Zion National Park to Joshua Tree via Grand Canyon & Monument Valley 30 October to 17 November 2017

 

My route from Zion NP to Joshua Tree NP

I really loved Zion, it’s one beautiful, peaceful place. But as always there were a lot more nice places waiting to be explored. Monument valley was one of these places so it was “Giddy up and go time.

Going down the 89

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Took the 89 which was heading down past the Grand Staircase Escalante.

Stopped at a place called Dinosaurs Cave. This was an actual cave that functioned for a while as a Dance hall and bar before becoming a museum and exhibition hall for fossils and stones. The owner was a geologist.

 

Lake Powell

Stopped off in Lake Powell by a place called Page. This is bordering on the Navajo Indian Reservation which is one of the larger reservation. The Navajo are famous, among other things, from their code talking days during the 2nd World War. They served in the American army where they encoded messages in their native language and every unit in the Pacific war zone had some Navajo translators who translated everything back into English. The Japanese were unable to decipher the messages which effectively saved countless allied lives and shortened the conflict.

It also borders the states of Utah and Arizona, it is a water reservoir created by damming the Colorado River. It is the second largest man made reservoir in the US. Lake mead being the biggest.

 

The mighty Colorado River

It fills what used to be Glen Canyon, thanks to the completion of the Glen Canyon Dam. This area is now named the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Which is also home to the Rainbow Bridge which is one of the world’s largest known natural bridges, the neighboring American Indian tribes consider Rainbow Bridge sacred.

Tiggy Moondust catching the first rays of the sun….

I found a tent site on the Wahweap Campground. This was a really nice little camping site. Even had Wi-Fi in the tent. The next day I went first into Page to do some shopping. I desperately needed a shoemaker to repair my riding boots. The sole was coming off at the front. No shoemaker was to be found in the town, also not in a lot of other places. People were kinda surprised when I asked them, they just dump and buy new ones.  One nice wee man told me to buy glue in the local hardware store and to fix ‘em myself. So that’s what I did.

Magical Upper Antelope Canyon

Then on to Antelope Canyon. This is a slot canyon situated on Navajo Land. It contains two separate canyons, Upper Antelope Canyon and  “The Crack”, the Lower Antelope Canyon. The Navajo name for the Upper Antelope Canyon is Tsé bighánílíní, which means ‘the place where water runs through rocks’ and the second one, Lower Antelope Canyon or the “Corkscrew” is called Hazdistazí (“Hasdestwazi” by the Navajo Parks and Recreation Department), or “Spiral Rock Arches”.

 

Both canyons are in the LeChee Chapter of the Navajo Nation. Antelope Canyon was formed by erosion  of Navajo sandstone primarily due to flash flooding and secondarily due to other processes. Rainwater, especially during monsoon season, runs into the extensive basin above the slot canyon sections, picking up speed and sand as it rushes into the narrow passageways. Over time the passageways eroded away, making the corridors deeper and smoothing hard edges in such a way as to form characteristic “flowing” shapes in the rock.

Flooding in the canyon still occurs. A flood occurred on October 30, 2006, that lasted 36 hours, and caused the Tribal Park Authorities to close Lower Antelope Canyon for five months. The worst flood happened on August 12 1997 causing the death of 11 tourists. Very little rain had fallen on the site that day but an earlier thunder storm had filled the canyon basin 7 miles (11Km) upstream.

Navajo tour guide, Navajo tourmobile and not Navajo tourist

This was also the reason that it is now impossible to visit the canyons alone. You have to take an organized guided tour. I took a tour of Upper Antelope Canyon and was definitely not disappointed. It was well worth the money. This can be best seen in the photos. Then back to the campsite to fry up some Quorn burgers and to make a salad.

 

Riding into Monument Valley at sunset

Riding into Monument Valley at sunsetThen it was time to go, this time to Monument Valley, the most filmed valley on earth, star of many a western and not so western films. Director John Ford used it a lot in his western movies but it was also used in Back To the Future III, Easy Rider, 2001 A Space Odyssey and also in two episodes of a British sci-fi series “Doctor Who”. Those episodes where “The impossible astronaut” and “Day of the moon”, so that was definitely more than reason enough to pay this place a visit. Monument Valley or in the Navajo language Tse’Bii’Ndzisgaii, which simply means “valley of the rocks” is situated in the Colorado plateau on the Arizona Utah border and is characterized by an enormous collection of sandstone buttes, the tallest being 1000 feet (300m)

So it was first down the 98, leading deep into Navajo territory, where I stopped in a place called Kaibito. This was a native American small town. As luck would have it there was also a small market going on with some street food vendors. Got some cornbread, some Navajo herbal tea and some stewed peaches. The stewed peaches I bought from a little old lady and jolly nice they were too.

Ancient cave dwellings at Navajo Monument

Carried on to the 160 where  I made a little diversion on the 564 to the Navajo National Monument, ancient Cliff Dwellings and then the 163 into Monument valley.

 

 

 

Riding into Monument Valley at sunset

Now it was getting late and the sun was setting when I arrived, like shades of “Easy Rider”, in  the film as they ride through Monument Valley at dusk. Pitched my tent up in the sand dunes right in Monument Valley.

 

 

Tiggy Moondust posing again at sunrise…

There was a beautiful sky that night but then the wind got up and it really blew. Once again had sand everywhere in the tent. But as compensation saw a beautiful sunrise.

 

 

If you have a four wheel drive you can drive around the monuments. But motorcycles and two wheel drive cars  are not allowed, not even dirt bikes. You have to take a tour. These are expensive. Hung around the area and got one for 30 dollars. Negotiated with the driver. Shared the truck with a German couple and their child.

If it was good enough for John Wayne…

Then rode to the Valley of the Gods, this is a nice wee off road run with some spectacular rock formations. Spent the night at the Goulding’s camp site. This is an ancient place and even have and use a lot of the original movie sets. John Wayne stayed here and they even have the cabin he slept in. So if it was good enough for him….. Saw a beautiful sunset.

Next morning it was time to go, this time to the Grand Canyon. So it was back onto the 160. Once again the wind got up. Stopped in Tuba for the night. Had to shelter.

Headed into the reservation…

Next morning headed into the reservation to go to a village called Old Oraibi or Orayvi as it is known by the native inhabitants. This is the oldest continually inhabited village in the United States http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/az/oraibi.html dating from around 1100 AD and inhabited by the Hopi Native Americans.

You are requested not to make any photos, out of respect  I didn’t. Spent some time there chatting to a local. I got to learn a bit about the tribe that live there. The houses have no plumbing, water comes from a spring a couple of miles away, if there is electricity it’s solar powered.

Bought souvenirs at Red Rock Native Art Guild outside the village

The people that live there live according to the old traditions and customs. They won’t take anything unless it comes from the nature and is freely given. He told me about Tawa (the sun spirit and creator in Hopi mythology) There are many versions of the creation, because there are many different tribes in the main Hopi nation. A lot will depend who is telling the tale. Anyway, the version this man told me went like this and it was the creation of Oraibi and it’s inhabitants. “The creator took a blue star from the heavens and let it go over the area that is now Oraibi thus giving birth to the Shree tribe”. I didn’t take notes when he was telling the story so may have got the name of the tribe wrong.  “He comes back and keeps an eye on the inhabitants of the village. Sometimes a blue haze can be seen at night over the village and this is the creator”. For an account of the creation of the world according to old Hopi legend go to  http://www.gly.uga.edu/railsback/CS/CSFourCreations.html

Highway 89

Then it was getting to be afternoon and I still had to get to Grand Canyon. Headed back the way I came, first stopping at a Hopi restaurant to eat some lunch and once again to chat to some of the locals. Headed further and the wind started to get up again. Got onto Hwy 89 and it began to get scary. Was blown clear across the road and decided to stop at the next available hotel or motel.

My last delicious Navajo veggie taco

That was at Cameron,  an old trading post. Got a room for 40 dollars so was dead happy. The wind was really blowing now. It blows sand and debris across the road making riding hazardous. Met an American bicyclist, he was in the same situation as me, forced to seek shelter. That night had my last Navajo taco for dinner. This is, in my case, a veggie taco on fried Navajo bread. It’s really delicious. The next morning it was still windy but after breakfast decided to do the short hop to the Grand Canyon. So it was a short bit on the 89 and the 64 to Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim.

My first glimpse of the Grand Canyon!

The Grand Canyon or Tsekooh Hatsah in the Navajo language and Ongtupqua in the native Hopi language is 277 miles (446 km) long, 18 miles (29 km) wide and attains a depth of over a mile (1.6 meters).

 

 

The Colorado River flowing through the Grand Canyon

The Colorado river flows through it and is still eroding it to this day. The canyon can be viewed through 3 places, the North Rim, closed for the winter, from October, the South Rim which is opened all year round and the Skywalk at Grand Canyon West. Grand Canyon West is located on the Hualapai Indian Tribal Lands and is the closest entrance to Las Vegas and is second in popularity to the south entrance.  First view of the canyon was from Highway 64 at a place called the Watch Tower and I have to admit Grand it is indeed. Then I had to find a camping spot. This was the Maher Campground and for the princely sum of 16 dollars I could pitch my tent. Temperatures were dropping.

Hiking the Kaibab trail

The next morning dressed in my warm hiking gear, packed me biscuits, sandwiches and water and took the shuttle bus towards Yaki point. Got off at the South Kaibap Trailhead and hiked down into the canyon a short distance.

 

 

The myriad changing colors of the Grand Canyon

When you hike down into the canyon it feels dead easy, but you have to remember that  you gotta hike back up again and that’s hard, believe me. Took the shuttle back to the Visitors Center and headed out to Hermits Rest on the Red Shuttle Line. Got out at all the stops and hiked a bit.

 

The setting sun lighting up the peaks at Grand Canyon

Watched a sunset at Mohave point. Got the shuttle back to the camping and discovered that I had made a mistake…. I didn’t pack my flash light and it was pitch dark  and to compound my mistake could not remember the number of my site, I knew it was C Loop. I was dead tired and my foot sore and I could not see a thing. I generally have excellent night vision but here it is pitch black and the moon doesn’t rise till late. Found C Loop but could not find my tent. Saw some people  around a camp fire and asked them if they had seen a motor cycle parked anywhere nearby. They told me that it was 100 feet back. So back tracked an loo! there she was.

Well deserved dinner…

Made a nice cup of tea and some dinner, then it started to rain, the shuttle bus driver had been saying that it was going to snow, so decided to call it quits and leave the next morning.

 

 

And it’s the man himself, Fred Flintstone

Headed off to a place called Meteor Park. Took the 64 and just at the junction of the 180 went through a small town called Flintstone and sure enough  Bedrock City was also there. Turned off to have a look and was confronted by a life size statue of the man himself, Mr. Fred Flintstone. There is an RV park and a whole  model town of Bedrock City, so took a load of photos. It was unexpected, didn’t know that it was there. Have to admit it was really well made. Then carried on the 64 to pick up the 40, which incidentally was built on top of the old route 66.

The Meteor Crater

Just before the town of Winslow we turn off for Meteor Crater National Landmark. This is the site of a Meteor Crater. It is situated by Winslow just of the Hwy 40. It is privately owned and costs 18 dollars to get in.

 

There is a small info center www.meteorcrater.com There is an RV park but it was wide open and not suitable for tents, it was also way far away from the Crater plus the weather forecast was predicting heavy frost, the wind was getting up again. So, I carried back onto the Hwy 40 and took a motel just passed Flagstaff, at a place called Bellemont, a really smart move as it turns out.

One frozen Tiggy Moondust!

The next morning it was min 7C (19.4 Fahrenheit)  and this  is really cold in C and in F. Dressed up in full thermo gear and headed towards Lake Mead and Hoover dam.

 

 

 

A snowcap and a dead chicken on Route 66

Made a quick detour to a place called Seligman, this is on the junction of Hwy 40 and that Icon of roads Highway 66. Was in a hurry so left the 66 for the way back and carried on to Hoover Dam. It was getting warmer and warmer. At Kingman switched over to the 93. Met up with two interesting people at a petrol station in Kingman, Holly and Lyle, two bikers.

On my way to the Hoover Dam

Then onwards to Hoover Dam. Started to look for a campground at Lake Mead Recreation Park, saw a sign for Visitor’s Center, turned off and ended up in the one way system to Hoover Dam. Parked up an wandered over to the Visitor’s Center and realized my mistake.

 

The impressive Hoover Dam

This was for Hoover Dam and not the lake, also there was massive security and a big sign warning about weapons including pocket knives. But by now I was in the main hall and confronted by an airport security style checkpoint. I turned around and tried to escape but was confronted by a security guard who wanted to know if I was lost.

I explained to him that I had just stepped off the bike and was looking for a camping site and had my Swiss army knife and leatherman strapped to my belt and was not prepared to lose them. Lucky for me he had a sense of humor and let me out. Headed back out onto the road and the park visitors center was just a mile down the highway. Got a nice spot on the Boulder Beach Campground. Had a good view of the lake from my tent.

The next day went to the Dam, this time without my swiss army knife and leatherman. Took the full tour. It was impressive. It was constructed in the depression between 1931 and 1936. It was a massive feat of engineering for those days, new techniques had to be learned and equipment built.

The generator of Hover Dam

A whole new town was built in the desert to house the work force, it’s called Boulder city. But it gave work to thousands of people in a difficult time. It was originally called Boulder Dam but the name was changed to Hoover Dam in 1947 after President Herbert Hoover, who initiated the building of it.  When I was leaving and walking towards the bike I saw some bikers pushing a Harley. I offered to help. Turns out the battery was dead, I offered them my jump starter. They were a group of Dutch guys who had hired a couple of Harleys in Las Vegas. We couldn’t get the Harley to fire up so they asked me if I had a tow rope. Now guess what I do. They towed the Harley up the mountain and let it run down again and it started. As I was collecting my rope and putting things away one of them came up to me and gave me 5 dollars for a beer. I felt kinda funny and didn’t want to take it. It’s a an unwritten code that bikers help each other out, he pushed it into a fold in my tankbag. I don’t think that they were bikers, think that they were a group of guys out for a good time.  The 5 dollars came in handy, went to get some shopping at the local supermarket.  I had run out of tea and they had two packets of Barry’s teabags for 6 dollars. They were the small 40 bag jobs but I snapped them up….. so thanks guys.

The Las Vegas sign and a Memorial to the senseless shootings

The next morning headed off to Las Vegas. Wasn’t gonna go there but decided to just go have a look at The Srip and take the photos. I also wanted to go to the Memorial Site from the  Route 91 Harvest shooting on the last night of the concert October 1 2017. That is just by the welcome to Las Vegas sign and was well worth a visit. Each little memorial shrine told its own story of another life lost and another family torn by grief and no one knows why, just another senseless killing.

 

 

Sin City … The Strip

Had to resort to the old fashioned manner of navigating in Vegas. Holly, my GPS, didn’t have the maps for Vegas so had to use a small street plan that was an insert in my Michelin map of California and Nevada  and by asking people.

 

 

That proved to be more difficult, people were scared to open their car windows and if they did, they opened it just a little bit. But met an nice friendly colored guy who gave me excellent directions and took the time to stop and talk. The Strip was really a laugh, such decadence. It was really built up. Wanted to get some night time shots but the Strip was to close for traffic that evening, some marathon was being run along it. So back to the camping were I met up with my new neighbors. Wrenn and his girlfriend Anna, I think that was the name and please forgive me if I’m wrong but I forgot to save my notes from that day. Spent the evening around their campfire talking. He works for Iron Eaglerider Rentals & Tours bike hire company and told me some of the ins and outs of the bike hire world.

In Boulder….

The next day decided to have a rest day and laundry day. Washed and dried all my clothes and worked a bit on the blog. Went into Boulder to check it out. This was a city created to house the thousands of workers who were building the dam. Discovered a biker bar where they were playing live music. But didn’t hang around. Went to the supermarket and bought some salad and returned to the camping site to make my tea.

Thanks Garry & Bonny for a relaxed evening

That evening I wandered around the site and followed the sound of someone singing and playing guitar. Met up with a couple, from Lake Corrine in Idaho, Garry and Bonny. Garry was playing guitar and singing. Sat at their campfire and enjoyed a musical evening. Garry was a Vietnam vet so he was playing some really good stuff. He told me that in Idaho they get snowed in so they spend the winter nights playing music. They were now escaping to the South and the warmer weather, but he brought his guitar along anyway.

The next morning left for Seligman and Historic route 66. First to Kingman were I met up once again with Lyle at a petrol station. We had another good chat. He was on his way to Vegas. Then it was route 66 to Seligman. Spent the night in the Supai motel and treated myself to a dinner in the Lido, an American German restaurant. Because I was staying in the village they gave me  a 10% discount. There are a lot of places along the 66 that have been restored to their former glory days and a few that never changed.

Mike’s Route 66 Outpost & Saloon

One of these places was called Mike’s Route 66 Outpost & Saloon. Stopped there for a drink and stuck the Ride Live Explore sticker on their wall of fame, in this case the toilet door post. Well everyone gotta visit the Loo!  Next morning explored Seligman a bit and then carried back down the 66  to Kingman and further on the 66 to Oatman. This is a little ghost town caught up in the wild west era. Heard that they were going to have a shoot out at 12 noon the next day and as it was getting late decided to return to Kingman and spend the night.

Climbing up to Sitgreaves Pass…

Next morning headed up the 66 to Oatman. Route 66 here is amazing as it twists and turns and climbs its way up over the mountain at Sitgreaves Pass in the Black Mountains, elevation 3,586 feet (1093meters).

 

 

At Crazy Ray’s Twisted Tee’s…

Stopped off for coffee by Crazy Ray’s Twisted Tee’s at Cool Springs. This is an original location on the old route 66. It had burned down but was rebuilt. It was  also used in in the film “Universal soldier” staring  Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme. For the film set they built a hard board frame around the original pillars and then it was totally blown up. Anyway it was restored and functions as a museum where you can buy snacks and soft drinks.

Tiggy Moondust watches the donkeys

Then on to Oatman. This is an old mining town reaching it’s height in 1915 when two miners struck it rich, but it was short lived. In 1921 most of the town burnt down and 3 years later the mine shut down. The town survived for a while serving the travelers on route 66. Oatman was also used as the location for several movies such as How The West Was WonFoxfire and Edge of Eternity.

Staged shootout in Oatman

One thing still remains from the old days, the wild donkeys descendants from the original miner’s burro’s. They wander into town in the daytime get fed by the tourists and return to the mountain and desert in the evening. Local shops are turning over a tidy little profit selling carrots and donkey burritos. The tourist buy them and feed the donkeys.  Also the bank robberies and shoot outs, okay they are staged but a whole lot of laughs. But it is pretty much a ghost town.

Carried on Route 66

Then on to Joshua Tree National Park via the Mojave National Preserve. I wanted to use as much as possible what is left of the old Route 66. It’s not marked as such on the maps but it is signposted. Camped for the night in the Mojave National Preserve. Campsite was closed but there were a lot of people staying there. Mostly bikers in campers towing their dirt bikes.

Alex & Mary’s caravan

Spent the night chatting around their campfire. The next morning met up with Alex and Mary traveling in an old airstream caravan, complete with kids and dog….. oh ye there was also a Honda off road as well, check them out……  http://www.littlenomads.net/about/    Then on to Joshua Tree. Still tracing the old Route 66.

Tanked at the old restored petrol station

Passed through another kinda ghost town called “Amboy”. Stopped off to have a look at an old restored motel and gas station.  Unfortunately some of the bridges were washed out so had to deviate a bit. Still it was really something to experience a couple of hundred kilometers of a legendry road and to soak up the atmosphere of a bygone era.

Tiggy Moondust showing off at my campsite at Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree, the place where two deserts, the Mojave and the Colorado meet. The Joshua Tree made famous in the 5th album by U2, released March 1987. Joshua Tree, an unique and fantastic place to visit. It has some of the best night skies that you can find. Campsites fill up quick here. Went first to the Visitors Center to get a list of available sites. Got a spot on Belle Campground. These are primitive sites, no water, showers, power etc. etc. But they are fantastic places to pitch your tent and sleep under the stars in the shade of rocks and Joshua trees.  At night gazing at the stars and listening to the desert sounds and the Coyotes.

On the way to Cholla Cactus Garden

Spent a day exploring the park taking in such sights as  the Cholla Cactus Garden and Skull Rock. The Cholla Cactus Garden is an area devoted to the cholla cactus. This is a cactus that can be quite dangerous. If you just even lightly brush up against it, it’s spines dig through your clothing into your skin.

 

Pulling them out is extremely painful. This is how it reproduces. It embeds it’s spines into, mostly, animals where after a while they fall out and grow in the spot where they fell out. Still it’s really good to hike through the garden and looking at the different species of cacti growing here.

Skull Rock

Skull Rock, as its name suggests, is a massive granite boulder eroded into the form of a skull. The rest of the day was spent riding  around the Park, taking in the many sights. There was also another thing I had to do. I needed to service the bike and to put new tyres on. I was in contact with Dennis from North Coast Motors in Vista San Diego county. I decided to let them do the service as they answered all e-mails promptly and offered me the best price. I needed to book a date and then to book an Airbnb. All the libraries seem to close on a Friday so had to find a Starbucks. Got one in a town called Yucca. Booked the bike in for the Monday and arranged an Airbnb for Sunday night.

Tiggy & me riding into the sunset…

Returned to 29 Palms and treated Tiggy Moondust to a shower. She came out looking bright and shiny and I was 10 dollars poorer. Rode back to my camping site as the sun was setting. Kept stopping to take photos. It was a brilliant ride.

 

 

Tiggy waiting for the stars…

That night just relaxed outside in my chair and gazed at the stars. The next morning packed up and was ready to go when Sylvia invited me in for a coffee. She was doing her morning yoga and Chris was doing his morning snooze. Had a nice cup of coffee and a good chat. They are good people, so definitely didn’t mind the late start.

That was really an amazing little run, full of some absolutely fantastic scenery, some great conversations and meeting up with some really good people. There are photo albums of this episode on my Facebook travel page, Ride Live Explore or just click the link. It’s an open page so you don’t need an account. So  drop on by, enjoy a nice wee cup of tea and click your way through the journey. Thank you for reading this and sharing the ride.

 

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