The Mighty 5: Day 8

IMG_1801We began our journey home with a change in plans. Fellow Airstreamers at Zion River RV Resort advised us against overnighting in Albuquerque because of an uptick in gang-related crime at RV parks, so we opted instead to make Gallup our destination. Doing so allowed us to have a long, leisurely morning at the park before departure.

The drive from Zion to Gallup through northern Arizona along U.S. Route 89A was as rugged as the unforgiving landscape. After passing the North Rim of the Grand Canyon through the Kaibab National Forest, we made our way along the strikingly beautiful Vemilion Cliffs, a series of steep sandstone, siltstone, limestone, and shale cliffs, mesas, buttes, and canyons. Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, which encompasses nearly 300,000 acres of remote, unspoiled wilderness, was established by President Bill Clinton in 1990.

We soon entered the Painted Desert, an area of badlands known for its brilliant and varied colors, in western Navajo territory. At Tuba City, we embarked on State Route 264, one of the major roads leading through the sparsely inhabited area. Not only does the road link together numerous villages on the Hopi Reservation, it also exposes travelers to wide-open, scenic vistas. And, it’s one of the worst roads we’ve ever traveled.

The intense desert heat apparently caused much of the paved road to become “wavy,” so driving on it caused the Airstream to “porpoise.” Porpoising is front-to-rear bounce; the tow vehicle hits a bump, then the trailer hits the bump, and they both bounce independently of each other, creating an oscillating motion. Although we had confidence that the Airstream would survive what was essentially a two-hour earthquake, we were not optimistic about objects inside the rig. Fortunately, we suffered no major casualties.

Of all times to pass through Window Rock, we managed to roll past the 72nd Annual Navajo Nation Fair, a world-renowned event that showcases Navajo agriculture, fine arts, indigenous cuisine, traditional song and dance, rodeo competition, and more. That meant heavy traffic through the Navajo Nation’s seat of government, so we had plenty of time to observe what is billed as the “largest American Indian fair in North America.”

We finally arrived in Gallup in time to observe the colorful sunset, and prepare our customary Date Night dinner. Next stop: Amarillo.