Sunday, August 19, 2007
Morning in Needles, California: Time= 7 A.M. Temperature = 98 degrees F. We can hardly wait to get out of this place and start driving east--and up onto the Colorado Plateau.
Needles lies in the Colorado River Valley, between fault block ranges of the Basin and Range Province. The elevation is low, and the landscape is of the Mojave Desert. Hot. Dry. Barren.
After a good breakfast at a local chain next to the motel, we loaded Henry up. By 8:30 the temperature was 100 degrees (F) and the heat was ennervating.
It was my day to drive again. We had been on the road less than an hour, when the coffee I had consumed at breakfast made a quick stop at a Rest Area west of Kingman vital. I took a picture of the landscape at the Rest Area--still Mojave Desert index plants. This is a Palo Verde plant against the mountains. The temperature here was 101 degrees (F).
And then another stop at Kingman, Arizona, to load up with gas. The prices in Needles were the highest we had seen anywhere. The gas prices in Kingman were more toward the average, and nearly a dollar lower than Needles. I am glad we were able to make Kingman for the gas. The people in Needles are being gouged.
From Kingman, Arizona, we ascended up onto the Colorado Plateau in a series of long hills, and then onto the San Francisco Volcanic Field, dominated by San Francisco Peak, the highest mountain in Arizona.
At about 11:30 MST (Arizona does not observe daylight time), we stopped at a rest stop just west of Flagstaff, which sits just below San Francisco Peak. What a difference in landscape and temperature. We had come quite high, and the landscape was Ponderosa Pine Forest. The temperature was 86 degrees (F). We lingered there, taking pictures of a volcanic cone that was being mined for aggregate.
From Flagstaff, we came down off the San Francisco Volcanics and into the Painted Desert. This area is in an old lake bed, and there are two national parks--Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest. The painted desert is called that because of the colors of the sediments from the weathering of certain Colorado Plateau formations.
Here we took a quick stop near the turn-off the Meteor Crater to take this picture. We got right back on I-40. Meteor Crater is a fun stop, but we were eager to get home after 10 days of traveling!
At about 3 PM MDT, we crossed the border into New Mexico! Even though we still had a long drive ahead, seeing the welcome sign made us feel like we had arrived. And just about at the border, the lake sediments landscape gives way to the Mesas and valleys of the Colorado Plateau formations. Coming into New Mexico from the west, you can really see a change!
We had planned to stop at the Welcome Center rest area and eat a late picnic lunch (our body-clocks were set to PDT), but the center was closed for rennovations. So we happily stopped at Blake's Lot-a-Burger in Gallup, and got our first Green Chile Burgers since we had left home. Green Chile--the state fruit of New Mexico--which leads to the official state question: Red or green? Green chile is addictive and New Mexicans long for it when traveling out of state.
Then it was time to get some gas and hit the road for the last leg of the journey. Bruce and N. both napped as we already had the Roadside Geology for this stretch of I-40 pretty well memorized. I tuned the radio to the Oldies Station broadcasting from Cortez, Colorado, and headed east. We traversed the northern part of the Malpais Volcanics (some flows are less than 1,000 years old) and then through the Mesas near Acoma Pueblo. At the top of Nine Mile Hill, we left the Colorado Plateau behind to descend into the Rio Grande River Valley and into Albuquerque. The Sandia Mountain Fault Block--our beloved and familiar mountains--can be seen rising above the city and the river in the distance from the top of Nine Mile Hill. Bruce woke just in time to take some pictures.
We drove down across the Rio Grande, then ascended to the foothills of the Sandias. Then into Tijeras canyon and along the creek that runs down Tijeras fault, up to Zuxax and then up Sedillo Hill to our road and home!
It was a good trip. And a wonderful homecoming.
And it's great to finish the travelogue, so that I can have my mind squarely in the present!