Driving to Tucson - I'm Happy To Be Here - CycleBlaze

Driving to Tucson

We played the waiting game, to see what time Jacinto's school bus trip would be over, and if we could leave Saturday. The other choice was to make the 12 hour drive in one long haul on Sunday. That wouldn't have been so fun, as the tour starts Monday!

For the first time in history, Jacinto was packed two days early. The bikes were in the van Thursday. I did final laundry and packing for me on Saturday afternoon. Jacinto arrived home at 5:30 PM and had to brew one last cup of percolator coffee, complete with real cream, and local honey. That was his on the road drink. We were off at 6 PM. That is quite late to be starting a road trip, but there we were.  It's not as fun to drive at night, with nothing to see. There was an illuminating full moon.

We had temporary dreams of driving half way, to Kayenta. Reason prevailed, and we stopped at Blanding. That gave us a 7.5 hour drive for Sunday. 

They are short of bus drivers this year. Jacinto has been driving  frequent routes in addition to his actual job of taking students on sports trips. An advantage to his driving route is that he now thinks 6 AM is sleeping in! We were up at 6, and on the road before 7 on Sunday morning. Jacinto had a side trip for gas station coffee, the quality of which he didn't complain about. Amazing.  We agreed the goal was to keep moving and take minimal stops. We had food to eat on the way. Jacinto is very good to keep left overs in stock. For the beginning of the trip, he announced with pleasure in his voice that he had a regular buffet going. He had Chinese food, Mexican food, and ham with eggs from home. 

I spent some time reading Wayne's recently published trip through Monument Valley. That gave me an activity, looking at lodging availability at the lodge directly in Monument Valley, where Wayne had stayed and taken some excellent photos. The USA borders have barely opened up to foreign tourists.  I wondered if the lodge was even open, or closed because of COVID.  I was surprised to see I could get a room at the lodge. I've checked several times before, and have never been able to get a room. Perhaps bus tours haven't started back up?

In 2019 we rode a loop from Moab to the Grand Canyon and back. We bicycled much of today's driving route. It was interesting to note different areas along the road. Of special interest is how the small towns have fared. Ultimately, they don't seem to be doing well. Especially Bluff and Mexican Hat. If you plan to bicycle through this area, check services carefully. Bluff does have an upscale looking resort under construction -Bluff Dwellings Resort. It is open while construction is ongoing. The rest of the town appears to be in bad shape/closed. Mexican Hat is even worse. The gas station is open, as is the San Juan Motel/Restaurant. Everything else looks like an old western movie with tumbleweeds rolling through town. I think it's tough for small town businesses during normal times, much less COVID times.

Exiting Kayenta, we were unhappy to see  new pavement. What, you say? Unhappy with new pavement? It was paved, and painted. For some horrible reason, the shoulder had been milled, but not paved, impossible to ride on. Jacinto said perhaps they are going to go back and pave there. I doubt it, since they have painted the lines already. It would have been better to leave the old pavement, and not mill it. Why, oh why did that happen? 

Traffic was light until we got to the Tuba City area. The closer to Flagstaff, the more cars. It seems we always hit rush hour around Phoenix. Today, being Sunday, seemed to be no exception. While the roads were full of vehicles, there weren't any slowdowns. 

We did not stop for gas in Flagstaff, priced $3.75, thinking that the Phoenix area would be cheaper. Wrong! Past Phoenix, but still in the mountains, gas was $4.19 a gallon. We got a modest 4 gallons to get us to Tucson, where we paid $3.59. Marilyn says Costco here is $3.33. 

We rolled in at the Hampton Inn/Airport at 3:15. Check in was 3 PM. I had signed up for digital check in, with my telephone. Unfortunately, I could not unlock the motel door, only our room door. The desk clerk said they had requested maintenance on the back door, it was a common issue. I ended up with regular card keys. Contactless check in seems to be all the thing nowadays. I still had several questions to ask. Namely about breakfast! I also tried to sweet talk my way into free parking while we were on tour, as I would be staying again after our return. No go. A tow truck patrols the lot daily. We could pay $5. a night to park here, $4.49 for covered parking down the street, or $3. a night for uncovered parking, also down the street. Jacinto gets to make that decision. I'm sure I will be down the road while he parks the van!

We unloaded the van, pumped the tires, and hauled our bags inside. Jacinto said he was packed, but I wanted another look in my panniers after dinner. We went to Taco Giro, my local favorite for their five item combination plate for $20. They had a mariachi band playing. There were eight members, in costume. There was even a harp playing. Jacinto said all of the songs were good, old songs, that his mother would remember. The music was good, but we couldn't hear a thing. It's good we hadn't invited anyone to meet us for dinner. Tonight the food seemed only average. I told Jacinto perhaps my run with Taco Giro is done. We can try some other local spots. We plan to meet the Andersons' at El Charro when we are all in town come December. 

We were back in the room by 8 PM. I went through my bags one more time. I'm roughly packed for the morning. The forecast says east wind, 13  mph, with gusts to 20. A later look at the wind looks more hopeful. Either way, we ride!

I don't feel like road kill, with all of that driving. I'm sure my legs will be happy to get on the road. 

The Prospector Motel in Blanding. $60. Adequate, but not wonderful.
Heart 1 Comment 0
I love this view! Monument Valley.
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At the gas station between Kayenta and Tuba City, in the middle of nowhere.
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The gas station bulletin board has advertisements for Navajo tacos and missing native women.
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Marcela I.Hearted not because its good, but because spreading awareness of an issue this massive and somehow largely overlooked is important.
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7 months ago
It must be brutally hot here in the summer, to have such an extensive covered area at the gas station.
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Arrived and unloading!
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Our room was significantly more money and significantly nicer.
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Jacinto, watching the ball game
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Rate this entry's writing Heart 5
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Benjamin MeyersonKelly unfortunately I'm not a journaler but if you're interested you can find our trip report on Strava under my name from 3/28-4/15 this year 2021.
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7 months ago