My First Meteor Crater - Winslow, AZ

April 3rd, 2017

This trip came together pretty organically.  I knew I was going to Page.  I knew I didn’t want to drive there (or back) in one day from Phoenix.  The concept of a road trip ended up happening just because I wanted to keep in the 2-3 hour range for any drive.  With those parameters, I only had a few options of where to stay.  Flagstaff was one of those places.

The hallmark of any road trip is a side journey.  A side journey could be something as stupid as driving an hour out of the way to stop at a restaurant where Anthony Bourdain featured on No Reservations (which I've done, though earlier than the blog was alive).  Or it could be driving 30 minutes or so in the opposite direction to visit a meteor crater.

As I began researching Flagstaff for things to do, I stumbled on the meteor crater near Winslow.  Most people instantly thought about standing on a corner, trying to take it easy.  That was not my the vision in my head. 

My vision of Winslow was of this meteor crater.  This was where Jeff Bridges’ Starman was traveling to meet his ship to take him back home.  I love that movie.  So when I saw I could visit this crater, it was never a question.  I was going there.

I did hit a snag almost immediately.  I arrived in Flagstaff around 4p on a Sunday.  Flagstaff is a seriously sleepy little town.  Everything I wanted to do closed at 5p on Sunday.  Lowell Observatory was almost closed (I never made it there).  The Meteor Crater was almost closed.  There wasn’t much to do once I arrived in Flagstaff.  No biggie.  I could just get to the crater the next morning.  It would delay my visit to the Grand Canyon by a bit, but that wasn’t a problem.  

Meanwhile, I found a nerdy wine bar where people were playing board games and a very serious D&D campaign was soldering on.  I grabbed a pizza after that and inhaled a full pie in the comfort of my hotel room.  It was not my finest moment.  Or was it??

The Barringer Meteor Crater was about 45 minutes east of Flagstaff.  It wasn’t a difficult drive.  Go east on 40 and take the exit towards the crater.  There’s only one way to go.  When you take the exit to the crater, you will get the feeling that you are on an almost foreign planet.  The landscape is so different from what we have in the Midwest.  And there were very few cars on the road.  One lone gas station offers proof of civilization in the area.  It was one of many times I regretted not splurging for something more than the Economy rental I was driving.  Seriously, don't get an Economy rental on a road trip.

About six miles or so on a road where the signs say to look out for cows that could be crossing the street (seriously), you begin to see proof of life.  A large building looms in the distance.  That’s the point you know you’re in the right place.

To visit the crater, it will cost you $18 as an Adult.  For the admission, you can see the sights from the rim of the crater, the “Interactive Discovery Center,” a movie, and even a guided tour.

Oh, kid.  You have NO IDEA.

The Discovery Center was a bit dated, but gave visitors the scoop on meteors in general and this particular meteor.  50,000 years ago a meteor hit the earth, leaving a hole with a 3900 foot diameter in its wake. 

The closest I've come to meeting an actual astronaut.
I never actually made it to the movie.  It was always just a little longer than I wanted to wait.  Same thing with the guided tour.  I actually wanted to do that one, but I got there before 9a and the first tour was at 930 or 945a.  Which, I had other things to do today.  I didn’t want to linger too long.

Instead, I walked outside and walked around the rim of the crater.  Unlike the GrandCanyon, there are plenty of guard rails.  I walked up the flights of stairs, fighting the oppressive wind, and taking in the scenery.  No one else was around, so while the wind was turning my hair into a bird’s nest, it was still quite quiet.  I could spend a few minutes thinking about what happened so very long ago.  I may have also thought about Starman as well, but that wasn’t weird or anything.

There were three places to stop and take in the crater.  I stopped at all three places.

On my way out, I visited the gift shop.  You know, as you do.  For a small enough place, the gift shop was nicely robust.

As I left the area, I stopped at the Astronaut Hall of Fame in the upstairs courtyard.  This was a nice area for reflection.  If you're into that kind of thing.

I think I spent about an hour at the meteor crater.  I mean, I could have spent more time there, but realistically there wasn’t that much to do there.  The price is a bit steep for what you see, but it’s not something I can complain too much about.  I mean, I saw a meteor crater!!  The day was already a win.


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