After getting gas in Holbrook at one of those 60s era pumps that never even imagined a credit card reader, we headed for Petrified Forest. It is a desolate place that requires you to focus mostly on the vista at your feet. In short, it is the perfect park for Jenn.
Petrified wood was created before the dinosaurs (the Triassic period) when a forest was flooded and carried along by rushing water, then covered by sediment. The minerals in that sediment eventually filled in the spaces in the wood and hardened into a substance that is essentially rock, only heavier. Now pieces of it are buried all over this part of Arizona (only 10% of the world’s petrified wood is protected in parks), and locals sell it for $2 per pound or something. Despite its prevalence in the private market, though, the park still catches people EVERY DAY in summer trying to steal it from the park. To those people, who could have bought it for nearly nothing and get slapped with a $300 fine trying to steal from a national park, we say, “Stop being jerks.”
Petrified Forest has some other cool stuff, including a set of sandstone domes called Blue Mesa that are actually blue. Finally, the southwest included Jenn’s color palettte. When you take the bridge over I-40, you cross from the Petrified Forest to the Painted Desert, and the first overlook in Painted Desert is an absolutely perfect homage to Route 66 with a VERY old car sitting where the original road cut through.
The Painted Desert is gorgeous. Again, it is a little bit different from the other places we saw. The iron and other minerals and clays in the rock makes the formations redder than the formations we saw in Utah. It is vast and beautiful, and in that way only, identical to the other sights we have seen.
Before we left the Painted Desert, though, we made a stop at the Painted Desert Inn, and what a find that was. The inn was originally built in the 1920s by a guy who clearly had no idea what he was doing when it came to running a hotel, or, for that matter, building one. He went belly-up in the 30s, and the Park Service took over the site soon after. It was then that they discovered that the inn had been built on the same blue clay that made Blue Mesa, and that clay is extremely unstable. To this day, the inn is shifting on its foundations, but the Civilian Conservation Corps did manage to renovate the inn during the Depression only to close it again with the start of World War II.
CCC workers made the light fixtures.
After the War, the inn became a Fred Harvey concession, the people that brought the world HARVEY GIRLS!!!!! Jenn about flipped out when she heard this. She only knows Harvey Girls from old Judy Garland movies, but they really existed, and they slept where we were standing.
We finally got on the road for real at noon, stopping in Flagstaff for a very late lunch. If you ever get the opportunity, stop in Flagstaff. We barely got to see any of it, but what we saw was very fun and funky. Then we drove on to our other B&B of the trip, a beautiful facility run by the nastiest woman in the hospitality industry (ok, maybe that’s unfair. We have heard Leona Helmsley was worse, but does she count since she’s dead?)
The less said about our B&B, the better: If you can’t say something nice and all that. On the nice side, though, the stars at night were lovely, and our car didn’t get torn apart by bears, something we were ASSURED would happen if we left even one scrap of food in it and if Chris did not sit for nearly an hour in the cold with the windows down airing it out.