Vajentic Family Western Odyssey: Week 1, Day 3 (Monday, July 15)

Being a weekday, Monday was the official beginning of my sabbatical.  We awoke Monday morning and went to our gourmet breakfast at Los Poblanos Inn.  I had some type of Moroccan tomato based egg soup called shakshuka, and Sharon had a sweet omelet.  After breakfast, which was delicious, we relaxed in the courtyard by the fountain.  I hauled all of our ever-growing luggage from the room to the car on my injured ankle.  After checking out, we stopped by the Los Poblanos store to check out all of the lavender based products.  There was a small petting farm outside the store, and Ben really enjoyed feeding the goats.

Ben was the goats best friend!
After grabbing some goodies from the store, along with a few cokes in real glass bottles, we made our way out of Albuquerque and on toward Arizona.  Our plan for the day was to drive from Albuquerque to Flagstaff, AZ, stopping at the Petrified Forest along the way.  This was the first long drive of the vacation.  For the state being in a drought and on fire for half the summer, we evidently attracted rain to Arizona, because it down-poured on us for nearly the entire drive.  We finally made it to the Petrified Forest, after stopping by some rural store to go to the bathroom, where we ran across a wild looking dog.


Ferocious beast that almost ate me

We stopped in briefly at the Petrified National Forest/Painted Desert visitor center, picked up a few souvenirs, and were on our way into the park.  Since I knew we would be stopping at several National Parks on our trip, I bought the America the Beautiful pass, which gets us into any National Park or Historic Site for the next year.  We first came to the Painted Desert, which was a bright, glimmering orange-red in the afternoon sun.  It reminded me a lot of the badlands in South Dakota.  We stopped at a few overlooks.  Dominic, I think, was impressed with the natural beauty, and he enjoyed taking some pictures and looking at some of the wildlife, particularly many lizards.  Ben, on the other hand, was hot, tired and mostly unimpressed with this leg of the trip.  But, we did bribe him to pose for a picture!

Painted Desert in Arizona
After leaving the Painted Desert, we went through the rest of the park fairly quickly, stopping only at one turnout to view some petrified logs.

Looking at some petrified stuff
We had told the boys that they were not allowed to take any rocks from inside the national park, and I reminded them of the time that pap pap Giz and grandma Judy almost got busted by park rangers for collecting rocks in this very park!  As we neared the park exit, I read out loud a sign that said to prepare to stop ahead and be searched.  All of the sudden, I heard the window roll down from the back seat, and out of the corner of my eye I saw Dominic throwing something out the window.  I guess he wasn't ready to spend the rest of his life in an Arizona prison!  Outside the park, we stopped at a souvenir store run by Native Americans, where we could buy all the petrified wood we wanted!  We left the shop and headed back toward civilization, but ended up getting stuck in a huge road construction mess before we could make it back to the Interstate.  I felt like we were in the middle of the movie Rango

We finally got back onto I-40, and headed west toward Flagstaff.  On the way, we stopped in Winslow, AZ for a photo-op and some tacky souvenirs.

Takin' it easy in Winslow, AZ

Around 8 PM, we reached Flagstaff and checked into the Little America Inn.  My foot felt like it was on fire by this time, so we ordered help from the valet for our luggage.  After settling into our room, I took the boys up to the pool, and Sharon stayed back in the room enjoying some peace and quiet.  Ben, Dominic and I got in some hot tub time, even though it felt like it was a thousand degrees in the water!  The pool/hot tub area was nice, nestled in among ponderosa pine trees.  Ben and Dominic swam in the pool, but it was too cold for me!  They each found some friends to play with in the pool, and then, when their friends left, they played well with each other.  Dominic was even helping Ben learn how to dive.  They swam until well after dark.  Ben wanted to go over and check out the playground, so I went over to swing with him for awhile, while Dominic continued to swim.  Finally, the boys were waterlogged, and we went back to the room, where we ordered Pizza Hut and watched American Pickers.  All in all, it was another great day (even though Dominic lost his goggles at the pool!)  This was our third hotel in three nights, and it was another good one.  For some odd reason, Dominic chose to sleep on the floor.

Unidentified Arizona wildlife

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