Tag Archives: I-40

Boondocking Near Walnut Canyon National Monument in Arizona

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The Lady of the House jumped out of the van and took this photo for me.

The Lady of the House and I started our epic road trip by camping outside of Flagstaff in a location we found courtesy of the Free Campsites website. We planned to visit the Meteor Crater National Landmark and Winslow the next day, so the location off I-40 was perfect for us. The free camping is in the Coconino National Forest right outside Walnut Canyon National Monument.

According to Wikipedia,

Walnut Canyon National Monument (Hopi: Wupatupqa) is a United States National Monument…The canyon rim elevation is 6,690 ft (2,040 m); the canyon’s floor is 350 ft lower. A 0.9 mi (1.4 km) long loop trail descends 185 ft (56 m) into the canyon passing 25 cliff dwelling rooms constructed by the Sinagua, a pre-Columbian cultural group that lived in Walnut Canyon from about 1100 to 1250 CE.

This photo shows the well-maintained dirt road into the boondocking area. I believe this is the road Google calls Oakmont Drive and says becomes Cosnino Road.

From Interstate 40, we took exit 204 as directed by Google, then turned onto Walnut Canyon Road, which we followed to Cosnino Road. When we saw the Walnut Canyon National Monument sign, we knew we were close. We arrived before dark, so it was easy to see where we were going.

We turned off of the main road (Walnut Canyon Road) onto a well-maintained dirt road, which I believe is the road Google calls Oakmont Drive and says becomes Cosnino Road. This well-maintained dirt road had no signs, but we suspected we were in the right place because we could see RVs parked among the trees.

We hadn’t gone far down the dirt road before we saw a flat spot with evidence of previous camping (a fire ring made from stones, a log fashioned into a bench). We decided that site was good enough for our overnight, and I pulled the van in between the trees.

While we were preparing and eating dinner and later while we were getting ready for bed, something mildly strange occurred. At differnt times, a couple of different pickup trucks drove like bats-out-of-hell on the well-maintained dirt road past our camp. The trucks weren’t gone long; shortly they were driving fast in the opposite direction, ostensibly back to their camps. It was as if the drivers had gone to the end of the road, then turned right around and come back. Where did they go? Why did they come back so soon? What was the huge rush? Other than these strange drive-bys, the camping area was very peaceful. We heard no evidence of partying–no loud voices, no loud music.

Campers before us made a fire ring from stones and fashioned a bench from a log. I sat on that bench to eat my dinner.

The Lady discovered this mountain view.

The next morning The Lady went for a short run and came back to tell me she’d found a mountain view and other campsites. She said she’d show them to me, so I went on a brisk walk with her.

The other campsites were at the top of a slightly steep incline. The

Rutted and rocky dirt road

problem getting to the sites wasn’t the road’s climb so much as the road’s poor condition. I was glad I hadn’t tried to take my van up the rutted and rocky dirt road.

The campsites up top (evident because of stone fire rings) were nicely tucked into the trees and deserted, which surprised me. Sure, it was early April, not prime camping season, but I thought someone would have camped up there on a Friday night. However, it seemed we’d had that entire part of the boondocking area to ourselves.

Unfortunately, the fire rings weren’t the only evidence of previous campers; folks had left trash on more than one of the sites. Also, not far from where we camped, we saw the remains of two sofas. I can’t imagine how anyone could have forgotten two couches out in the woods. Maybe it’s supposed to be a hunting blind? The Lady asked

Whoever left these couches on public land left a pretty big trace!

skeptically. I don’t think so. I think the sofas were hauled onto public land specifically for dumping! What a travesty!

Overall, The Lady and I were pleased with our free camping. I would absolutely stay in this boondocking area again.

 

Winslow, Arizona

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The first time, we drove past Winslow, Arizona.

Mr. Carolina was at the wheel as we chugged along the I-40 toward Flagstaff. I was in the passenger seat, and when I saw a sign saying Winslow was ahead, I started singing the part of the song by the Eagles about standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona. Mr. Carolina joined in, and we were soon singing loudly and enthusiastically. The kids in the back (Sweet L and Mr. and Ms. Fighting Couple) were too young (or too something) to know the song, so Mr. Carolina explained it was by the Eagles. I loved him for knowing the song and for singing it with me.

I was curious about Winslow, but I didn’t ask to stop. We were on a mission, on our way to a Rainbow Gathering in Mesquite, NV, and I didn’t want to slow us down on frivolity. It was my van, but I’d just met these cool young traveling kids a few days before, and I wanted them to like me. I didn’t want them to think I was dumb for wanting to see what kind of town a band they’d never heard of had sung about before they were born.

The second time we approached Winslow, Mr. Carolina was again at the wheel, but we’d parted ways with Sweet L and Mr. and Ms. Fighting Couple. We had, however, picked up the Okie and Lil C in Santa Nella, CA and were trying to get them to Oklahoma City.

It was early when we approached Winslow. We must have slept at a rest stop the night before, but I don’t remember why we were up and traveling so early in the morning. I just remember that although the sun was up, it wasn’t out. The sky was overcast, and the morning air was chilly.

Mr. Carolina took the Winslow exit and started driving us through downtown. It was deserted that early in the morning (I think it was Sunday too), but the look of the place hinted that even on a Monday at noon, the streets weren’t going to be hopping much more than they already were.

Mr. Carolina had traveled Interstate 40 (which he referred to simply as “The 40”) through Arizona and into California before. He’s been pretty drunk for most of that trip, he said. Sometimes he brought us places and didn’t seem to be sure if he’d been there before while drunk or if his intuition had led him to something we would like to see. That’s how it was in Winslow.

We were downtown, he was driving, then there was this corner with a statue of a guy leaning on a post. How did he know how to get us there? He parked the van and we all climbed out and ran around what turned out to be a park for a few minutes.

It’s not a big park. It’s mostly the statue surrounded by bricks, with a mural behind him. There is also a flatbed Ford parked on the side street.

According to Wikipedia ,

The park contains a two-story trompe-l’œil mural by John Pugh, and a life-size bronze statue by Ron Adamson of a man standing on a corner with a guitar. The park is surrounded by a wall of bricks, each with a donor’s name on it, and a story by each of the donors describing their fondness for Winslow.[1]

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When I-40 bypassed the community many local businesses disappeared, tourism being among the hardest hit.

The Standin’ on the Corner Foundation was formed to create a renaissance of Winslow. Determined to build on tourism, the Foundation took advantage of the town being mentioned in the song “Take It Easy” by the Eagles. From 1997 until 1999, the foundation was busy finding donors and planning design concepts. On September 10 and 11, 1999 the park was opened to the public.[1]

 

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We didn’t stay very long. After we looked around a bit and took some photos with our phones, there just wasn’t much else to do there. We piled back into the van and went to the nearby truck stop, but the harsh anti-panhandling signs chased us out of there pretty quick.

Now I can say I’ve seen Winslow, and I don’t really ever need to go back.

Update: I did stop in Winslow again, on my way from Las Vegas to New Mexico. I stopped just long enough to hop out of the van and take the photos you see in this post.