Colorado National Monument, Grand Jct CO
As we expected, the cool night in Sunset Crater National Monument’s “Bonita” campground was excellent for sleeping. The first night in the Airstream is sometimes a little hectic, since we are adjusting to life in 200 square feet again, and we are usually still figuring out where things should go. That tends to keep us up late, but this time I was so exhausted I collapsed at about 8:45, and E&E were not far behind.
We didn’t have time on this trip to go to the companion park, Wupatki National Monument (connected by about 20 miles of loop road), so we made a note to come again sometime. Wupatki offers five ancient pueblos and some box canyon dwellings, all of which we’d like to see. We packed up and headed out at 8:30 with the intention of making some serious miles—but also covering some seriously scenic territory.
The route we planned was sort of a Arizona/Utah dream trip, up Rt 89A and then Rt 160 deep into the Navajo Nation, then up through the incredibly beautiful red cliffs and buttes of Monument Valley, and then up the edge of Utah past some great parks we’ve visited before (Hovenweep, Natural Bridges, Canyonlands), through Moab, and finally into Colorado.
The route goes up and down quite a lot, but I never saw us below 4,400 feet and never much about 7,000. The important thing is to bring three items: a camera, a bucket of time so you can stop frequently, and a full tank of fuel. There are fuel stations but of course prices tend to run high in the more remote areas. We had the cameras and fuel but not as much time as we would have liked, so for us it was primarily a driving tour (and a fine one).
I am happy to report all systems are functioning well on the Airstream and Mercedes. The Merc did an odd thing yesterday during a steep climb, giving us a Check Engine light. It wasn’t overheated and the light cleared itself overnight. I can’t detect any issues with the car, so I’m not going to sweat it for now. The car’s computer will store the fault code and we can get it read out later if we want. The Airstream seems perfect. The fridge is cold, the tires needed no air at all (after five months of storage!), the hitch is silent, etc. At this point we’ve run up about 700 miles and everything is fine, although I’m noting a few things I’d like to update soon.
We stopped at a rest area south of Moab where there’s a great sandstone arch that you can easily climb to. If you are in this area and missed Arches National Park, this is a nice consolation prize. You can also get a nice shot of your Airstream down below in the parking lot if you want (and of course, I did).
We decided to make our overnight stop at Colorado National Monument, in Grand Junction CO. Faithful blog readers Jay & Cherie suggested we stop at the James Rob Colorado River State Park, which is just off I-70 at the same exit as the National Monument. We checked it out and it does look very nice, but this we had our hearts set on driving up to the monument. We’ve been here twice before and never managed to camp in the monument’s Saddlehorn campground, so it was nearly a mandate for us.
There was another reason for coming up the extra few miles to the monument. We’ve recently acquired a GoPro Hero2 sports video camera for use at Alumapalooza, and I wanted to try it out shooting a video of the Airstream climbing the hairpins and tunnels that lead up to Colorado National Monument. We shot video looking forward on the way up, and we’ll shoot video looking backward tomorrow morning, on the way down. I’ll have the video edited and uploaded to YouTube in the next few days, and I’ll post when it is available. Should be very interesting!