The original plan, insofar as I had one, was to end up in Santa Fe tonight, since I heard it's more fun (or less lame?) than Albuquerque. But when I realized that Petrified Forest National Park was on my route (again with these geographical surprises) I stopped there.
Even though it added about two hours to my day of driving, I was so glad I did it. It's basically halfway between the Grand Canyon and Albuquerque, so it was the perfect way to break up an otherwise monotonous drive through New Mexico. And I needed a break, after getting stuck for miles behind a truck who couldn't decide whether she (she!) wanted to go 40 mph or 80. The entrance to the park is right off of I-40, and the main road snakes south through the park for 28 miles before meeting up with 180, which loops back up to I-40.
The Painted Desert is absolutely gorgeous, but the wind was out of control! 35 mph with gusts up to 60 mph. Worth the detour, and worth putting up with the wind -- although it blew my map away a few miles into the drive.
The only remotely post-able self portrait, nasty hair gives some idea of the wind.
At one of the turnouts, I met a fellow Ohio State alum who offered to take my picture. I should have taken advantage of that opportunity to get a decent photo, but I screwed it up. Check out this totally flattering posture (gag)! You can almost tell that my left arm is getting so much darker than my right...
Maybe about 20 miles down the road, you start seeing petrified wood. Less visually stunning than the desert parts, but fascinating:
You are not supposed to pick up any wood, apparently...
This next one isn't petrified wood, but the resemblance makes me laugh. This is what happens when trail mix with M&M's goes through Death Valley:
As much as I hate visitor centers, the visitor center at this park is a very cute one. Lots of cool stuff. I stopped in to grab some postcards to add to my growing collection:
Lest you think the whole of Arizona / New Mexico is scenic and beautiful, here is what the rest of the drive looked like. The sign reads "Gusty winds may exist." Ha. Tied in the amusement value race with the "Zero visibility possible" sign.
Driving into Albuquerque. I don't know what you're supposed to see and do here, and I'm sure there are redeeming parts of the city. But the freeway system isn't one of them. I got a room at the first hotel I found, and spent the evening relaxing.
And this thing. What is this? Not possibly the sun. Some molten lava or something.