I’ve heard people talk about the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day as if it’s a black hole for time and productivity, schedules nonexistent and people lazing about in a holiday-induced coma.
Until the end of last year, I’d never understood this. For me, it was always right back to work and necessary daily tasks before tackling a new year. But this season, I decided to take advantage of the week and go “out-of-office” — way out of the office.
Starting on Dec. 26 and wrapping up on New Year’s Eve, my husband and I took a six-day road trip through the American Southwest. It was a chance to reflect on the year, plan for a new one and just generally enjoy each other’s company before our upcoming 12 months apart due to a new Army assignment.
As true Millennial travelers, we turned to resources like Google Maps, Airbnb and Yelp to map out our route through six states, book roadside motels and pick out sightseeing destinations and dinner spots along the way.
After just a day or two of planning, we loaded up a cooler with leftover ham and veggies from Christmas dinner and hit the road, armed with many hours worth of podcasts and a loose outline of our next week.
This was my first time visiting this stunning part of the country. As it turns out, my preconceived ideas about Arizona and New Mexico weren’t entirely accurate. I’d always pictured desert, unfriendly locals, desert, too-hot-for-me food, desert and sparse amenities. Boy, was I wrong.
To start, there was so much snow everywhere! As a former seven-year Colorado resident, I’ve accumulated my fair share of wintertime wear, but I failed to pack a single pair of snow boots or even a warm hat. My toes and my ears froze, particularly while visiting Grand Canyon National Park. I had no idea the park’s average elevation hovered at just under 7,000 feet, making it a white Christmas on the South Rim indeed.
The canyon was nearly completely socked in with fog, which made for a haunting peek into its depths. Surrounded by international tourists clamoring for photos, we clomped in our sneakers through ankle deep snow, catching glimpses here and there of the Colorado River snaking its way through the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
We filled our week with many other moments like this, exploring the natural beauty for which the Southwest is famed. From the majestic buttes at Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park to the ancient timber at Petrified Forest National Park and the sublime phenomenon of the Meteor Crater Natural Landmark, there was no shortage of new sights to feast the eyes on.
We also spent a few nights in cities like Flagstaff, Albuquerque and Santa Fe. I loved Flagstaff for its small-town feel and mountain town charm. Santa Fe was a little too hustle-and-bustle for me (it seemed everyone had the same idea we had for the week!) but packed with great art and delicious food.
When we got home, I was glad to be in my own bed and back to a routine, but thankful for the time spent exploring and learning. My cup is still overflowing with the colors, sounds, tastes and beauty of the Southwest.
I plan to travel quite a bit this year, and this road trip was the perfect way to kick off the festivities. How did you spend the week between holidays at the end of 2019?
Hannah Maginot is a part-time features and area reporter for The Lawton Constitution. Send her story ideas from your neck of the woods at email@example.com.