USA Road Trip (13 days to start of CDT)

Days 4-6: Sunday March 31 – Tuesday April 2, 2019

Sunday we planned to do food shopping for the first 8 weeks of the hike. But first we had breakfast at a nice downtown cafe, Giant right by a park. The park was a tribute to the Cancer Survivorship. A nice memorial. At the cafe we found both our credit cards were declined, no reason was given. That was strange as we’ve used these cards for multiple overseas trips.

For the resupply we figured we would do a small shop to test the cards at another store, same result cards were declined. So we returned to our hotel and waited for Monday morning Australian time to contacted our bank. The AT&T card we got in San Francisco did not have International calls so when we got through to the bank we assumed that it was a free call service. Half an hour later the problem was traced to the card company software upgrade over the weekend and will be remedied as soon as possible. So fingers crossed it works. We decided to leave the resupply shopping till closer to our departure to New Mexico.

Much relieved to have a solution to our setback, we drove into Scottsdale. As we approached, the streetscape looked lush and green with some very large and impressive houses. Then it was onto Old Town, dominated by sports bars, some souvenirs shops and old time outfitters. Predominantly an upmarket tourist precinct. The setting sun was low on the horizon casting long shadows.

While not the day we anticipated it was a satisfying day and we hope to have solved our credit card problem.

Monday morning we went in search of good coffee. It was a glorious day – warm, dry heat. Cafe Press in Scottsdale was a treat, smashed avocado toast and good coffee. Things were looking up.

Today our plan was to drive northwards towards Flagstaff, stopping at Winslow.

On leaving Phoenix it did not take long before we were in open countryside, passing pastureland and soon, the beautiful to our eyes, cactus dominated desert flat lands. Following Route 87 the desert gave way to pine forest and dropping temperatures through the Tonto and Coconino National Forests, which would account for the extensive snow cover still on the ground.

Descending onto a plateau the pine forest retreated to desert with a distant snow covered mountain peak visible to the west.

We stopped in Winslow for the walk over to the corner. Winslow is the setting for the somewhat famous song “Taking it Easy” written by Jackson Browne and Glen Frey and recorded by both the Eagles and Jackson Browne. Apparently the song was started by Jackson Browne and finished by Glen Frey and thus the two statues on the corner of Winslow Arizona.

There was quite a few people around the town waiting for an opportunity to stand on the corner. We met a couple in their 70’s , who were on their 6th trip along Route 66 which passes through town.

Since they travelled with a couple of large dogs they couldn’t fly so they’ve taken to driving each year betwen LA and Albuquerque to visit family. They have become experts on the history of Route 66. So it was great to talk to them and learn a little about the history of the road and the song and their journies across it.

So photos taken and history lessons learnt, it was time to fill the car up with petrol which was not as simple as I anticipated. Insert credit card and instructed to see cashier. How much fuel do you want, I figured about $30 would fill it given that it was a 1/4 full. I was pleasantly surprised that it was full at $25, in Australia it would probably be $60 to $80 for about the same volume of petrol.

Refeuled we were on our way to Flagstaff. As we headed west the temperature was dropping as the snowy Humphreys Peak came into view. By the time we checked into our hotel temperature was in single digits and is predicted to be below freezing overnight. Su h a big change from Phoenix.

We had an excellent meal at Agave, a huge plate of Mexican food. We will need to get on the trail soon or we will be the size of blimps.

On Tuesday we went for walk in the old town area downtown which was interesting for the older buildings and the number of times that the buildings had burnt down. In one case, the building had burnt down 5 times including 3 times in 6 years. Reading a bit more it seems that the buildings were mostly timber and there was no permanent water sources near town which led to the fires doing extensive damage in town.

Seeing that Humphreys Peak formed the backdrop to the town we decided to head up to the ski area.

On the way up the mountain I got a courtesy text from AT&T informing me that I’ve incurred over $100 in international call fees. Very quickly the day turned a bit ugly. I realised that something wasn’t right with the phone plan I signed up for in San Francisco.

So instead of a trip up the mountain we were off to the AT&T store to try and sort out the problem. A very patient and helpful staff member informed me that the guy in San Francisco had signed me up for a postpaid plan not a prepaid as I requested. Furthermore it should not be possible to get onto this plan without a credit check and a social security number. So something not possible for a visitor. It seems that he cheated to sign me up. But they can’t do anything until a bill is issued at the end of the month. In the meantime the San Francisco s

im card was cancelled and another card on the right plan was issued.

With that sorted we headed up the mountain. About halfway up we came across about 8 mule deer feeding on the new green growth.

Up on the slopes it was nice to see deep snow cover. And it was very peaceful and quite as the ski lifts were closed till the weekend. We watched a couple ski down with an energetic kelpie more then keeping up with them.

From the snow we moved onto the canyons, visiting Walnut Canyon which is not far from town. The ranger sorted us out with a 12 month US National Parks entry permit. He was very friendly and also a marathon runner. He has run the Gold Coast marathon in Queensland and was due to run the London Marathon in a couple of weeks. Unfortunately due to injury he has postponed it till next year.

Walnut Canyon is a fascinating place with a couple of short walks to view the cliff dwellings built by Hopi Indians.

There are about 360 structures throughout the canyon. It appears there is evidence of over 1000 years of visitation and about 150 years of intense occupation of the canyons by various tribes.

Unfortunately much of the history has been lost due to looters who at times used explosive to blast the dwellings to allow light in so that they could find trinkets. We can only speculate why this thriving community suddenly left about 1215AD. It was thought that there was a drought which lasted a number of years or that the resources of plants, firewood and hunting had been exhausted. Another thought is that they left for religious reasons and that this was a stop on what was always going to be a longer journey. One of the many mysteries that exist about past civilisation.

We spent a fascinating couple of hours winding our way through the canyon.

It was then back to Flagstaff for a delicious burger and a beer at the very busy Lumberjack Brewery.