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Southwest in late February/early March?

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I may have an opportunity to tag along with my brother on another trip out west, but this one would offer the opportunity for solo exploration, and that's where I'm seeking input.

He's hiking down into the Grand Canyon, heading in on Feb. 23 (a Wednesday) and coming out on March 1 (a Tuesday). I would have to find something to do for that time, so I'm entertaining possibilities.

One thought is to try to do the US 160 end-to-end drive and then finish up what I lack on US 60 (from near the MO-OK line to the western terminus) but I'm not sure I could get all that done in time to be back to the Grand Canyon to pick him up. Plus, there may be weather concerns along US 160 in Colorado.

County-collecting is another possibility. I'm presuming it would be feasible to clinch Arizona and knock out a good chunk of New Mexico, so ideas on an efficient routing are always welcome. Preferably routings that avoid big cities like Phoenix as much as possible.

I'm also intrigued by the thoughts of driving US 191 south of I-40 (formerly US 666), as I've heard a lot about that road, but again I'm worried about weather concerns.

I'd probably be driving my brother's Nissan Titan 4WD truck, but I might rent a vehicle (depending on rates and availability) that would be easier on gas, and also not worried should I have vehicle trouble or a wreck. So that makes me wonder how to accomplish that. I presume most rental agencies have presences in Flagstaff. I do have a discount available from AAA, as well as possible other discounts (employer, auto insurance, I'd have to research to figure out any others). Availability and rates do concern me, as I'd want some sort of crossover; something higher off the ground than the standard Chevy Cruze rental.

How are room rates in this general area? I'm presuming this is the off-season, so they'd be lower than in other seasons. I also know gas is probably significantly cheaper in Arizona than Utah, based on what I saw in Kayenta back in August, as opposed to other places along the US 163/191 corridor between Kayenta and I-70.

I'm just throwing stuff against the wall now. Got a lot of time between now and then. And if I don't have my tax refund by that time, the trip's a no-go.

Total counties:

New Mexico:


The only route clinches I have in the area are I-15, US 64, and US 163 in Arizona.

It should be noted that he has a permit to drive the White Rim Road in Canyonlands after he comes out of the Grand Canyon, so we'd be doing that. That would involve US 160 east back to Kayenta, then US 163 and US 191 back north to Moab.

I would consider doing Route 66 in AZ and CA as far west as Barstow or clinching US 95 in both AZ & CA (the latter would certainly add 4 counties--La Paz/Yuma, AZ and San Bernardino/Riverside, CA to your list).

Max Rockatansky:
The snow storms in the White Mountains on US 191/Coronado Trail arenít a day to day thing occurs during winter.  You ought to be able to get a reasonable assessment on the weather and be relatively assured it wonít change much from the forecast.  That said, ADOT doesnít plow nor does DPS patrol on the Coronado Trail during an active snow storm. 

Pertaining to former US 66 in California, it is still closed east or Amboy to Fenner.  I believe Chris Sampang has the project information for when San Bernardino County plans to complete repairs.  AZ 66 and the Oatman Highway are worth the detour to do. 

Doing a little more investigating into a possible trip, I see that finishing Arizona's counties would be fairly easy, but New Mexico would require a lot of criss-crossing and backtracking, even though I'd get some new counties because our route will be I-40 from OKC to Flagstaff or Williams.

Another thought is to try to clinch Nevada, and to make penetration into both Oregon and Washington to finally claim entry into each of the lower 48. Weather concerns me, though, and I'd want to try to find a fairly direct route to get a county or two in Washington and then hopefully find a different route back south.

I have looked into rental car prices from Flagstaff on a couple of sites (Kayak is one; I think Hotwire was the other) and they're still outrageous. More than $400 for seven days. Cheapest option, believe it or not, is a Ford Transit or similar cargo van. I'm loathe to go venturing off in my brother's truck, both for fear of having a wreck in it and the 17 mpg it gets and with high gas prices.

I've got some time to work on possible routes, but I'm still up in the air as to possible ways to use those six days I'll have.

If you do try and get Oregon and Washington, then I suggest trying for the hourglass route of I-84 / US 730 / I-82 / I-182. It'd be a bit further than just going to Walla Walla, but would get two clinches and to a real part of Washington.

The cheapest gas you'll find there is probably in Pasco or Kennewick, as the Pendleton stations charge a premium for convenience.


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