Thursday 2nd August
Early start today from Kayenta under a cloudy sky and a few raindrops. We know this is going to be a long day as we need to drive all the way back down to Phoenix and we decided to take the small country roads.
Few miles after Kayenta we turn left, up a stiff cliff and pass miles of coal mine installations, miners must have a long way to get to work and back. Then suddenly the road stops and it's a dirt track, red dust for miles on end. The landscape is quite arid a few bushes here and there and a few trees, sometimes you can see a few horses or cows scattered in the landscapes. Some houses can be seen in the distance, a solar panel, a water tank, no electricity line...this is the middle of the Navajo reservation and one wonders how people make a living.
The roads starts again and lead to the 'town' of Pinon, maybe 50 houses one big school in the middle with yellow school buses, an Indian market at the side of the road, and a dead cow in the ditch with legs up in the air. At the end of the village the road stops again, back on the dirt track and now entering the Hopi reservation, the landscape is even more barren, even fewer houses and cattle. After a long while we get back on a road, onto the 'centre' of the Hopi reservation, 3 modern adobe houses. The museum is closed, we chat for a minute with a woman whose granddaughter is being sent to Italy for army training, she's asking us about the climate there.
Back in the car and down the mesa, onto road 87, a straight road for 80 miles down to Winslow, we're surrounded by nothing for miles on end, a few conical mountains can be seen in the distance. Just before Winslow we stop at a lookout to see the painted desert, small mounds of multicoulour sand or sandstone I guess, actually not that small once you see people hiking down there, they're each more than 10m tall.
We drive through Winslow once on old route 66, it's really as you expected it, old garages, petrol stations and diners, we stop for lunch at La Posada, an old Fred Harvey hotel that has just been restaurated to its 1930's glory, we had a really good lunch (who said you can't eat well in the US) and looked at the trains pass by, makes you think how it must have been nice to travel coast to coast by train then. Back on the road again to Payson and Phoenix, even if the distances are huge the landscape changes a lot...some desert after Winslow, then big pine forest and then on the way down to Phoenix it's a rocky desert again, with lots of saguaro cactus in sight for the first time.
We check in at the Embassy Biltmore...huge atrium and great pool where we cool off before we head out to fetch dinner.