arizona road trip, part 1: glenwood springs to scottsdale

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Looking for John Wayne.

Looking for John Wayne in Monument Valley.

Our second major empty nest road trip took us from Glenwood Springs, Colorado, to Scottsdale and Chandler, Arizona, for a Valentine’s Day getaway. It’s a lot of miles to cover in a day, but the topography and scenery vary so much that the drive doesn’t seem to take that long. Especially if you’re the passenger.

It was cold and wintery when we left our home in Glenwood Springs and headed west through Rifle, Grand Junction and Fruita. Our first stop was in Moab, Utah, which is beautiful anytime of the year. On this day, the magnificent red rocks had a coating of snow against a brilliant blue sky.

Welcome to Scottsdale, Arizona!

Welcome to Scottsdale, Arizona!

We continued south through Monticello, with views of the La Salle mountain range in the distance. In Blanding, Utah, population 3,375, our GPS provided a laugh when it instructed us to follow Main Street for the next 95 miles. Blanding really didn’t seem that big to me.

On the other hand, Monument Valley does seem large and is truly spectacular. It’s been the setting for so many movies I always expect (okay, hope) to see John Wayne chasing a runaway calf through the sagebrush as we drive through. Located on the Utah/Arizona border in Navajo Nation, there were lots of signs for roadside stands for tourists to shop for Native American art and jewelry, but they weren’t operating during February. Hopefully they’ll be open the next time we’re there; I do love a good roadside stand!

We made our way through Kayenta and Tuba City, where there were signs to watch for wild horses. In my mind, wild horses are always running in colorful herds, manes and tails flowing in the wind. Here we saw a lot of horses napping in the sun in dry, dusty pastures, so I don’t want to check that one off of my non-existent bucket list just yet. I’ll hold out for the flowing-mane-and-tale version.

Our views began to change as we neared Flagstaff, and soon we were driving up a mountainside covered in Ponderosa pines. One of the pines was so tall and symmetrical that it didn’t even look real. I couldn’t believe it! Just after I shared my amazement with Scott, I realized it was an antenna disguised as a tree. I do like to keep him entertained when he’s been driving all day. I’ve never spent any time in Flagstaff, but I’d like to explore the Cococino National Forest someday. I won’t fall for the old antenna-posing-as-a-tree ploy again. Probably.

Cien Agaves, home of 100 tequilas, for a Valentine's Day dinner in Oldtown Scottsdale.

Cien Agaves, home of 100 tequilas, for a Valentine’s Day dinner in Oldtown Scottsdale.

From here, it was just a short drive to Scottsdale, our destination for the first night. We checked into our hotel and then walked a couple of blocks to Oldtown Scottsdale for a late dinner. It was a Thursday and Valentine’s Day, so there was an artwalk going on, musicians playing outside the galleries, someone handing out free roses and lots of people out enjoying the beautiful evening. We wandered for a while, and then chose Cien Agaves — home of 100 tequilas — for dinner. We only tried one kind of tequila, but it was delicious and so was the food.

We sat outside and our waiter was very concerned that the patio heater closest to our table wasn’t working. It was about 70 degrees, which seemed pretty warm compared to the snowy weather at our house that morning, so we assured him that we were okay!

Don't miss the coal brick oven pizza at Grimaldi's!

Don’t miss the coal brick-oven pizza at Grimaldi’s!

The next morning, we explored Oldtown a little more. The shops and galleries are a lot of fun to walk through; if you like cowboy boots, you should really visit Caba’s Western Store. We walked by Grimaldi’s Pizzeria several times and the smells wafting from the coal brick ovens finally drew us in. Two enthusiastic thumbs up! I loved everything about it, from the décor to the New York-style pizza to the nice wine and beer selection. Our waitress told us that there will be a Grimaldi’s opening in Denver before long, which is exciting news.

We packed a lot into this long weekend, so I’ll save the rest for another post. Stay tuned for restaurant reviews from Chandler, Arizona, and more tales from the empty nest!

© 2014 Mandy Gauldin

4 thoughts on “arizona road trip, part 1: glenwood springs to scottsdale

  1. This sounds like a fantastic road trip, and one that I may do in the future, as the parents just bought a home in the Phoenix area. 🙂

    I’m sorry that you didn’t get to see flying manes, etc. That is a little disappointing because that’s how I imagine them too. But then again, you DID get to see wild horses.

    I’ve only seen wild donkeys. One was walking with what I assume was a wild cow, directly down the road in front of us on a reservation outside of Hovenweep. It made for a rather adorable photo.

    Looking forward to part 2!


  2. Pingback: arizona road trip, part 2: exploring chandler | tales from the empty nest

  3. Pingback: winter weekend at the grand canyon  | Tales from the Empty Nest

  4. Pingback: months 7, 8 and 9: recuperating in sunny Arizona | Tales from the Empty Nest

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