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Author Topic: Advice: Trip this fall to Albuquerque and Phoenix  (Read 11167 times)

1995hoo

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Advice: Trip this fall to Albuquerque and Phoenix
« on: March 11, 2015, 09:52:07 AM »

I'm wondering if anyone can make any suggestions for a trip to Albuquerque and Phoenix this fall. My wife has a four-day business trip to Albuquerque in late September. Her brother lives in Phoenix. She hasn't been to visit him since before we got married and I've never been to either New Mexico or Arizona (about 15 years ago I thought I was going to get to go to New Mexico on business, but the case I was handling settled and I never made it out there), so we have in mind that I'll join her on the business trip, do my own thing while she's in meetings and such, and then we'll drive to Phoenix to visit. Or we might reverse the order and go to Phoenix first depending on her brother's schedule. I want to stop at the Grand Canyon en route either way because it seems ridiculous to go out there for the first time and NOT visit the Grand Canyon.

We'll definitely be flying out. I'd love to drive it, but it's a waste of my time suggesting the idea, and to be fair it would simply eat up too much of our limited time. Looks like Southwest to Albuquerque (probably DCA->DAL->ABQ since this is a direct flight, meaning no changing planes) and for the trip home who knows yet. Flying into or out of Las Vegas could be interesting since I've never been there either, but it's too far out of the way, and Salt Lake City is WAY too far at over 600 miles from Albuquerque (especially if I were to detour via the Moki Dugway).

So I think we'll fly into ABQ on Wednesday, rent a car, stay there until midday Sunday, then drive to the Grand Canyon, spend a day or two there, and then drive to Phoenix. Looking at a map, the most obvious route would be I-40 west to US-89, north to AZ-64, west to the canyon; then, when leaving there, continue down AZ-64 to I-40 at Williams, then east to Flagstaff and down I-17. (My brother-in-law lives east of I-17 just below the "Lookout Mountain Preserve.") I guess that would put us into Phoenix late Tuesday and we plan to fly out on Saturday. I figure a clinch of I-17 will be an easy matter between driving down to Phoenix and then going to the airport at the end of the week.

My question, then, is four-fold:

(a) What is there of roadgeek interest in the Albuquerque/Santa Fe area that doesn't involve too many hours of driving? I see there is a road called "Turquoise Trail" that looks like it could be a scenic route between those two cities, so perhaps use that one way and take I-25 the other. Is it worth it? The people planning my wife's meeting have said they do not recommend it, but I also got the impression they are not interested in roads for the sake of roads. I will pretty much have Friday and Saturday on my own to do as I wish. Maybe Thursday as well but I don't know yet. I believe I'll need to be back by around 5:00 or 5:30 each of those nights because I think they have dinners planned and spouses/guests are apparently welcome. Thus, I don't regard there as being an option to drive somewhere, stop for the night, and then take another route back.

(b) It would add considerable distance to go around via the US highways to stop at Four Corners on the way from Albuquerque to the Grand Canyon. On the other hand, it'd be kind of neat to go to Four Corners even though I know there isn't really anything there. Are the roads scenic or are they boring? My wife won't mind a longer route if it's especially scenic and interesting. On the other hand, since I've never been out there I don't know whether I-40 might be scenic enough to warrant just going that way. I don't have the patience to click through a "virtual drive" on Google Street View.

(c) I've read that the Grand Canyon's North Rim is much less crowded, probably because it looks like it's much more of a nuisance to reach. The maps make it appear to be a significantly greater distance. Is it worth doing that instead of the South Rim for one's first trip there? (My wife has been to the South Rim more than once in the past.) It looks like it would consume an awful lot of time to go there instead.

(d) Anything else worthy of exploration within the confines of the schedule described above? I'm kind of assuming there won't be much opportunity for road-related activity while we're in Phoenix because we rarely see my brother-in-law and so we should spend the time with him and his wife since they'll be hosting us. (When they came here for three days a few years back we took them to Mount Vernon and to some of the museums downtown.)

Thanks in advance!
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Re: Advice: Trip this fall to Albuquerque and Phoenix
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2015, 10:48:09 AM »

(a) Turquoise Trail is exactly what you said: a scenic backroad between the two cities.  You could easily drive that to Santa Fe, spend some time there, and be back to ABQ in time for dinner.  Also, ABQ (and most of New Mexico) has made quite an effort to be appealing to Route 66 tourists, so that's another idea for something road-related to do around there.

(b) I think I-40 is somewhat scenic in its own right, but I would say there is even more to see from the roads up around the Four Corners area.  Either way, there are lots of scenic stops: El Malpais Nat. Mon, El Morro Nat. Mon, Canyon de Chelly Nat. Mon, Petrified Forest Nat. Park, etc.  I enjoyed the Arizona Meteor Crater, too.  Although it's a privately-owned, somewhat pricey tourist trap, it was still cool to see the main attraction, and to marvel at the impact of a space rock.  Monument Valley is exceptionally scenic, but that might be getting outside of your timeframe.

(c) It's true that the North Rim is a lot quieter, because it's very remote.  The solitude is nice, and it's a stark contrast to the crowds on the South Rim.  However, since you're looking south across the canyon, the view is often backlit and somewhat hazy.  I don't know if I would recommend it given the circumstances you've outlined.
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Re: Advice: Trip this fall to Albuquerque and Phoenix
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2015, 11:15:29 AM »

In winter 2014 I actually did option B on your list but also included US 163 (used CO-41/UT 162 to get over there) through Monument Valley which very scenic.  Google Image or Street View US 163 west of Mexican Hat for the best views to preview.

Google says:
Direct ABQ to Grand Canyon village is 6 hr
ABQ to GCV using NM/AZ 264 is 6.7 hr
ABQ to GCV using US 550 and US 160 (not counting brief detour to 4-cor monument) is 7.5 hr
ABQ to GCV via 4 cor and US 163 is 8.7 hr

I would also recommend visiting Petroglyph NM in western ABQ.  You can see stuff with next to no walking from the parking area.



If you enjoy Mexican Food there is a terrific place in Flagstaff (Salsa Brava) on I-40 Business a little west of the south end of US 89.

Mapmikey
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1995hoo

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Re: Advice: Trip this fall to Albuquerque and Phoenix
« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2015, 12:11:01 PM »

Thank you both. I just looked at the pictures of Monument Valley on AARoads. Wow. I had no idea that was out there. Looks jaw-dropping. That will make the added distance much easier to sell to Ms1995hoo.

I had forgotten about that crater. I've seen pictures of it but had forgotten it was out there. Not sure we'll fit that in if we do the Four Corners/Monument Valley route—which, I notice, might allow for a side trip to the Moki Dugway, too.

I see Petroglyph NM on the map. We'll be staying at the Doubletree downtown, so that looks quite simple. I'll check it out.
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"You know, you never have a guaranteed spot until you have a spot guaranteed."
—Olaf Kolzig, as quoted in the Washington Times on March 28, 2003,
commenting on the Capitals clinching a playoff spot.

"That sounded stupid, didn't it?"—Kolzig, to the same reporter a few seconds later.

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Re: Advice: Trip this fall to Albuquerque and Phoenix
« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2015, 01:20:55 PM »

I'd second what has already been said and add that I'd stock with the south rim if I were you.

If the intent were to spend a day or two recreating in the area, the North Rim is substantially better. If the idea is to get out of the car for an hour just to see it, the South Rim is equally impressive.

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Re: Advice: Trip this fall to Albuquerque and Phoenix
« Reply #5 on: March 11, 2015, 01:41:22 PM »

I'd second what has already been said and add that I'd stock with the south rim if I were you.

If the intent were to spend a day or two recreating in the area, the North Rim is substantially better. If the idea is to get out of the car for an hour just to see it, the South Rim is equally impressive.

Thanks. I'm thinking we'll probably stay overnight for at least one night, especially given the time involved driving from New Mexico. The time estimates Google gave me are all longer than what Mapmikey cited, though of course I don't know for certain I used the same start/endpoints or routing. As I ponder it, I'm thinking we may wind up having to stop for the night somewhere between Albuquerque and the Grand Canyon because we probably won't be hitting the road first thing in the morning, so if we do that, I imagine we'd spend one night at the Grand Canyon instead of two. We won't be hiking terribly far down into the canyon due to physical issues, but I'm sure we will do at least a few hours of wandering around and taking photos. If the South Rim is better for photography, then I think that's the place to go.

If time weren't an issue, I'd consider the North Rim, then Las Vegas, then Hoover Dam, but I think that's all simply too much extra distance that takes way from time visiting the relatives.
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"You know, you never have a guaranteed spot until you have a spot guaranteed."
—Olaf Kolzig, as quoted in the Washington Times on March 28, 2003,
commenting on the Capitals clinching a playoff spot.

"That sounded stupid, didn't it?"—Kolzig, to the same reporter a few seconds later.

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Re: Advice: Trip this fall to Albuquerque and Phoenix
« Reply #6 on: March 11, 2015, 11:46:10 PM »

I would keep in mind that lodging options are pretty bad between Four Corners and the Grand Canyon via Monument Valley- there's a random decent hotel in Kayenta and maybe a Quality Inn in Tuba City, but that's about it. Both of those are definitely rez towns- driving on the Navajo Reservation is an experience in itself. Watch for pedestrians, even out in the middle of the desert.  Especially being from back east, spending the night in either city will probably feel fairly foreign. That's not to say you should avoid it- just...you will notice a distinct cultural difference. Probably not so much at the Hampton Inn or whatever in Kayenta, but if you hang out in town you will. 

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Re: Advice: Trip this fall to Albuquerque and Phoenix
« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2015, 01:20:13 AM »

In early December, I took a trip from southern California to Monument Valley.  I only had a few days, and split up the trip into these segments:
L.A. to Laughlin, NV
Laughlin, NV to Kayenta, AZ via the Grand Canyon south rim
Kayenta to Las Vegas via Monument Valley and 4 Corners (a very long driving day!)
Vegas to L.A.

If you plan to stay in Kayenta, try to find something to eat on the way, as there wasn't much to choose from there, especially since we got there around 8pm.  We ended up just getting sandwiches at the Subway.  Also, look out for the many stray dogs on the reservation.  The iconic view of Monument Valley is at Utah milepost 13 on US163 east of the valley.  Great views from the View Hotel at the MV Navajo Tribal Park.  The rest of US163 is a nice drive, check out the Mexican Hat, like something out of a Roadrunner cartoon.  I wish I had taken the short detour to see the Goosenecks State Park (off UT261, the road to the Moki Dugway), sort of like a double Horseshoe Bend (which is off US 89 in Page, AZ). 
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1995hoo

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Re: Advice: Trip this fall to Albuquerque and Phoenix
« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2015, 08:33:34 AM »

I saw the hotel in Kayenta listed on Expedia. I may go get a AAA book. I suspect the cellular data signal for one's iPad isn't so great in the rural areas.
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"You know, you never have a guaranteed spot until you have a spot guaranteed."
—Olaf Kolzig, as quoted in the Washington Times on March 28, 2003,
commenting on the Capitals clinching a playoff spot.

"That sounded stupid, didn't it?"—Kolzig, to the same reporter a few seconds later.

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Re: Advice: Trip this fall to Albuquerque and Phoenix
« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2015, 09:39:20 AM »

If you're a fan of Breaking Bad, you should take a tour of all the filming locations in ABQ. They go about 3 to 3 1/2 hours.
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1995hoo

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Re: Advice: Trip this fall to Albuquerque and Phoenix
« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2015, 10:25:54 AM »

If you're a fan of Breaking Bad, you should take a tour of all the filming locations in ABQ. They go about 3 to 3 1/2 hours.

Never seen it, but thanks for the tip all the same.
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"You know, you never have a guaranteed spot until you have a spot guaranteed."
—Olaf Kolzig, as quoted in the Washington Times on March 28, 2003,
commenting on the Capitals clinching a playoff spot.

"That sounded stupid, didn't it?"—Kolzig, to the same reporter a few seconds later.

1995hoo

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Re: Advice: Trip this fall to Albuquerque and Phoenix
« Reply #11 on: March 12, 2015, 08:21:18 PM »

I sent my wife a link to pictures of Monument Valley and she replied as follows. I don't see much reason for concern, though of course there is always a chance of a breakdown anywhere you go. Would y'all be concerned about it being a desolate area?

Quote
WOW, those are some spectacular pictures.  Looks desolate though, don't know if I want to drive out there alone. What if you break down? We should discuss it this weekend.
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"You know, you never have a guaranteed spot until you have a spot guaranteed."
—Olaf Kolzig, as quoted in the Washington Times on March 28, 2003,
commenting on the Capitals clinching a playoff spot.

"That sounded stupid, didn't it?"—Kolzig, to the same reporter a few seconds later.

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Re: Advice: Trip this fall to Albuquerque and Phoenix
« Reply #12 on: March 12, 2015, 08:46:34 PM »

I did it in a car with about 180k miles on it.  You'd be doing it in a presumably much newer rental.

I'm pretty sure I had satellite radio everywhere out there, so I would think On-Star would work if that is on the vehicle.

Also, no matter what you decide to do: There are going to be desolate stretches of road going from ABQ to Phoenix via the Grand Canyon.  Try and find a coverage map for whatever cell service you have - http://www.cellularmaps.com/coverage.shtml

On the third hand, my wife always says "the desert is trying to kill you"...

The least busy road in my recollection on the Monument Valley routing is CO-41/UT 162...

Mapmikey
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Re: Advice: Trip this fall to Albuquerque and Phoenix
« Reply #13 on: March 12, 2015, 08:59:31 PM »

I sent my wife a link to pictures of Monument Valley and she replied as follows. I don't see much reason for concern, though of course there is always a chance of a breakdown anywhere you go. Would y'all be concerned about it being a desolate area?

Quote
WOW, those are some spectacular pictures.  Looks desolate though, don't know if I want to drive out there alone. What if you break down? We should discuss it this weekend.

There's enough people out there that it really doesn't feel desolate. It might to some folks, but compared to, say, central Nevada, or Wyoming (or to use an Arizona example, US 60 west of Wickenburg or US 191 between Morenci and Springerville) it's not desolate. The roads are good, I'm 85% sure there's cell service, and there's quite a bit of traffic. If you broke down you wouldn't be more than an hour from a tow truck- I can say that with near certainty.  163 is a pretty touristy road. There are many places in the rural west where I'd be worried if I broke down and 163 isn't even close to being on that list.
« Last Edit: March 12, 2015, 09:03:33 PM by corco »
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Re: Advice: Trip this fall to Albuquerque and Phoenix
« Reply #14 on: March 12, 2015, 09:04:19 PM »

Thanks to both of you. I told her driving through desolate areas is part of travel in that area. Looks like Verizon's coverage is better than I would have expected there. I suppose it's fair to remember the Indian tribes probably want cellular service, so there's going to be some sort of service along the roads....

I discovered there's a bed and breakfast near the foot of the Moki Dugway. It's a small place that apparently books up well in advance, but I may look into that. Talk about a place with no light pollution for looking at the stars.
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"You know, you never have a guaranteed spot until you have a spot guaranteed."
—Olaf Kolzig, as quoted in the Washington Times on March 28, 2003,
commenting on the Capitals clinching a playoff spot.

"That sounded stupid, didn't it?"—Kolzig, to the same reporter a few seconds later.

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Re: Advice: Trip this fall to Albuquerque and Phoenix
« Reply #15 on: March 12, 2015, 09:25:55 PM »

I discovered there's a bed and breakfast near the foot of the Moki Dugway... Talk about a place with no light pollution for looking at the stars.

Yes, that is truly a dark-sky region:
http://www.jshine.net/astronomy/dark_sky/
Hope it's clear when you're there...
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Re: Advice: Trip this fall to Albuquerque and Phoenix
« Reply #16 on: March 16, 2015, 01:57:34 PM »

Thanks again for the tips. Trip is mostly booked with the exception of flights (waiting until tomorrow to do that), one night's lodging in the Valley of the Gods area (I have a call in to that bed and breakfast to see if they have a vacancy; if not, we'll stay in Bluff or Mexican Hat), and the car rental. Do you folks have any thoughts on whether it's important to have a higher-clearance vehicle like an SUV for roads like the Moki Dugway or the unpaved 17-mile loop through the Valley of the Gods? Normally I'd opt for a mid-size or full-size car, but the unpaved roads gave me pause.
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"You know, you never have a guaranteed spot until you have a spot guaranteed."
—Olaf Kolzig, as quoted in the Washington Times on March 28, 2003,
commenting on the Capitals clinching a playoff spot.

"That sounded stupid, didn't it?"—Kolzig, to the same reporter a few seconds later.

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Re: Advice: Trip this fall to Albuquerque and Phoenix
« Reply #17 on: March 16, 2015, 02:50:54 PM »

The Moki Dugway doesn't require anything more than a standard passenger car.  It's pretty well graded.
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1995hoo

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Re: Advice: Trip this fall to Albuquerque and Phoenix
« Reply #18 on: March 16, 2015, 02:57:13 PM »

The Moki Dugway doesn't require anything more than a standard passenger car.  It's pretty well graded.

Thanks. The owner of the Valley of the Gods Bed & Breakfast called back a few minutes ago and his opinion echoes yours—he said if the only off-road driving you plan is limited driving like Valley of the Gods Road, a standard rental car is fine unless there's a lot of rain that turns the road to mud. I guess I'll see what the rates are and decide based on pricing.

The more I look at the maps and the photos on Google Maps and the like, the more I think we may skip Four Corners to allow more time for exploration up around the Moki Dugway, possibly including Muley Point.

Thanks again to all for the tips. I'll resurrect the thread this fall with photos and the like.
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"You know, you never have a guaranteed spot until you have a spot guaranteed."
—Olaf Kolzig, as quoted in the Washington Times on March 28, 2003,
commenting on the Capitals clinching a playoff spot.

"That sounded stupid, didn't it?"—Kolzig, to the same reporter a few seconds later.

1995hoo

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Re: Advice: Trip this fall to Albuquerque and Phoenix
« Reply #19 on: September 09, 2015, 09:20:20 PM »

Thread bumped because two weeks from today we will be in Albuquerque and I'd like to ask for you folks' advice on which route you recommend between Albuquerque and the Valley of the Gods area. Looking at the maps, the obvious choices are either I-25 north to US-550 to US-64 or I-40 west to US-491 (former 666). Don't know whether we'll stop at Four Corners because it'll depend on timing—I want to stop for dinner in Bluff before heading to the bed and breakfast near the Moki Dugway. Goal is to reach the bed and breakfast by about 7:00 PM.

The real question is whether either route is particularly scenic or particularly faster. On the whole a scenic drive probably trumps all else unless the scenic route takes so long as to be impractical.

Thanks in advance.
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"You know, you never have a guaranteed spot until you have a spot guaranteed."
—Olaf Kolzig, as quoted in the Washington Times on March 28, 2003,
commenting on the Capitals clinching a playoff spot.

"That sounded stupid, didn't it?"—Kolzig, to the same reporter a few seconds later.

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Re: Advice: Trip this fall to Albuquerque and Phoenix
« Reply #20 on: September 10, 2015, 06:32:19 AM »


I thought US 550 was scenic.  It is definitely wide open...few slowdowns once you leave the I-25 area.

Mike
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Re: Advice: Trip this fall to Albuquerque and Phoenix
« Reply #21 on: September 10, 2015, 07:36:36 AM »

It's been a while, but I liked the scenery on 550 better than 491.  Of course, you can't go wrong anywhere in the region you'll be visiting.  Get yourself something with Hatch green chiles.
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Re: Advice: Trip this fall to Albuquerque and Phoenix
« Reply #22 on: September 10, 2015, 01:35:57 PM »

Thanks to both of you. The AAA map gives 550 the scenic marking and doesn't give it to 491, but I figured comments here might be more useful.
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"You know, you never have a guaranteed spot until you have a spot guaranteed."
—Olaf Kolzig, as quoted in the Washington Times on March 28, 2003,
commenting on the Capitals clinching a playoff spot.

"That sounded stupid, didn't it?"—Kolzig, to the same reporter a few seconds later.

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Re: Advice: Trip this fall to Albuquerque and Phoenix
« Reply #23 on: September 10, 2015, 01:39:55 PM »

Definitely do 550. You'll see the same type of scenery in Utah and Arizona as you do on 491. 550 is significantly different.

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Re: Advice: Trip this fall to Albuquerque and Phoenix
« Reply #24 on: September 10, 2015, 04:31:03 PM »

I discovered there's a bed and breakfast near the foot of the Moki Dugway... Talk about a place with no light pollution for looking at the stars.

Yes, that is truly a dark-sky region:
http://www.jshine.net/astronomy/dark_sky/
Hope it's clear when you're there...

If you're interested in astronomy, definitely make it a point to visit Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, where Pluto was discovered. The old Clark Telescope inside was very recently restored and ready for visitors!
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