Day Five: LONG bus ride, Monument Valley, arrive in Moab (UPDATED WITH PICTURES ON 10/07/07)

We woke up at 5:30am (whine!) for a 6:30am baggage pickup and nasty buffet breakfast (the food was exactly the same as yesterday, but with bacon instead of sausage). Joe had actually gone to the McDonald’s next door (the most expensive McDonald’s in the continental US…$7.99 for an Egg McMuffin, hash browns and coffee, but better than the slop they had at the hotel), but they weren’t open yet. However while he was out there, he bumped into Tom, who pointed out an adolescent buck elk who was in the field between us and the McDonald’s.

Wow, it’s like Northern Exposure!

We boarded the bus at 7:30am and started the LONG drive to our first stop of the day. On the way, we got our last few glimpses of the Grand Canyon, then got to see the Little Colorado River as we entered the Navajo Reservation.

As we got closer to Gouldings Lodge, Chris and Mike gave us lots of information about the Navajo tribe, its history, culture, lifestyle and place in America and American History.

After arriving in Utah (another state to add to the list of states I’ve been in) and changing the time on our watches (AZ doesn’t follow DST), we quickly came upon Goulding’s Lodge a few minutes before noon. After a quick potty break, we sat down to eat at the lodge’s restaurant, Stagecoach Dining Room. I ordered the beef stew with frybread while Joe ordered the Navajo Taco. He said it was better than the one he had at the El Tovar for lunch yesterday. My stew was OK.

Everyone eating lunch

Following lunch, we had about 20 minutes to enjoy the Trading Post and museum. After that, Rosie, a Navajo, picked us up in her 20-person modified pickup to drive us through parts of Monument Valley. Rosie was an awesome tour guide with a GREAT dry sense of humor which, according to Chris and Mike, is a rarity amongst Navajos.

Chris: Excuse me, can you hear me?
Rosie (on microphone): No, I cannot hear you!

Yay Rosie!

Monument Valley is comprised of several dozen rock formations, many of which are named after the animals they resemble. The Valley has also been used as a backdrop for several filming locations, including Stagecoach, My Darling Clementine, Thelma and Louise, Back to the Future III and Marlboro and Chevy commercials.

Lots of beautiful rock formations (L to R: West Mitten, East Mitten, and Merrick Buttes)

From a distance, it’s hard to tell how huge they really are

Or maybe they’re not (wink)

Chris & Mike…the best Adventure Guides in the world!

Aren’t we cute?

Looking through “The Window”

This Navajo lets you sit on his horse for picture-taking for $2.00

I’m such a tourist. But for $2, its a cute picture

After an hour or so, we boarded the motor coach again to begin the 2nd half of our LONG bus ride. On the way, Mike and Chris pointed out small towns and interesting sites and offered us the opportunity to briefly stop and take pictures of “the Forrest Gump road”.

And I wasn’t the only one to do it!

We stopped at an A&W in Landing, UT, which, although tiny, was still loads bigger than anything we had seen all day; they even had a traffic light!

I finally managed to take a short nap on the bus and by the time I woke up, we were almost there. About 20 minutes after passing through the town of Moab, we were there.

The Red Cliffs Lodge is a working ranch with horses, 250 head of cattle and their own hay production. Adjacent to the ranch is their Castle Creek Winery, which is the largest winery in Utah.

The view from our front door, looking towards the main building

The Castle Creek Winery’s vineyard

The view from the back of the main building

Our room was simply gorgeous, with a cathedral ceiling, kitchenette and Castle Creek gurgling in our backyard. I told Joe we can come back here whenever he wanted (grin).

Our room

Dinner was a group affair in one of the private dining rooms. It was a “spaghetti western” of sorts, with salad and rolls to start, then penne pasta with Alfredo or marinara sauce, chicken breasts, meatballs and vegetarian lasagna as choices for the buffet-style main course. Dessert was a mango sorbet.

Eating dinner

We went back to our rooms after dinner and, after a quick shower and some ‘net surfing, we went to bed.