Monument Valley – just like Padstow….

First things first… following our last post, it did snow again overnight. There wasn’t a huge amount of snow on the ground in Cortez, but it had stuck and the main road was still pretty slithery.

After a bit of a tour round a few gas stations to top up our propane, we were ready to head out of town. Filling up with gas is different here; it’s not self-service and the attendant needs to have some kind of certification to be able to do it (this was a problem at Shell as they had propane but the manager had just gone out to “run his errands”, the girl left behind couldn’t serve propane, and didn’t know when he’d be back).

We drove up to the visitor centre at Mesa Verde on the off-chance that the roads there were sufficiently clear, but no, they were still only letting vehicles with 4WD or snow chains in. Oh well….. The helpful ranger reported that the forecast said it might well be OK the following day but that anything can happen at that time of year in Southern Colorado. We decided not to hang around. In any event, some of the roads are closed in winter and you couldn’t actually get into any of the cliff dwelling areas, the one that’s generally open all year round being closed due to risk of rockfall, awaiting a geological report…

We continued South to Four Corners, where Colorado, Utah, Arizona and Nevada meet at a single point. This is on Navajo land, with a ticket booth at the entrance to the car park collecting 5 dollars per person. The construction around the actual point on the ground looked to me like some kind of memorial.

On closer inspection it was a complete ring of little booths, no doubt fully populated by tat-sellers in the summer. It was nice to see benches provided for quiet contemplation of such a spiritual site….. 😉 or maybe they’re for folk queuing to take a picture at busy times of year….

We took the obligatory “twister” pics, and were pleased to see that we aren’t the only lunatics touring this part of America. A Germanic couple were busy taking a photo of a gnome. When asked if he (the gnome) does a lot of travelling, the response was “Ja, he vill…..”.

We continued on to Monument Valley, intending to stay the night at Goulding’s Camp Park, which we’d found on the internet before we left home.

We knew from the website that it was next to Goulding’s Lodge where John Wayne had stayed. So we were expecting a small hotel / motel with a campground.


We turned off the main road through Monument Valley and entered the World of Goulding…. There’s Goulding’s Lodge, Goulding’s Suites, Goulding’s Duplex and Goulding’s Camp Park for starters. Then Goulding’s Dining Room (which may or may not be the same as Goulding’s Restaurant), Goulding’s Food Court, Goulding’s Deli, Goulding’s Convenience Store, Goulding’s Grocery Store (which we went into for eggs, a pepper and some mushrooms; it’s a full-size supermarket with keen pricing to rival Walmart). Once you’ve sorted out somewhere to stay and have fed yourself, entertainment is at hand in the form of Goulding’s Museum (John Wayne memorabilia), John Wayne’s Cabin, Goulding’s Gift Shop and Goulding’s Theater (with daily showing of John Wayne films: “Stagecoach” on Sun / Weds / Sat, “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” on Mon / Thurs, and “The Searchers” on Tues / Fri). Oh and Goulding’s Tours, who stand ready to whisk you off to pretty much anywhere you’d like to go within a 200 mile radius, or for the undecided there’s a standard 8 hour tour, a snip at 135 dollars plus tax per person. What more could you ask for? Ah, practicalities….. that’ll be Goulding’s Gas Station, Goulding’s Car Wash, and Goulding’s Laundry….. Crikey. Harry Goulding and his wife Mike (I kid you not, though apparently she was really called Leone and was definitely female), America’s precursors to Rick Stein (for the pedants among you, no, I don’t know why everything is Goulding’s not Gouldings’). Last time I went to Padstow, Mr Stein had all the food, lodging, and gift options covered, but hadn’t yet diversified into petrol stations, cinemas or laundry. Surely it’s only a matter of time if Monument Valley is anything to go by….

After examining Monument Valley in depth the next morning, we continued on towards the Grand Canyon, stopping at a place called Kayenta for fuel and to check tyre pressures. We had to go to three gas stations to find a working air line. We got out of the first without mishap but at both the second and third were accosted by native Americans chatting for a couple of minutes then asking for dollars. The first wanted money for gas (which at least fitted in with his presence at a gas station), the second for food. We left lighter by a handful of dollar bills. This isn’t a good country to be poor in; you’d have to do a heck of a lot of begging in gas stations to get a broken tooth fixed….

We made it up to the Grand Canyon shortly before dark and checked into the RV Village. We’ve had to change our plans somewhat re campgrounds since we hit cold weather 8 or 9 days ago. We’d planned to go to the National Park’s Mather campground tonight, for example, which is less than half the price of the RV Village but doesn’t have electric hookups. What we hadn’t bargained for was that you can’t use KAC’s gas heater for very long at all without an electric hookup as the electric fan on it is so powerful that it’ll flatten the auxiliary (leisure) battery in an hour or so.

Doh – who came up with that arrangement? I have a sneaky suspicion that this might be pretty standard over here. Certainly, all the Cruise America rental fleet seems very standardised, the only choice being “small, large, or upper-sized” (we weren’t asked if we’d like fries with it, though we did get a “have a good day”). The other big rental company we’ve come across is RoadBearRV – not sure what heating their vans have but the general setup does seem very similar albeit with a different layout (their baby van looks about a metre longer than K.A.C.).

Also K.A.C. seems to have noticeably less insulation than Kampington (and only single-glazed windows), so when you get the heat in it does disappear quickly. So whereas in Kampington we can survive quite happily without a hookup in cold weather so long as we’re driving enough each day to top the batteries up, in K.A.C. life in a cold climate could be a bit grim without mains electricity overnight….. We bought a small electric heater for 15 dollars at Walmart in Cortez the other day and it’s now toasty warm in the van (it seemed a bit silly to be paying for sites with electric hookups then burning our own propane for heating). We checked the weather forecast for the Grand Canyon a couple of days ago and it was showing temperatures down to -14C overnight which must be unusually cold as the record low is -16C, recorded in 1976. I’d hate to have this campsite’s electricity bill!

Off to check out the canyon tomorrow…