Up And At ‘em! As scheduled, we met Stephanie’s Aunt Mary, and her son, Matthew, at a local eatery named Wecks at 7:00 am. Mallory spent a week with Aunt Mary and Stephanie’s Mom in Albuquerque this summer, so Mallory was especially excited about meeting up with them. Mary has a German Shepherd named Snickers, and she brought her to the restaurant so that Mallory could see her. Those two got along great while Mallory was visiting.
We spent a nice, leisurely 90 minutes eating breakfast and visiting. Matt lives outside Indianapolis and was in town for Christmas, which coincidentally is also Mary’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Mary! It was great to be able to see them and catch up.
KK & PK joined us for breakfast, and left early to go back to the motel to pick up Scott & Erin. They had some hot water deficiency issues this morning, and decided to hang back and get cleaned up once the shower got warm. Once they got loaded up, they met us back at Wecks, and we hit the road. First destination: Wal-Mart.
KK purchased a bed cover for the pickup a few days before the trip, but it didn’t seal perfectly, so he purchased some weatherstripping at the local Wal-Mart. After it got professionally installed in the parking lot, we were on the road by 9:30. And a good thing he got that installed, because 20 minutes west of Albuquerque it started raining, which quickly turned to snow. An hour or so west of Albuquerque, we pulled over for a gasoline fill-up in Grants, NM, and just happened to be at the same exit as the El Malpais National Monument and the Northwest New Mexico Visitors Center. We couldn’t resist and pulled in.
“El Malpais” is Spanish for “the badlands”. It is so named because of the lava flows that dominate the region. The landscape includes jagged spatter cones, a lava tube cave system and ice caves. We typically fit in a cave tour on our trips, and this would be an ideal place, but not this year. We perused the Visitors Center for approximately 5 minutes, stamped our National Parks Passport, and hit the road. As we left the Visitors Center, the and the kids enjoyed throwing a few snowballs in the parking lot. Miles said that “it wasn’t even cold out there” and that “he could have worn a t-shirt”. I guess that is the “dry cold” that we don’t have back in Oklahoma. Honestly, I agree with Miles. It didn’t feel nearly as cold as it looked.
While driving through all the snow, the kids entertained themselves with their electronics again. This also meant that the cabin was quiet except for the beeps and whistles of their games.
Finally as we drove into Arizona, the roads gradually began to clear. Due to the time we lost with the road conditions, we had a tough decision to make. Both the Petrified National Forest and Meteor Crater closed at 5:00 and we would not have sufficient time to see both of them. Turns out it wasn’t that tough a decision because it was unanimous in both vehicles to head straight to Meteor Crater. Our only caveat was that we wanted to stop at the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, AZ. The Wigwam Motel units are shaped like teepees, and there are three of these motels still inexistence, from their original Route 66 days. The Wigwam Motel was parodied in the movie Cars with a traffic-cone motel. We would have loved to stay here, but our travel schedule did not allow for us to stay in that particular part of Arizona.
We arrived in Meteor Crater about 3:00, with two full hours to see the Crater, museum, and gift shop. Meteor Crater is the first proven and most well preserved meteor crater in the world. It was located in the 1800s but for the longest time the conventional wisdom was that the crater was created by a volcanic steam eruption. It was not until 1960 that it was scientifically proven it was caused by a meteor. The event happened 50,000 years ago, and the meteor was only 150 feet in diameter, yet it made a crater that was 4000 feet wide and 700 feet deep. The crater was fully created in 10 seconds, as the meteor was traveling 11 miles per second when it struck the earth.
We decided to head straight for the Crater Rim for sightseeing & photo opps. Primarily because it was already very cold, and we didn’t figure it was going to get any warmer. Let me tell you that on top of the rim of Meteor Crater, it is not only cold, but also very windy. The facility has a very nice hands on exhibit and several videos explaining what happened. I thought it was a pretty nice visitors center. The gift shop delivered the goods and all the kids bought something.
A description of Marissa’s purchases can be summarized in the following conversation:
Marissa: Dad, I have three treasures!
Steve: Really. What are they?
Marissa: Two pennies and a spider!
She had created two souvenir pennies – the kind you crank through the machine and it imprints a design on it. She also purchased some type of fancy metal spider with sparkly stones on it. A very nice collection of souvenirs by anyone’s standards!
We pulled out of the Meteor Crater parking lot very excited, knowing that we only had about 90 miles to our hotel for the evening. We drove west to Flagstaff on I-40, then north on Hwy 89. By the time we got to Flagstaff, the snow was pretty heavy on the roadside. They had obviously been receiving snow for quite some time. During this part of the journey, the kids switched to books. The overhead lights came on and everyone was reading. (Marissa was actually listening to books on tape.) Mallory was reading to us out of the Guinness Book of World Records. There are some crazy records out there. Feel free to ask her how long the longest toenails in the world are, next time you see her.
Flagstaff Arizona is the home of Northern Arizona University, and somehow we know four different people that graduated from there. It is certainly a beautiful area and I can understand why it is so popular. My main question would be how do you end up in Oklahoma after going to school at NAU?
We got checked into the Cameron Trading Post motel at a very decent time. Before 7:00, I think. All of us decided to go grab a bite to eat in the restaurant located on-site. We got the Navajo Tacos and were happy with that selection. After dinner, we roamed around their very large gift shop, as you can never pass up a good shopping opportunity.
We’re happy to be getting in bed at a decent time tonight, as we plan to depart the hotel at 6:30 am so that we can be at the Grand Canyon for sunrise.