Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Winter 2015 Road Trip

Route for Winter Break 2015 Road Trip - Route finalized & traveled
The Path made on Google Maps. Use this Road Trip Route as a guide to hit some major National Parks on it's 100th Anniversary. Pick up a National Part Passbook to remind you of your visit, look below for all my Stamps from Great Basin. This would be a great trip to make a huge loop from Denver, CO. We started off in Nebraska and traveled towards Denver Metro making our way back to Nebraska through New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

We travel in towards the Great Basin every other summer on our motorcycles. Those summers we don't make it to the Great Basin, I feel we have missed out.

Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70.

Colorado National Monument - Take an exit at Grand Junction and jump back on Intestate 70 at Fruita. Look for the brown points of interest roadway signs, they are posted. When we were passing Colorado National Monument, snow was falling and building up on the ground. We weren't sure of the park service roads along  Scenic Rim Rock Drive, so we decided to stay on I-70. 

Once we enter Utah, we are traveling on Highway 50. Side-note: Utah's beer tops out ABV at 4.0%, unless you are at a brewery, plan accordingly. We drove right through Utah and stayed on Route 50  all the way through the state. This was our first time traveling this route in winter, it was a pleasant treat to see the red sandstone highlighted with snow.

Arches National Park - We missed this gem along our route. If you plan Arches and are leaving from Grand Junction, make sure you take the Colorado Riverway (HWY 128). This route takes some mileage off and is a maintained asphalt state highway. The highway exit is poorly marked, encouraging entrance from Crescent Junction. A Red Rock Wonderland 

There are many places to eat and drink in Moab. We always enjoy eating at the local City Market Deli. Being a tourist town, eating at this City Market Deli might be compared to eating a buffet in Las Vegas. We pick up food to enjoy in Arches and any restaurant in Moab can't beat that view.

Green River, Utah. We really like the accommodations in Green River. Lots of hotels to choose from that will fit your price range. The people staying in Green River may avoid Moab for many of the same reasons I do. This is one of the few towns where we splurge for a motel. It is nice to get the days sweat off and relax in an air conditioned room.

Driving east on HWY 50, after Green River, the red sand stones of San Rafeal Swell come into view.
Visit Utah Slow down your driving pace and stop at one of the many overlooks. In summer time, you will find locals pedaling their wares that might be Made in China. In winter time, we found desolate overlooks that we had to ourselves.
San Rafeal Swell along HWY 50, Utah.
Salina, Utah - We have stopped here a few of times. I don't know what it is about this town, but I really like it. We stayed at one of the Mom and Pop Motels, located close to down town. Not much going on downtown but your can't miss Mom's Cafe situated at the corner of Main & State Streets. We had dinner and were treated to the good company at the cafe. People are curious about travelers, just open up and talk. Don't forget to ask the local about about themselves. We were entertained by a local telling us about an accident that happened in October. RoadFood's Review of Mom's Cafe
In October 2015, a pickup lost control and ran into Mom's Cafe.
This Gingerbread house was made to commemorate the event. A local told us all about it.

GREAT BASIN NATIONAL PARK A Majestic Basin... - this is our destination! One year a park ranger asked us where we were heading. We said, "This is it, we are here!" I knew services
would be minimal over winter, but we really want to see this place in Winter. No better time than Winter Solstice. We took our car up to Lower Lehman Creek Campground and to then to the Grey Cliffs Campground. Grey Cliffs has a very good dirt road, snow was falling and we made the first tracks up the road in our car. At the visitors center, we picked up some trinkets; a coffee cup, books, and stickers. Many things we usually don't buy because we usually see Great Basin during summertime and are traveling on our motorcycles.We also hike the nature trail, another thing we haven't done and don't do in summertime. We were the first ones to make tracks on the trail.

Traveling South on Utah Highway 130; consider a jaunt off the main road to Parowan. We ran into Parowan Gap Petroglyphs when returning from Great Basin and seeking a short cut to Ceder Breaks National Monument. A nice surprise with minimum tourist amenities. Basically a gravel turn off for visitors to enjoy the petroglyphs on the sides of the cut. The website says gravel roads, but the asphalt is still intact, probably tagged "gravel" because the road is not maintained by the state.

Continuing on Utah's HWY 130, we arrived at Cedar City. A nice town with shopping amenities. If you take this route, Grand Junction and Cedar City are the places to stock up on supplies. Otherwise, larger towns will have basic grocery stores or you can eat at Fuel Stations (junk food). We stocked up in Rifle, Co because here a Walmart is a lot easier than finding a Walmart in Grand Junction. You can see the Walmart from the interstate.

We decided at the I-Hop in Cedar City to make my mom's house that day. This is the type of decisions we make at 4:30 in the afternoon over a couple of plates of dessert breakfast. We started the day at Salina, Utah and ended the day in Winslow, Arizona. Don't make a mad dash like we did, we have traveled these roads many times and sometimes a 40 year old chooses to see her mom a day or so earlier than expected.

Zion National Park - Utah's First National Park We once lived about 100 miles away in Page, AZ. This was one of our favorite destinations for a day trip. Cedar Breaks Monument is not too far away. 

Leaving Zion, you can travel towards Fredonia, AZ/Kanab, UT sister cities. Towards Lake Powell or the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, GRCA. My favorite side of the Grand Canyon because of a potential stop at Jacob's Lake. They have the best muffins, cookies, and shakes/malts. Don't fill yourself up because the restaurant at Cliff Dwellers has good food and a wide selection of bottle beer. Cliff Dwellers is located between Jacob's Lake and Marble Canyon at milepost 547.
On the Kaibab Plateau with moon light and Vermilion Cliffs off to the right.

Once your arrive at Marble Canyon, you are on Navajo Reservation. We traveled towards HWY 89 to Flagstaff. We like to fuel up at Cameron's Speed's on the south side of town. ADOT has made some major improvements on HWY 89 at Cameron. I really liked see the improvements I saw on our roads.

A couple of my favorite places to stop in Flagstaff, AZ:
Bookman's Used Books
MartAnn's - Food on Route 66

On our way home, we pass by the Petrified Forest National Park. One year, we will see the park - located about 40 miles from where I grew up. I have not been to the park in a long time. I gotta get my Passport book stamped. Possibly during Summer 2016, but it will be hot and the sun tends to wash out desert.

We traveled home on I-40 towards Tucamacari. Listening to podcasts, we found out rather late, by the highway message boards entering Albuquerque, that eastbound I-40 was closed to Amarillo. We jumped off the Interstate at the Flying J exit and made our way towards Rio Rancho to I-25. By the time we passed Santa Fe, snow began covering the highway. I used our GPS to locate a motel in Las Vegas (the better Las Vegas), New Mexico. On my 5th answered phone call, a room was available at the Sunshine Motel on the main drag. All they required, on a snowy night, was a name. We took the last room because the desk clerk turned on the "no vacancy" light before we unlocked our room. I don't think I would ever get that kind of customer service at a nationally branded motel.
After our night at the Sunshine Motel, we walked to The Hillcrest to have breakfast.
I always choose the Huevo Rancheros.
The next day we traveled north on I-25 and jumped off the interstate towards Clayton, NM. We spied some Santa Fe trail markers just off the state highway. After Clayton, NM we had our compasses
headed towards home in Nebraska. With I-40 eastbound closed, we had lots of travelers speed by us.

Clayton is the major hub in NE New Mexico.
We stopped at the truck plaza north of Garden City, KS and I picked up some Mexican Pastries.
We were treated to someones hard work at decorating with lights in Holdredge, NE.
They even played Holiday Music to accent the night.
Like I said, we stayed a little extra at my mom's. Otherwise, head North at Gallup and venture to Mesa Verde National Park - Preserving the "Works of Man". Then towards Pagosa Springs, CO over Wolf Creek Pass to Del Norte. Head to the Great Sand Dunes then head towards Denver via Buena Vista, CO.

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