While there are numerous breathtaking beautiful National Parks and Monuments scattered throughout the Southwestern part of our country, we’ve found that quite often the drives between them can be pretty spectacular in their own right. So if you enjoy scenic drives, the Southwest is definitely the place for you and your car.
We added Pueblo, Colorado to our itinerary as a starting point for a drive on highway 50 across the Southern part of the state. While in Pueblo we enjoyed a nice walk through a nearby park, as well as a stroll on their Riverwalk. The Pueblo Riverwalk was patterned after the more famous one in San Antonio, and is nicely set up with concert areas, restaurants, hotels, boat rides and museums.
Pueblo is yet another city we have visited that is located on the banks of the Arkansas River. Sadly, in 1921, this section of the river flooded so badly that it virtually destroyed the entire city. As a result of the historic flood, levees were built, a reservoir was constructed, and the river was diverted so it no longer flowed near downtown. The citizens, however, missed their downtown river, so in the 1990’s a very small part of the Arkansas was re-diverted to its original channel, and the area was nicely developed.
Monday we made the Westward highway 50 drive to Montrose, Colorado.
It is worth noting that there are two must see stops along this highway that we did not make because of time constraints, no dogs allowed, and the fact that we’ve made the stops on previous trips: Royal Gorge (we came here with Emily in April), and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (2014 trip) are well worth the time!
We were pleasantly surprised to find the town of Montrose was experiencing peak fall foliage.
Tuesday we drove South on highway 550 through the San Juan Mountains to Durango, Colorado. A section of Highway 550, between the towns of Ouray and Silverton, is also known as the Million Dollar Highway. We learned about this stretch of highway from our friend Sue Anderson, who had come across it just a few months before we did in 2014. We enjoyed it so much then, that we decided to do it again this trip (something old). Just incredible….and just as scary as we remembered!
If any followers ever make this drive, we strongly recommend a stop in Ouray for lunch or dinner. This historic town has a great main street that is virtually the same as it was in the 1880’s. The entire street is marked with plaques showing the existing buildings and their businesses as they are today, and were, over 130 years ago. Very interesting.
We planned a couple of days in Durango to give ourselves a break from driving (and gawking). Durango is yet another gorgeous Colorado mountain town that has been able to maintain its historic buildings. They also have a nice recreational walkway along the banks of the Anamis River, perfect for our needs!
Thursday was an exciting “something new” day. We got up early and made our way to Four Corners Monument, the quadripoint where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet. Being the only place in the US where you can be in four states at the same time, we had to go and do what you do:
Our next stop was Monument Valley. This has been a bucket list destination of mine for as long as I can remember. The park, and the drive along hwy 163 toward Monument Valley, is seen in many movies including Forrest Gump (the spot where Forrest ends his 3 year run), Stagecoach, Easy Rider, How The West Was Won, and dozens of other Westerns. Every time I see it in a movie, the desire to visit in person is renewed. The problem is that the location of the park is extremely remote, so we were never able to work it into our prior trips. Until now!
Once in the park (part of the Navajo Nation, as is Four Corners), you can opt to do a scenic 13 mile drive along a very poorly maintained red sand and dirt road (I think this is to encourage you to pay for a guided tour in an open-air truck). So, being in a Range Rover, we decided to give the Old Home a good work-out and set out on our own to see the amazing monolithic sandstone buttes, mesas, and spires. We had a blast and the Old Home easily lived up to its reputation.
Having survived the day, we made our way to Kayenta, AZ for the only stay on our schedule that was nowhere near a full service hospital. Way back in Minneapolis, when I was first diagnosed with a stranded kidney stone, I literally had to review our upcoming itinerary with the ER doctor to make sure I was always going to be near a hospital capable of treating a kidney stone induced infection. He wasn’t thrilled with a couple of our stops (Maumee, Punxsutawney) and felt Chicago or Durham would be the best place to get the specialized attention I may need. Of course we never discussed Kayenta…….it was just too far in the future….surely my situation would be resolved by then. So here we were, stone still snugly in place, on the reservation, with only a small medical clinic that relies on visiting surgeons for any real emergencies. We both knew the stone was coming that night………but thankfully it did not, so…..whew!
And so, on we drove on yet another scenic highway (hwy 17) to Surprise, AZ for a quick stay (across the street from a huge hospital) before our extended visit to San Diego.
BTW, I had to ask the hotel clerk why the city was named Surprise (there has to be a story, right?), and he said “because it is a surprise to everyone that it is still here”. Very funny clerk!