Day 14: The Grand Canyon to Mesa Verde

One final wake-up to a quiet hotel room at Yavapai Lodge. We enjoyed our stay there. It was hard to get a read on this Lodge. There were aspects that weren’t that well cared for or were done on the cheap (e.g. poorly fitting clock radio plug, tons of tiny dead gnats in the bathroom, no trash bags in the room’s wastebaskets), but the room was “well-appointed,” with attractive comforters and furniture. I have a theory, but I’m unsure about it. Xanterra is a park management service that has begun to manage park services (lodging, food service) at several national parks. We’ve been to a few of them. I’m not certain when Xanterra took over, but I wonder if the infrastructure of the lodging at the Grand Canyon is old and basic, but Xanterra came in and re-appointed everything, putting in new carpet and furniture and such. Interesting thought. I would stay at Yavapai again.

The kids knocked on our hotel room door at 7:15 am promptly. We had hoped that they might just drop right back to sleep, but that was just wishful thinking. They did manage to work quietly on the computer for another hour to give us a bit more sleep, but we got up and going by 8:15 and out the door, car packed, by 10:15. Even after two weeks, it remains amazing to me that it actually takes us two hours to get out the door. But it does.

We decided to try the cafeteria in the Yavapai Lodge building (the hotel rooms themselves are motel-style and separate from the main Lodge). Fortunately, we found that breakfast was served until 11:00. We all found good breakfast items to eat and sat in a lovely sunny room with a glass roof, off to the side. We sat among families who were all speaking French. Again. I’m thinking there must have been some amazing marketing to French media this year, or perhaps some good airfare or something. It is fascinating how many French-speaking families we are encountering.

Bellies full, we headed on our way to Mesa Verde, which lies in southwestern Colorado. This may be the park we know the least about. I researched a bit along the way, but didn’t have consistent cell reception, so we still didn’t have much information when we arrived at our next lodging, the Rio Grande Southern Bed & Breakfast and Hotel. When I made our lodging reservations for this trip, I told Hal and the kids that there was quite a variety. The next two nights would be an example of that variety. The kids have never stayed at a B&B, and Hal and I only two or three times. We’re actually not big fans of B&Bs. I think it’s something about our generally introverted natures, but we kind of like the anonymity of hotels. It’s not necessarily a good thing about us, but it we tend to prefer to get our key and be left to ourselves, with not much chit-chat. That doesn’t really happen at Bed & Breakfasts. There’s a lot more chatting going on.

There is a campground inside Mesa Verde National Park, as well as a Lodge, but the Lodge was full and, as previously mentioned, we’re not really campers . . . or at least Hal isn’t . . . and we definitely didn’t come prepared to camp on this trip. Looking outside the Park, there are two main towns nearby: Cortez and Dolores. There are a few chain hotels (Best Western, Days Inn), but I had been intrigued by the Rio Grande and called the owner a couple months ago, despite the fact that she doesn’t do on-line reservations. I don’t do much of anything that doesn’t permit on-line transactions, so I’m not sure precisely what led me to make this phone call. Sheila was chatty on the phone, and for some reason, I uncharacteristically chatted right back. I told her our plans (Mesa Verde) and who would be traveling with me (husband, three kids). She told me she had just the perfect set-up for us: two rooms adjoined by a bathroom, with a Queen in one and two Fulls in the other. She was right; it was perfect for us. And the price was right; it was less expensive than a Double Queen at the Days Inn would have been, and that wouldn’t even have quite fit our family.

We pulled up to the Rio Grande in the late afternoon. Dolores looks like it used to be an old western town, but now is just a bit run-down. Non-functioning railway station. Bar across the street. Gas station next door. Only a few cars on the streets. I walked into the dusty living room of this turn-of-the-century home (that’s what you do at B&Bs . . . you are essentially walking into the living room), and before I had taken two steps, I almost stepped on the most adorable little puppy, a miniature Schnauzer-Dachsund mix, as it turns out, whose name was Winnie. She is 8 weeks old and belongs to the guy who was manning the front desk (while simultaneously watching TV in the living room). The “lobby” was disorganized and cluttered, full of DVDs guests can borrow and magazines from the past several years. I think Winnie’s owner may be Don, Sheila’s co-owner. He showed me up to our rooms and showed me around. I retrieved Hal and the kids and we moved all our stuff up to the rooms.

The kids were smitten . . . with Winnie . . . who joined us upstairs in our rooms. This may be their favorite lodging so far because it comes with its own puppy.

We quickly noticed that there is both 3G cell service, as well as wifi in the Rio Grande, so for the first time in quite a while, we had good access to internet data. I took the opportunity to figure out a few things about Mesa Verde, as well as to find a restaurant for dinner. I decided to head over to Mesa Verde because, we discovered, some of the tours require tickets and they are available up to two days in advance, so we could purchase the night before. We entered the Park, confirmed where we could get the tickets at 8:00 pm, and drove 4 miles into the Park to the Morefield Ranger Station, right next to the campground. After much deliberation, we purchased tickets at $3 per person for the guided tour at Balcony House for 2:30 pm the next afternoon. I was very glad that we stopped by the Park. We now had a map and the newspaper, along with tickets for our tour. This would give us a good start in the morning.

TripAdvisor had led us to a restaurant in Cortez for dinner. Sheila, the owner of the Rio Grande, had confirmed that where we were headed was her favorite local Mexican restaurant. Tequila’s Mexican Restaurant was a terrific, authentic Mexican restaurant. All the wait staff spoke Spanish and at least half the families in the restaurant were speaking Spanish to one another. Perhaps it was a set-up, but it sure made it feel like we were having an authentic southwest meal. The food was excellent. The portions were perfect, not too big. The strawberry margarita was delicious, and the fried ice cream topped off the meal. The prices were excellent too. If you’re in the Cortez area, definitely check out Tequila’s. We were impressed.

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2 Responses to Day 14: The Grand Canyon to Mesa Verde

  1. Becky Dorf says:

    Sounds like a great trip! We have been to all of these places, though not in one trip. I liked Mesa Verde but it was too crowded for my taste! Alex and I climbed up and down those ladders, I think he was 6? Gave me a heart attack, but he LOVED it! The Tetons are also a favorite, but the canyons of Utah are absolutely Heaven on Earth. I could spend a life time there!!

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