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USA 2008
Secrets of the Southwest

Week 1 Week 2 Week 3




Saturday, 20th September, 31 °C, few clouds
White Pocket, Coyote Buttes South, Alstrom Point
Total Miles
: 132
Accommodation: Motel 6, Page

We got up in time for sunrise and heard the coyotes howling. We were on the road again by 8 a.m. At the ruins of Poverty Flat Ranch we said good-bye to Klaus who was heading up to Escalante. But we had permits for the Coyote Buttes South for that day, so we turned north. This was also a sandy road but not as bad as the one to the White Pocket. We covered the 8 miles distance in 1 hour.

A sandy path took us in between the South Buttes within 20 minutes.  The shapes and colors were unbelievable! It's amazing what nature can do: shades of orange, yellow and pink were predominant. At the end of 3 hours we were tired but happy and ready to move on. Driving pretty fast we covered the 31.5 miles back to Highway 89 in 1 hour 20 minutes.

It was 2:30 p.m. when we took the turn-off to Alstrom Point in Big Water. We needed 1.5 hours for the 25 miles of dirt road leading through fascinating badlands much like you would imagine the moon and then the last bit was pretty challenging across a rocky stretch. We were rewarded with a beautiful view of Lake Powell in the afternoon sun. We had prebooked the Motel 6 in Page ($72 plus tax internet rate). It was full so it was good we had reservations. For dinner we went to the Fiesta Mexicana again.

Sunday, 21st September, 28 °C, sunny
Eggshell Arch, White Mesa Arch, Coal Mine Canyon, Blue Canyon
Total Miles: 245
Accommodation: Quality Inn, Tuba City

Today we travelled south on Highway 98, then onto IR 16 to try to find Eggshell Arch. The 3.5 miles dirt road were partly rocky, partly sandy, but we made it. The light was good and we had a great view of the impressive arch high above a deep canyon.

Next we took IR 16 in the other direction towards Mesa Arch. This is a gigantic arch but we should have come earlier for better light. We took IR 6260 to IR21, then to Highway 160 towards Tuba City.

Here we turned off onto Highway 264 towards Coal Mine Canyon. It was 2 p.m. when we got there. Blue Canyon along IR7 was next. The afternoon light was great and the red and white rocks made for lovely pictures. We drove back onto Highway 160 and checked into the Quality Inn in Tuba City ($101 plus tax AAA rate). It was 5:15p.m Arizona time, but already one hour later according to Navajo time. We had dinner at the Hogan Restaurant next doors ($20 plus tip for chicken breast and Navajo roast beef).

Monday, 22nd September, 22 °C, a.m. partly cloudy, p.m. sunny
Mesa Verde, Durango, Million Dollar Highway
Total Miles
: 339
Accommodation: Triangle Motel, Silverton

We left Arizona and drove back towards Colorado. It was 8:30 a.m. when we left. Navajo time was the same as Colorado time. We took Highway 160 towards Durango. After 3 hours we arrived in Cortez and stopped at Subway for lunch before we entered Mesa Verde National Park ($15 or National Park's Pass). Finally the sun came out again!

We visited Spruce Tree House which can be entered without a guided tour. The park ranger pointed out a tarantula! Then we drove the Mesa Top Loop. Square Tower House and the view of Cliff Palace from Sun Temple shouldn't be missed! After 3 hours we left the park and continued to Durango. The sky was a beautiful blue and we decided to start on the Million Dollar Highway and spend the night in Silverton. Unfortunately we missed the famous steam train between Durango and Silverton. There were some beautiful fall colors along the road.

We loved Silverton which still has an authentic wild west flair. Only the second motel we tried still had one room left, a suite for $99 AAA rate. For dinner we went to the Bent Elbow Restaurant and Saloon in Blair Street (2 hamburgers and soft drinks for $20 plus tip).

Tuesday, 23rd September, 24 °C, sunny
Silverton, Animas Forks Ghost Town, Yankee Girl Mine, Ouray, Last Dollar Road, Telluride
Total Miles: 175
Accommodation: Best Western Motel, Montrose

This morning we woke up to 0 °C outside! We got on the road by 8:30 a.m. and took the dirt road to Animas Forks ghost town. Here is the start of the 4WD Alpine Loop. The weather would have been good to tackle this high elevation road, but we didn't have the time.

We returned to Silverton and looked at the historic buildings. Then we continued on the Million Dollar Highway. We visited Yankee Girl Mine but missed Ironton ghost town. The fall colors were beautiful.

At midday we arrived in the village of Ouray, America's Switzerland. It was 24 °C and we sat outside for lunch.

In Ridgway we turned onto CO62 and then onto Last Dollar Road towards Telluride. No time to drive back to Silverton via the 4WD Ophir Pass route.

It was 3 p.m. Via Ridgway we drove to Montrose where we found a room at the Best Western Red Arrow ($77 plus tax AAA rate). We had dinner at Applebee’s (salmon and steak for $32 plus tip).

Wednesday, 24th September, 27 °C, sunny
Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Royal Gorge Bridge
Total Miles: 279
Accommodation: Comfort Inn, Manitou Springs

We started the day with a visit to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park ($15 or NP pass) and stopped at the different viewpoints: Tomichi Point, Gunnison Point, Cross Fissures View, Chasm View, Painted Walls View and Cedar Point. For photos I would recommend midday. On the way out we saw a deer along the road.

Our next stop was in Gunnison to grab a sandwich. From there we drove another 120 miles to Canon City via Monarch Pass. Following the Arkansas River we reached the turn-off to the Royal Gorge Bridge,the world's highest Suspension Bridge. It was 2:30 p.m. We just had a look from the viewpoint but didn't pay the $24 each to access the bridge.

I would have liked to continue on Phantom Canyon Road to the historic towns of Victor and Cripple Creek but it was getting late and we had arranged to meet with my boss for dinner in Colorado Springs. So we took the fastest route. At 4:30 p.m. we checked into the Comfort Inn in Manitou Springs ($81 plus tax AAA rate) that we had booked for two nights. We met my boss Ron and his wife at an Italian restaurant, Paravicini’s, in Old Colorado City. The food was very good and we had a nice evening. Solo’s Restaurant inside an old airplane would have been interesting as well: Solo's Aviation Restaurant.

Thursday, 25th September, 27 °C, sunny
Garden of the Gods, Pikes Peak, Calhan Paint Mines
Total Miles: 184

Accommodation: Comfort Inn, Manitou Springs

This morning we drove to Garden of the Gods (no charge) first before we tackled Pikes Peak, America’s Mountain ($10 each). Here we saw a black bear crossing the road! Our first bear in the wild!

The road to Pikes Peak is partly untarred but well graded, but there is no crash barrier of any kind! But they even have car races up here, hard to imagine! It was 10:40 a.m. when we reached the top. It was 5 °C.

Back in Colorado City we had a sandwich and a coffee. Then we drove to the east side of Colorado Springs onto Highway 24 East until we reached the village of Calhan and the Calhan Paint Mines, a small site of colorful badlands. It was 2:30 p.m. when we got there. We did a short hike of 1.5 hours before we returned to the Garden of the Gods to see the sunset shortly before 6 p.m.

We had dinner at the The Mason Jar Restaurant in Old Colorado City (steak and rainbow trout for $32 plus tip)

Friday, 26th September, 22 °C, sunny
Air Force Academy, Outlets at Castle Rock
Total Miles: 100
Return flight

The day of departure had arrived. But we still had time to visit the Colorado Springs Air Force Academy  in the morning with its beautiful Cadet Chapel and a model of a B52 Bomber. Back on the I-25 to Denver we also stopped at the Outlets at Castle Rock. At 12:30 p.m. we arrived at Alamo car return at Denver International Airport.

We had a last burger at the Rock Bottom Brewery at Gate C. Our flight was scheduled for 3 p.m. Our connection in Detroit was due at 9:45 p.m. local time. The board program showed "Kung Fu Panda". After 8.5 hours flight time we arrived in Düsseldorf at 11:30 a.m. local time (3:30 a.m. Mountain Time). This was the end of another wonderful holiday.

2nd Week

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