Thursday, June 7, 2007

California Dreaming, or Standing on a Corner in Winslow, Arizona?

Day 7: 447 Miles
Total: 2,910 Miles

The answer to the title of today's blog, is "a little of both." Some of you may recognize the title of a 1960s era song by The Mamas and The Papas. The second half of the title is a line from a song by The Eagles called "Take it Easy." The relevance is that both places were on the travel agenda today.

I woke up very early, and the first thing I did was to look out the window to see whether the wind had died down at all. I was greeted by a bright blue sky and not the faintest hint of a breeze. I decided to wear a t-shirt today, and was welcomed by a balmy 39 degree temperature when I stepped out of the hotel in Gallup this morning. I'm glad the wind wasn't blowing or I would have frozen to death before reaching the car. As it was, the cool temperature just felt brisk and invigorating.

I jumped in the car and headed off for breakfast before beginning my trek for the day. Gallup is pretty close to the Arizona border, so within a few minutes I was in another state and another time zone. It has become a bit confusing over the past few days. From Illinois through Texas I was consistently on Central Daylight Time. New Mexico is on Mountain Daylight Time. Arizona is on Mountain Standard Time because they don't go on daylight savings time. so they are an hour behind New Mexico even though they are in the same time zone. Then I arrived in California, which is on Pacific Daylight Time. That happens to be the same time as Mountain Standard Time. Not that I could have figured any of this out. My $1,200 watch couldn't figure it out either, but my free cell phone always knew what time it was, so it kept both me and my Tag Heuer on top of things.

With only brief respites, the trek through the first half of Arizona was almost exclusively relegated to I-40. Occasional bops off of an exit and back on a little further down the road was about all of the passable Route 66 that was available. Arizona seems to be the worst state in this regard. I basically resigned myself to the fact that I would be stuck on the Interstate most of the day looking at scenery that was attractive, but not nearly to the extent of New Mexico's panorama.

One town I did go through was Holbrook, Arizona. It was relatively nondescript except for the motel I had considered staying at before opting to stay in Gallup. The Wigwam Motel was just what I expected. Take a look at the pictures. Apparently the same family owns the place that originally opened it in 1950. You'll notice several old cars positioned throughout the property. These belong to the owners and are there for effect. I only hope my stay at the other set of teepees on Route 66 in Rialto tomorrow night turns out well.

My next exit from I-40 was in Winslow, Arizona. This first picture is for my brother-in-law Paul. He's the real explorer in the family.

This next picture is THE CORNER in Winslow, Arizona. As in:

"I was standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona,
Such a fine sight to see,
When a girl, My Lord, in a flatbed Ford,
Slowed down to take a look at me."

This is the corner that was being referred to in the song - North Kinglsey Avenue and East Second Street (Route 66). Apparently the song can be heard emanating constantly from the gift shop located there, but I can't verify it. Once or twice would be okay, but after that I'd have to kill somebody.

My next foray away from the Interstate was to Meteor Crater. This, of course, is the location of the giant meteor that crashed into Earth thousands of years ago. Turns out, and get this...the site is nothing but a big hole in the ground. Yeah, okay, I already knew that, But I decided it must be worth $15 to see it. I was wrong. Apologies to some of you scientifically oriented readers (including my 12 year old daughter Anna). I know there is much of scientific value here, but to the lay person like myself, all I can say is, "IT'S A HOLE!" A big hole, but so are some strip mines. That doesn't make them worth $15 either. Anyway, $15 and 45 minutes later I was on my way for new and better discoveries. Nonetheless, I paid $15 and you're going to look at the pictures I took, dammit.

This next picture was taken in Ash Fork. You can never have too many cars suspended up in the air, I always say.

By the time I reached Flagstaff, everything had changed. Flagstaff is a nice city with lots of evergreens - the first mass of trees I had yet seen in the state. The scenery became more and more spectacular as I moved farther west. Even better, from this point on there was very little contact with I-40 for the rest of the day. There were also numerous pleasant surprises along the way.

The first surprise was in the town of Seligman. I probably would have completely missed it if not for Jerry McClanahan's "EZ66 Guide For Travelers" that I have come to rely on more and more each day. Seligman is the home of Angel Delgadillo who is a founding member and president of the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona. His former barber shop is now the Route 66 Visitor Center. His late brother Juan ran the Snow Cap just down the street. Juan's family still runs this unusual food emporium. It's difficult to describe it exactly, so I tried to capture as much as possible in the next four pictures.

These cars aren't all junk. See the faded white Camaro with orange stripes? It's an original RS/SS Indy Pace Car (Z11) convertible. The car is faded, but the interior and exterior are complete and in good condition. It looks like it has been sitting there for years. If it has the original engine I'd give him $20,000 for it and feel like I stole it.

Here is Angel's place. He wasn't there when I went in, but they have lots of great Route 66 souvenirs for sale.

Here is a shot of Route 66 in the western part of the state, west of Flagstaff. The original road surface is long gone, but it's still better than the Interstate, and the scenery is great.

Not to be outdone by the Snow Cap in Seligman is the Hackberry General Store - coincidentally located in Hackberry. This place is amazing too, and defies description. So, as with the Snow Cap, I'll let the pictures do the talking.

Near the end of my trip through Arizona, I finally got to do a little "mountain driving." Now most of you know that I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and I love to drive through the twisting, winding roads there as fast as possible, so I was looking forward to driving the Oatman Highway section of Route 66. For the most part it lived up to expectations.

The road was fairly steep and usually without guardrails. The main difference between here and home is that if I made a mistake on the Blue Ridge I would probably need a wrecker to extract my car. If I made a mistake here I would probably die. Given that, and my lack of familiarity with this road, I didn't push it too hard most of the time. But I never took their "suggested" speeds around turns too seriously either. How seriously can you take a sign when it shows the road curving in the wrong direction?

Anyway, as you have probably deduced, I didn't die and it was a pleasant drive . I crossed the border into California in late afternoon and drove a short distance to Needles, where I am spending the night.

The motel below is where I am staying. It happens that Jerry McClanahan recommends it in his book. Otherwise, after my experience in Stanton, Missouri, I would have NEVER chosen this place based on its outside appearance. I wasn't too sure about it as I was checking in either. But when I got to my room I saw that it was basic, but very nice. It's hard to tell from the picture, but the floor and walls are quite attractive.

I'm nearing the end of this part of my journey. I'll spend tomorrow night in Rialto, California, then make the short drive to Santa Monica at the crack of dawn on Saturday.


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