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Arizona & New Mexico Road Trip

Adventurers in the Rockies

Chapter Two

Road Trip Across New Mexico and Arizona

July 2, 2016



Robin Bowers

Text and Photos by Author

The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent.

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    Upon awaking on our first day on the road, I looked out the window and saw that it had rained in the night as there were puddles and the car was wet with rain drops.

    Leaving the motel, we headed south to I-40 to continue East and New Mexico. The skies were dark this morning with patches of showers. We had been on the road for about 30 minutes when we reached our first stop. We took Exit 230 at Two Guns, crossed over I-40 and ran out of pavement. The rest of the way to Canyon Diablo and the railroad bridge was to follow a wide cow path. Our route was a rough trail to the tracks in the distance. The slow and bumpy ride north to the tracks and then west to the bridge was successful.

Canyon Diablo Bridge

273 brige




Click to watch Southwest Chief and Tioga Pass. Click back button on your browser to return to this page.




Click here for GPS map. Click back button on your browser to return to this page.

    Our return route to the Interstate was the reverse of getting here. Slowly over a rocky trail with rain filled pot holes. It was with great relief, when we had the tires on the hard solid pavement and reentered the Interstate.   

    We were about 35 miles east of Flagstaff and made a hasty decision to do the tourist thing and visit one of Arizona's biggest natural wonder. We went six miles south of exit 233 to reach this wonder.

Meteor Crater

    A brief history from "Welcome to Meteor Crater"  "50,000 years ago, an unbroken plain stretched in front of  where you now stand. Suddenly, out of the northeastern sky, a pinpoint of light grew rapidly into a brilliant meteor. This body was probably broken from the core of an asteroid during an ancient collision in the main asteroid belt some half-billion years ago. Hurtling at about 26,000 miles per hour, it was on an intercept course with Earth. In seconds, it passed through our atmosphere with almost no loss of velocity or mass.

     In a blinding flash...
    A huge iron-nickel meteorite or dense cluster of meteorites, estimated to have been about 150 feet across and weighing several hundred thousand tons, struck the rocky plain with an explosive force greater than 20 million tons of TNT.

    Moving at hyper-velocity speed, this impact generated immensely powerful shock waves in the meteorite, the rock and the surrounding atmosphere here. In the air, shock waves, swept across the level plain devastating all in their path for a radius of several miles. In the ground, as the meteorite penetrated the rocky plain, pressures rose to over 20 million pounds per square inch, and both iron and rock experienced limited vaporization and extensive melting. Beyond the melted region, an enormous volume of rock underwent complete fragmentation and ejection.

    The result of these violent conditions was the excavation of a giant bowl-shaped cavity. In seconds, a crater 700 feet deep and over 4000 feet across was carved into this once-flat rocky plain. During its formation, over 175 million tons of limestone and sandstone were abruptly thrown out to form a continuous blanket of debris surrounding the crater for a distance of over a mile."




From 1964 through 1972, the U.S. Geological Survey and NASA provided extensive science training at Meteor Crater for the Apollo astronauts.
This training was particularly significant because scientists were extremely interested in what materials lay on the lunar surface as well as what was beneath the surface. Astronauts still train here today.


Discovery Center with Moon Mountain Telescope in background.

    A guided rim tour was just about to leave so I jumped in and joined them. We walked out on the path in the above picture. We had a Q & A with the docent. She told the story of two pilots who flew their plane over the crater. The area above the crater is restricted air space and they were not permitted to fly over. They landed on the floor of the crater without problem, but then when they tried to take off, there was not enough air to lift the plane. They hiked out of the crater and their plane was broken up into pieces and removed to the rim. There is a reason not to fly over the Meteor Crater. One piece of the plane remains on the crater floor as a memorial to stay away.


Looking West towards Flagstaff.

Click here for Meteor Crater info. Click back button on your browser to return to this page.

    After leaving the Meteor Crater, we return to Exit 233 on I-40 and head east to our next stop.

Winslow, Arizona

    At Exit 252 on I-40 then turn right to bridge over BNSF in West Winslow.


Looking West.



Click here for GPS map. Click back button on your browser to return to this page.


Looking East toward Winslow.


We left our photo spot and drove into the town of Winslow. Winslow was named after Gen. Edward Francis Winslow, a president of the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad. This railroad center is an important shipping and trading site. A two-story mural and bronze statue at Standin' on the Corner Park in downtown Winslow illustrate the Eagles' song "Take It Easy" and its well-known reference to the town.




    It was just a short ride of a couple of blocks to the next stop.

La Posada

    La Posada is off I-40 exit 253, then 1mile s. to Second St.,, just e. to 303 E. Second St. (Rte 66).
Designed by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter and considered her masterpiece, La Posada attracted such luminaries as Howard Hughes, Albert Einstein and Bob Hope. Constructed in 1929 in the style of an 1869 Spanish hacienda, the building has stone and tile floors, glass murals, original furnishings and gardens. Antiques and art from around the globe decorated this working hotel.


La Posada (1930) was the last and most elegant of the great Fred Harvey Hotels built by the Santa Fe Railroad.
It was designed by Mary Colter - perhaps the greatest architect of the Southwest - as a fabulous Spanish hacienda.


    In 1927 the Santa Fe Railway and the Harvey family decided to build a major hotel in the center of Northern Arizona. La Posada - "the resting Place" - was to be the finest in the Southwest. Construction costs exceeded $1 million in 1929. Total budget with grounds and furnishings was rumored at $2 million - about $40 million in today's dollars. They chose Winslow - Arizona headquarters for the Santa Fe Railway - since everything to see and do in Northeast Arizona is a comfortable day's drive.


They asked Mary Colter to design the new hotel.

    La Posada was the only project for which Mary was able to design the buildings, decorate the interiors, plan the gardens and oversee construction.


    The original hotel had seventy guest rooms, three dining rooms, fancy lounges, restful arcades, splashing fountains and museum quality furniture.




    It was surrounded by acres of beautiful gardens with their own greenhouse, tennis courts, and a train station. It was the finest hotel on Route 66.



La Posda's beautiful dining room is the  finest in the region.


Click for The Turquoise Room info. Click back button on your browser to return to this page.

    Thousands of cars came by the front door. All the passenger trains for Los Angeles to Chicago stopped at La Posada. Everybody stayed here from Howard Hughes to John Wayne, Bob Hope to Dorothy Lamour, Albert Einstein to the Crown  Prince of Japan. Winslow was the big town, bigger than Flagstaff and Sedona until 1950's. Charles Lindbergh designed Winslow's airport for the first transcontinental airline - the airport is still here, big enough for just about anything that flys.



    But then people stopped riding trains. Planes flew farther and passed by. Route 66 was bypassed and abandoned. La Posada closed in 1957. In 1959 all of Mary Colter's fabulous furniture was auctioned off. The Santa Fe Railway tried to sell the hotel by found no buyers, so in the 1960's they gutted La Posada and made it into offices. And so La Posada limped along, just a shell, closed to the public for forty years.
    The gardens were abandoned, then mostly paved for parking. By 1993 the railway decided to move out and tear down the buildings. The National Trust for Historic Preservation publicized the pending demolition as one of the most important and tragic in the country - the masterpiece of America's most important woman architect about to be torn down. To read the restoration work done on La Posada by the current owners read the hotel website.

Click here for La Posada. Click back button on your browser to return to this page.



Amtrak waiting room.

    Sometime in the future I want to return here, arrive by train and spend several nights then write a story about all the things to do around Winslow.


The train station at La Posada.


Future home of The Route 66 Art Museum.


Plaza Lamy  Santa Fe 502. Sitting next to station.


Tracks and rail yard are so close. Winslow AMTRAK location code: WLO.
Southwest Chief has two stops daily. #3 Los Angeles bound: 7:05 PM,  #4 Chicago bound: 5:39 AM.


Display in the Trading Post.


    Although our 30 minute visit was short, I came to admire and appreciate the restoration work being done by owners, Allan and Tina Affeldt, on this a masterpiece from the last century so it will be here for the next century. In the past I have read articles and story's about La Posada and it was definitely on the must visit list. I was a happy camper as we rejoined I-40 and headed to our next stop. 


    We take Exit 286 at AZ 77 in Holbrook, AZ and then south to Santa Fe Freight House.

    Holbrook was founded in 1881 when the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad reached this point. Once called the "town too tough for women and churches," the community was named for Henry R. Holbrook, chief engineer of the railroad project. The seat of Navajo County, Holbrok is close to Petrified Forest National Park and several reservations.

    The Little Colorado River's sweeping turns traverse westward through town, and the terrain consists of flat plains, rugged hills and small buttes. Official U.S. mail is delivered to Scottsdale in early February when the Pony Express rides from Holbrook.






BNSF mainline looking East towards New Mexico.

        After leaving Holbrook, we made an executive decision to break away from our tight schedule and make a visit to one of our national parks.

Painted Desert

    Painted Desert, partially contained in the northern part of Petrified Forest National Park, is an area of colorful badlands that displays a variety of hues. Representing more than 200-million-years-old-soil layers and river channels turned red from oxidation of iron minerals and then to stone, the desert's colorful erosion effects were created over the millennia by sculpturing from wind and water.

    Going Eastbound on I-40 our next exit is 311. This will take us directly to the Painted Desert Visitors Center and the Entrance Station. Here I purchased the Inter-agency Senior Lifetime Pass (for US citizens 62+) for $10.00. This such a good deal. Myself and a car full of people admitted at no cost. We would use the pass several times later in this trip.

    After paying the entrance fee we proceed to our first stop on the tour:  Tiponi Point.







    Our next stop was Tawa Point.


Painted Desert Rim: 1 mi round trip.
A walk between Tawa Point and Painted Desert Inn provides excellent view of the Painted Desert below.


Driver Chris.


Author Robin.

    Our next stop was Kachina Point.





Painted Desert Inn National Historic Landmark is located at Kachina Point.


Driver Chris with the Canyon Diablo ATV.

    After Kachina Point, the next stop was Chinde Point, which had a picnic area and restrooms. What a great view to have while eating a sandwich.



    And the next stop was Pintado Point




    Our next stop was Nizhoni Point.


    The next view stop was at Whipple Point.



    And the last stop on our tour was Lacey Point.


    When we finished here at the last stop, we make a U turn and backtracked to the Entrance station and exit to return to I-40. Our tour of the painted desert lasted 40 minutes. I felt like I was in a big city museum, moving from one room to another and seeing different works of art in the various rooms. Only here we drove to the different rooms to see the art work but the extra here was that the paintings were in living color 3D. I recommend to anyone in the area to stop here and take a tour of the Painted Desert

    When we finished here at the last stop, we make a U turn and backtrack to the Entrance station and exit to return to I-40. Our tour of the painted desert lasted 40 minutes. I felt like I was n a big city museum moving from one room seeing different works of art in the various rooms. Only here we drove to the different rooms to see the art work but the extra here was that the paintings were in living color 3D. I recommend to anyone in the area to stop here and take the tour.of the Painted Desert.

    As we approached the state line the scenery was changing.

BNSF main line in near distance.




    We are now nearing Gallup, New Mexico and will be leaving I-40 soon.

Babe Ruth Park

Gallup, NM

    The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway pushed into this red rock mesa region in 1881 to use area coal deposits for its engines. Until then mostly stock men had lived in the area; Gallup was a stage stop with nothing more than a saloon/general called the Blue Goose. Coal mining and the presence of the railroad attracted settlers from other nations, giving the city an unusually cosmopolitan heritage.

    The city is best know as the principal Navajo trading center-their vast reservation extends north and west into Arizona. It also has more than 100 trading posts, shops and galleries.

        We take exit 22 and then turn left on Ford Dr. then left onto Joseph M. Montoya Blvd.


Defiance Coal  0-4-0T.  Builder - Davenport # 2180, 1930.



    Next door to the 0-4-0T display was this art sculpture work.




    I think it is saying that mine work is hard and dangerous. Leaving here we head to US 491. Finding US 491, it was time for nutritional break at the golden arches. Oh the joys of traveling. After our break we continue north on US 491 through the Navajo Nation. If you look in an old atlas or road map you will see that this road was formerly named US 666. I wonder why the name change. Could it be superstition ?

Navajo Nation

    The Navajo Nation is the home of the largest Native American tribe in the United States. It occupies 27,000 square miles in Arizona, Utah and northwestern New Mexico. Of the tribe's nearly 300,000 members, some 106,800 live in New Mexico. These lands are rich with the living culture of the Dine ("the People," in their language) and in recreational opportunities like hiking, hunting and fishing.


Awesome scenery while driving north on US 491 through Navajo Nation.







Shiprock  el.7178ft:  ground el 5590ft.

    At the town of Shiprock we take US 64 East to Farmington, NM where we will spent the night.

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Text and Photos by Author

The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent.

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