Great Western Road Trip – Day 9

Moab, UT – Arizona – New Mexico – Colorado – Mesa Verde – Durango, CO

While I napped yesterday, Dad did some more thorough route planning for the next few days. The oppressive heat has made him reconsider our original desert route. We’re still going to drive down to Four Corners for the novelty, but then we’re cutting back into the mountains and getting to Denver via Aspen and Boulder. 

The drive down to Four Corners was pretty boring after yesterday. Once you’ve seen one desert you’ve kind of seen them all.

However, we did find some fun stops along the way, including the aptly named Hole N’ The Rock…

A trading post with outdoor jail photo op…

And a truly excellent 1950s style diner, The Patio Diner, in Blanding, Utah.

We both got burgers and shakes. The shakes are three times too big but delicious and the burgers are everything you’re looking for in a diner hamburger.

All the states we’ve passed through have had excellent welcome signs, but, apparently, visitors are not welcome in Arizona. We crossed the Arizona border twice and neither had a fun sign. This was the best we could do.

The Navajo Nation (that actually owns that corner of Arizona anyway) did much better.

Believe it or not, this is a Welcome to New Mexico sign.

The Navajo Nation charges $5 per person to go into Four Corners, which is kind of steep for a photo op, but I think they’re entitled. 

After Four Corners, we headed north, back into Colorado for at least the third time on this trip. Dad remembers Mesa Verde from the road trips of his youth. He read me the Walker of Time series as a kid about the cliff dwellers who lived there so I was excited to see the ruins in person. 

I snaked us up to the top until we got to the parking area for the cliff dwellings. At first we thought they’d managed to restrict views to a paid tour ticket. However, with a little brazen attitude, I pushed forward and discovered there was a viewing platform accessible to everyone with a great view.

From there, you could go on a ticked tour down into the village. However, given all the emphatic “Bring Water” “Rough Terrain” “Hike not recommended for those with heart or lung conditions” signs confirmed we’d made a good choice to NOT DO THAT. 

Dad wound us back down the mesa so I could enjoy the views. For our accommodations tonight, he found a cool historic hotel in downtown Durango that will get us within about 250 miles of Aspen. 

The return to the mountains didn’t bring much relief from the heat though. Durango was still blisteringly hot. The hotel was charming but the elevator was out of commission. Fortunately, a wiry young man hauled our bags up to the second floor for us. The room is the smallest so far, with a queen and twin, but it’s fun. There are a lot of patterns on the wall. And there’s air-conditioning. 

There’s an old-fashioned narrow-gauge coal-powered train that drives by on scenic tours. It’s very loud. If it were actually for shipping I’d be worried, but I assume they don’t give midnight scenic tours. 

Durango is a really cute downtown. They’ve made a big effort to make the new buildings blend into the historic architecture. There are also a lot of excellent dogs.

We strolled a couple blocks to a gastropub, El Moro, with a really interesting menu.

We ended up just grazing on appetizers but they were delicious. The honey-sambal chicken drumstick had quite a kick! None of their desserts involved ice cream, so we decided to wander another couple of blocks for sundaes.

As soon as I saw the Unicorn Sundae on the menu at Cream Bean Berry, I knew I had to have it.

Dad actually had one too, but they turned out completely different due to our topping choices. (Also, the kid serving the ice cream told Dad he’d just run out of pink whipped cream and asked if white would be okay.)

Miles driven: ~275

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