This “leftover photo” from our September 2018 road trip was made on the way from Monument Valley to Winslow, in Arizona, and it comes with a little bit of an anecdote.
On these trips, we often use “Samantha”, our old Garmin GPS (named so after the English voice that is available), because it is an “offline” system that doesn’t require an internet connection for location and navigation. The problem is that the map data is a little bit outdated by now so when we do have a connection, we double-check with our phones – hoping that the route suggestions of the two devices match.
From Kayenta (south of Monument Valley) to Winslow, they did match, and both devices recommended a short and direct route via “Black Mesa”. It sounded cool too! The mesa might have gotten its name from a coal mine in the area, and indeed, our navigation system told us to make a turn onto Kayenta Mine Road (which is also labelled BIA-41 or Navajo Route 41 on some maps).
The mesa wasn’t black of course and we soon passed the mine. Then, the asphalt ended. Oh well, “how long can this possible be?” we thought. And drove. And drove. Through an area with really wonderful names: Owl Valley. Little Black Spot Mountain. Many Bobcats Hill. Crooked Finger Spring. And many more.
The road changed from Route 41 to Route 8029, the “Turquoise Trail” – and we finally reached pavement again. Yay! Until Samantha told us in her stern voice to make a right turn onto guess what… more dirt road, of course, bringing an abrupt end to our momentary elation. The dirt road was in a good condition, most of all it was dry and not muddy, and not too dusty either. We were grateful for these road conditions because it was really, really a lot of miles on dirt that we drove.
About halfway across Black Mesa, we finally reached asphalt again, passed the Hopi Cultural Center at Second Mesa, and soon made a turn onto AZ-87. This was the second funny part of the drive: I’ve never seen a road that was that straight before! I challenged myself to adjust the steering wheel as little as possible – while also trying to not speed, or fall asleep. :P
Eventually, we came through an area that broke the monotony a little bit: the Hopi Buttes. This is a volcanic field and out of a relatively flat plain, a lot of volcanic cones or buttes rise. It is quite an interesting sight. I eventually had to stop and at least make a photo of one of them – the fence that ran all the way across the plain towards the butte and up its slope was just the right little extra to provide a sense of scale:
We continued further south to Winslow, checked in at the hotel, and returned to the Little Painted Desert for sunset. Afterwards, we had a delicious dinner at the Turquoise Room restaurant of the La Posada Hotel in Winslow, and were ready to retire to bed after this long day.
The only problem with that was: the La Posada Hotel, itself an absolutely wonderful place, is also a former Fred Harvey railroad house and thus, directly at the (nowadays only freight) train station in Winslow. And the freight operations do not stop. And it is assumed that you know this, apparently. Our room (#200) was at the south-west corner of the house, on the second floor – an ideal location to get the maximum exposure to and impact of train noise! Complementary earplugs were on the night stands. How kind! I wish they would have told us about the trains and the noise when I booked the room… (in hindsight, it was a bit foolish and naive to follow the recommendation to stay there without double-checking the place and taking a closer look first, of course).
It’s not just trains passing by. It’s noises of shunting, switching, routing, wagons being disconnected and reconnected, with a lot of loud thumping and thudding, metallic clanking and clanging, accompanied by droning and humming of heavy diesel engines. Apparently, some people love that. To me, it was just highly annoying. This last night was meant to be a treat to ourselves at a special place, and it turned into a sore disappointment because I was robbed of much needed sleep that I was really looking forward to.
The train noises continued long into the night. Eventually, I slept for a couple of hours, but in the early morning, the train noises began again (around 4:30 AM, I’d say). Unable to fall asleep again, despite having my own (better) earplugs, I rose (extremely grumpy) and after a shower, I loaded the car and we checked out as early as possible. After an early breakfast in town we were on the road again, for the long last stretch from Winslow home to San Diego…