13 Days of Driving Southwest USA [Part 2]

17 and a half hours through 4 states covered in three days! Including dozens of stops along the way all to get to my ultimate destination and the reason for a 10+ hour massive detour on this trip: White Sands National Park which lays at the southern tip of New Mexico nearby Alamogordo.

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Part Two of Three in my road trip series across the Southwestern United States! Be sure to read Part One which covers the first three days of my travels!

Day 4 – 4.5 Hour Drive

The next couple of days would take me through four different states! With a total drive time of 17 and a half hours to reach Alamogordo, New Mexico with many stops to be covered along the way. Day 4 itinerary would take me from Las Vegas, Nevada to the south rim Grand Canyon Village in Arizona!

The drive to the Grand Canyon takes you past some fun tourist stops – the two I had chosen to stop at included Bearizona which had caught my eye from the billboard signs (I’m a sucker for a colourful advertisement) Bearizona is essentially a drive-thru zoo, a true first for me. If you have ever wanted to drive right through a bear, mountain goat, wolf or deer habitat this would be the place to do so!

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As you drive through a designated path there are bears, goats and wolves roaming around their separate enclosures – all within a couple metres from the safety of your vehicle!

You are instructed to keep the windows rolled up at all times and to not feed the animals -both very self explanatory practices.

The second tourist destination I had found was Bedrock City which included life size homes of the cartoon show The Flinstones in the village of Bedrock – including a post office, police station and dinosaurs! Bedrock City is only an hour away from the Grand Canyon! This attraction includes a gift shop, a diner as well as a campground attached to the park for overflow from the Grand Canyon.

A short drive from Bedrock City brings you to the entrance of the Grand Canyon National Park. I have seen dozens and dozens of pictures of the Grand Canyon but nothing really prepares you for seeing it in person. It is truly awe inspiring and has a way of making you feel very, very small. Although I did not have time to hike in the Grand Canyon, I vowed to come back to hike to Havasu Falls – deep within the Grand Canyon next April.

The Grand Canyon is all about extremes – size, temperatures and danger.

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I had stayed at Maswik Lodge in the Grand Canyon Village for the night in a charming room facing the forest. I had the remainder of Day 4 exploring the small village area on the rim of the Grand Canyon, what you don’t often see in pictures of Grand Canyon National Park is the forested areas! This came as a surprise to me to see elk and deer grazing in fields of grass only a couple hundred feet away from the rim of the Grand Canyon.

Day 5 – 4.5 Hour Drive

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Day 5 would take me on a trip up and around the rim of the Grand Canyon to Page, Arizona. The first stop along the way was the famous Horseshoe Bend! A heavily photographed meander around the Colorado River. This viewpoint is a twenty minute kid friendly walk that is typically packed with tourists and can be extremely hot during the daytime – especially walking through sand in open toed shoes. I suggest arriving early in the morning or in the late evening to beat the heat and the massive hoards of people.

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My second stop of the day included Antelope Canyon*: a must see if you are in the area. I had read reviews about both Upper and Lower canyons and had decided upon Lower Antelope Canyon – I booked in advance (prior to my trip) as prices are cheaper online and you are guaranteed a spot this way – the canyons are packed with thousands of people daily and I advise to definitely book ahead.

These canyons can not be accessed without a tour as they are on private land.

Although a bit pricey for a hour tour it is well worth the money as your guide takes you through 1 mile of beautifully carved sandstone canyons. You will find a terrific photo each and every angle you look, and the tour guides are wonderful at helping you to find the best picture possible. This tour is kid friendly but involves ascending and descending steep ladders in and out of the canyon.

The final portion of my evening included the drive through Oljatu Monument Valley where the famous Forrest Gump running scene was filmed!

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It is a scenic desert drive with many areas to stop and take photos along the way. I was running out of daylight at this point and did not stop often as I had intended to camp within the monument valley and photograph it at sunrise. However, upon arriving at the campground I was supposed to camp at I did not feel safe nor comfortable staying there – let alone leaving the comfort of my vehicle.

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I set off – a bit panicked I’ll admit and luckily found a nearby town called Mexican Hat in Utah with vacancy at a hotel room for the night – Phewf!

Day 6 – 8.5 Hour Drive

Day 6 was another long drive day and would take me through most of New Mexico! I was finally heading to the southernmost point of my entire trip.

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A lot of the driving I had done on Day 6 was primarily off of main highways (Thanks, Google Maps!)

Although Google Maps means well it can sometimes take you on unnecessary backroads and rural areas in places you have never been to – or feel comfortable at because it wants to take the shortest route possible.

Nevertheless, I had arrived in one piece in Albuquerque to fuel up and find a face mask for the sun and sand at White Sands National Park the following day.  My one regret on visiting Albuquerque is not taking the time to find any Breaking Bad merchandise or to find the home it was filmed at – I had google searched where it was filmed but was given four different addresses all across the city and had decided due to the amount of time I had left to drive to continue on instead of searching Albuquerque.

After a long day of driving and no plans on where to stay I had decided to stay at a cheap motel on the main strip of Alamogordo in New Mexico. I had intended on camping originally but decided against camping once I had heard more about rattlesnakes liking cold, dark places to sleep and how common they were in Alamogordo. The last thing I wanted to encounter (and luckily never did during this trip) was a rattlesnake. So I avoided camping this far south in the United States.

Next stop: White Sands National Park!

Thats all for part two of my series! Thank you for reading. If you haven’t already be sure to read part one here and subscribe to my blog for notifications on postings! As always, see you next week for the final portion of my Southwestern USA Road Trip!

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