The time had come that our travels would start to take us back East, closer to home. I’m not sure what it was that changed the energy just a bit but you could sense something was different. Maybe it was that we were starting to lose an hour with each time zone we crossed instead of gaining one? Maybe it was because we had started to recognize time as days left instead of days to go. Maybe we were just too darn hot!
Our New England bodies weren’t adjusting to the 100+ degree temperatures quickly. Most likely, the energy shift was because we knew we had three days of driving in front of us with very little sightseeing and R&R along the way.
Our drive north out of Arizona was lovely. Climbing into the mountains with the red rock in the background gave us the last look over Sedona as we left the city limits. We decided we would “stop by” the South Rim of the Grand Canyon because it was only 2 hours out of our way. What’s another 120 miles between family?! Our drive by Mather’s Point brought to light two good decisions we made. First, seeing both the North and the South Rims was worth the drive. Both were very different, both beautiful in their own way. Second, I’m glad we camped in the North Rim. The number of visitors and volume of traffic in the South Rim was 10x more than we experienced in the North Rim. We had lunch on the east banks of the South Rim before we continued our journey east. It was goodbye to another treasure of the desert.
Up next was the lamest tourist trap of them all and I was so excited to finally go there in person! When planning our trip, we had a few must see stops and the Four Corners was #1 on all our lists! The Four Corners is the only place in the country where the four right angles of four states, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Utah meet at a central point. It’s the only place in the country where one person can stand in four states at the same time. Recently it was discovered the monument about a mile off the actual spot, making it even more fabulously lame. It costs $3 per person to experience 5 minutes of vacationer paradise. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world! I even got in the picture for this one-Luke in Utah, Den in Arizona, Cam in Colorado and me in New Mexico. Before the flock of wild Girls Scouts swarmed into the area, the boys and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to physically touch four states at once. Like their mother, they can now tell people they’ve been in Colorado even though it was just one foot!
The next camping stop wasn’t until Arkansas, several hundreds of miles away. Three days of driving brought us through New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas before we hit the state line for the Clinton’s home state of Arkansas. Most of the drive was uneventful, long straight roads with little descriptive scenery. A few highlights were the ancient Indian ruins perched high in the hills throughout New Mexico and parts of Texas.
You can only imagine the history that lies in the doorways of the towering rock formations. In hind sight, I would have set aside time to visit and learn more about this fascinating culture. At another point, Dennis and I reminisced about the past when we passed Shiprock Pinnacle, most likely the inspiration for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, even though the real New Mexico fixture holds deep spiritual solace for the faithful believers.
Regretfully, Route 40 East passed through several poverty stricken areas and hundreds of unusable acres of Indian Reservations in New Mexico and northwest Texas. I’m sure our limited perspective isn’t indicative of the entire area but it wasn’t until eastern Texas that dry, barren fields were replaced with cattle roaming green fields and seeking shelter under a single shady tree. It was easy to say goodbye to that facet of the desert but will be hard to let go of the images.
We ran into some of the worst weather of the trip on the Oklahoma/Texas border. Driving directly into a lightning storm ahead, my imagination ran wild with thoughts of tornados throwing cows and trucks through the air! I watched “Twister”, I know what I’m talking about. Trailers and RVs are always the first to get hit! It was a rough but short lived storm and we made it through untouched. We spent the night in a skin-crawling, nasty Days Inn in Elk City Oklahoma and were up and out very early the next morning. We slept with one eye open that night but at least it gave us a chance to charge up all our electronics before our next stop.
Buffalo National River was just outside a small town called Yellville. It was only about a 5 hour drive from Oklahoma but we took a planned detour into Kansas and Missouri so I could cross them off my list of states visited! In the three days of driving, the most beautiful views came from this stretch of the trip. I never expected southern Missouri and northern Arkansas to be so clean, lush and filled with rolling hills and farmland. I guess I never really thought about it and after the desert it was a welcomed change. We made it to our campsite early evening. It should have been sooner but I gave Betty a bum steer as to the location of the campground and actually programmed in the business office three towns over! Thankfully the ranger set us straight and we arrived at a well kept, clean and spacious site alongside the Buffalo River before dark. Juicy steaks on the grill, BBQ chicken, baked potatoes and veggies never tasted so good! Four happy yet tired campers turned in for a wonderful night sleep with the promise of a sunny 85 degree day ahead of them!