Day 13 – Grand Ole Opry

Keep talkin’ about the woman next door I caught her boogie-woogyin’ down on the floor. —Kokomo Arnold, “Busy Bootin’,” 1935

Wendy and I have booked a tour of the Grand Ole Opry. Bernie and Hoff are not coming on this one and are off to do a bit more exploring by foot.

It is about a twenty-minute drive to the Opry. I know this is not the original building. However, when in Nashville it is a must-visit. “The Grand Ole Opry is a weekly American country music stage concert in Nashville, Tennessee, founded on November 28, 1925, by George D. Hay as a one-hour radio “barn dance” on WSM. Currently owned and operated by Opry Entertainment (a division of Ryman Hospitality Properties, Inc.), it is the longest-running radio broadcast in U.S. history. Dedicated to honoring country music and its history, the Opry showcases a mix of famous singers and contemporary chart-toppers performing country, bluegrassAmericanafolk, and gospel music as well as comedic performances and skits. It attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world and millions of radio and internet listeners.” – Wikipedia

The tour starts with a short video giving us some background history. Along one of the walls are gold plaques denoting the 228 artists who are members of the Grand Ole Opry.

The Opry’s management team selects a handful of new members each year, taking into consideration the standards that measure success in a country artist’s career: radio airplay, record sales, touring, and recognition by their industry peers. There are currently 70 Grand Ole Opry members, seven of whom have retired from performing but are still listed as standing members. Over the course of the program’s history, 228 acts have held Opry membership since the show’s inception.

We then went on a backstage tour. I found the tour fascinating as we stopped at the artist’s entrance, the many dressing rooms. All were given a unique name, then onto the green room (which they called the family room.) There is a line on the wall indicating the height the water reached during the 2010 flood. ‘On May 1-2, 2010, more than 13 inches of rain fell on Music City, causing massive flooding all across the area. The Cumberland River, which runs close to the Grand Ole Opry, overflowed, resulting in severe destruction at the Opry as well as at the nearby Opryland Hotel, which evacuated all 1,500 of its guests.

Next, we move onto the stage itself. I mentioned that we are not in the original building. The Oprey moved here in 1975. They cut a large circle out of the old stage and embedded it into the new stage. We have our photo taken standing in the very circle that thousands of legends have graced. “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” Our tour ends with another raid on a Gift Shop. For a detailed history check out:

We headed over to a nearby Mall for lunch. We found a food outlet, Kelly’s Cajun Grill and the food was not bad at all.

We got back to our apartment around 1:30 and Bernie and Hoff arrived a few minutes later. Looks like a restful afternoon for all before we head out for dinner and a band. It gave me a chance to catch up with the Blog as I am a couple of days behind. Bernie has been doing the editing for me. He has very high standards when it comes to punctuation!

We have tickets pre-booked for Canadian Bluesman Colin Janes and his band who will be performing at the Nashville Winery. We got there at 6 to have dinner. Doors are slotted to open at 7:30 with the show starting at 8:30. The dining area is more upmarket than what we have been experiencing but that did not equate with the service or food they provided. For an establishment that calls itself a winery (albeit a franchise) the wine that Bernie was served was very ordinary. They have a severe staff shortage as well. Meals come out to the wrong tables and Hoff was delivered a beer he did not order. Not a good start.

We are allowed into the band room just after 7:30 and get a front stage table. The place is full of ex-pat Canadians. I have a couple of Colin James C.D.s and so I am confident about a good show.

From the prairies of Saskatchewan to sharing the stage with arguably the greatest and most influential guitarists of all time, Colin James still remembers those words of advice given to him by the late, great, Stevie Ray Vaughan. Colin James has taken those words to heart. His career has spanned over 30 years, with a track record that includes 20 studio albums, 8 Juno Awards, 27 Maple Blues Awards, and multi-platinum record sales.  His latest release, Open Road, is a celebration of personal connections. It includes original tunes written with long-time collaborators such as Colin Linden, Craig Northey, and Tom Wilson and reinterpretations of covers by a diverse group of songwriters including Bob Dylan, Albert King, Tony Joe White, and others.

The band comes on stage right on time, with drums, rhythm guitar, and bass/harp. Colin himself comes on a few seconds later with the guitar blazing. He has all the tricks and rock star poses. Wendy should get some awesome photos. Bernie and Hoff moved back to some seats near the sound desk for a more relaxed listen. I must admit that there are some dumb-ass, screaming Canadians carrying on way too much. We listen to originals and covers of Freddie King, Tony Joe White, Albert King, and Otis Rush. The hardest working man is the Guitar Tech as Colin seems to change guitar after every song. Blues/Rock, Boogie, and even a little funk are thrown into the mix. The Rhythm Guitarist is no slouch either when ripping out a solo. The crowd sings along to all the songs. He did a very good version of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Oh Well’ and for an encore threw in Van Morrisons’s ‘Into the Mystic’. I thoroughly enjoyed the gig. We have had three days of great music and all so different. Western Swing, Bluegrass, and now Blues Rock. Nashville sure is Music City.

My advice for anyone coming to Nashville is to stay away from Broadway’s cliched Honky Tonks and search out legit music venues. Much like New Orleans, stay away from Bourbon Street cover bands and instead head to Frenchman St or one of the legit music venues around town.

Day Twelve – Nashville

I drink so much whiskey, I stagger in my sleep My brains is dark and cloudy, my mind’s goin’ to my feet. —Blind Willie McTell, “Dark Night Blues,” 1927

We are back on Broadway just after 11. Today being Tuesday, it is a lot quieter on this tourist strip. Much like the French Quarter, the tourists start rolling in Thursday afternoon and party Friday, Saturday, and Sunday before heading off on Monday. Is it too early for Barb -B- Que? What a silly question. We head on to Jack’s. I order Pulled Pork Shoulder with two sides, Mac ‘n’ Cheese, and Baked Beans all washed down with a Dr. Pepper.

Today we have not one but two museums to visit. The first is the Country Music Hall of Fame and then we will be picked up for a short bus trip to the R.C.A. recording studio.

The Hall of Fame extends to three floors and is an incredibly well-laid-out museum. I was so impressed with the exhibits and photographs. Check it out at:

After a couple of hours, we get together again and hit the Gift Shop. At two-thirty, we meet our tour guide for a short bus trip to the historic R.C.A. studio B. Our tour guide is enthusiastic as she plays a tune on the bus that was recorded in the studio and we have a bit of a sing-along. That becomes the then theme of the tour, a lot of sing-alongs. Have you heard of the Nashville Cats? Well, the famed Nashville Sound was reliant on those guys. The number of hits that came out of this very studio is mind-boggling. When we get into the studio proper there is a cross on the floor that designates the “sweet spot” where the vocalists would stand. We are all encouraged to sit at the Steinway piano that has been in use since the 1940’s. Just don’t touch the ivories. Elvis spent a lot of time in this studio. In fact, he recorded here for 13 years. Our tour guide turned off the lights and we listened to Elvis’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight”. He had insisted that he wanted to record the song in darkness.

Photo: Hoff and Rob at the Steinway

At 6:30 we are lining up to get into the Station Inn which is another country juke joint with quality music. We are here to see the Green River Revue which is a Bluegrass Band. Last night’s band, the Time Jumpers had a long residency here but they outgrew the size of the venue. It is an old place with loads of character. The drinks available are beer, one type of hard cider, and a seltzer. No wine! The ladies restroom has two cubicles one with a door and one with a curtain. The only food available is pizza.

The band starts at 8 o’clock. Banjo, fiddle, bass, guitar, and mandolin. Apart from the bass, everything was acoustic. We are on to another winner, fantastic music and harmonies with a lot of very funny stage banter. Thoroughly entertaining. We are treated to two sets of classic old-timey Bluegrass and some originals. I am guessing that apart from the bass player all the members are under thirty. The singer/banjo man is from Kentucky and at times his thick drawl is hard to understand. We also heard some old Gospel tunes, The South take their religion very seriously. The band finish up with the classic “Stagolee” and they were joined on stage by a slide guitarist, the barman playing guitar and another guy playing guitar, It sure was a big finish to a great night.

Day Eleven – Nashville

Way down South you oughta see the women Shimmy and shake Got a new way a-wiggle, make a weak man break his neck. —Blind Lemon Jefferson, “Southern Woman Blues,” 1928

Bernie and Hoff are taking a walk down to the Gulch and we will meet up with them for lunch in an hour or so. We were in an Uber at 11. David is our driver, a very talkative and friendly man. He loves Kiwis and Aussies and he had us write our names into an exercise book he has in the back set pocket and also leave a message. He also loves to receive Christmas Cards and we are now on his mailing list. It is Monday morning and Broadway’s Honky Tonks are already firing.

Wendy hits one of the many Boots stores, they have a three-for-one deal, and you just pay the price of the most expensive boots. As we leave the store they ring a bell to celebrate the sale.

We decide to try Prince’s Chicken. The first choice was Hattie B’s Hot Chicken but the line was too long even at such an early time. Our Uber driver had recommended Prince’s but warned us not to go above medium heat. Nashville is famous for its Hot Chicken (and I don’t mean hot cooked). I did order medium and Wendy went for mild. Glad I listened to our driver’s advice. It was HOT. Bernie tried a piece and he hyper-ventilated for five minutes.

Tonight (on the recommendation of Brian Wise) we are heading to 3rd. and Lindsley which is a premier music venue. So superior to the Broadway Honky Tonks. There is already a line to get in and we had arrived half an hour early. We are to see The Time Jumpers. An eight-piece band Western Swing band. Drums, two guitars, peddle steel, piano and accordion, and two fiddles. All the guys are incredible musicians and in fact, Grammy Award-winning. We ordered food and Bernie backed up with chile after eating arse-burning hot chicken at lunchtime. The good news also is that they have my new favorite hard cider for sale (Diskin Cider).

I’m not sure Wendy entirely likes the Western Swing music that the Time Jumpers specialize in. She does know however how good they all are as musicians. As well as being ace players they are also very funny. What a great night we all had. Check out the band at:

Day Ten – Santa Fe – Nashville

I’m wild about my ’tootie, only thing I crave Sweet patootie, gonna carry me to my grave. —Blind Blake, “Tootie Blues,” 1928

Road Trip and Two Plane Trips

We are up early again 5 AM to get on the road for the 60-mile drive to Albuquerque Airport. It is still dark and very cold. Uneventful road trip and we find the Alamo Car Hire drop-off point with minimal fuss. It is only three degrees as we wait for the shuttle bus to take us to the airport. Our destination is Houston where we will pick up another flight to Nashville. The flight to Houston is a little over two hours. Our flight attendant is very funny over the microphone. All her instructions rhyme as she raps out the safety procedures. We make Houston and lose an hour crossing a timeline Our flight to Nashville is already boarding, or so we thought. We are told that the plane has a hydraulic problem and to go back to the lounge area and wait for an announcement. Turns out to be a good thing as we have not yet eaten. The delay is just over two hours. Not too bad.

We landed in Nashville just after 5. Now let us hope our baggage also made the trip. It did however, the carousel broke down and Wendy’s case is in the jam and it takes 20 minutes before we can get her suitcase.

Our cab driver is a wisened old gentleman who can barely see above the dashboard. He is very chatty and tells us he has lived in Nashville for forty-five years after moving from the small Central American country, Belize. He gives us a few tips and tells us that our Air BnB is in a safe location. Although in the past it was a bit of a ghetto, now it is all cleaned up. Our Air BnB is a fantastic new two-story apartment with a rooftop entertainment area. Bernie and I will have to be careful on the stairs.

We decided to go down to the main Honky Tonk and tourist area called Broadway. The street is buzzing with people who have had a very lubricated afternoon of music and booze. Police are everywhere with 6 police cars lined up. Broadway reminds me a little of New Orlean’s Bourbon St. Every second pub has a band playing some good ol’ country tunes. I have already heard Sweet Home Alabama, and The Devil Went Down to Georgia. We had a bit of a wander around and found the words famous Ryman Theatre. We lowered the standard of our food selection and went to the Assembly Food Hall for dinner. Once back out on the street I was again reminded a little of Bourbon St and figured that the busiest days for partying are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday arvos. The wind is whistling like Collins Street, Melbourne on a Winter’s day.

Tonight was about getting the lay of the land so to speak. Hoff googled up a Supermarket and we picked up some supplies. I tried to talk Bernie into buying a brown milk stout, peanut butter flavored but he balked at the idea, Wendy found me an English-style Apple Cider made here in Nashville, Diskin Cider (Bob’s Your Uncle). The cider is in an English Pint sized can. Cider is my drink of choice these days, I haven’t had a beer for over six months.

Day Nine – Santa Fe

If you get one ol’ woman, you better get you five or six So if that one happen to quit you, it won’t leave you in no awful fix. —Buddy Boy Hawkins, “Awful Fix Blues,” 1927

Santa Fe tourist area and also showing Santa Fe Railyard

Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in North America (400 years). Through Centuries of trade and governance, it has evolved from a mix of Native American, Hispanic, Mexican, and Anglo cultures. Located at 7,198 feet above sea level in the Sangre de Crotos foothills at the southern tip of the Rocky Mountains(Official Visitor’s Guide)

Yeah, she left early one mornin’,
she left on the Santa Fe
You know that old Santa Fe,
big, bad luck to me
You know that old Santa Fe,
big, bad luck to me
You know, it taken away my lover,
sin got my old time, used to be – Santa Fe Blues – Lightning Hopkins

Bernie and Hoff set out early to scope out the plaza and the artist’s market. They have sent back a message to let us know where they are having breakfast. Another bright blue sky but very chilly. We are at 7,000+ feet elevation (explains the chilly wind) and until you get used to the thin air you should not overindulge in alcohol. Could be a cheap shout tonight, at least I will get value for money. We ordered an Uber to go to the diner where Hoff and Bernie are having breakfast. The first Uber cancels and we had to wait 20 minutes for a ride. The driver is from Pakistan but has been in Santa Fe for some time. I said why Sante Fe, and he said he met a Navajo lady via a dating site. She went to Pakistan and they were married. It was a time of violence where he lived. He was scared to let her out of his sight so they came back to Santa Fe and he loves it. Oh, as is the case with Pakistani drivers back home we talked about cricket.

We finally got into the beautiful town square. Fantastic old adobe buildings, Many of the Pueblo Indians have set up their stalls around the grassed fringes. The boys have finished their breakfast and have decided to check out more of the plaza and its surroundings. We have already booked a two-hour guided walking tour for 2 PM. Wendy and I have decided to have breakfast at the Plaza cafe. The diner is bustling with tourists, all the staff look to be Mexican and are all kitted out in white shirts and black bow ties. I decided to have Pork and Hominy stew with red chile. You always get an option of the type of chile to be used, red, green, or Christmas tree, being a chile that is turning from green to red. The stew was listed as a breakfast dish. Wendy opted for a more standard fare of bacon, hash browns, and eggs sunny-side-up eggs.

Photo – Chiles are for eating and decoration

We caught up with the boys and had a wander around. There are many T-shirt and souvenir shops. art and jewelry stores and men’s and women’s clothing shops. Although most of the shops are for tourists they are not of the normal tacky type. In fact, a lot of the stores are selling very high-priced items. We found a year-long trading Christmas Store, and Wendy has two New Mexico ornaments for the Christmas tree.

We had a look inside the very impressive Cathedral Basilica St. Francis and then looked around the Museum of Contemporary Native Art. The whole area is well set out and is rich in history. There are many fabulous sculptures to look at. I went into one of the clothing stores and was taken by a Western Shirt. However, the USD450 price tag sent me scurrying.

Photo – St. Francis Cathedral

Hey Kate and Cara we have found a Mac and Cheese cafe. they specialize in 30 different combinations of Mac and Cheese, unfortunately, we are all still full from breakfast. Next, we take a walk for a few blocks to Cafe Vinyl, records, books a roasted coffee. I decided to get one of their T-shirts,

This trip has been all go, go, go as it should be. So many new sights to explore. I am, to be honest, struggling with so much walking and decided to pull out of the two-hour walking tour, I know that I would be lagging too far behind, but no problem as I am a serial people watcher and I have decided to sit out the time at the plaza and enjoy an ice-cream.

Photo – The Plaza

I will hand it over to Bernie now to provide a few insights into what was learned during the walking tour.

Our guide, Thomas, is full of superlatives about his hometown, Santa Fe. “You are all family, now, as visitors to Santa Fe. Welcome to the center of the world.” He is a descendant of the Pueblo Indians, who created the unique architectural style of adobe brick buildings. Almost all buildings in the center of town are flat-roofed and there is a planning rule in place – all buildings must be one of the twenty-one shades of terracotta/brown. Riche Benaud would have been in heaven here! The most common trim for doors and windows is sky blue. We get to lift a brick and they are extremely heavy. That keeps the heat in at winter and out in summer.

The Pueblo tribes are peaceful farmers and builders – not like the Apaches and Comanches. They love to fight – bad buggers. Pueblo Indians traditionally marry outside their clan and take on the clan custom of the wife. It is a matriarchy, where the woman is the boss. What’s new! To divorce, the wife simply leaves all the husband’s belongings on the doorstep. All over red rover! We learn that there are nineteen Pueblo tribes that speak five languages. Despite the common languages, they don’t understand each other.

The Spanish Missionaries ruled this part of the world for most of the 16th and 17th centuries. They were Franciscans who set up churches and converted many locals. We visited San Miguel Chapel, the oldest church in Santa Fe. We each ring the bell. Thomas assures us that we are guaranteed to return to Santa Fe as a result.

Day Eight – Santa Fe

Ashes to ashes, sand to sand Every married woman has got a back door man. —Seth Richards, “Skoodledum Doo,” 1928

We are greeted with a bright crisp morning although last night’s forecast was for rain. We are heading to Santa Fe, New Mexico for a two-night stop-over.

As we drive through Farmington we realize that it is a bigger town than we thought. We turn onto Highway 44 heading toward Cuba! We cross the San Juan River again. Cattle are grazing and I guess the landscape could be described as a prairie. A heavy cloud is building up in the distance. I look out to my left and spot 5 small white crosses on the side of the road, that must have been a nasty accident. Time for a toilet stop and as we get out of the car we all comment on how cold it is.

As we approach Lybrook around 10 AM the countryside changes again with more squat trees than the very low scrub (prairie). I have noticed that every 10 miles or so there is a road sign saying ‘Report Drunk Drivers’. They all have bullet holes in them, don’t upset drunk drivers! There is rain visible in the distance as we drive past the Apache Nugget Center and Casino. We are now only 17 miles from Cuba and are now at an elevation of 7,000 feet. Here we go we just crossed the Continental Divide and the elevation has risen to 7,380 feet. Mountains are now directly in front of us and Pine Trees now come into view. We have just hit Cuba and I was keen to stop for some ‘Amish Style Homemade Baked Goods’, however, we motored on. We turn onto South 550 near Bernalillo and we can again taste desert dust.

Turning left onto Interstate 25 and we are now only 25 miles from Santa Fe. We hit our (Santa Fe) our destination but it still is too early to check into the Air BnB We made a slight detour to the Sante Fe Market Railroad district. It looks like it was once a warehouse district with the main Santa Fe Rail Station in the middle. As with a lot of industrial areas worldwide that no longer function as such the area has been turned into an arts district, with eateries, and clothing boutiques. We decide to have a late breakfast at Opuntia, a trendy type of bar/restaurant. The food was pretty good (stayed tuned for another Food Blog from Hoff).

Photo Above Santa Fe Railroad District

We had a look in a couple of the art galleries. Very good work on display and the art is for sale but oh so expensive.

We checked into our Air BnB and it is very acceptable.

Bernie Wendy and Hoff have booked to go to a Wine Bar.

Photo Above Herve Wine Bar

I am feeling pretty shattered and decided to stay home. I found a T.V. station that plays old Western Movies 24/7. How is this for a coincidence? The movie that is just about to start is …… wait for it ….. the 1951 release of Santa Fe a story about the building of the Santa Fe railine. The movie stars Randolph Scott. So here I am sitting in Sante Fe watching Santa Fe.

The crew got back at about 9:30 PM and from the sound of them they had a good night.

Hoff’s Food Blog – Part One

Coffee is Like Duct Tape it Fixes Everything

Friday 7th April Departure Day

Well we flew out of Melbourne on a Qantas domestic and linked to a Delta international in Sydney to LA.

In all fairness the Delta service and food was better than expected, Butter Chicken was a hit all round. Supplemented with a mushroom quiche, a panini and a breakfast of compote eggs on a layer of bacon (perhaps) with a dollop of spinach and relish …… we are brain dead, so whilst we may not be fussy, it’s good by airline standards.

A planned bladder and coffee stop in Riverside, sees us at Coffee Bean – we are brain dead, so passable. Bernie extra brain dead, spills it several times. We swing by Trader Joe’s – for me it is somewhat legendary as it is regularly referenced in our ‘bean’ recipe book used for the 4 Hour Body diet.

We buy 2 wines, both Chardonnay from Napa – Raeburn – sweet nothings and La Crema, a bit more substance ….. both shy of acid. The winning purchase was the Ghost Pepper chips ….. others disagree!

A little further up the road in Beaumont we take a detour for lunch on a hunch – The Cornerstone BBQ, where Barry and the crew serve up a Brisket Meat Fries that sets a high bar. These people are proud of their product and super eager to ensure we enjoyed our meal.

Saturday 8th April Joshua Tree NP

Yes there was a farmers market today in Joshua Tree, we enjoyed a passably good coffee,  saw some berries on steroids and even some local musicians, one of whom was playing the didgeridoo.

We jump in the car and we travel down to Palm Desert which is just out of Palm Springs, lots of tacky street names like Gerald Ford, Gene Autry, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, you get the drift. We’re getting a bit behind time so we make a quick stop at JD’s diner where we order various dishes, all pretty big and impossible to digest, I’d have to say I had the meatloaf and salad and the meatloaf was pretty good, but giving Wendy’s chicken salad the nod.

It’s a long day, the tour had taken us about 6 ½ hours, it’s a Saturday night and we’re back in Joshua Tree and we aim to try that beautiful saloon food – however as we stand in a queue and we’re told it’s at least an hour away to be fed, we opt for pizzas, a better choice so we can get some food and a  couple of beer before a good night’s sleep. We’ve got a good 5-6 hour drive tomorrow to get to Flagstaff via Route 66. However the pizzas only work because the girl taking our order is super friendly, sells beer as well and we are still recovering from an hour trip in an open backed tour Jeep at 55mph, Bernie without a seat belt! Yes Moose Drool works for me

Sunday 9th April Route 66

And off we go from Joshua Tree, but not without a half decent coffee before we really hit the road.

In Kingman we stopped for lunch at The Kingman club, it’s it’s a pretty new brew pub and it brews Grand Canyon beers, quite a few of them, but none of us are really interested in drinking, nice ambiance. We don’t pass up trying the Fried Pickles – a dead set winner, then various meals between us – I chose the smallest thing  I could see, the appetiser ribs and I was pretty chockablock afterwards – the place is definitely just starting out, still ironing out the wrinkles.

We took a little stroll downtown to grab a coffee, a bloody ripper cortado! Oh Oh, it’s not long before that coffee and those ribs needed to move on and were lucky enough to stop in an Indian Reservation, a little place called Peachtree, that had a little general store and by God’s grace it had a set of restrooms and I was saved.

In Seligman we stop to check out the Road Kill Café, Rob buy’s the T-Shirt, I ogle the cakes, but Peachtree is still a raw memory for anything cake.

Dinner at Agave in Flagstaff, a well rated Mexican – a few dark ales and a burrito, an enchilada and a chilly for the boys – Wendy not 100% and stayed home.  We do seem to spend a lot of time cleaning stains from our freshly changed clothing and the refried  beans make their impact known under fluffy blankets all night. The place had done a great job with the Mexican regalia, a lovely waitress who did her job well, the food pretty standard fare.

We find a better wine retailer and switch to Oregon Pinot Gris, Joel Gott was an improvement but still lacked any real depth and a Christopher Michael, a drinkable wine with enough acid to fill the palate, however stayed largely to the front.

Monday 10th  April Grand Canyon

A trip to the canyon, we get Rob and Wendy off to the chopper, whilst Bernie and I find a shit coffee and take a peak over the edge. Wendy and Rob survive, we get our deposit back on the coffins, so back into the park for some of the most stunning landscapes on this earth. We retreat to the local eatery in the park. Shit, I just wanted a simple chicken sandwich – I’m starting to see the impossibility of a small feed. The Smokey chicken was pretty good, albeit Bernie’s Cob Salad was the pick, he still managed to polish off my potato salad ….. I think Rob referred to him as a Hoover

Dinner is debated, we opt for the Pasty (no not pastie here) Factory and bring back some delicacies… The Oggie, The Lamb, The Cajun Chicken ……. We suffer through Bernie’s rotten socks ‘scotch egg’ and provide encouragement to Rob in his challenge to drown a 6 pack of pineapple based ciders. Tomorrow it’s off to Winslow, the Petrified Forrest and onto to Monument Valley. The latter on a Navajo reservation and no booze allowed.

Tuesday 11th April Transition to Monument Valley

Transition via Route 66 with a stopover at the  Meteor Crater in the wastelands of Arizona We rush onto Winslow …….. yes, standing on the corner! We ask a few local guys doing some streetscape work (possibly doing some community service) for directions to the best coffee – struck gold.  Mojo coffee is the real deal roasted on the premises and visited by many dignitaries by the photos on the wall.

We’re behind schedule so we leg it and stop at a Mobil Servo and go the sandwich – golly gee, surprise, surprise, surprise – Them’s very good sandwiches.

On we go, we will lose an hour today as Navajo is on Mountain Time and we arrive in  Monument Valley around 6:30 pm …… is situated just over the northern Arizona State Line, in Utah.

We take the local dining room at Goulding’s Lodge ……. Surprise, surprise, surprise it beats our expectations again.  No alcohol on the Indian Reservation, a good opportunity to have a break. I go the sticky salad and for once it’s a small manageable meal washed down with root beer. Wendy’s takes the cake again, she goes the single taco ……. It’s a taco pizza!

Wednesday 12th April Monument Valley

We are on the sunrise tour so it’s up at 5am, a cuppa and some muesli and off into the canyons of the Navajo Never Never. After, we toss up on an early lunch or late breakfast …… decisions, decisions! Back to the Dining Room – it’s pancakes or burrito’s, I’ll leave it to you as to whom had pancakes!

Day Seven – Farmington

Put you down under a man they call “Captain Jack” He’ll sure write his name up an’ down your back. —Son House, “Mississippi County Farm,” 1942 (LC)

We are on the road at 8 and today we are pointing the nose of the car toward Farmington, New Mexico.

As we climbed out of Monument Valley we crossed over the famous Forrest Gump Hill which is a long way from Alabama!

Bernie had the T.V. on for a short time last night. He counted 20 shopping stations and 5 religion spruiking stations. Priorities I guess. We have two anniversaries happening today. Our 38-year wedding anniversary and more importantly Bernie’s one-year anniversary of his knee operation. The boys sing Happy Anniversary for us but they will not be booked for a Way Out West gig. We finally found a good radio station, radio Cortez coming out of Colorado. The closest station to PBS and RRR we have heard during this trip. 90.5 Colarodo

We just heard on the radio that April 13th is also the Last Day of Passover. We are passing a serious mountain range to our far left. Open-range cattle ranching abounds as we take in the scenery. We are headed into a very deep descent and for the first time in days, we have a winding road that takes us over the San Juan River as we come into the township of Mexican Hat. The town is named so because of another unique rock formation this time in the shape of (you guessed it) a Mexican Hat. We turned off the road to get some photos.

Can You Spot an Upside-Down Mexican Hat?

Back on the road and we head toward Bluff. Can you ever get sick of seeing unique rock formations, I would have to say a big no. We make it to Bluff, Utah, and stop for over an hour as we visit the historic Bluff Fort. This is Mormon territory. An older gentleman by the name of George gave us a bit of a history lesson. George told me that his favorite movie is the “Man From Snowy River”, another Mormon I met was from Canada, his son had worked in Darwin (as a missionary). His son brought home a Kangaroo Skin bible for him which is his most prized possession. Well worth the stop and there was no entry fee. I went crazy in the gift shop and I am the owner of a legitimate Racoon Hat and a Navajo Wrist Band. Bernie posted a photo of me blogging in my “coon hat” and it has gone viral. Check out the link to the Bluff Historical Fort it makes for fascinating history.

In the photo above George and Rob

We are now in Colorado and are seeing open grassland and many grazing horses. Straight as die roads now. We turn right as we wanted to have a look at the “Four Corners Monument” which is the designated area where four states meet, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and, Utah. The monument is on Navajo land and it was going to cost us 8 bucks apiece so we gave it a miss.

We drove another 500 meters and were back in Arizona! We are now heading to Teec Nos Pos. A bit further down the road is Shiprock we pulled into a sad-looking Gas Station for some food. Bad idea as the sandwich was terrible, one bite and it was in the bin.

Back on the road and now in New Mexico heading to Farmington which will be our overnight stop. In fact, we drive through Farmington as we want to have a look at some Aztec ruins which just happen to be in the town of Aztec. Oh no, a Trump for 2024 sign is on the side of the road. The Aztec Ruins National Monument is not that far from Farmington, these ruins are listed as a World Heritage site. A lovely elderly lady gave us a bit of information about the site and we then watched a fifteen-minute film to prepare us for the self-guided walk. The first thing we learn is it is not an Aztec ruin but in fact, Pueblo ruins and was built some 900 years ago. When the Spanish came through the area the site was already in ruins and they assumed it was Aztec built. It was well worth the visit, the sight is still visited by the Pueblo people and it is a sacred sight.

Two Old Fossils Become Two Old Ruins

Back on the road and we head back to Farmington. Bernie pointed out that the license plates of New Mexico have a couple of chiles pictured, New Mexico is the Chile capital of the world. Couple that with Cannabis outlets on every second corner it may not be a bad place to live.

Bernie decided before we even left Australia that when we were in Farmington we were going to have dinner at the Outback Steak House to enjoy the double anniversary and we could all enjoy a ‘blooming onion’. Outback Steak House is a franchised company with outlets throughout the county. As can be imagined it is Australian-themed. Let me tell you, the food was excellent and supersized. I will let Hoff explain the dining experience in his blog. However I had to laugh when our waiter could not understand what drink I was ordering, I asked for a hard cider and he thought I said hot cider. Check out the menu, they even have Tim Tams

Another memorable day, tomorrow we head to Santa Fe.

Day Six – Monument Valley

Every day of the week, I goes to Midtown Drug An’ get me a bottle o’ snuff, an’ a bottle o’ Alcorub. —Son House, “Clarksdale Moan,” 1930

We are up at 5:15 AM to prepare for our Navajo Indian guided 3-hour sunrise tour of Monument Valley. I am feeling crappy with this head cold and after showering I have decided to stay at the apartment and take it easy (you know that is an Eagles song, right). It is a pain to miss the tour but I don’t think it is right to be coughing and spluttering over other tourists. So today you will have a guest blogger. Bernie will be taking notes to keep y’all up to date. I did manage to see the sunrise over the monuments and it was epic. I went back to sleep and awoke just as Wendy was coming in the door. We all went for breakfast and then checked out the gift shop. Some cool stuff in there I can tell you.

So here is our guest Blogger’s account of the Sunrise Tour which I unfortunately missed. Thank You Bernie Bicknell

Map showing Monument Valley – We stayed at Goulding

“Damn, another early start” We are up at 5 AM to make it to our sunrise tour. We received a text telling us that Rob is a non-starter and has succumbed to Wendy’s flu. She is the official tour photographer and has to soldier on. No man-flu for her. We drive out to our meeting place in the dark. The “monuments” still provide a glorious picture in the approaching light. We are the only people in the car park and John, our Navajo guide finds us easily. We are the only three members of the tour and spread ourselves out in a twelve-seater open truck – more f*****g dust! Daylight is just starting to break as we drive for a half hour into the park. There are magnificent rock formations at every turn. Even in the half-light, it is difficult to take in all the beauty that surrounds us.

Our first stop is for the sunrise and. of course it is a beauty. The stillness and silence just add to the experience. John is not very talkative but warms as the tour progresses. He is an interesting guy. John is his “tour name” but he cannot say his tribal name to outsiders. Fair enough. The subject wanders to the Covoid pandemic. The Navajo Nation was locked down like we were. There is a Navajo Nation Legislation Council, President and Vice President. The President declared, “No one in and non one out” of the Nation’s territory. That meant approximately 300,000 people with similar restrictions to Melbourne. Trips to the grocery store only. Despite this 2000, Navajos died from the dreaded virus.

John tells us that he relies on natural native remedies and regularly visits his shaman. He also tells us that his Grandfather was a famous Shaman and that he has some of the powers. “If I have a vision of a coyote crossing in front of me, it is bad luck coming. So I change my plans for the day. The use of Shamans is dying out with successive generations.

We visit a couple of canyons with large holes pointing to the blue sky. Hogan Canyon is so-called due to its spherical shape, resembling a hogan, the traditional adobe home of the Navajo. In this Canyon, there are the remains of ancient tribes. John warns us not to take any fragments of broken pottery on the ground. Disturbing relics of departed ones can bring illness. We aren’t about to test that one!

What can you say about the scenery: Words cannot do it justice. Even Wendy’s photos will not accurately depict the beauty that we experienced. Stark monoliths jut out of the desert sands. There are dozens of shades of red and terracotta. It is too early for the wildflowers, which bloom in June and July, after the “monsoon” rains, which also create temporary lakes. But they would only be a support act for the Monuments. A once in a lifetime experience.

Many thanks, Bernie. I think you have lifted the standard of the Blog!

To finish off today’s adventure I have listed just a few of the movies that have been filmed in this area: Forrest Gump, 2001 A Space Odyssey, Mission Impossible II, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Easy Rider, How The West Was Won, Wild Wild West, Stagecoach, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon. In fact, lists 104 moves filmed in and around Monument Valley.

Day Five – Monument Valley

I got a sweet mama, she ain’t long or tall She got the kind of lovin’, will make a panther squall. —Blind Blake, “Panther Squall Blues,” 1927

On the road early again today with a long trip ahead. First off we are heading to Winslow Arizona. Another beautiful Spring Day, blues skies. We turn onto the U.S. 180 East for the 52 miles drive to Winslow. The highway speed limit here is 75 miles P/H about 120 K. We are traveling through wide open plains and I would assume we would have seen Bison roaming the plains back in the day. As we come into Winslow we have cued up that song.

Well, I’m standing on a corner of Winslow Arizona,

And such a fine sight to see,

It’s a girl my Lord in a flatbed Ford,

Slowin’ down to take a look at me

I bet you are now singing those words in your head! For non-Eagles, fans click here

Also here is a link to why we have traveled to Winslow just to take some photos

Photo: Bernie, Rob, and Hoff – Standing On the Corner

I have finally learned how to import links so you do not need to copy and paste them into your browser.

Bernie asked the salesperson in the shop if she got sick of listening to the Eagles all day long, “no” she said but I did hear a quiver in her voice. We parked in the car park at City Hall. There is a work crew from the Arizona Corrections Facility tending to the surrounding garden. They must be under good supervision as Wendy had left the back door open. After a pit stop for coffee at Mojo Coffee House we are back in the car and before reaching the freeway a sign advertises an upcoming Gun Show at the Elks Club. About time they taught the Elks to shoot at those pesky hunters.

On the road again and we see a sign to turn off to view the Barringer Meteor Crater and Museum. Why not we said. It was a wise decision it is the largest fully preserved crater in the world. The crater was formed 50,000 years ago, hurtling at about 26,000 miles per hour. Another first for me viewing a Meteor Crater. An unexpected stop but what a bonus it was.

We are back on the road and heading toward Holsbrock. It is 11:25 and we turn off for our next planned stop, the Petrified Forest. The countryside is now pretty much desert with low-lying scrub. Hard to imagine that many, many years ago this was a lush ancient forest, with plenty of water and dinosaurs holding the fort. There are examples of some of the logs being cut and polished to incredible colors at the gift shop. They are for sale but at a large price. 6000USD. Before heading into the park I need a wee stop. Above the toilet bowl there is a warning sign, do not flush the toilet before using it, our water is yellow. The water is full of sulfur and iron and indeed everything is stained yellow. Oh yeah, you are also advised not to drink it. The temperature is around 25c but walking around without any shade makes it feel hotter. Amazing to see so many old trees just lying on their side now petrified for eternity. I thought to myself, what would this area have been like when those trees were standing tall. We then stopped off at Jasper Forest. Incredible to see. Bugger, Eagle Rock collapsed in 1940, sorry Mark Mackay I was going to take a photo for you. We had another stop at Agate Bridge. In fact, you could stop every couple of miles for an incredible sight.

The photo above is a tree!

The photo above – Three old fossils

Common sense tells you that what is in the park stays in the park. You can lift up a smaller piece of petrified wood and let me tell you there is a lot of weight in them.

The Photo Above – Don’t Steal the Wood

Another photo op along the road with a viewing area where you can view the San Francisco Peaks, the Pinnacles, Pilot Rock

It has been another very long day in the saddle. My head cold is giving me the irrates. And of course, we lost an hour once we came onto the Navajo Reservation (no daylight savings), the Nation itself spans three states. It is late mid-afternoon and we realize we have not eaten since breakfast and there are no cafes out this way. We stop at a dodgy Gas Station and buy a sandwich out of the refrigerator and Bernie heats up a Burrito. Suprise to all of us the food was very acceptable.

We are now heading toward Kayenta, with Monument Valley a little further down the road. We will be staying there for two nights. Driving past some amazing rock formations which are all worth stopping for but we continue on. As I said this is all Navajo land, horses roaming in paddocks, some homes are a little run-down others well kept but all are at some distance from each other. We turn left onto U.S 160West Bound most of the roads we have traveled have been gun-barrel straight. We stopped at another gas station for some snacks. Upon entering at least 50% of the people in the station were still wearing face masks (more on that later). I’d say there were 20 people in there including staff with me being the only non-Native American.

What a fantastic sight as we came into the Valley, straight out of a Western movie or T.V. show. I would bet my last American Dollar (they are worth more than ours) that all of you would have seen some of these monuments on a small or large screen. But to see them looming imposingly and sacredly for the Native Americans is another thing indeed. We cross over the State Line into Utah and before you know it we are checking into our accommodation at Goulding’s Lodge. And who was Goulding you may ask, does not sound like a Native name. A little back story that we all found very interesting:

Harry Goulding was a sheep trader looking for a new business opportunity and a place to call home. In the early 1920s, Harry and his wife Leone, whose nickname was “Mike,” visited Monument Valley and were enamored with the area. Although Monument Valley had once been part of the Paiute Indian Reservation, the reservation relocated and areas of land opened up for sale. The Gouldings jumped at the chance to purchase a substantial plot of land in Monument Valley and quickly set up a Trading Post.

Starting out in tents, the Gouldings conducted business with the local Navajo people, trading food and other goods for handcrafted items like rugs and jewelry. After several years of living and working in tents, Harry and Mike constructed a permanent building, now the Goulding’s Trading Post Museum.

When the Great Depression hit in the 1930s, the Navajo Reservation suffered immensely. Harry heard of a movie production company scouting out locations in the Southwest to use in films. He believed that bringing movie production to Monument Valley would help the local Navajos with much-needed income.

So Harry and Mike set out on a journey to Hollywood, California with their last $60. By luck and perseverance, Harry met the famous director John Ford. When Ford saw Harry’s photos of Monument Valley, he knew it was the perfect location for his next movie. The Gouldings received an advanced payment, and in a few days, John Ford and his crew began filming Stagecoach starring John Wayne.

A John Wayne movie is shown every night at our Lodge. There is a John Wayne cabin on sight which has a lot of photos of the artists resting between shots of the filming of Stagecoach.

We had dinner at the restaurant. Good food indeed. Wendy’s open Indian Fry Bread taco could have fed the for of us, even Bernie could not make any inroads after Wendy had been eating for half an hour.