another beautiful place to park our motor home.

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After relaxing a short while, I hiked over to see a nearby lake. Note the bank of snow on the right. We were back in higher elevations.

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1979_Eagle's Nest

I didn’t see any eagles, but there were quite a few large birds.

 

Next Location – Dodge City, Kansas

 

American Locations 47 – Mesa Verde

The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

The next morning we drove from the Navajo campground to Hwy 163, then turned north. We drove northeast out of Arizona into Utah. More astounding desert landscape on the way to Mexican Hat. There we crossed the San Juan River.

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We drove past the rock formation which gave the town its name.

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At the town of Bluff, we turned southeast onto Rte. 162. Crossing over into Colorado, we came within sight of the Rockies.

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The road became Rte. 41, which we continued southeast on until we hit Hwy. 160. We drove east to merge with Hwy 491, which we took north into Cortez. We drove east on 160 to the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park. First stop was the visitor center.

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Which gave a good view out over the desert.

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But we weren’t here for the view. We drove the loop roads to see the ruins.

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We hiked all through the ruins on guided tours.

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Parts of the treks were difficult.

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Some of the ruins had been constructed in such inaccessible places we could only view them from afar.

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Some dwelling weren’t as impressive, but were well worth walking to see.

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462_Colorado_Tuesday_Mesa Verde

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Leaving Mesa Verde late that afternoon, we drove east on Hwy 160 to Durango. East of Durango, we drove southeast on first Rte. 172, then Rte. 151 to the small town of Arboles. My wife’s sister and her husband owned a cattle ranch outside of town. It was dark by the time we reached the area, and we wandered some narrow gravel roads until we finally located it. They have a beautiful place. Here is the view from her front porch the next morning.

1916a_Lois' Ranch

But that night I went out later to unload the car and made the mistake of looking up. The night sky was spectacular. I had never seen such a brilliant night sky, with the Milky Way so finely detailed. I stretched out on my back and gazed for a good long while.

Next Location – Taos, New Mexico

American Locations 46 – Monument Valley

The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.

 Monument Valley, Arizona

We drove out of Zion NP the same way we came in, which meant we had to be escorted through the two tunnels again. We drove east out of the park on Rte. 9 back to Mt. Carmel Junction, then turned south on Hwy 89. In Kanab, rather than continue south on 89A, the way we had come, we instead turned east on 89. This took us into the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument. Which meant another incredible drive. Hwy 89 turned southeast, and we drove out of Utah into Arizona. Our first stop of the day was to see the Glen Canyon Dam on Lake Powell.

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1826_Glenn Canyon Dam

We drove across the Colorado River.

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And drove south on Hwy 89 into Page, where we turned east on Rte. 98. We continued to Hwy. 160, where we turned northeast. At the small town of Kenyata we turned north on Rte. 163. All the while we passed striking scenery.

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We followed it to the cut-off for Monument Valley. At the end of a gravel road we came to a motel which, seen in the lower left of the photo, was dwarfed by the rock formations towering above.

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There were also simple cabins.

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The campground was little more than a parking lot.

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But what a view!

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For miles around these unique rock formations rose up out of the flat desert floor.

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We ate dinner at the restaurant in the motel, and I had a delicious Navajo dish. We picked up some more souvenirs in their gift shop, then had a quiet night out here in the middle of nowhere. It was a beautiful sunset.

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Next Location is Mesa Verde, Colorado

 

American Locations 45 – Zion 3

The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.

 Zion National Park, Utah

The gloomy overcast days made photographing the park difficult. The normally-brilliant colors of the rocks were muted.

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This was an interesting trail.

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That led up to Weeping Rock, a good place to shelter from the rain.

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The sun did shine occasionally.

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And people came out without rain gear on.

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The last day we were there the weather broke and I went for a long hike. I crossed the river and quickly ascended above the campground.

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Then I kept climbing.

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This is looking down on the visitor center.

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I got a good view far up the valley from this height.

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I reached a plateau, as high as the trail went.

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The trek down can be as fun as the hike up since you get to see everything from a different angle.

 

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We left the next morning. Hopefully I’ll get back to Zion in better weather and get to see more of the park.

Next Location – Monument Valley, Arizona

American Locations 44 – Zion 2

The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.

 Zion National Park, Utah

The rainy season arrived while we were in Zion. It rained so hard the Narrows Trail was closed, and people were advised not to hike up to Angels Landing. But there is a free shuttle service throughout the valley, taking riders to parts where cars are prohibited. So we used this extensively to get to points of interest without getting soaked. But at least it wasn’t snowing, as it was several thousand feet higher up in the mountains. We counted our blessings. Although it was cold and damp, we ventured out to see as much as we could stand.

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There were brief moments when it didn’t rain.

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Here is the creek running down out of the mountains past the campground. With all the rain, and the snow melt, it ran pretty strong.

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The clouds were often hanging low in the mountains.

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Between rainstorms, we hiked to this waterfall.

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And along the Virgin River.

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To the beginning of the Narrows, which was closed.

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Then back out along the Virgin River.

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We stayed four days, hoping for the rain to break. But you can’t help the weather. We got out when we could and saw as much of the park as the weather would allow. Another major trail, I forget which, was closed due to storm damage. So we saw what we could.

 

Next Location – Zion National Park 3

American Locations 43 – Zion

The trip is from Natchez Trace, Tennessee, to Dodge City, Kansas, by way of Tucson, Arizona.

Zion National Park, Utah

We drove north on 89A down out of the mountains into the little town of Freedonia. They displayed the first letter of their name on a mountainside. We had seen the same thing at Jerome.

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We drove north out of Arizona into Utah to the town of Kanab. They did the same thing with the letter K, but I didn’t get a picture of it. In Kanab, 89A merged with 89, which we continued north on to Mt. Carmel Junction, where we turned west onto Rte. 9. We soon drove into the exotic rock formations of Zion.

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When we arrived at the first tunnel we learned we were just inches too big to go through on our own. Our motor home is so small I had thought we could, but the park rangers have the final say, of course, and they said we were a hair too big. So we were escorted.

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After the second tunnel, we drove deeper through the mountains.

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There was one site left at the campground, so we were in. A beautiful campground at the foot of towering mountains with a mountain spring rushing past amid trees.

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But it wasn’t a very good site, in the middle of the campground on a bad slant. When another camper saw us having trouble setting up, he told us he was leaving and we could have his site. After we okayed this with the park rangers, we moved. This site was much better, on level ground at the edge of the campground.

1670a_Zion

We relaxed the rest of the day at our beautiful camp site.

Next Location – Zion National Park 2, Utah