Sept. 30, 2008
Today we parted ways with the motorcycle crew. They’re headed west toward the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, then on home to various points in northern Utah and southeastern Idaho. We’re headed not quite so far west. They also wanted to stick with pavement, but we opted for dirt Highway 126 which cut off about 60 miles on our route through Cuba. I’d checked with a local who assured me the road was very well maintained and scenic. “You’ll love it,” he said.
Well, he was absolutely right! The road is designated a “scenic highway” though 14 miles of it are entirely unpaved (and impassable in winter, according to signage). The road seemed to have been very recently graded. The newly cleaned gutters on the sides of the road were so fresh they didn’t even look like rain had fallen on them. Then, around a corner, we came face to face with the grader working on the last bit of the multiple week project to prep this road for winter. Once he passed us heading east, we continued west on the BEST dirt road I’ve EVER driven. (How can you top being first behind the work crew?)
Highway 126 leads through a forest with a mixture of fir, pine and aspen trees. The aspens are changing colors, and some are so golden yellow the leaves look like gold falling from the sky. The road gently winds and climbs through the Santa Fe Forest then curves and dips into Cuba, NM where we filled up with gas, ice and some chalk then carried on, about an hour ahead of the motorcyclists who’d left at the same time we did.
We knew they were on our tail, so we found a spot off Highway 550/44 near the turnoff to Chaco Culture National Historic Monument and left a message on the pavement for them. Then we turned down a paved road that turned to eight miles of the WORST dirt road I’ve ever travelled with the van. The washboard was horrendous. It’s amazing this stretch hasn’t been paved, given all the traffic into this national park.
We nabbed a camp, but missed out on the only four camps that shared the two trees in the campground. Still, the camping spots are well spaced apart, and most of our neighbors seem not just considerate, but downright friendly. We’re headed to the ranger program tonight (archeo-astronomy) and to check out the view of the cosmos from the park’s telescope. Chaco is said to be the only park in the system with it’s own planetarium.
The family in the neighboring camp is another mom traveling with her kids (three kids) with dad joining in as his work schedule allows. It seems to work for a lot of families. This family (Tessa, Jazy, Charles and Leah), has “Daddy on a Stick,” a popsicle stick with a life-size photo of their Dad’s face to keep things interesting.