In the event you blindly observe your GPS, a Flagstaff to Albuquerque motorbike experience is a 320‑mile drone on Interstate 40. That’s high quality if Level A to Level B is your solely plan. Nonetheless, most motorcyclists are suckers for attention-grabbing byways and intriguing locations, and I’m no exception.
Embracing that character trait, I deliberate a convoluted experience that will add about 180 miles and several other hours to this journey. I used to be not simply including saddle time; I used to be additionally including a number of traditionally and culturally important landmarks. As an alternative of merely slaloming by means of lengthy‑haul vans on the freeway, I’d make a loop by means of three nationwide monuments close to Flagstaff: Wupatki, Sundown Crater Volcano, and Walnut Canyon. Persevering with east, I’d go to Meteor Crater, Standin’ on the Nook Park, Petrified Forest Nationwide Park, and in New Mexico, El Malpais Nationwide Monument.
Earlier than that roundabout route, I wanted to spend a while in my all‑time favourite small metropolis, Flagstaff. I lived a few of my most memorable years in these mountains. I’m a graduate of Northern Arizona College in Flagstaff, and any time I’m within the sky‑excessive metropolis is a private pleasure.
As I rolled by means of the campus for some critical reminiscing, most of the buildings introduced again indelible recollections. There’s one location that’s uniquely particular. I spent my sophomore yr within the college’s stately Previous Primary constructing when it was nonetheless a dormitory. Many years earlier than I used to be a gleam in anybody’s eye, my mother and father took a photograph on its iconic steps. The historic pink Moenkopi sandstone constructing was constructed within the late 1800s and is the centerpiece of each the gorgeous campus and my love for Flagstaff.
After leaving the campus, I rode by means of Flagstaff’s charming downtown space. Iconic motels within the space just like the Lodge Monte Vista and the Weatherford forged a historic shade over the energetic, rejuvenated leisure and purchasing district.
There isn’t any scarcity of issues to do downtown, together with the Orpheum Theater, many eating choices, and distinctive specialty retailers. The world is way more polished and refined than after I was in faculty.
As an undergraduate, I spent a good period of time “finding out” in varied Flagstaff watering holes, just like the venerable Museum Membership. This time round, as I dropped the kickstand in entrance of the log‑constructed institution relationship again to 1931, visions of reside bands and lukewarm beer flooded my recollections. A few of Flagstaff’s historical past was misplaced on me whereas matriculating, however the barely extra mature “me” appreciates the classic, mountain‑stylish nature of the town that lies on historic Route 66.
After leaving Flagstaff, I headed north on U.S. Route 89 towards the scenic loop by means of the primary two nationwide monuments slated for my experience. This primary little spur of my wandering path to Albuquerque was extra of a flyby, as I’ve visited each Wupatki and Sundown Crater Volcano up to now.
Close to the northernmost level of what’s fittingly known as the Sundown Crater‑Wupatki Loop Highway is a major archeological website. Within the early 1100s, Pueblo communities constructed Wupatki, a bustling middle of commerce and tradition. The positioning is properly value a walkabout. After looping farther by means of the otherworldly panorama of this a part of northern Arizona, I got here to Sundown Crater Volcano. You may see nearly everything of the park from the saddle alongside the loop street. Peering instantly into the mouth of the cinder cone is now not permitted as a result of foot visitors erosion; nevertheless, an extended view of the nationally protected volcanic discipline remains to be a marvel to expertise.
After finishing the loop street, I headed east on I‑40 for a thin minute to the entry street for a nationwide monument I had not visited beforehand. Walnut Canyon is only a quick jog off the interstate by means of pines, oaks, and junipers. The endgame is a visually beautiful canyon atmosphere wealthy in rugged pure magnificence and early human historical past. I didn’t stroll the park’s Island Path, a strenuous one‑hour hike previous the early cliff dwellings; nevertheless, I took within the large‑image expertise of the park’s rim path, which provides nice views of the dwellings and the rugged topography.
At this level in my Flagstaff to Albuquerque motorbike experience, I had been within the saddle or exploring for properly over an hour, and I used to be solely 8 miles outdoors of my unique launching level. I did say I used to be not taking probably the most direct path to Albuquerque! My eastward trek resumed on I‑40 and was precisely what freeway journey is designed to be: quick, environment friendly, and boring. My speedometer needle was pinned resolutely at 75 mph as I rolled by means of the tall pines of northern Arizona, which melted into junipers after which grasslands as I made my means towards the following attraction.
About 40 miles out of Flagstaff, I got here to the exit ramp for Meteor Crater. There are quite a few “teaser” indicators alongside the entry route which are supposed to construct anticipation for the pure marvel on the street’s terminus. As I approached, I noticed the last word teaser: an unlimited raised, spherical “lip” that’s proof of the cosmic collision that occurred hundreds of years in the past.
I rolled into the parking zone and secured my move to see the crater. On my method to the viewing areas, I loved a sequence of museums and shows that cowl the historical past of area journey, hypothetical (corny?) representations of aliens, and the scientific nature of the meteor that discovered its method to earth some 50,000 years previous to my go to.
As I lastly made my means outdoors the power to the viewpoints alongside the rim of the crater, the large bowl didn’t disappoint. One can not assist however stand in awe of the impression that created the earthen wound. There are a number of vantage factors from which to view the crater, in addition to preset telescopes for a better have a look at its attention-grabbing options. Effectively well worth the go to.
With the cosmic pockmark fading within the rear views, I used to be again on the interstate for a fast jaunt. Most of this experience was a survey in historic locations, however there was a bit of musical interlude singing its siren music in downtown Winslow. I pulled as much as the intersection of Route 66 and North Kinsley Avenue, now designated as Standin’ on the Nook Park, the place a flatbed Ford was conspicuously parked.
Positive, it’s kitschy, however for anybody who has crooned together with the 1972 Eagles music “Take It Straightforward,” it’s a should cease. I took the requisite photograph with a bronze Glenn Frey and searched in useless for the woman in that flatbed Ford. Winslow can also be residence to the historic La Posada Lodge, the Previous Trails Museum, and Homolovi State Park.
Once more heading east, the following city of notice into which I rolled was one other Route 66 remnant. Simply off Holbrook’s primary drag rests an iconic mid‑century attraction. Over a dozen giant, conical teepees make up the historic Wigwam Motel. These buildings and the basic vehicles staged across the property beg for a go to and images.
Simply 30 miles east of Holbrook is the exit for Petrified Forest Nationwide Park. I rode due south on what can be an prolonged departure from any interstate freeway. After paying my entry price, I rolled right into a lunar‑esque panorama wealthy in pastel hues and endlessly views. The street by means of the guts of the park is 26 miles of intrigue.
I ended at Newspaper Rock, which options a whole lot of historic petroglyphs of animals, weapons, and people. The etched collectible figurines inform an enchanting story, together with how the exaggerated endowment on the male stick figures speaks to the truth that males by no means change.
At my subsequent cease, the park’s Crystal Forest, I pulled off my gear for a stroll among the many large petrified logs that lay strewn all through the undulations of the strolling path. The trail is a sojourn right into a prehistoric wonderland. Logs lay as large, unbiased rounds in addition to segmented items the place they fell thousands and thousands of years in the past.
Equipped once more, I exited the park to the south and continued on the longest aspect leg of this elongated experience to Albuquerque. I rode by means of the distant jap Arizona cities of St. Johns and Springerville earlier than heading due east on U.S. Route 60 into New Mexico. The grasslands and excessive chaparral panorama are large‑open and delightful, making for a enjoyable Southwestern using expertise.
On the small New Mexican city of Quemado, I ended for a fast have a look at the tiny Catholic mission on the outskirts of the hamlet, one among many such historic missions in New Mexico, earlier than heading north on State Route 36. The excessive‑desert using continued on State Route 117 till I got here to the final of my deliberate stops.
The Narrows is a putting rock rim function throughout the El Malpais Nationwide Monument. The street follows that sheer rim for a pleasant stretch earlier than the ledge eases and separates from the tarmac. The subsequent notable function is a picturesque pure rock bridge to the north of The Narrows. A brief stroll reveals the grandeur of the La Ventana Pure Arch. After a go to, my route rejoined the freeway for the ultimate stretch to Albuquerque.
Nope, this was actually not the quickest Flagstaff to Albuquerque motorbike experience, however it was infinitely extra memorable.