November 4, 2015


“We cannot change the direction of the wind, but we sure can change the direction of our sails.”  Michelle Lorusso

Carol writes:  After spending three long months in San Antonio, we were eager to get back on the road again.  Our summer had been nearly rainless, so it seemed somewhat strange to be leaving on a socked-in rainy day.  As it turned out, we got out of San Antonio  just in time and, thankfully, escaped widespread flooding that occurred over the next several days throughout the state of Texas. 

Driving west against the trade winds, we spent our first night in Abilene,  then on to Clovis, New Mexico, for a last minute check-in with our daughter.  When we got back on the road, we headed toward Albuquerque and hooked up with historic Route 66.  Commissioned in 1926 as a major highway between Chicago and Los Angeles, historic Route 66 quickly became one of the most revered, beloved and sought out roads in America. 

Baby boomers will certainly remember the 1960s popular TV show “Route 66,” with Martin Milner and his Chevy Corvette convertible…  


Our first stop for the night on Route 66 was at a casino campground at Sky City.  For a well-balanced life, we always like to mix in some vices with the bountiful dose of Nature that we enjoy in our full-time lifestyle.  Typically, I have found that Native American casinos  have “friendly” penny slots…and so it was at Sky City! 

Let’s just say that for two low-stakes penny slot players our evening at Sky City was a very memorable one…


We had covered lot of miles since leaving San Antonio, and now we looked forward to slowing down for a few days in Gallup, New Mexico.

In the Gallup vicinity, we wanted to check out another of our nation’s National Monuments—El Morro.  We had one of those perfect fall days for a hike to the top of 200-ft high El Morro.  

We didn’t do a whole lot of research ahead of time on what there was to see at El Morro, so it came as a pleasant surprise to find that part of El Morro’s historic claim to fame included the archeological remains of an ancient pueblo on top which dated back to 1275.
El Morro is also the site of a well-known fresh-water pool

that for centuries was a welcome water source for the pueblo inhabitants and later for Spanish colonizers and American Army explorers who camped for the night and left carvings of their signatures with dated messages along the smooth sandstone walls at the base of the cliff. 

Surprisingly, the precise identity is known of many individuals whose signatures and messages are preserved at El Morro.  The most famous is Don Juan Oñate, founder of the first permanent colony in New Mexico.

The penmanship of some of the signatures and messages carved in stone was extraordinary.

The hike along the hard white rock layer at the top was a lot of fun!

……A picture-perfect day for hiking, remnants of the homes of Ancient Puebloans, historic rock carvings and messages—all made for an interesting discovery at El Morro.


I confess to being an unapologetic fan of Tony Hillerman novels.  His books, which are set in the Four Corners area of Arizona and New Mexico, have a heavy dose of Navajo culture and traditions through the eyes of an endearing set of characters that work for the police department of the Navajo Nation.  Since our campground in Gallup was only a short ride from Window Rock, capital of the Navajo Nation which is featured prominently as the locale in many of Hillerman’s novels, we decided to check it out.  Our first stop was the Window Rock Navajo Tribal Park, where the famous rock window was front and center…

and the role of the Navajo Code Talkers during WW II was proudly memorialized.

Working with WW II military intelligence, the Navajo Code Talkers developed encryption methods and code based on the somewhat obscure Navajo language.  Their code was never broken during the entire war, and they were instrumental in victories throughout the Pacific Theater.

The artwork and historical displays in the nearby Navajo Museum were wonderfully presented.  I learned about the story of Hweeldi’ and it left me deeply saddened.  This tragic historical event recounts the incredibly cruel relocation and enslavement of Navajo people at Fort Sumner, also known as Bosque Redondo.  The 300-mile forced walk and subsequent inhuman enslavement over the next four years resulted in a devastating loss of life for the Navajo.  On a positive note, it was interesting to read of the role of Chief Manuelito in securing the eventual return of the Navajo ancestral lands back to his people.  Now I know why Tony Hillerman used the name ‘Manuelito’ as the last name of his main character Navajo policewoman—he certainly knew his Navajo history.

While in Window Rock, we drove by many of the Navajo Nation administrative offices, including  the police station.  It’s nice to  have a more accurate visual of where Tony Hillerman’s  Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn work!  Hillerman fans will understand…


It felt good to enter Arizona, our winter home for the next several weeks.  Our first stop was in Holbrook for three days, with the intention of taking a look around our first national park since we left Colorado.  We had visited Petrified Forest National Park many years ago when we were traveling full-time in 1989 with our children.  We both remembered that back then we had only a few hours to look around the park, and then we spent the rest of the day celebrating our son Jason’s 10th birthday.  We had a family dinner with birthday cake and presents in the trailer, with the incredibly beautiful Painted Desert as our backdrop.  A fond memory… 
This time we thought we would take a little more time to look around…

The Petrified Forest is a treasure trove of prehistoric Triassic Period forests which have fossilized into petrified wood over 225 million years.  The National Park itself is a small part of the incredible  Painted Desert which stretches in a huge swath from the Utah border into northern Arizona.

There were lots of stops where visitors could view the Painted Desert, and each pullout was more spectacular than the last.  With the setting sun to our backs, the colors were at their best.

A rusty ’32 Studebaker sat on a section of old Route 66 where it used to pass through the park.  

Neat picture opportunities for sure...

The 26-mile road through the southern part of the park had great opportunities for viewing and hiking through spectacular examples of petrified logs strewn across the landscape.

Agate House trail led to a 7-room pueblo reconstructed of petrified wood.

The Crystal Forest trail had the best examples of crystalized logs.

Puerco Pueblo had ruins of Ancestral Puebloan homes that were occupied in the 13th century, in addition to an interesting display of ancient petroglyphs.

We were quite pleased with the opportunity to spend a day and a half in Petrified Forest National Park.  It felt good to stretch our legs and do some great hiking through such an incredible landscape.

We sure enjoyed our stops along historic Route 66, but now that the calendar has flipped over to November it is time to head south to lower elevations in the Sedona area for a couple of weeks.  What will it be like to have a winter with no snow?

“Winter is coming.”  George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones


  1. I have the worst time posting for some reason. Another spectacular blog and wonderful pictures, especially the one with Al's first car. Liked the one with the pretty pin-up posted on the stone wall overlooking the painted desert. I, too, am a huge fan of Tony Hillerman and have read every book. Love the characters, the stories, the history, and the culture. I did an independent study in my MA program on the Navajo and ended up writing an instructional syllabus for the History of the Navajo, worked with the local universities history departments. It was one of my favorite research and application projects.
    I wonder if you knew that Mr. Tony's daughter has written two "new" Jim Chee/Manuelito and Joe Leaphorn books which I loved and can not wait for the next in the series. All the best, Jim

  2. I hope that Arizona is treating you well. I am happy that you were able to spend time at the Petrified Forest, I remember driving through there with Natalie, my parents, and Jillian in 2010. We enjoyed it too, such a beautiful part of the country.

  3. I actually remember a bit of the petrified forest but I don't remember the b-day cake!