John Wayne slept here

Monument Valley Travel Blog

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Monument Valley

We are leaving Grand Canyon today. Sad, but we had fun. The drive home is almost never as fun as the drive to a destination. But, we almost never devote a day to just driving. Spending a day in a car is the surest way to screw that day up. On the other hand, if you can spend a part of that day seeing something special, it not only enriches the experience, but breaks up the day. Sure it will take longer, but if you are in that big a hurry, fly, and don’t waste the time driving at all. It’s not that much more expensive, and what it saves on nerves is worth much more than the cost.

 

But that’s enough lecture for one day. To break up our day, we are going to make a long lunch stop at Monument Valley, UT.

Monument Valley
Monument Valley may sound familiar or you may know exactly where I am talking about, but I would be very surprised if you have not seen it in a picture, TV show, or movie at some point. Our plan was to be on the road by about 7:30 AM and we pretty much were. Our breakfast came from the local chapter of the Golden Arches Dinner Club (I had a McMuffin), and we were soon on our way.

 

As always we weren’t going to just drive until we dropped. First, even though it is not the fastest way to get to your destination, we still stop every few hours just to stretch our legs, and break up the monotony a bit. Our first stop was at Tuba City, Arizona, at about 9:30 AM. I imagine there is a colorful story about why this small town in the Navajo Indian Reservation is called Tuba City, but we weren’t that interested at the time to try to find out.

Right beside Gouldings
All we saw was the gas station/convenience store, and we were soon back on the highway. About 1 ½ hours later we had crossed into Utah, and pulled into a wide spot in the road called Goulding. Goulding is more or less the gateway to Monument Valley. It has a lodge, diner, store, and museum. Our plan was to spend about an hour or so eating lunch, and seeing what there was to see.

 

Maybe calling it a wide spot in the road is a touch cruel. I liked it. It was an oasis to be sure. The views of the Valley were great. Monument Valley has been featured in countless westerns, several (Stagecoach, Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Searchers) starring John Wayne.

Margo, Jessi, and Patty (Margo's Mom), with Monument Valley, in the background.
It was in Forrest Gump. The scene in which Forrest decided he is done running and is going to go home, shows Monument Valley in all of it’s splendor in the background. The 3rd Back to the Future movie had many scenes there. It was featured in the biker movie, Easy Rider, and many others. I wanted to stop here because I am a John Wayne fan. The scenes in The Searchers were particularly powerful, as it was filmed in Technicolor. I was expecting a bit of a let down, as the colors were so vivid and powerful. I had made a point of watching the movie before we left, so they were fresh in my mind. But, I wasn’t disappointed. The reds were bright and sky a robin’s egg blue straight out of the local cinema. My only compliant was that the major geological features were a bit distant. You could still them clearly, but being up close would have been something. Find a tour would have been easy, and had we been staying the night there, it would have been a given. But, this was only a pit stop. Perhaps another trip.

 

The food at the Stagecoach Diner was good.

Between a rock and a hard place
Nothing great, but there were no complaints either. It was nice to take a long break. So we relaxed a bit at the restaurant, discussed the trip so far, and bitched about the heat. If you can’t bitch about the heat in the Navajo Desert where can you? We were too far away to walk to any of the actual “monuments”, but Gouldings was built beside one of the smaller sandstone features, so we at least got a look. We also found a desert flower that had forced its way up between the asphalt parking lot and a flagstone retaining wall. It was the only plant like that in the area. The other flora consisted of tumbleweeds, brush, and scrub oak.

 

We wandered into the general store to have a look around. Jessi asked about a cowboy hat. We’re in the middle of John Wayne country, so it never occurred to me not to say Yes. She had half-heartedly asked about one in Santa Fe and while we were at the Grand Canyon.

Has anyone seen my horse?
So, why not? We lastly looked around for a spot where we could take a few pictures with the monuments in the background. Jessi’s new hat would make a nice prop, too. We found a nice spot just by crossing the dirt road. We all lined up and a couple extras were snapped to take in the geological features, and we decided to gas up and be on our way.

 

We continued north on US-163, and passed Mexican Hat, UT about half an hour later. I snapped a picture of the rock formation as we went by. This was the sad part about this trip. There are a lot of things to stop and see in this area of Utah.  Four Corners was not too far east of here, Natural Bridges National Monument was just northwest, and much further to the west was Grand Staircase National Monument, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Park.

Mexican Hat
But time and money said that we had to let these wait for another time.

 

But we did stumble on to a little museum, at a rest area on US 191, a little later. I don’t remember what city it was in. It could have been Blanding or Moab, or neither. But we stopped to go the bathroom and discovered that this place had a display of hand made quilts. My mother has made quilts since I was little, and I had to admire the craftsmanship of several of these. So we all wandered about and I snapped a few pictures to show Mom once we got home.

 

Our final stop of the day was going to be in Grand Junction where we had rooms reserved at the Ramada Inn. We got in sometime around 7 PM, checked in, and had dinner at Starvin Marvin.

This one won a prize at the San Juan County Fair
That did us in for the day. A little TV, Margo and Jessi took a dip in the pool, and soon it was off to bed. Tomorrow we would be going home, but we would spend a good part of the day in Glenwood Springs. I wanted to say “Hi” to Doc Holliday.

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Monument Valley
Monument Valley
Monument Valley
Monument Valley
Right beside Gouldings
Right beside Gouldings
Margo, Jessi, and Patty (Margos M…
Margo, Jessi, and Patty (Margo's …
Between a rock and a hard place
Between a rock and a hard place
Has anyone seen my horse?
Has anyone seen my horse?
Mexican Hat
Mexican Hat
This one won a prize at the San Ju…
This one won a prize at the San J…
How many hours did this take?
How many hours did this take?
Indian Basket Quilt by Rosalie Pay…
Indian Basket Quilt by Rosalie Pa…
This quilt was made 24 years befor…
This quilt was made 24 years befo…
Monument Valley
photo by: Hummingbird