Casa Grande Ruins

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
Location: Coolidge, Arizona
Length of visit: 1 hour
Major draws: Ruins, museum
Strenuosity: 1 out of 10 (handicap accessible)
Cost/Fees: $5 per person or America the Beautiful pass
Additional considerations: Little shade
Description: Short flat walk around large multi-story ruin in town of Coolidge.  Excellent museum.

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park – Tucson Mountain District
Location: west of Tucson, Arizona
Length of visit: 2 to 5 hours
Major draws: Scenic views, unique desert species, wildlife
Strenuosity: 0 to 5 out of 10
Cost/Fees: $10 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass
Additional considerations: Rattlesnakes, cacti, no shade
Description: Sonoran Desert landscape with high density of saguaro cacti near city of Tucson.  Options for visitors include scenic drive, handicap accessible nature trail, and strenuous hiking.

Sabino Canyon

Coronado National Forest – Sabino Canyon
Location: northeast Tucson, Arizona
Length of visit: 2 to 6 hours
Major draws: Scenic views, canyon, wildlife
Strenuosity: 0 to 5 out of 10
Cost/Fees: $5 day use fee or America the Beautiful pass (optional tram ticket cost)
Additional considerations: Little shade, cacti, rattlesnakes
Description: 4-mile road into beautiful desert canyon that can be explored by tram (for a fee) or on foot.  Hooks up with longer Box Camp Trail, although shorter hikes also offer incredible views.

 

 

Box Camp Trail

Coronado National Forest – Box Camp Trail
Location: Leave car at Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, start hike at trailhead along Catalina Highway east of Tucson, Arizona
Length of visit: 6 to 9 hours
Major draws: Scenic views, canyon, wildlife
Strenuosity: 9 out of 10
Cost/Fees: $5 day use fee or America the Beautiful pass
Additional considerations: Route finding required, trail overgrown, little shade, cacti, rattlesnakes, one-way hike requires 2 cars
Description: 13-mile trail drops 5,000 feet in elevation from ponderosa pine forest through pinyon-juniper woodland to saguaro cactus desert of Sabino Canyon.  Rugged trail disappears in places, but offers incredible views.

 

Square Tower Loop

Hovenweep National Monument – Square Tower Loop Trail
Location: remote area near southern Colorado/Utah border
Length of visit: 2 hours
Major draws: Ruins, canyon, scenic views
Strenuosity: 4 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: No shade, high elevation
Description: Trail to Stronghold Overlook is handicap accessible, but entire 2-mile loop is over slick rock and crosses the canyon past dense and diverse collection of ruins.

Painted Hand Pueblo

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument – Painted Hand Pueblo
Location: remote area near southern Colorado/Utah border
Length of visit: 1 to 2 hours
Major draws: Ruins, scenic views
Strenuosity: 3 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: Rough dirt road may be impassable when wet, high elevation
Description: Short loop trail follows cairned route as it drops into a canyon with multiple ruins and pictographs/petroglyphs.

Mesa Verde Open House


Mesa Verde National Park – Holiday Open House
Location: south of Cortez, Colorado
Length of visit: 3 to 5 hours
Major draws: Ruins, luminaria, live music, unique after dark park experience
Strenuosity: 1 out of 10 (handicap accessible)
Cost/Fees: Free after 4 p.m.
Additional considerations: Limited parking, shuttle required, high elevation
Description: One night a year in December, Mesa Verde N.P. hosts an evening open house with thousands of candle luminaria, free food, and live music.  Spruce Tree House is always lit and Cliff Palace is illuminated during special years like the NPS Centennial.

Anasazi Heritage Center

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument – Anasazi Heritage Center
Location: Dolores, Colorado
Length of visit: 1 hour
Major draws: Ruins, museum, scenic views
Strenuosity: 1 out of 10 (handicap accessible)
Cost/Fees: Free in off season
Additional considerations: High elevation
Description: Museum offers an excellent collection of artifacts and hands-on exhibits for the whole family.  Escalante Pueblo ruins located at end of a short uphill hike on paved trail with outstanding views.


 

Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock National Monument
Location: Highway 160 east of Durango, Colorado
Length of visit: 2 to 4 hours
Major draws: Ruins, scenic views, wildlife
Strenuosity: 4 to 6 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free in off season, $12 per adult for tour (see website)
Additional considerations: Entry road closed in winter, tour required in summer, high elevation, no facilities in winter
Description: During the off season a 3-mile one-way walk up the road gaining 1,000 feet in elevation to bluff top ruins with outstanding views.  In summer a paid guided tour is required.

 

The “keys” to travel

When we purchased S.N. it came with one transponder key and one remote, both of which worked great but there was no backup.  I called the dealer and it was going to cost $375 to have one additional key and remote made—a price I felt was way too high.  Lowe’s was going to charge $75 just for one transponder key.  I was able to get a key cut that didn’t have the chip, which allows the car doors to be opened, but doesn’t start the engine.

After some research I discovered that for many models of cars a blank transponder key can be purchased and easily programmed, same with a remote.  After a quick internet search for the directions I turned to Amazon and found blank transponder keys for around $6.50 —a price I thought would be worth the gamble to see if I could do it myself.  Unprogrammed remotes can also be found on Amazon at about $25 for two.

A quick google search for “Programming a transponder key for Toyota Sienna 2006” led me to both forums and Youtube videos with the instructions.  The instructions involved a series of opening doors, inserting in keys, and then waiting, but after the first try the new key was programmed and it only cost $6.50.  The backup key is still not cut, but you can take it to a locksmith to cut it or use it in combination with the other cut key to start the car.  Please note that a car has to have at least one working transponder key to be programmed this way.

As for the remotes, they worked the same way.  A series of door openings, key turnings, and button holdings entered the car into the programming mode where we were able to program both remotes at the same time.  While this isn’t an option for all vehicle models, it does open up a cheaper alternative than going to the dealership to get backups made.

Tiff