Day 10: Kayenta to Monument Valley - Indian Country part two, 2018 - CycleBlaze

May 18, 2018

Day 10: Kayenta to Monument Valley

Today I could easily pedal from Kayenta to Mexican Hat, Utah. But then I would pass through Monument Valley during mid-day when it doesn't look very flattering. Instead I will merely pedal to Monument Valley, allowing time to explore the area and leisurely see it with evening and morning light. Besides, yesterday was so long and hard that I need an easy recovery day today. I slept until 8 and got on the road at 9:45.

US 163 in Kayenta with a view of the Red Canyonlands to the north.
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Kayenta seemed very depressing when I drove through it last September. Now, on a bike and after spending days in the Navajo nation, it seems fairly nice. Decent homes, good roads. A big shopping center. 3 large motels. Kayenta has tourism jobs and income thanks to being 20 miles from Monument Valley.

Laguna creek on the north edge of Kayenta. Only the second creek with water that I have seen so far.
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In Kayenta I escaped US 160, a semi-busy east west highway. Now I go north on US 163 with no shoulder and very light traffic. Still decent for cycling. Very few trucks. Most of the traffic is tourists.

Subtle reminder that I pedal to Monument Valley today. Solar farm on the left.
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It was encouraging to see the first big solar project in the Navajo nation. The sun is very reliable and large transmission lines are already in place. Hopefully they will build more solar projects.

The Navajo nation needs more solar farms. They have the necessary sunshine and transmission lines.
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Today I go straight north from Kayenta to Monument Valley. I like going north because then the sun is behind me all day. Everything looks better.

US 163 entering the Red Canyonlands. 3 days of red rock ahead...
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Late in the morning I had miles of unobstructed views of the "highway monuments". The monuments that millions of tourists see every year when zooming by on US 163. Many of those tourist drive a giant loop where the north half connects all the national parks in Southern Utah and the southern half goes through the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley in northern Arizona.

Motorists see these monuments when passing through on US 163. The sun angle is poor in the morning.
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I was in Utah for less than 2 hours before crossing back into Arizona for the night.

US 163 going north, leaving Arizona.
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I turned left at the main intersection in Monument Valley. Left goes west to the high school, Goulding's lodge and the remote Navajo town of Oljeto. Right goes east to the tribal park.

Monument Valley high school's football field sure stands out in the red desert.
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I pedaled 4 miles round trip to have a look at Goulding's. I ate lunch at their large restaurant, filled with several bus tour groups. A long and slow lunch, but I'm in no hurry today. I'm intentionally wasting time because the sun angle improves as the afternoon progresses.

Approaching Goulding's Lodge on the west edge of Monument Valley.
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Gouldings has a long history running an Old West style lodge overlooking Monument Valley. Their most famous repeat customer is John Wayne who filmed 6 movies in Monument Valley from 1939-1956. Those movies showed Monument Valley to the world and made the world want to see Monument Valley. John Wayne swaggering in Monument Valley is the Americana that millions of foreign tourists want to see. Then they come here and learn that Indians actually own Monument Valley.

Goulding's Trading Post has a distant view of the monuments.
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I was amused to see the mockup of John Wayne at a saloon door. There is no saloon here. Maybe in the 1950's.

Maybe Goulding's had a saloon before the Navajo nation was granted autonomy. Alcohol has been prohibited for a long time.
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Gouldings has a relatively distant view of the iconic "highway monuments". I imagine the location was dictated by a water supply. The lodge and adjoining village must consume a tremendous amount of water. It's so big that it's essentially a white town inside the Navajo nation. It doesn't seem to be run as respectfully as Cameron Trading Post.

This is the only good viewing area at Goulding's.
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Goulding's also has a large community of houses for rent. At first I thought this was Navajo housing.
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After lunch I leisurely continued east, backtracking 2 miles downhill to cross US 163. Then 4 uphill miles on the park road to Monument Valley tribal park.

The park road has today's closest view of the "highway monuments". Colors would be more vivid later in the afternoon. Tomorrow morning will be worse.

View of the "highway monuments" while pedaling east to Monument Valley Tribal Park.
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Tonight will be my 10th and final night in Arizona, my 4th and final night in the Navajo nation.

The park road angles southeast, back into Arizona.
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Monument Valley Tribal Park was founded in 1958, the first Navajo tribal park. Facilities were modest at first. Now the main overlook area has a large visitor center, gift shop, museum, restaurant, and hotel. A campground is a mile away.

Founded in 1958, this is the Navajo nation's first tribal park. Probably the first tribal park in the U.S.
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Bicyclists pay $6 to enter the park. Motor vehicles pay more, topping out at $300 for a tour bus. Grand Canyon National Park also has a $300 bus entry fee.
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I arrived at 3:30 PM and checked into my reserved room. Don't expect a Vacancy sign here. The View hotel is relatively new, opening in December 2008. It has a privileged view that NO other lodging can offer. All the view rooms were booked when I made my reservation but I was able to get one of 5 small bus driver rooms with a view of the parking lot. $123, half the price and half the size of the view rooms, with no fridge or microwave. Bus tours probably buy out the place. Guests were from all over the world.

Lobby at The View hotel.
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I spent a long time at the main overlook. It looks down on 3 monuments that can't be seen from the highway. These are the "park monuments". There are many more park monuments in the distance to the right. Some visitors hire a Navajo Jeep driver to take them into the back country. Bus tour packages frequently include the backcountry Jeep ride. Bikes aren't allowed.

Monument Valley Tribal Park at about 3:30 PM.
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View of the "park monuments" from the viewing platform at Monument Valley Tribal Park. Late afternoon is best. This was at 5:30 PM before the sun went behind distant clouds.
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Dinner was at the hotel's restaurant. There is no other place to get food. Dinner was an excellent sampler of 3 Navajo stews. Green chile stew, Pozole, and mutton stew. With a side of fry bread, of course. Awesome.

Sunset was a visual disappointment because the sun had long since disappeared behind distant clouds to the west. There was never a burst of sunset color. Nevertheless, everybody seemed thrilled to be there.

Everybody seems to be in a joyous mood.
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I sensed more contentment here than at the Grand Canyon overlooks. At the Grand Canyon most people were stressing about the hike they were about to do or complaining about the hike they just did. Here you just sit and relax.

Mellow guitar, flute, and drum added to the happy sunset vibe.
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Today had a high of 84F with a brisk southwest wind, same as yesterday. The View Hotel is 5800 feet elevation, about the same elevation as Kayenta. But here there is less grass and the red ground absorbs more heat, giving the evening a warm glow.

The View hotel in Monument Valley Tribal Park.
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Everything here is owned and operated by the Navajo tribe. This is a good place to buy a souvenir and know that the Navajo get all the money. I bought a Navajo wedding basket and had it shipped to my house. It's 14 inches (35 cm) diameter and has some depth. Too big to fit in my panniers. I didn't want to dangle it from the seat for the final 3 days of the tour. That would probably damage the basket.

Navajo wedding basket. The pattern always has an opening which should face east or up.
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The cashier explained the Navajo wedding basket tradition. A ceremonial blue corn mush is placed in the wedding basket with the pattern's opening facing east, the direction of new life. The bride and groom eat from the basket first. Then members of both families eat from the basket to symbolize the new union of two families. Afterwards the wedding basket becomes a treasured family heirloom.

It felt good to have a half tourist and half cycling day. The exhaustion I felt last night is mostly gone now. Tomorrow will be another easy recovery day, taking it slow and easy to enjoy Monument Valley.

Distance: 33.3 mi. (53.3 km)
Ascent/Descent: +860/-923 ft (+261/-280 m)
Average Speed: 10.4 mph (16.6 km/h)

Today's ride: 33 miles (53 km)
Total: 460 miles (740 km)

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Kelly IniguezFor two years I tried to get a room at The View Hotel, and could only get the bus driver room. Today, for fun, I checked a couple of random dates in the winter and could get their most expensive room at $199. I chose a random June date and several room types were available, although the cheapest room was $239. The bus driver room was actually cheapest, at $119.

I am completely enchanted by the view in Monument Valley. I couldn't get either Jacinto or Oren interested in staying. Although it didn't matter much, because there weren't rooms. Perhaps as I drive through in February, I can stay there by myself! I could enjoy the view as long as I like!
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1 year ago
Wayne EstesI would have paid extra for a view room if it was available. But I don't regret staying in a bus driver room. The view was just a few steps away, and I still got to see it at sunset and early in the morning. I think most of the rooms are booked by bus tour companies years in advance. February would be awesome if you had a sunny day after a bit of snow.
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1 year ago
Wayne EstesTo Kelly IniguezI know Oren and Jacinto both have a general aversion to crowded parks. I suppose Monument Valley Tribal Park is crowded if 5 tour buses just arrived all at once. But it's not crowded at sunset or early in the morning. The main monument view is an afternoon/sunset view. The morning view is not as spectacular.
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1 year ago