Friday, April 22, 2011

1,894 miles, 2 RVs, 1 puppy and 4 Swedes: Our road trip to the Grand Canyon

With the arrival of our new puppy, Bailey, and Spring Break quickly approaching, we decided it was the ideal time for a road trip to the Grand Canyon.  I reserved an RV through Cruise America, started mapping out our course and consulted the RV park review website recommended by my uncle (Thanks, Uncle Vern!)

Imagine our surprise when the father of two of our younger kids' classmates announced one evening at a party that they'd heard of our planned RV adventure and their family wanted to join us!  Initially, we weren't completely sure he was serious (he has a very dry sense of humor) but in all fairness, we're good friends and they're easy going folks who are here for a couple of years from Sweden.  Their son & daughter are the other set of twins in our twins' grade at the local elementary school.  So we decided, why not?

We picked up our RVs on a Saturday, practiced driving a bit, packed up and set off a little later than we'd planned on Sunday.  Our first driving day was 8 hours long, taking advantage of the RV novelty and hoping the kids wouldn't mind too much.  Initially we drove as individual families in our own RVs but soon the kids started switching back and forth en masse.  One day, we'd have all 5 kids and the next day no one.  It was a nice balance.  Our first overnight was at the Barstow Calico KOA.  It was basic, but clean.

Next we skirted Las Vegas and made our second stop at Lake Mead National Recreation Area.  (For all you National Park Service Passport aficionados, the Swedish twins are now the proud owners of their very own little blue books.  The usual Lake Mead Visitors Center was closed for renovations so we trekked to the temporary one in downtown Boulder City.)  The youngest four braved the cold water temperature for a quick dip in Lake Mead while we set up camp and cooked dinner.

The following morning, we drove a short distance to
Hoover Dam and the new Mike O'Collaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial BridgeTruth be told, we had tried to get a tour the previous afternoon, but we were too late. Touring Hoover Dam was high on the geek-of-a-husband's Bucket List so we got up and out early that morning and made it to the 9AM tour.  Did you know that the Colorado River divides the states of Nevada and Arizona at this location?  Stand in the middle of the dam and you can straddle the state line.

Afterwards, we headed toward the Grand Canyon stopping to drive a bit of the old Route 66 through Seligman, AZ.  The folks are mighty friendly at Historic Seligman Sundries and the coffee's good, too.  Don't forget to say hello to 'Mater out front.
We made it to the South Rim just as the sun was setting.  It was breathtaking!  And cold!  It had snowed three days prior so there were plenty of leftover snow piles which the kids used to make snowballs to heave over the edge. 

We spent two nights at the conveniently located, but not at all luxurious Xanterra Grand Canyon Trailer Village.   During our two days in the park, we did a little hiking, checked out the Visitors' Center and  Yavapai Geology Museum, saw the sunset each evening, dined one night at the El Tovar Hotel and we only lost the photography obsessed dads once.  Bailey was allowed on leash in all park buildings and on paved trails.  She was convinced that everyone we encountered in the park was there to meet her! 

We headed out of the Grand Canyon via the eastern "Desert View" exit, stopping at the easternmost Visitors' Center and replica Puebloans' Watchtower.  Prior to our trip, a friend had told me that the views were all the same no matter where you stand.  I disagree!  The eastern part of the canyon is drier and quite different from the South Rim vista points.  Next Grand Canyon visit, I'd like to take a mule ride to the bottom of the canyon and stay overnight at Phantom Ranch

We drove south on US-89 through the Navajo Nation toward the San Francisco Peaks and Flagstaff.  We stopped briefly at the Sunset Crater National Monument for a picture, a passport stamp and to make some sandwiches before continuing south again toward Flagstaff.

South of Flagstaff, we cut off onto State Highway 89A which runs through a deep red rock canyon.  It was beautiful!  We stumbled upon Slide Rock State Park and stopped for a quick swim.  This is my cool iPhone pic of the Swedes' RV in my side mirror. Pretty cool, huh?

Sedona is a quaint little town nestled among dramatic red rock formations.  We stayed overnight at the Rancho Sedona RV Park, the nicest, shadiest spot we found in all our travels. We found delicious ice cream and coffee at the Black Cow Cafe though I couldn't get anyone to try the Prickly Pear ice cream.   

The next day, we continued south to Montezuma's Castle National Monument, a five story cliff dwelling that's over 700 years old.  It's the oldest structure in North America!  We then headed to Prescott, AZ for lunch at Kendall's Famous Burgers & Ice Cream.  Afterwards, we took a break and played baseball on the grounds of the Prescott Court House and did a little shopping along Whiskey Row.

Prescott was a last minute change of course, so I was navigating via my iPhone from there to Moon River RV Park in Mohave Valley.  Hadn't realized I was taking us over the treacherous Black Mountains AT DUSK via the Historic Route 66.  How else would we have found the ghost town, Oatman, where you can feed carrots to wild mules, see a live (staged) gun fight and eat buffalo burgers at the Oatman Hotel where Clark Gable and Carole Lombard secretly honeymooned in 1939?  I think that's called serendipity!
From there, we went back for another night at the Barstow Calico KOA.  We drove the long 8 hours home the next day stopping for a much needed break & lunch at Harris Ranch Restaurant south of Coalinga.  It was a great trip and we're already thinking about where our next RV adventure will be.  With the Swedes, of course!

These are the travel books I used for this trip:

1 comment:

  1. It was a wonderful trip Melissa and we are so happy that we could come along.