To Fredonia – Volcanos and Cowgirls



Saturday 24 th.
We leave our lovely Airbnb after yet another magic breakfast and set off for Fredonia. On the way we aim to drive the Wupatki loop that takes us around Sunset Crater, an extinct volcano, and on to the Wupatki National Monument where we hope to find out more about the Pueblo ancestors and the Hopi history.

The two sites are intertwined it seems. Just before the volcano erupted in the 11th century the local people, in tune with their environment, moved away and settled further North. The ash from the eruption had a beneficial effect especially on agriculture and a settlement grew. There have been people working the land ever since until quite recently when it became a National Monument under the governance of the National Parks. The last remaining native families were moved off a couple of decades ago because of alleged ‘overgrazing’ issues. Now it has an educational purpose only.
Among the displays are some written testaments from the families who were moved and to say they were pissed off is putting it mildly. Like a lot of the forced movement of these people they seem to accept it and move on.

Soon we are back on the main Route 89 and cruising through Navajo lands. We stop at the famous Cameron Trading Post and I have Navajo stew with a delicious Navajo flat bread. Marilyn’s disappointing salad has a prickly pear vinaigrette which is interesting to say the least.

I take some time to look at the exquisite woven rugs but sadly don’t have the spare four thousand dollars to purchase one.

We detour on the scenic route 89a and immediately the scene changes as we drive towards high red cliffs on a flat plateau.


We stop at Navajo Bridge where North and South Rim of the Colorado are joined by two short bridges. Today is the release of two Condors as part of a conservation project and we overhear a couple talking about having seen the release earlier. We keep a look out but can’t see any. Apparently the juvenile birds come down to roost on the bridges.
We continue this fabulous drive with high cliffs to our left. These are rightly called the Vermillion Cliffs and when the sun strikes them the colour is unreal.
Soon we are climbing. After a coffee rest at Jacob Lake where the cookies are to die for, we are soon descending again to our Airbnb in Fredonia.


We are staying in the home of Cowgirl Ronnie. A small, comfortable home with a wrap around veranda with rocking chairs and glider ( a kind of rocking sofa ). There is an outside kitchen as well as the interior one and she has a sheep wagon in the garden which she often sleeps in.


Cowgirl Ronnie is nursing a sick pheasant on the rocker as we arrive and delivers it back to its coop muttering about maybe having to put it in the pot.
She is a fully signed up member of the National Rifle Association and is proud of her right to bear arms. Her house is filled with cowgirl parafennalia including her holster and pistol.
She is full of stories about the life in the Kane Beds ( according to her this is a kind of lawless no- go area in the backlands). She tells us of her role as a brand inspector to combat rustling and all mixed in with a bit of her love life and the capricious nature of cowboys who are all testosterone. Apparently they have no emotional intelligence at all and their feelings are all in the seat of their pants which makes them such good riders of horses. They have to boss a horse a dog and thousands of cows and usually are men of few words she tells us between showing us how the coffee machine works and where to find the delicious fresh eggs.
She has made a large beef chilli the day before on her first log burner fire of the fall and she generously offers it to us. We accept and eat while we hear a short history of the Mormons around Colorado City where apparently the chief prophet has been jailed for underage bigamist activity as well as fraud with the dairy herd.
It is fair to say that she is a character and obviously has a heart of gold. However, we are pleased to finish our delicious chilli and retire to our room.
I manage to sneak out to witness a star filled sky so close I can touch them if I had a stool.
And then bed.
Tomorrow is the much anticipated North Rim of the Grand Canyon.


Cowboy Ronnie’s bumper.




Rainy Flagstaff and Grand Canyon South Rim

imageThursday 22nd/Friday 23rd

We are in lovely Flagstaff. It has something like three hundred days of sunshine a year – even when it’s under three feet of snow. So when we hear that rain is forecast our host tells us not to worry.

“In Flagstaff you just wait twenty minutes in bad weather for good weather to reappear. It never rains all day to soak you out”


On this particular day it started drizzling and then did steady,soak-you-out rain all day. So change of plan.Sadly no Sedona and no ‘standing on a corner of Winslow Arizona’ that had been the plan. What do Brits do in the rain?

Go to a museum!

It’s not actually a bad choice when the museum is the award winning museum of Northern Arizona. We have so much to learn about the ancient geology of this region and the peoples who lived and flourished here for so long. It seems that there is a job on to help ‘Modern Americans’ ( whoever they are ) to accept that this ancient history is also their history. So many of them -we are told- seem to think it all started with the Mayflower or whenever their clan emigrated.

So we enjoy a walk through history and we are dazzled by the creativity and the versatility of the people from various tribes  who managed to live in harmony in what appears an inhospitable environment. We learn how they migrated with the seasons over huge tracts of land; how they used sophisticated tools and made pottery and weaving of exquisite quality; how they largely managed to get on with each other and co-operate in order to survive; how they believed in the sanctity of family and education and so much more.


The Navajo, as one of the largest contemporary families is perhaps the most politicised in the present day and is working to gain some of its history and lands back. But there is a constant battle of cultures. Neil Young wrote a song about when cultures collide. It is a slow process I feel.


Tomorrow we go to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The picture at the top of this blog is done by Curt Walters a contemporary artist. His work is stunning in the flesh. Huge canvasses that glow. Surely the real thing can’t be like that? We will find out tomorrow. His work is hung in a special gallery. A modern man who feels the spirit of this vast landscape. We leave this fantastic museum in the rain and head for the ‘ Pioneer Museum ‘ just down the road. This is set in an old hospital for infirm and homeless that was set up after the railroad brought prosperity to many in Flagstaff.Not everyone flourished in the new and growing town.

This museum brings us up to date with Flagstaff’s history. The first settlers came through in search of a route to the West. They made a road. This eventually became the iconic Route 66. Then the railway came through and the rest is history. Now it is a prosperous university town set in the California Mountains. It has a wonderful climate and is in the middle of one of the largest Ponderosa Pine  forests in the U.S.A.

I enjoyed both places although I am still a little confused how I feel about the second museum’s lack of any recognition of much of the history pre the first pioneers. It kind of reinforces that feeling that the ancient history is not really acknowledged by everyone as being important or relevant.

We manage to drag ourselves to one of Flagstaff’s many burgeoning breweries for lunch before giving up hope of getting to Winslow.

Maybe another day.

Friday 23 rd – Grand Canyon South Rim.

We receive a message from my brother that their hire car has packed up and we have arranged to spend the day with them exploring the South Rim where they are now staying. We hope they will have a replacement by midday and set off from Flagstaff to meet them at high noon.

We enter the Park from the East and the Desert View Watch Tower built by Mary Coulter a pioneer who, together with her husband had a hand in much of the  historical infrastructure of the State.

We are immediately struck by the enormity and expense and the colour of the view. We can only spend a few moments here as we are learning the distances often eat into the time that we allocate for journeys.

So we continue into the park along the plateau and through forest that hides the wonder to our right hand side and only metres away. I would not advise anyone  who arrives at the park around midday to try and park anywhere near the visitor centre. It must be impossible in the summer and despite being out of season it is absolutely rammed with cars when we get there. Eventually I find a space in the Market area and we meet up with a rightly stressed brother and wife. However they are sorted and we can plan our afternoon.

There is a system of shuttlebuses in the park to take you along the rim and we eventually managed to get onto one of these . My heart sinks at first because it is a little like riding the underground in in the rush hour however we jump off the bus and within minutes of walking we are alone with the magnificent canyon. There are not words that I can find to describe the setting. Safe to say I have been lucky enough to be able to see a lot of beautiful places in the world, but nowhere compares to the majesty and scale of what we see here.


We spend an afternoon , until the sun begins to set, walking sections and watching the colours change and the depth of vision and sense of grandeur become almost too much to comprehend. We see deer and huge birds and although we know there are thousands of people doing the same as us there are times when we are alone with an enormous silence in which to contemplate how very small we are in the scale of things.

We have a fairly long drive back to Flagstaff and say goodbye to Tony and De to make the road as the light fades.

Marilyn and I are fairly lost for words on the way.

I am wondering how the rest of this trip can compare with what we have just experienced. And we both agree how fortunate we are that we are able to have had this  opportunity.

And we are told that the North Rim, where we are headed soon is even better.



Onto Route 66.


21st September –

We are rested up thanks to our very comfortable Airbnb in Boulder and ready to head off to Flagstaff Arizona where we will meet up with my eldest brother and sister-in-law.

Our route is along the longest remaining original stretch of the ‘Mother Road’  – Route 66 and it is fair to say we are just a bit excited at the prospect.

We are soon over Hoover Dam and on a fast section of Interstate 93 that has been cut through the scrub and desert. At Kingman we turn onto the longest remaining section of the original Route 66. We pass through what must have been a film set for so many westerns and hip road films of the 60’s and 70’s.


Packs of motorcyclists surge past on their Harleys, leather clad and often with a young blond hanging on the pillion. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the fellas apart under their trendy helmets. They all seem to sport grey beards of varying lengths and bedraglement and the leathers often sport the icon and name of their chapter. They mostly seem to be of a certain age and many are carrying a bit of extra baggage. The female pillion is often much younger and glamorous. I wonder what the attraction can be for them? I have had conversations  with a few of these ‘Angels’ and, without fail, they are puppy dogs and love their bikes and the freedom of the road as they relive ‘Easy Rider’ that I believe was shot along this very section of road.

The scenery takes me back to early childhood as I imagine the bandits hiding up in the rocks ready for an ambush. I expect to see smoke signals rising from the bluffs or a wagon hurtling towards me being chased by hollering natives or masked bandits.


We pass through little towns that retain the original feel of the road and seem caught in a time warp. Some however have decayed as have many of the little homesteads along the way. We pass through Hackberry, Peach Springs and take a stop in Seligman to enjoy a pioneer museum before getting on to the new road and climbing through the ponderosa pine forests that take over from the desert. As we continue to climb the California Peaks it gets cooler and the air is crisper and scented with pine.

Soon we pull into our second lovely Airbnb that is nestled at the foot of a mountain on the outskirts of Flagstaff. The welcome is warm and soon we are watching the humming birds feeding on the verandah as our host prepares us some refreshment.

We are meeting up with my eldest brother Tony and his wife De who are at the end of their little jaunt.



A meal in Flagstaff follows at the ‘Tinderbox’ and we share stories over the scrummy food.

And then sleep and weird dreams of being Peter Fonda and then Denis Hopper which is strange as I can’t ride a motorcycle and they are both very old.



Vegas (from the air) and the Hoover Dam





Nearly everyone I have ever met has told me that they would love to go to Vegas.

It strikes me the best of Vegas may be what we get to see as we are flying in, near midnight, at the end of a very long flight from England that has been re- routed, ( Edmunton to Toronto ) and , thankfully, upgraded.



As we make our landing descent the sprawl of Las Vegas emerges from a pitch black desert like a spreading jewel of  sparkling lights. The plane descends and I pick out an Eifel Tower, a Pyramid, a London Wheel. This city has copied culture from the rest of the world and turned it into something I will not be rude about because I am a guest here.

The city has grown from tens of thousands inhabitants in the eighties to millions now and it has become a Mecca for the joy seekers who arrive in their millions to gamble, frolic, get married, watch a show, enjoy a stag do play golf or any of the other jollities that have been invented to extract some dollars from the wallet.

It is a jewel  of light and hedonism in a desert that previously supported the Mohave Native and other small tribes who knew how to live in tune with a hostile, desert environment without golf clubs, casinos, the gas guzzling automobile, neon and 24/7 revelry.



To ensure that this modern urban spread can exist the Colorado river has been tamed. We visit the Hoover Dam today and cannot help but be struck by modern man’s ability to perform great feats of engineering. The tamed river is harnessed to provide the electricity needed for such human endeavour as the lights in the sky we have just witnessed and the agriculture needed to feed the populace that comes here to enjoy the delights of the Strip and the pleasures that a man made lake can provide.

But at what cost in a world of climate change? Our host at the lovely bnb where we stay informs us that the lake has dropped by 50 metres over the past twenty years or so of drought and that soon the level won’t be high enough to drive the turbines to provide the electricity to power the lights and the greedy  air conditioning needed by modern people to live in the desert in comfort.

Apparently it’s a mix of too little snow in the Rockies and alleged wasteful use of water by the farmers in Arizona and California.

I can see the white marked rock on the flooded Canyon walls that show where the levels were and can only wonder at the trillions of gallons it would take to refill this lake to the levels of the eighties.

A kind of metaphor for all that is Western Capitalism really.

If we are not careful we will eat ourselves, destroy an ancient planet and turn all the lights out.

Not many will make the trip to Vegas then.

And before I get too much on my high horse – I belong to a golf club, I flew here in a plane and was glad of the air conditioning last night and drive a huge gas guzzling 4 by 4 to see these sights.

I wonder if there is an answer to this puzzle and welcome suggestions.


Delays and Upgrades…

Every cloud has a silver lining.

Marilyn is a self confessed travel jinx. The last few train journeys she has done have been mega delayed by people on the track or signal failures.


…..The Night Riviera is delayed nine minutes. It is well worth the small delay, however, as we settle in the bar for a late night drink before snuggling in our duvets in our little cabin to be gently rocked to sleep on the slow ride to Paddington.

We are woken by the helpful attendant at six o’clock with a bacon baguette and a cup of tea to be devoured in bed. We make the Gatwick Express in good time to check in our West Jet flight only to be told that there is a delay.

” Please take this £20 voucher and get yourself some food and come back in an hour or so and we will see what we can do….You may be at risk of not making your connecting flight.”

Indeed there is a problem and we are advised to take a different flight that would ensure a safe connection but arrive a few hours later in Vegas. I am horrified! What about our booked accommodation? The private bnb won’t be too pleased if we arrive after midnight.

“No problem. If that can’t be sorted you must book a hotel in Vegas and charge it to the airline.”

“Upgrade?”  I venture a little cheekily.

” Oh yes. First Class. Unlimited drink and food and use the first class lounge until  your flight. And go through fast security as well.”

I look at Marilyn. I pretend to be a little miffed that there aren’t a few more perks. She shrugs her shoulders and ‘reluctantly’ agrees we have to take this option. We take our upgraded tickets and skip through quick security to the lounge where we are waiting in comfort, surrounded by free food and and booze and with a carrier bag full of M&S best that has to be eaten before American customs.

What shocks me a little, as someone who has never travelled by plane this way is how nonchalant everyone appears to be. It’s as if they do this all the time.

I look at Marilyn as she does her puzzle in the paper and she could be a frequent flyer she looks so relaxed.

There IS a silver lining under most clouds I find.

Route 66 – here we come!

Vegas, Canyons and Route 66


The day before.

nearly packed!

Visas and passports – check

dollars – check

tickets – check

Tomorrow we catch the night train to Paddington. Monday flight to Las Vegas. Pick up hire car and hit the road.

What we discover we will share with those of you interested in our Grand Circle road trip. Watch this space.


Day 20 – Backtrack to Oviedo and on to Gigon ( by bus )

more from camino

The Camino Norte

Gigon Gigon

Calling it a day on the Primitivo –

We have underestimated my walking partner’s predicament.

His stoicism has hidden his real problem and , after a terrible night which sees him unable to sleep and in some discomfort, it’s clear he should see a doctor. At this point I’m not sure he agrees with me about that but we are both clear that we cannot continue into the hills with this level of insecurity about our ability to cope without the proximity of a doctor if needed. We discuss the options and decide to return to Gigon on the Norte where we will be in a position to make a decision about doctors and whether we can both continue. It is clear that a long walk like this and the daily insecurity about where to eat and sleep is not to be done without being in confident health.



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