With the never-ending Corona Virus lurking behind every corner it is difficult to get out. OK, you have done all the hiking trails. They are great but they are getting a little old. You have biked everywhere and even E-biked all over the city but you can’t hike or bike your way from Santa Fe to Masa Verde. An alternative is to go RV.
Why Not Drive?
Why not just drive to Masa Verde? Covid-19 makes that a very reasonable and safe option. However, you cannot drive there and back in one day. That necessitates spending one, two or three nights in a motel. Due to the virus many people are not comfortable with that option. What are people with the need to travel going to do? The solution is go RV!
I Have Never Done an Recreational Vehicle!
Well neither had I. But how are you going to know if you enjoy traveling in a recreational vehicle unless you go RV? We were not going to just go out and buy one so the obvious solution was to rent. Much to my surprise there are numerous sites for RV rental. They are like Airbnb for RVs. Outdoorsy is the site we used. We searched the sites and settled on a recreational vehicle we could both agree on.
What Type of RV Should I Rent?
If you have a wife you will find out that an RV with a toilet and shower is an absolute must. There are very nice trailer recreational vehicles with such amenities but we had nothing to pull it with. With trailers eliminated the next option was the self-contained recreational vehicle you drive. We found a 25-foot class C that had all the amenities we require and was not big to handle. It was time to go RV!
Trip Length, How long?
As this was an experiment to see if we could do a recreational vehicle so we limited the journey to four nights. We plan to keep the driving part of the trip to a minimum but out west that proved impossible. We drove 850 miles in five days. The length of time and distance proved to be just right.
Chillin by the fire and the river.
Our experiment in going RV was a resounding success! Every site was wonderful. Masa Verde was fascinating. We loved cooking out. The RV was very comfortable. We are sold. We are planning more RV trips and we can’t wait. Go RV!
For more information about our RV adventure click on Santa Fe Footprint.
Today is the big day (3/1/20) of our Grand Canyon road trip. It is Nancy’s birthday and we are doing a canyon fly over and river raft trip. Wake up time was 4:30 so we can be at Bright Angle lodge by 5:20. The tour includes breakfast and lunch so I was not happy when breakfast turned out to be a box with a little cup of OJ and a muffin.
Our group consisted of 13 people, 6 in on family, 2 couples and a gal plus her two daughters. We all had to check-in and give them our weight. That did not make some people happy! The plane was a twin otter and it can only hold so much.
Flying Over the Canyon
We all piled in, the plane warmed up and we were off. The canyon is incredible from the air at sunrise. The views where breathtaking. Also breathtaking was some of the bumps. It was a windy day so they said there might be a few bumps. Normally they don’t bother me but this was a small plane and we could see the pilots and out the front. We hit some big bumps with the plane heaving up. You could see the nose of the plane pointing up. I look down and we were over this very deep canyon with no visible place to land, only crash. This gave me and the others a few moments.
We landed a Page Arizona, which is not much. This is the base of the Glen Canyon dam and the beginning of Lake Powell. We all took pictures and waited in the ‘airport’ for a Navaho guide/driver to take us to Antelope Canyon.
Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon between two dry river beds. When it rains the water builds up on one side and comes roaring through the canyon to the other side. Flash floods are very dangerous but there were no clouds in the sky so we were safe.
The canyon is a photographer’s dream. In fact, it was discovered and made famous by a photographer in the 1980s. Our guide showed us where to take the best pictures and even asked for my phone and took some for me. They are the best ones but all are fantastic.
Next it was time for the river rafting. We were driven to the raft place and told to wait for about 45 minutes. That is one of the things I did not like about this tour. We waited for 45 minutes at the airport before the plane and now we waited another 45 minutes at the raft place with nothing to do but sit.
Raft on the Colorado River
The raft trip starts at the very base of the Glen Canyon Dam. As this is a security area and the TSA are in control just like in an airport. We did the metal detectors, no knifes, not even pocket knives! What could you possibly do too a massive dam with a pocket knife? The ‘security’ levels were just ridiculous. To me it seemed more like a jobs program.
We get on the tin and rubber motorized rafts at the base of the dam. The Dam is amazing. It is just a bit smaller that Hoover dam. Off we go down the Colorado river. It is very calm and flat in this area. The canyon walls around us are between 800 & 1,200 feet high. We eat our box lunch, which was not to bad. It was from Subway so that explains why it was good. Out guide was a personable young man. We stopped at a petroglyph site which was interesting. The water comes out of the base of the dam and so is about 40 degrees. The air temp was about 50 so no swimming today. Out guide said in the summer it is normally between 100 & 120 on the river. The 40-degree water would feel good on those days!
The raft trip lasted about four hours. We drifted at times and other times used the motor. The view of the canyon wall where most impressive. The river was so clear we could see the bottom fifteen to twenty feet down. We could see big rainbow trout. Because the dam releases cold water the river has become a great place for trout and trout fishing. We saw numerous fly fishermen along the way. Our raft trip ended at Lee’s Ferry where the raft trips through the Grand Canyon begin.
Bus Ride to Cameron Trading Post
We boarded a bus for our ride back to Grand Canyon Village. The bus was a full-size bus and there were only thirteen of us so we had plenty of room to spread out. Nancy and I picked the seats up front so we had a good view plus the driver was a very chatty gal who had lots of fun stories of the area. This was an unexpected bonus for our Grand Canyon road trip. The half way point was at Cameron Trading Post. The bus stopped there to give us a chance to stretch our legs and of course buy Indian stuff. The trading post was big and actually quite impressive.
Birthday Day Dinner
Dinner that night was Nancy’s birthday dinner at El Tovar. It was an excellent meal. Good service, good food and a wonderful way to celebrate a birthday and a great end to a day of incredible experiences. The final treat of the day was walking under a sky filled with stars with the moon light on the canyon walls.
Time to Go
Now it was time to hit the road and drive back to Santa Fe. We had a nice leisurely breakfast at El Tovar. This time of year, they are the only good place to eat at the rim. The one down side is that they too are doing work and the bathroom were unavailable. They did have port-a-poddies set up down some steps and outside.
We drove out of the park and into the town of Tusayan. On an impulse we stopped at the IMAX theater. The IMAX movie about John Wesley Powell’s boat ride through the Grand Canyon in 1876. Later in the film a powered ultralight flew around the canyon. Incredible views, you felt like you were in the boat and on the plane.
Next was a brief stop in Flagstaff, which seems like an interesting town, then drove on to the Petrified Forest. We had got a late start and it 4:00 so we looked around the gift shop then hit the road. Arrival in Gallup was just before sunset. Friends had told us we had to go to Jerry’s Café for the best southwest food in Gallup. It had been described kind of a dive and it was. At 4:45 it was packed so we knew the food would be good and it was. After a good meal we drove straight from Gallup to Santa Fe and home. Thus ended our Grand Canyon road trip. Now I’m back in Santa Fe and giving tours for Santa Fe Footprints.
I decided before my Tours of Santa Fe business picked up (this was on Feb 28, before the corona virus brought the tour business to a stand still) we should get out of town. A Grand Canyon road trip was just the ticket. I-25 being a north south route has some traffic but mostly cars so when we got on I-40 I was surprised at the heavy truck traffic. Trucks in front, back and beside me.
Arrival at the canyon
We arrived at the El Tovar a little after 5:00. El Tovar is the classic hotel right on the canyon rim. It is the first hotel built on the Grand Canyon and it was built by the Santa Fe railroad. As with all old Santa Fe railroad hotels it was managed by the Fred Harvey company. We could not get a room in the El Tovar but we did have a canyon view room in Kachina Lodge. Kachina is next to El Tovar and was built in the 60s. You check in at El Tovar and then try and I emphasize try to find a parking place. It was surprising that there is so little parking.
Grand Canyon Day 1
We got up a bit late on our first day at the Grand Canyon. This was a relaxing trip so we relaxed. We walked the short distance along the canyon rim trail to El Tovar for a nice breakfast to start the day. After breakfast we walked to the Verkamp’s Visitors Center for more information. The man in the center advised driving along the rim road (AZ-64) to the Desert View tower with stops along the way. Now on our Grand Canyon road trip we will see the canyon!
We got the car and headed out for our rim trail adventure. Out first stop was the main park Visitors center. It is a big facility with five parking lots. Very up to date unlike the Village where we are staying. Again, I was surprised at the crowds. This is the off season but the number of people there made us wonder what it is like during the high season. It must be difficult to even get close enough to see the canyon!
We walked out to Mathers point and the view was spectacular. Most of the people there were Asians, speaking Spanish or some strange European language. Occasionally we would hear English, but not often. Everywhere there are signs saying don’t feed the squirrels or any wild life. Of course a large group of Spanish speakers were feeding a squirrel! He was standing on his hind legs begging for food. Squirrel bites are the most common injury at the canyon. Maybe they need signs in all languages!
Desert View Tower
Desert view is a stone tower at the end of the rim road. It was designed by Mary Colter in 1932. It is a round stone tower 70 feet high and provides the highest viewing along the south rim. The interior is covered in fantastic Indian murals. The tower is designed to look like an ancient ruin. The climb up the inside with all the murals and lookout windows was one of the highlights of the trip. The Desert View tower is not to be missed.
Road to Hermits Rest
When we arrived back at the village we decided to continue the drive west to Hermits rest. This was the last day the road will be open to private cars. Starting on March 1st only shuttle busses will be on the road.
We started from Bright Angle lodge and drove along the road. The viewpoints were smaller but the canyon drop off were more dramatic. From several of the viewpoints you can see the Bright Angle trail leading down the canyon to the river and Phantom Ranch. One particular view point is called the Abyss. The walls go straight down in a dramatic fashion.
Ready for a steak and some brews
After a fantastic day along the canyon rim we were looking forward to a steak dinner. Also a few good cold brews. We were going to the Arizona Steak house at Bright Angle lodge but when we arrived it was closed! Remodeling don’t you know. Nothing on any of the websites about that. This is the time of year when they do a lot of work such as a remodel but they should tell people and not just let them find out when they try and go there!
Food at last !
So, we went to the Harvey Burger Café in Bright Angle lodge. What a complete disaster. The place was mobbed so we waited almost 45 minutes to get in. When we finally did we sat in an area that was supposed to be the bar. The bar was being remodeled so this was just a few tables plus a table with plus a table full of booze bottles. The service was terrible and the food mediocre at best. Not a good way to end a great day of our Grand Canyon road trip.