Thursday, June 27, 2013

Route 66 baby ~ “FROM SITTING ON A JACKRABBIT TO MEETING WILSON” (A blog series of our two week adventure!)

Tuesday, 5/14/13

A quick stop at McDonald’s after we left the hotel that morning for coffee and tea allowed us to restock the glove compartment with a couple of cookies. The remainder of the morning travels took us through the rest of NM and into AZ.  The scenery was just spectacular.  Red cliffs dotted with green rose high above the horizon to our right before losing their red and green shades and transform to a brown/tan mix. 

No One Else In Sight!
We hit AZ around noon and pulled into the Hilltop Café in Holbrook for lunch.  Our first clue should have been the singular, beat up old station wagon out front.  Not another car in the parking lot but we went in anyway.  The proprietors (owners of the singular car I’m sure) either didn’t or barely spoke English.  They seemed bemused that we were there but we managed to communicate enough to order a grilled cheese on sourdough and a BLT.  Feeling a sense of responsibility to “stick it out” we stayed to finish lunch (with some misgivings) and luckily, found a Dairy Queen a short ways down the road to help cleanse our pallets!   Ah well, all part of the go local Route 66 experience!

A ways into Arizona, we passed the Wigwam hotel.  They were closed and we couldn’t tell if this was a permanent situation or not.  For the middle of the day, it was pretty deserted, but the grounds seemed to be well kept with the classic cars parked out front of each wigwam.  We hoped it wasn’t another spot that has recently gone by the wayside.

We were pretty stoked about getting to the Jack Rabbit Trading Post, another iconic stop of the Route 66 glory days, just outside of Joseph City, Arizona.  We were a little disappointed with the merchandise inside, but had fun with taking pictures on the large fiberglass jackrabbit out front. 

We went from mediocre to maximum with the Meteor Crater near Winslow, Arizona (which we know we drove through because we saw the sign, but don’t recall anything about the place even though it’s listed in the song!).  Nearly one mile across, 2.4 miles in circumference and more than 550 feet deep, the crater takes your breath away imagining the power of the impact.  The wind is wicked strong at the rim and it took some truly fancy maneuvering for Steve to position the camera (held with the giraffe) to get our picture with the crater behind us. 

Dinner was in Flagstaff, AZ at Mamma Louisa’s Italian restaurant with the strangest bread rolls we’ve ever seen.  They were shaped like huge cinnamon rolls and we again, saved one of those and some of Steve’s Chicken Parm and my Lasagna for a dashboard lunch the next day. 

Wednesday, 5/15/13

We worked our way through the Kaibab National Forest which went much farther than we realized. It was odd to see such an abundance of evergreens after so much flat, brown land, but the dirt road we drove on was just great.  The winds were just wild through this section and we could feel the pull on the Tahoe like mad as well as watching the evergreens bowing low to the force.  Just before Seligman we approached Ash Fork and the beginning of the longest unbroken section of Route 66 that would take us to the California state line.
Right around here we started hitting the Burma Shave Signs.  This use of a series of small signs, each of which bore part of a commercial message, was a successful approach to highway advertising during the early years of highway travel, drawing the attention of passing motorists who were curious to learn the punch line.  One of our favorites: “He tried/To cross/As fast train neared/Death didn’t draft him/He volunteered/Burma-Shave. 


And hello – it’s the Snow Cap Drive-In in Seligman, Arizona (home of Wilson!) The Snow Cap is a historic eatery, built in 1953, built mostly from scrap lumber obtained from the nearby Santa Fe Railroad yard. To bring attention to the restaurant, the owner sliced the roof off of a 1936 Chevrolet hardtop, adorned the automobile with paint, horns and various automotive emblems and even an artificial Christmas tree in the rear of the car.  The rear of the property has a collection of old automobiles and kitsch in general.  The current owner is a hoot, has a wonderful camaraderie with regular and new customers, joking and performing sight gags as he takes orders and gets orders started. 
Hello, Wilson!

We ordered a chocolate malt and an order of fries. The fries weren’t worth two dollars, but perched on top of the order when it came was Wilson – a smiley Ore-Ida fry that immediately reminded Steve of Wilson in the Tom Hanks movie, Cast Away.  Wilson became our mascot for the remainder of the trip, sitting shotgun on the dashboard, checking out the sights with us and partaking in the occasional Shock-top tasting.  I’d like to say he photo bombed a couple of shots, but to be honest, they were completely staged! He now resides on the window shelf of our kitchen, watching over our daily life and making the occasional appearance at the dinner table.

Just down the road was Historic Seligman Sundries, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Although it now describe itself as Seligman’s only gourmet coffee bar and gift shop, it’s full of plenty of Route 66 tourist knick-knacks to buy and we picked up some jalapeno popcorn for Abram and a pair of Route 66 boxers for Steve, which were packaged like a bank sponge (a good source of Morgan family jokes) not to mention a good evening’s entertainment when we got home!

Just past Seligman, the landscape changed dramatically to a flat brown. No trees – very few green bushes.  In fact, they weren’t really bushes, more like spiky cactus.  As the temp outside was climbing, it was a good dashboard lunch day. It didn’t take long for our tinfoil dashboard oven to warm our cooler chilled food to a nice warm temp.  We pulled over to enjoy lunch with a nice ShockTop and Wilson standing guard and taking a sip or two on the side. 

Antelope are under the tree!

With temps in the mid 90’s, we approached the Black Mountains and their awesome terrain and were gifted with spotting a herd of antelopes grazing a bit in the shade.   The mountain pass consisted of two very thin lanes with sharp drops on the passenger side of our car and not many guard rails at all.  The wind whipped the outside of the car and I was grateful to have Steve navigating the hairpin turns.  At the top, we stopped to check out the view and found a cemetery with at least 15 graves.  The most recent I saw was one from 2010 – and the wind up here nearly knocked us over! 

Through the mountains, we ranged from an elevation of 2480 feet and 93 degrees to 490 feet and 100 degrees.  We ended the mountains just outside Topock, AZ., and were greeted by palm trees everywhere, which I didn’t expect.  Then, after all that dry desert landscape and heat, a huge amount of water, aptly named, “Catfish Paradise” which is at the southern end of the Topock March along the Colorado River. 

There's where our road ended - with those big boulders
We reached California around 5 pm, just in time to have our most adventurous stretch of road present itself to us.  Our road ended.  So I took a moment and took a picture of the big group of boulders that were in our way.  At this point, with nine days of deciphering our Route 66 maps, we’d often looked at a section of road that wasn’t marked and took it anyway.  So, we didn’t have any trepidation when we headed off the road and onto a dirt path.  We did however remove Wilson from the dashboard and put him into a safety compartment! And good thing, as our dirt path quickly turned into a dry riverbed.  We got out to survey and decided we could make it across the riverbed and back to the “road”.  Steve was fabulous, maneuvering the Tahoe in 4-sheel drive through the deepening sand and dirt, around boulders and bushes to make it to the other side.  Up the riverbed we went and down the dirt pathway a bit and Hurrah! There was the road.  And in front of it was a BIG chain link fence.  So, a three point turn and it was back through the riverbed to where our road had ended.  The Tahoe earned her stripes on that one!  I wouldn’t say I was nervous, but that one picture from the beginning of the adventure is the ONLY one I have of it. The adrenalin was rolling so fast after the run I never even thought to take a picture again.  If you ask either of us what the highlight of the trip was, the riverbed run is in the top two!

Looking for routine to counter the adrenaline, we stopped in Needles, CA., and celebrated our run with a Dairy Queen stop in the 102 degree heat.

The road to Barstow, CA, our planned stopping destination for the evening gifted us with TWO sunsets as we drove.  The changing elevation played with the setting sun on the on the horizon creating a spectacular double show. It was nice consolation for the obvious return to civilization, cities, lights and increasing traffic flow.

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