Our trip route on Google Maps.
I'll admit it - I'm a maximizer. Why else would I build an entire family roadtrip to the Southwest in late spring based solely on the fact that National Car Rental had a great one-way rate for just about any sized vehicle from Phoenix to Denver.
I scored a mid-sized SUV, and all the plans fell into place from there. Of course, that meant two one-way flights (usually more expensive) for the four of us, and oh yes, to fit in a trip of any real length, we'd have to leave on Bryson's last day of school and be home just 7 days later so that Bryson and I could immediately turn around and head off to a weekend Cub Scout Camp.
So, we got lucky when we found out that Bryson had an early release day on his last day of school (was planning on pulling him out a couple of hours early), so we had no problem waiting for him to come home on the bus at noon, taxi at the front door by 1p, and take-off on Sun Country Airlines (known for it's free hot cheeseburgers in flight) at 2:50p.
I kept wondering why the flight schedule was showing just an hour and 30 minutes air time -- arriving in Phoenix at 4:20p. At about the same time It dawned on me why the front-desk clerk at a hotel in Chinle, AZ had warned me repeatedly that the Navajo Nation was one hour ahead of Arizona time. As you might recall, Minnesota moves to Daylight Savings Time in the summer, but Arizona remains on Standard Daylight Time all year. So, a flight from the Central to Mountain timezone turns into an extra 2 "living on the plane" hours added to your flight time.
Why does Arizona remain on standard time yearround? My guess is that they want the early morning tee times at the golf course and have no desire to stay out later in the evening when it's 101 degrees.
After landing in Phoenix, we headed to the National Car Rental garage (I really like National - they let you pick any available vehicle in your reserved car class), and scored a white Nissa Xterra. This was after Karin turned down the bright yellow Toyota FJ Cruiser that smelled like cigarettes.
To secure my spot in the highest echelons of techno-geekie-dom, I brought along an array of electronics. I had recently upgraded my Garmin eTrex GPS unit to an eTrex Vista HCx with an add-on memory card so I could store all the road maps, points of interest, driving direction, etc.. for the entire trip. Since this would also be the handheld GPS unit I use for geocaching, this was a double-bonus since I had a suction cup mount for using it in the car. Unfortunately, in the repeated downloading of hotels, national park sites and possible geocaches we'd visit, I erased the digital maps for Arizona and Colorado. I discovered this as we pulled out of the rental car garage in Arizona -- I was very disappointed! So, I put the GPS away and never pulled it out again for the rest of the trip. I was kind of a welcome relief to use real paper maps and not be constantly shifting my gaze to check out the distance to destination, avg speed, etc..
And one more geekie item -- I have a zipper bag that's just the right size for holding a laptop notebook. Instead, it became the stuff sack for every conceivable charger, adapter and power plug you could imagine. Let's just go down the list of technologies that made it into my carry-on:
- work laptop + AC adapter
- ipod + battery backpack (extra 6 hours of battery life) + AC charger
- portable DVD player + external battery pack (extra 3 hours of battery life) + AC & DC power cords
- GPS unit + DC cords
- 2 cell phones + AC and DC charger adapters
- 3 pairs of headphones
- headphone splitter - 2 kids 1 show
- 4 digital cameras (my Nikon D70 slr, Canon point and shoot, 1 each kid-sized Argus Green Bean 5 Megapixel digital cameras) + chargers
Argus Green Bean
First stop leaving Phoenix was the local Walmart to pick up a Site to Store order for a Range Roller 20 Portable Electric 12-Volt Car Cooler. Think about it - one week trip to the Southwest - kids who desperately want to stop at every gas station to get a drink or snack -- you can see why we picked up a thermoelectric cooler to keep picnic stuff and drinks cool and reduce the number of stops. This cooler had a 5-star rating (based on 10 reviews), so it was a hand's down choice. (In case you are unaware, I run the ratings & review functionality on BestBuy.com - among other duties). It was quiet, had rolling wheels and a telescoping handle.
Ok - finally on the road and we headed north up to Flagstaff with sun making an early departure. Checked into the very clean and organized Comfort Inn - right at I-17 and I-40. I-40 runs from Wilmington, NC to Barstow, CA -- the western portion from Oklahoma City to Barstow follows the approximate route of the historic Route 66.