Summary: A sweet 580 miles.
From Kingman, I-40 climbs up into the Arizona high country past the Arizona Divide and brushes the edge of Flagstaff, which has an impressive mountain range next door. Countless must-visit sites — Sedona, Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater — had to wait for another vacation.
It’s long and mostly flat for a couple hundred miles till the New Mexico border, where the terrain shifts rapidly and starts looking much like the Escalante region of southern Utah: Layered red cliffs with flats on top.
The drive from Flagstaff to Albuquerque is one of the best in the United States, hands down. Not quite as spectacular as California 1 (the Coast Highway) or I-70 through the Front Range of the Rockies at Denver, but in the same neighborhood, vistawise.
Oh, and we stopped for gas in Winslow, Arizona, and saw no girls in flatbed Fords or lame singer-songwriter types with longing looks on their faces. The guys in the mini-mart definitely had a Native American look about them (though the next-to-the-highway attempts to capitalize in the area’s Navajo/Hopi heritage were embarrassing. Somehow I suspect they did not camp out in shelters favored by the Cheyenne of the Northern Plains.)
But anyway, let’s see some pictures.
The Arizona high country west of Flagstaff is simply amazing. Looks nothing like the saguaro-dotted Arizona desert of the public imagination.
The terrain change at the Arizona-New Mexico border is as enchanting as the state’s motto promises. This big stone wall along the highway was just one example.
Highway sign near the Continental Divide. The sky got cooler as the day progressed.
Oh yeah, it rained a couple times.
Swell rock formation.
Easy to see why so many artists flocked to New Mexico. High desert sky is priceless.
Could not resist: yes, this is a right turn at Albuquerque (somehow I think the right turn options were narrower when Bugs Bunny introduced this gem into our culture.)
Well, that’s enough for today. It was painful to drive through two hikers’ paradises in the same day without getting out to do some walking on dirt; nice thing is, those mountains aren’t going anywhere.
Next stop: East of Fort Smith, Arkansas.