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Getting Our Kicks, Parallel to Route 66

If there’s one thing I’m good at, its a road trip.  I love them.  I’ve driven from Vermont to Colorado five times, done the reverse trip once, driven from Boston to Colorado once and from Southern California to Colorado twice.  I’ve also driven around most of the USA, living out of a pick-up for seven weeks after college, and done countless long drives for work.

Last weekend, we completed a road trip from San Clemente, CA back to Denver.  The occasion was sad, marking the end of hauling stuff of our parents’ places back to our own home, but despite that circumstance, we made the best of the situation.

In our future plans, our rules for roadtripping are simple:

  1. See as much as we can along the way.
  2. Visit National Parks, Presidential libraries and points of interest as often as possible.
  3. Take the scenic route/blue highways wherever possible (i.e. avoid the Interstates).
  4. Drive no more than 6-7 hours per day.

For this last trip, we made three stops.  Our first day was light.  We took highway 74 from San Clemente through Lake Elsinore to Palm Springs.  Neither of us had ever been to Palm Springs before and we loved it.  We stayed at what is most likely the hipster capital of Uptown Palm Springs (a place called Arrive).

It was a great location to launch our walks about town, the room was great and food was good.  The poolside bar was also a good spot to sit and have a sip.  When you check in, you do so at aforementioned bar (we were told that the hotel is “minimalist”.  I think that is just tricky).  We were not in Palm Springs long, but were there long enough to catch up with friends from Vermont at the Riviera (worth checking out) and stroll around the neighborhoods and check out the mid century and Spanish styles.

On day 2, we drove from Palm Springs to Flagstaff, Arizona.  In honor of the 30th anniversary of one of the best U2 albums ever recorded, we swung through Joshua Tree National Park.  Some fun facts about Joshua trees: they are not cacti, they are part of the agave family.  They have no growth rings, so its hard to know how old they are but it is thought that the typical lifespan can be up to 150 years. (source: Joshua Tree National Park Spring Guide, February-May 2017).

From Joshua Tree, we took California 62 into Arizona to AZ- 95.  We had hoped to continue our backroad trip through Kingman and Sedona, but our sojourn into Joshua Tree delayed us enough that we drove north to I-10 through western Arizona, which as Interstates go is lovely, if the truck traffic isn’t too heavy.

At Flagstaff, we stayed at the Inn at 410.  This B&B has won all sorts of accolades in B&B books, magazines, travel journals and even got a mention in 1,000 Places to See Before You Die (US Version).  We stayed in the Monet’s Garden room which is quirkily decorated but has its own private porch overlooking the garden which would make it worth selecting in the summertime, for sure.  We arrived after the staff had left for the day, but they set out snacks, brandies, vodkas and wine for a self-serve happy hour, right up our alley!  Breakfast, the next day, was homemade and great too.  We ate dinner right behind the hotel at Brix, which was fantastic.  We will be back to both.

The winds were whipping, so we hightailed it (meaning all interstate) across eastern Arizona and western New Mexico, through Albuquerque to Santa Fe, NM for our last night.  En route, we stopped at the Wow Diner.  Despite the wacky name, this was a great place.  The walls were adorned with an autographed picture of New Mexico’s Governor, Ronald Reagan, Jackie Gleason and various other pictures and signs.

We watched NASCAR and chatted about restaurants in Midland Texas and interstate highways to avoid with Darrell the trucker and enjoyed a delicious grilled ham and cheese sandwich with sautéed pears (“that’s why they call it the Wow”, said Darrell, “its full of surprises”).  This place was worth the stop.

In Santa Fe, we hiked about 1/3 of the way up Atayla Mountain while we still had light. It was a great hike, albeit short, through the arroyo and we caught great views of the sunset on our way down.  We ended at the bar of the Inn of the Anasazi, one of our favorite bars anywhere, as mentioned in our previous post on Santa Fe.

For our final day of the road trip, we took US 285 from Santa Fe, west of Taos and up through the San Luis Valley of Colorado.  We love this road for its miles and miles of openness and beautiful scenery (wintertime can be dicey and unpredictable, though, so check the forecast along the passes before heading out).  Because of a snowstorm, we cut east at Salida on highway 50, which is a beautiful road running alongside the Arkansas River through the canyon.

As usual, we were glad to be home, but also ready to hit the road again as soon as we parked.


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