Desert SW Roadtrip — Day 5

Holbrook, AZ to Albuquerque, NM — 272 miles



[Click to go to an interactive map]

When we awoke in our cozy cone that morning, a quick look out the tiny, singular window revealed a pair of rabbits hopping around looking for something to eat amidst the imported red lava rock. The girls were all to happy to see this and they oooh’d and ahhh’d and clamored for position until the last rabbit hopped out of view.

The quintessential Route 66 Motel

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/200sec, 28mm focal L., map

I wasn’t feeling the urgency to get packed up so I grabbed the camera for a bit of walk about to see what I could find. I liked that the motel has staged the parking lot with period cars. There were a few bare metal rust heaps that were interesting to guess what they used to be. However, it was the fins that kept drawing my eye.

Frozen in time

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/320sec, 70mm focal L., map

All the while checking out the motel grounds, I kept hearing this strange metallic clanking, ringing sound. Around back of the motel, I found the source to be a railroad truck unloading itself into what I presume is a staging area for long distance transport.

The source of that strange metallic clanking

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/400sec, 29mm focal L., ~452ft from prev photo, map

After we loaded the car up, we made time for one final parting shot of our cozy cone, err, wigwam. The girls were none to happy about the lighting arrangement with the morning sun staring them in the face. You’d think the girl with 5 sun glasses on her shirt would be better equipped for such occasions.

Parting shot from our concrete cone

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/4.5, 1/800sec, 24mm focal L., ~571ft from prev photo, map

We drove all the way out to the edge of town looking for a place to nab some breakfast. For whatever reason, neither Valerie or I liked the looks of any place we passed by. So, we turned around, and took a random chance at Mr Maestas — American & Mexican Food. It was as much an antique shop as it was a restaurant, which made for an easy way to kill some time waiting for breakfast. My eyes lit up when my order of green chilli huevos rancheros came out on a bright orange Fiestaware style plate. After earing, but before they cleared the table, I had to go fetch the Geiger counter from the car and test it. I was only slightly disappointed that my now empty radioactive orange plate was not of the vintage that was actually glazed with uranium. Ohh well.

For the record, the green chilli sauce was much getter than the red chilli sauce.

Learning about the armor on Desmatosuchus

Nikon D600, ISO 6400, ƒ/7.1, 1/13sec, 45mm focal L., ~18mi from prev photo, map

We chose to stop at Holbrook with the express intent of being perfectly staged the next morning to visit the Petrified Forest National Park. With our bellies full of breakfast and our national park pass at the ready, ’twas but a short drive to the park.

At the visitor center, we were pleasantly surprise at the wealth of information they have to help engage youngsters. We waited a few minutes for the ranger lead show and tell discussion about how the petrified wood came to be. The kids listened intently, but none of it really stuck with them.

A quick pose before they run off

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/5.0, 1/200sec, 24mm focal L., ~348ft from prev photo, map

It’s going to fall and squish our bellies!

Nikon D600, ISO 110, ƒ/13.0, 1/60sec, 38mm focal L., ~424ft from prev photo, map

After the science lesson, we made our way through the paved trails that show off some of the best fossils in the park.

Painted sediment

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/13.0, 1/100sec, 70mm focal L., ~205ft from prev photo, map

The ranger gave the kids a Junior Ranger guide that encouraged the kids with interesting ideas about what to look for. The rainbow of colors in the petrified wood fascinated all of us.

What’s your favorite color?

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/7.1, 1/250sec, 40mm focal L., ~308ft from prev photo, map


Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/7.1, 1/250sec, 35mm focal L., map

We finished up at the interpretive center loop and hopped in the car to check out a different scene. Here, the purple hues of Blue Mesa badlands were even more striking. The color is from riverbed silt that was deposited long, long ago.

Painted sediment

Nikon D600, ISO 110, ƒ/16.0, 1/50sec, 24mm focal L., ~5.4mi from prev photo, map

Our Junior Rangers were all too excited to run around with their exploration tools at the ready. Valerie sewed them all little travel bags and they had a notebook, crayons, and water bottles at the ready. But for the 4-year-old set, it was more fun to just carry them around and pretend to do science with it.

Junior Rangers

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/6.3, 1/320sec, 32mm focal L., ~261ft from prev photo, map

Some hardy lichen

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/5.0, 1/400sec, 42mm focal L., ~854ft from prev photo, map

Maia pretends to not be having fun — or, maybe she’s not pretending.

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/3.5, 1/200sec, 32mm focal L., map

Eventually, all the rainbow rocks ceased to be interesting, and then the incessant “how much further now” questions followed shortly there after with the whip crack’n death march back to the car.

I’m not hiking any more!

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/4.0, 1/200sec, 66mm focal L., ~562ft from prev photo, map


Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/4.5, 1/400sec, 70mm focal L., ~5.4mi from prev photo, map

The road continues north toward I40 and loops through some more beautiful scenery. We stopped at a couple of overlooks which had very helpful signs that give an overview of the Chinle Formation and discuss the geology of the area.

The north end of the Petrified Forest National Park.

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/7.1, 1/160sec, 48mm focal L., ~8mi from prev photo, map

We put together a quick lunch of sandwiches and ate it in the car as we made our way along I40 towoard Albuquerque. Just east of Grants, NM, we found a few miles of old Route 66 as it meandered it’s way along a river. I took nobbut a single lousy picture from that stretch, so, apparently, it wasn’t all that interesting.


Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/5.0, 1/400sec, 70mm focal L., ~47mi from prev photo, map

Entering into Albuquerque, the remnants of the old road were much more prevalent.

Too bad we were going east…

Nikon D600, ISO 100, ƒ/5.0, 1/320sec, 35mm focal L., ~133mi from prev photo, map

We booked a casita for a 2 night stay in Albuquerque. The girls loved running and playing in the grassy courtyard in the middle of the property. They’d poke around looking for the resident kitty cats that were peacefully dozing the afternoon away. Included with the stay is cooked-to-order breakfast that kids and parents alike enjoyed. Our troop significantly lowered the average age of the guests, but, nobody seemed too terribly bothered by our brand of chaos.

Looking for a beer+dinner offering, I inquired with the young lady at the front desk and she directed us to Il Vicino Brewery Canteen. I had a really good feeling this was a great recommendation upon walking through the parking lot and spying a pickup truck with the license plate of “DRY HOP”. Indeed, the IPA was wonderfully aromatic from plenty of dry hopping. Without a doubt, it was the best beer of the trip, thus far, and probably of the entire trip. Who knew that Albuquerque had such a fine beer scene?

I’m going to sleep HERE!

Nikon D600, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.0, 1/8sec, 38mm focal L., ~3.0mi from prev photo, map

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