Arizona. Land of the Grand Canyon, petrified forest, giant crater and . . . snow in May? Well, apparently.
Our plan for today was to get an early start, and head straight for Arizona where we’d swing by the Petrified Forest National Park and then Meteor Crater on the way to Williams, our base of operations for the next three nights. Arizona was weirdly signposted, in that we saw huge billboards saying “State line – 3 miles” but then no marker for the actual state line. Americans, it’s anti-climactic when you don’t even put a sign up on your state lines, get yourselves sorted out. If Nebraska can do it anywhere can.
We could soon tell we’d entered Arizona anyway, as everything by the side of the road was suddenly fake teepees, plastic cows halfway up mountains and signs practically begging us to pull over and buy “native gifts”. We couldn’t be having with all that, so kept our eyes on the prize and rolled up at the Petrified Forest place well on schedule. We’d decided to buy an annual interagency pass to get us into all our scheduled National Parks, and despite Great Sand Dunes being accidentally free the other day $80 for the annual pass was still a good deal, so we got that sorted out by the nice lady at the entrance station and set off into the wilderness.
Given that we’d been driving parallel with the park for a good while, we were slightly concerned that we’d just end up looking at more of the same thing we’d been seeing for the last hour. But no, as soon as we stopped off at the first designated place on the “Painted Desert” end of the park, we knew we were onto a winner.
It was windy. Like, REALLY windy. Like, be careful you don’t literally get blown off the cliff and to your death kind of windy. Shame, but it could have been worse and it didn’t impact the spectacular views. Behold, pic!
There were smooth red hilly rocks, ye olde graffitied rocks, “howtf did they get that stripey?” rocks, and at one point we could just about make out the hazy outline of what we were assured were the San Francisco Peaks, whatever those are. There was lots of wind, lots of Dave taking panoramic photos on his phone, and also a large wooly dog sat on my foot and warmed it up. It was all very cool.
The second half of the park is the actual petrified wood part, and to get there you drive back over the Interstate and about 20 more miles down a winding road. Didn’t expect the place to be that large, but there you go. Adventure!
The thing with petrified logs is that they just look like wood. Weirdly red wood, I’ll admit, but wood nevertheless. Despite all the informative signs telling us how they were turned into not wood, we remained convinced they were wood. Until we saw some up close.
There were various short trails available to wander around some more logs, and the alluring promise of seeing the park’s largest log, but after a lot of standing around in what I’m sure were gale force winds, we decided enough was enough and buggered off. It was excellent though, don’t get me wrong. And those logs really aren’t wood.
Next we drove another hour or so to get to Meteor Crater. I was especially excited for this because I’d read a lot about it during lunch breaks at a call centre job I briefly held in 2004. It’s not a national park, and costs a rather steep $18 for adults, but it was totally worth it despite the wind. Inside the visitors centre is a nice little museum / info exhibit all about craters in general and this one in particular, with some interactive quizzes and things that we couldn’t resist playing with.
Outside is of course where all the real excitement happens, at least if you find giant holes in the ground to be exciting. It was so windy up here that I actually had to hold onto the hand rails to avoid being blown down the steps. But look, big crater!
We couldn’t spend too long here due to the wind, but it was spectacular and I was so happy to finally see the place in real life. Even if it did have a slightly out of place astronaut down in the crater for some reason. We also saw our first Alaska license plate on a motorhome in the car park, which was extremely gratifying as we thought we might never get that one for our collection.
After the crater it was another couple of hours to Williams, and we were equal parts excited and nervous. We haven’t stayed in the same place for three nights since Chicago, so we were really hoping our Rodeway Inn & Suites would be nice. Except the only other one we saw on the way here appeared to have a biker convention happening in the car park, so we were a little concerned. The weather then decided to add to the tension with a small amount of rain, which then turned into sleet, and literally five minutes later we were driving through a Winter wonderland. Let me remind you this is Arizona, in the middle of May. Completely and totally the opposite of anything we ever expected.
The snow seemed to be concentrated around Flagstaff and by the time we finally made it to Williams, weary and trepidatious, it was just raining a bit. Our hotel was a motel, so that didn’t bode well, but it’s actually really really nice. The main living area is mostly taken up with a giant bed, which means we can both sleep comfortably without ever having to touch each other. Hurrah!
We celebrated our successful day with some “carryout” Pizza Hut, which we proceeded to eat on the giant bed. Because we’re classy like that. Tomorrow either Grand Canyon (because we haven’t seen enough giant holes in the ground today) or some other place, I don’t really know. All I know is that this bed is super comfy and I’m drifting off . . .
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