The drive from Page, AZ to Farmington, NM was quintessential Southwest. The roads were long and sweeping. It was easy and comfortable to pull to the side of the road whenever you needed a breath or a picture. Instead of feeling like a slave to your car, there is a sense of control over the journey—like owning a piece of the land with every mile.
Monument Valley was the centerpiece of our trip. When we were still in the planning phase and exploring routes between a half-dozen airports, the primary destination was always Monument Valley. The park wasn’t far from Page, so we stopped at the welcome center and took our time snapping photos of the sweeping views from atop the viewing deck. From above, the dusty road that wound through the park was almost too skinny to see, and a lone white pickup truck looked like a toy in the corner.
The one-way dirt road that winds through the park takes 1-2 hours to complete. We heard it was a rough drive, but once our tires hit the dust we were ten times more grateful to have an SUV. Rocks jutted out of the ground in all directions and potholes sat like hidden craters below the tan-colored dirt. At times we couldn’t drive more than 5 MPH without bouncing back and forth like a derailed roller coaster. Be warned, there are no guardrails alongside the precipitous inclines at the park entrance.
The rock structures throughout the park were a sight to see up close. They shot into the air seemingly out of nowhere and the ground was peppered with scruffy desert plants. We drove with our noses pressed against the car windows. One of the larger turnouts housed native American jewelry sellers and a hot fry bread stand. I stood patiently in the piercing sunlight as the fryer sizzled and then carried the UFO-sized piece of crunchy fry bread smothered in honey and powdered sugar back to the car as Katie watched in horror. It took all of 5 minutes for me to cover the front seat of the car and my shirt in honey-soaked powder. I have the table manners of a toddler.
After getting our fill of desert vistas and dusty backroads, we pressed onward and out of the park in search of the “running scene” from Forrest Gump. We pulled off the road a little too early for the Forrest Gump road scene but paused before getting back into the car. There was a perfect silence. Nothing but the wind swirling by our ears, whistling past the walls of the mountains. In places like that, you can really feel your feet on the ground.
We finally found the perfect stretch of road, somewhere between mile markers 8 and 10 along route 163 heading East. Several other cars were parked at the turnouts on either side of the road, reveling in the beauty of the endless pavement. You could see so far into the distance that there was no fear of running into the middle of the highway and posing for a picture. We danced around the road and quickly darted back to the side whenever a car needed to pass.
The sun was getting lower in the sky as we got close to Farmington. The road was almost still. The rocky peaks of mountains were far into the distance left, immersed in steel-grey mist that brimmed with a strange dream-like nostalgia. The land here is so perfect. It takes me to a comatose state of comfort, led towards where I’m supposed to be via a trail of withered utility pole and windmills.