2015: Central AZ

Meteor Crater and Home

May 17


One of the activities we missed while hunkered down in Holbrook was visiting the Arizona meteor crater. However, it was about an hour away and just off the highway on our way home; and a little investigation showed that they had an RV parking lot, so we decided to stop there on our way back west.

TripAdvisor reviews were mixed, some calling the crater just a "hole in the ground" and decrying the somewhat expensive admission price. One thing I picked up for sure was that it was important to take the one-hour guided rim tour that is included with the admission. So we timed our arrival for just before the earliest tour at 9:15 a.m.

Our terrific guide.

The tour turned out to be quite interesting and even amusing, thanks to our guide. I didn't get her name, but she was a hoot. She offered tons of information about the geology of the area, the history of the crater as both a mining and a scientific site, and the evolving theories of how the crater was formed. In the early 1900's, most people believed that the crater was volcanic, but a mining engineer named Barringer was convinced that a giant iron meteorite had formed the crater and he spent 26 years digging to find it. There were two things he didn't know: one, the meteorite was much smaller than he thought, forming the huge crater because of its great speed; and two, the impact had completely disintegrated the meteorite. There are still remnants in the crater of his mining activities that you can view through telescopes.

In 1955 the crater was leased by the Barringer family to a private company which built the visitor center and turned it into both a tourist attraction and a location for scientific study. It was not until 1960 that a scientist named Shoemaker proved conclusively that the crater was indeed the result of a meteorite impact about fifty thousand years ago. The most surprising thing I learned was that NASA sent the Apollo astronauts to train here; they studied how to find optimal rock samples from craters on the moon based on where meteorite residue was found in this crater.

Nice art work. Mount Humphreys.

As we left through the visitor center courtyard, we passed a brick wall containing a window that perfectly showcased nearby Mount Humphreys. It looked like a painting hanging there! We got an even better look later on the highway as we drove toward Flagstaff.

Alone in Needles. Bakersfield. Mojave madness.

It took another two days of watching truck butts to get home. We spent the first night in Needles, just across the Arizona-California border, in a mostly-deserted KOA. A fifth-wheel did pull up in a space nearby, but then left even before we did the next morning.

Then we undertook the endless drive through the Mojave. Well, Mike did; the awful passenger seat had taken a toll on my back in the past two days, so I spent the ride either lying on the bed or sitting in my recliner, occupied with videos on my Kindle. Even, so it was easy to tell we were back in California by the change from smooth pavement to potholed concrete. Atta boy, CalTrans.

Our final stop was in our usual place in Bakersfield, where we found the fifth-wheel from Needles parked just down the row! Their license plate is from Oregon, so we assumed they were headed home like us. One more long day's drive, mostly up the featureless I-5. When we got home, I assumed the cats would be overjoyed; they hadn't been thrilled about the three-in-a-row driving days. At first, they were strangely subdued and confused, as if they'd adjusted to the new reality and had forgotten the house completely. But when I strode toward the back door and called Peanut, he ran to catch up and knew exactly where his back yard was! Home at last!

One final Peanut story: in the next two days, he escaped from the back yard three times. We were flummoxed and upset, since we thought we'd defeated all the routes. Finally, the third time, I found him on the other side of the eastern gate, a makeshift affair that Mike built years ago from PVC and plastic netting. I rescued the cat, then went to tell Mike. When he took a good look at the gate, he noticed a six-inch square hole cut in the netting at the bottom. No wonder the cat was escaping, he was clearly more clever than we! Our theory is that the gardener accidently sliced it with a weed-whacker and cut out the piece, intending to patch it but then forgetting.

No access to rooftop. Springtime!

Mike repaired the gate with a double-thick layer of mesh to ward off the next attack, so that was that. Or so we thought. Another day, another escape. So I started watching the big guy surreptitiously from the house (Peanut, not Mike) and discovered he had found a way to jump from his outside two-story litterbox enclosure onto the roof! Another day and another Mike-project later, the new route was foiled.

At least the yard, which was left to its own devices for two months, looks fantastic. It's good to be home, especially after we got the hot tub filled and heated!