Inches from the finish line

Day 14.  Leaving the hotel in Barstow.  It’s out of town a little, in an area filled with shopping centers.  Or I should say, half filled.  As I drive away from the hotel, to my left is the crowded shopping area, and to my right, a vast expanse of open desert.

So today is the final push on to Santa Monica. It’s supposed to be 63° there, but it’s a dry cold so it won’t be too bad as long as the sun is shining and the wind isn’t blowing too much.

Out on the old road west of Barstow I come across the remnants of the old Dunes Motel.  Great old place with several bungalows, all very square in mid century architectural style.  And a cool color of green too.  Abandoned now, but still in reasonable condition from the outside anyway.  I think it’s for sale.

You don’t have to worry about doing any yard work out here.   There is no grass so just rake the sand once in a while.

It’s sad that this is the last day of the trip.  Only have 100 miles left.   On the right is a ranch with an entrance sign that says The Two Sixes Company.  The sign is made of yellow letters spelling all of that out, but in the center are two big red number sixes.

Guide book says it’s easy to miss Hodge and sure enough, came and went without notice.  Between Hodge and Helendale I see a small sign on the side of the road that says “stop littering your desert.”  I haven’t seen much litter out here.  Maybe because of the sign, or maybe because the people who ride this road aren’t litterbugs.  Helendale is the next town and it’s represented by the old. There is a sign for Helendale.  It lists no population and I might be astonished to see a person here.

Helendale looks like an oasis in the middle of the desert.  There is an old gas station here with a giant parrot statue.  It’s the mascot of the old Poly gas company.  It’s green.  The station is closed, and judging by the prices on the pumps, its either been closed for a long, long time, or they went broke selling gas so cheap!  Regular is 18 cents per gallon.  Premium, is 21.

Here I am at the bottle tree Ranch.   Six and a half miles east of Oro Grande.  There are hundreds of bottle trees here all decorated with much more than just bottles. There are cans and old car parts, lamps, railroad signs, toys, things that move.  And there is color everywhere, not just the color of rust.  May be 1000 of these trees in here. It’s very impressive. The creator, Elmer, is an interesting dude too.  Long white beard and a wide brimmed hat, he’s been at it here for 18 years.

He says that people have started to bring him things to include in his sculptures.  While I was there two people from Spain stopped by.  They come every year to do a short stretch of old Route 66 and this year the bottle tree ranch was part of their trip.

Onward toward Victorville!  Off to the right are the mountains but not too far away, on top of a hill I can see three old jets.   Commercial jets.   I don’t know what they’re doing there,  there’s some sort of air park here. I don’t know how they got there either.

In Oro Grande I found five or six little antique shops. They have the same kind of stuff we have at home.  Rust and dust, mid century,  route 66, farmhouse.

Just outside Victorville there is Emma Jean’s Holland  Burger.  An old truck stop café first opened in 1947.  The café itself is in a fabulous mid century cinder block building thats painted green and has a flat roof.  Great neon sign too.  Closed when I went by but the menu looks like its got great hamburgers!  There is an historic plaque out front that tells the story of Emma Jean.  Her son Brian runs the place now.  Because its such a cool looking building its been in several movies.

Across the street there’s a truck depot with two windmills.  This is the city of Los Angeles Victorville switching station providing power and light to the area.

The California Route 66 Museum has a lot of route memorabilia, including the giant hula girl from the old Hulaville Museum.  She’s 15 feet tall and yup, dressed and dancing like a hula girl.  Part of the museum is a tribute to Dale and Roy Rogers, famous cowboy stars of the big screen.   They lived here in Victorville.

The museum also had a hippie Volkswagen bus for tourists  to sit in like we are riding the road in the 60s.

Old town Victorville is pretty much all closed down but they do have a lot of route 66 signage painted on the boards on the windows. They’re trying to remind people that it was here. I don’t know whether they’re planning on restoring anything but they’re working on it.

New Corral Motel is in the middle of a strip mall area on the edge of Victorville.  Great neon sign with a big horse on it. Looks like it’s in pretty good shape.   It’s got a pool, grass, a lot of customers. Just very strange amid all of the storefronts and parking lots.  Old meets new.

Looking west toward Los Angeles there are mountains and on the east side of the mountains there are a lot of clouds.  Big puffy clouds.  Billowy clouds.  And there are some on the far side of the mountain. I’m not sure which way they’re going or whether that means it’s raining in the mountains.

The Summit Inn and Diner was an iconic spot along Route 66 since 1952.  Elvis refused to eat there because his records weren’t in the jukebox.  Unfortunately, it was destroyed by a forest fire in 2016. All that remains is the sign, and the barren parking lot. The hills surrounding the spot still show the signs of having been burnt to a crisp.  But they say they are rebuilding.

I don’t know what our altitude is on this summit, but we’re up in the mountains and there are some bigger ones up ahead.

I’m  headed for the trail marker where the Mormon Trail and the Santa Fe Trail crossed.  The marker is at the end of a dead end street, and you have to go through a homeless camp to get there.  A couple of tents and an old van.

Back on the freeway to go to the Wigwam Motel. To my right is the dry creek bed of the Cajon River, or creek.  This was created by the San Andreas Fault.  It hadn’t even occurred to me, but I hope there’s no earthquake.

I just drove past somebody riding a horse down the side of the road.  They were wearing snake boots and a cowboy hat.  Small town.  Still in cowboy country.

Have passed by several places with old signs. These old motels  look like they cater to  long-term residents  now. One called the Dream Inn, the  Valley Motel has a new sign but it’s an old building.  There is the Motel Holiday. The liquor store has a nice old sign.  And there is the Motel Oasis.   They have a cool sign.  All of this, but hardly in the high rent district.  Very little of Route 66 runs through glamorous places.

Motel San Bernardino has a nice sign. Part of its neon, part of its backlit.  All of it is still functioning.  Further up the road is the world famous Motel Motel.  Ooops, just Motel. I don’t know whether that was open or not.   Doesn’t look like it.

And right up ahead is the Wigwam Motel.  I’ve been waiting for this moment for two weeks! It’s got an aqua colored fence around it and I can see 1, 2, 3 and then  4, 5, 6, 7 of the teepees. The Wigwam is very well kept up.  The owners have had it for about 18 years.  It took three years to fix it up, so its been open for 15 years. They have a little shop there so I went inside.   The man at the desk was very happy to talk about his place.  They have a pool.

Down the road is the Elray Motel which is a little more typical of your Route 66 motel.  The Moana Motel is an old building.  Kind of a rundown and plain sign but I thought it was interesting because it was neon and Hawaiian.

Fontana has plenty of Route 66 attractions including the famous historic site of  Bono’s Restaurant and Deli.  The building has some really cool metal work on their columns with grapevines and great paint. It’s purple and the leaves are green and out front on the sidewalk there’s a giant orange where they would’ve sold oranges.  It’s cute painted white with the green kind of a sea foam green trim.

There are also a number of Route 66 motels here.  Rose Motel, Dragon Motel, Fontana Motor Lodge, Sand and Sage, Sunset Motel, 40 Winks Motel, Cheryo Motel and the La Villa Motel.  A curiosity is the home that used to be gangster Al Capone’s hideout.

The main street through Rancho Cucamonga is Citrus Avenue.   The town is the former home of orange groves and wineries.  Jack Benny, Bugs Bunny and the Grateful Dead all mentioned Cucamonga in their work, and I knew there was I reason I’d heard of this place before. Turns out this is one of the most affluent towns in California.  Looks like a more affluent community with its streets lined with palm trees and greenery and flowers.

The old Richfield station is on the side of the street and it’s got no entrance off the sidewalk.  There’s a fence around it and there’s no stopping or parking anytime so I’ll scoot into the neighbors lot and snap a pic.

There’s a walking bridge that goes over the highway with pictures of the old cars and a map of the old Road painted on it.  Then I get to the Sycamore Inn which has a neat old neon sign.   It used to be a stagecoach stop.  Across the street is the Magic Lamp Inn.   It’s got a sign with a magical lamp like Aladdin’s lamp.   The Californian Trailer Grove was off on the left and had a neat old sign.

The towns here all run together along this part of the road.  It’s hard to tell where I really am, but in Uplands, there’s a Madonna statue.  This is one of twelve all along the route that are called the Madonna of the Trail.   She stands on the corner and blesses Route 66 and its travellers.  She stands about 20‘ tall.

Paloma Mexican Food in La Verne has a nice sign with a picture of a Mexican guy with a sombrero.  The sign also has a yellow triangle, a red circle, even a mid century star!

Now I’m in a high rent district.  I get  green grass, big old trees.  Palm trees, orange trees.   I see pools and even some high fences and walls around some of these estates.  There’s a golf course.  Swanky.

The Alta-Dena dairy sells milk in a little shop and next door is what used to be Tommy’s Burgers.  It’s a Frosty Freeze now but they still serve up a great milkshake. I know this from experience!  It’s an old walk up place with tables for dining outside.

Coming into Azusa there’s a theater marquee.  The Foothills Drive-In Theater. Now closed, but the sign is well preserved.

Just before Duarte I cross the San Gabriel River and off to the right are the San Gabriel Mountains. They are different from the mountains in the desert because they have trees on them all the way up to the top.  Lower here.

There’s the old Park Inn in Monrovia with a nice sign. The Aztec Motel looks like old Aztec ruins but it’s supposed to look that way.  I had to pull into their parking lot to check the directions, and from what I saw it looks like a nice place.

This is the slowest section of the road.   I’ve spent about two hours going five miles.  Too many stop lights.  And too many cars! Colorado Boulevard headed into Pasadena.   Watch out for that little old lady !

Colorado Boulevard through Pasadena is lined with palm trees.  Real tall, skinny ones just like you see on TV and in the movies.  The  Pasadena Motel has a faded sign but you can still read it.  On the other side of the street is the Highway Host Motel.  This is a faded building.  The Whistle Stop train store has a cool old neon sign. It’s been in business there since 1951.   And here is a place called Out of the Closet Thrift Store with a neon sign picturing a Hawaiian shirt and an old ice cream chair and something else I couldn’t see because I was going by too fast.

Pasadena keeps getting bigger and bigger.  I thought I’d been through the downtown but now I’m getting more and more downtown.  There is a lot of traffic in Pasadena.  The Arroyo Parkway, also called the 110, is a freeway with S curves everywhere.   It was the first freeway in LA and it’s famous for really bad traffic .

First glimpse of the LA skyline. I’m  on Sunset Boulevard.  There are a lot of shops and businesses and restaurants on this road, so there’s a lot of traffic too.  I’ll just have to do my best with sightseeing for a while.

I must be near Dodger Stadium because I just crossed Vin Scully Avenue and the Avenue of the Athletes and there are a bunch people wearing Dodgers T-shirts.

Oh, and here is a bowling alley with a big sign on the roof. Jensen‘s Recreation Center has a sign on the roof with a bowler who’s throwing strike after strike.  The ball moves down the alley, and the pins go flying! This is a very mixed kind of neighborhood with cafés and bistros and homeless people swearing at the trash cans.

Just passed the Paradise Motel on Santa Monica Boulevard as I approach Beverly Hills.  I’m looking for  Jethro Bodine doing some double naught cyphering with his eighth grade education. When they describe Santa Monica Boulevard as a busy urban street what they mean is that it runs through the slums.  Not real bad but it runs through a less then splendid urban area.  I’ve spent two weeks driving back roads, country roads, and freeways and now I find this this downtown LA stuff is for the birds.

There is the Hollywood sign in the mountains but I’m cruising by so fast I can’t really see it.  Need to keep my eyes in the road and the sign, and the mountain its on, are down a side street here.  Beverly Hills.   Not so swanky with the roads all torn up.   And here, crossing Rodeo Drive,  some crazy guy dancing on the sidewalk making weird noises.

Here I am on Santa Monica Boulevard, in Santa Monica. My first sight is The Café 50s. It has a neat neon sign with a neon clock.  Along this road there is a lot of 50s kind of architecture and style.   But I’m not quite at the end of the road yet.

I think I can see the ocean from here as I’m looking down Santa Monica Boulevard with its towering palm trees waving in the breeze. It’s probably still about 5 miles away.  I think I can see the ocean at the end of the road.

Twenty-two blocks to go.    Turn on Lincoln Avenue and go down to Olympic.   And that’s the end of the road.  There is a sign.  End 66. Mel’s Diner was on the corner but it’s closed, but being redone.   It had a nice mid century flying over hang roof.

So, in the darkness of the late evening, I come to the sign marking the end of the road.  A normal street corner.  What a let down!  After two weeks of driving, and 2400 miles of road behind me, that’s it?  Lucky for me, and the rest of the world, the “real” end of the road is really where the road ends.  On the Santa Monica Pier.

Tomorrow I’ll be going there, and my trip will reach the endpoint.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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California or Bust!!

Day 13.   I’m going to be leaving Arizona and heading into sunny California where it’s going to be 63° here in May.  The last state of my journey.  I have to fill up with gas so that I don’t get stuck in Needles, California with no gas.  I heard it’s over four dollars a gallon there.  Needles it seems to me is famous for having absolutely nothing there.  And I somehow have it in my mind that Snoopy’s brother lives there.

Leaving Kingman headed toward Oatman.  There are some windmills slowly spinning in the desert here and the terrain reminds me of Palm Springs in California.  The mountains and the desert palm trees, but it’s not as pretty as Palm Springs and there’s no mid century architecture here.

Slightly lost, I encounter Divine intervention as I turn left at Andy Devine Avenue.  Once again being lost puts me on the right path.

The Oatman Highway takes me across a wide valley and then up the mountain which is very steep. The road is narrow and it winds and twists all over the place.  Just for giggles there are wild burros and Longhorn sheep wandering the road.  Free ranging across the road.

The land is cheap out here. You can buy a 40 acre ranch for $20,000.   And here somebody else is selling 1 acre plots just so you can say you own a piece of the mother road.  Maybe I’ll get one as a souvenir.

I’m going through a depression called the Sacramento wash.   Apparently when it rains it really floods.   Right now it looks kind of dry as a bone.  There are these weird looking little scrubby palm trees, palm shrubs.  On the side of the road, in the desert and mountains are groups of probably five or six of them.  Nothing else growing out here.

Burros standing on the side of the road eating rocks I guess. They just stood there and stared at me until they finally calmly walked off.  Where are the sheep?

The town of Cool Springs is a shack on the side of the road.   There’s a gift shop and a snack bar.  The food they are cooking smells good, but it’s not time for me to eat.  I think it’s a hot dog.  There’s a bulldozer hanging over the side of the mountain behind the building, and a picnic area if you climb 200 feet up the hillside.  There are several cars stopped here. A weird thing I’ve noticed is that you can drive for miles and not see another car, then you get to a place like this and its crowded.

Now the road gets interesting. Moving speedily along at 15 miles an hour, winding and twisting, there’s nothing on the side of the road to keep you from going off the edge.  It’s 100 feet straight down. Would not want to do this one at night.

Grinding up the mountain I stopped on the side of the road at the scenic overview.   There is a set of rock steps that go pretty steeply up the side of the hill.  They are cut into the mountainside.   There are about 30 steps that go to a man-made spring fed pond. The view back is really spectacular.  Down there you can see the winding twisting road and the mountains you just came up on.

I got a little surprise when I reached the top of the stairs and approached the pond.  There was a prospector there with his dog. I don’t know where he came from because there’s no car here other than mine. He looked like he’d been living up here for a while.  I think he was trying to hide from me until he realized I was coming all the way up the stairs.  He just popped up out of the rocks.

He told me he was mining fire agates and he showed me two jars full of them.  He was washing them in the pond and he showed me some dirty ones, and the polished ones he was wearing around his neck.   He said this is the only place where you can find them and then he disappeared off into the side of the mountain somewhere so that I could take some pictures. I have no idea where he went.  It must be a cave or something that he went into because I couldn’t see him again. I’m sure he doesn’t want to be bothered.   Several cars have driven by here but nobody stopped other than me so I guess he’s not used to visitors.

Just below the top of the mountain there’s a little pull off.  I got out of the car and walked up a path I saw and found a weird cemetery there.   I don’t know whether it’s real or not.  There are probably 20 wooden crosses spread out in the area, flowers on the ground, and there’s a big rock that’s painted with some words of wisdom.  There are ribbons and bows in the bushes, and all over the ground nearby there are a lot of stacked stone cairns.  Turns out that this is a real cemetery.  Many motorcyclists have had their ashes placed here, and markers erected, because they wanted to be in this place where the road provides such a glorious ride.

Going down the hill is just as much fun as going up.  Use low gear.   Off to the left about halfway up the side of the mountain there’s an orange car that obviously rolled down the mountain and crashed.  Or was pushed.  It’s pretty well smashed up.  I don’t know where it came from. I don’t see a road up there.

They used to mine gold here, and they still find some and run small mines. Down on the sides of the hills there are buildings that were made of stone to blend into the hillside. Probably where the miners lived so nobody could find them. I don’t see any prospectors. There’s a mineshaft and the entrance to the mine.  Barbed wire going all around some kind of a mine here.

There is also some kind of large pipeline running through here. It passes through a big swath of clear cut and dynamited gash in the middle of the mountain.  It looks terrible.

I didn’t see any longhorn sheep but I know they’re up there.   I did see a lot of funky little short cactuses that have big blooms of flowers on the top.   Kind of a yellow or green.  And everywhere you look there’s burro poop.

Now approaching Oatman, famous for its wild burros. Coming around the bend in the road Oatman seems to be about 20 trailers.   I see one yellow building here and I don’t see a burro anywhere.   There’s a pretty pink trailer that’s really funky looking.  I think that’s mid century.  I hope this isn’t the town. There’s Nob Hill and a nice airstream.  Somebody’s got a boat.  Ha-ha.  Then there is the white bird trading post.

Oh, here’s Oatman. It looks like a real town.   I’m still waiting to see the burros  and gun fights in the wild, wild western show.

Now I see the burros. They pretty much do whatever they want.  They walk down the sidewalk and up on the porch of the shops.  Just stand there and let people pet them. Signs say they bite, but people are always trying to feed them.  And they certainly do poop.

As I walked down the street a cowboy was playing his guitar and singing Blue Suede Shoes.  But he substituted the words cowboy boots until I pointed out to him that I was wearing my blue suede shoes.  He sang the song again correctly.  A little while later the same cowboy was part of the wild west show.  He and his partner robbed a bank and then shot it out with each other to see who would get to keep the money.  No one won.

There are a lotta motorcycles here in town.  I know they love to ride on that road.  I would.

From Oatman the road winds its way to the border with California just past Topock.  And the Colorado River marks the border.  The last stop on the Arizona side is the Topock 66 Spa and Resort. I pulled in to see what was going on there and found a café with live music, and a marina with surprisingly big boats.  The marina is actually in a small tributary of the river, but when you cross the old bridge into California you can see that the river is very wide, and carries a good deal of recreational motorboating and pontooning traffic.  The water in the river is green.  So different from the muddy and black waters of Georgia rivers.

In California the first place I stopped was the Park Moabi Regional Park.  Down the crumbling road is an old billboard, made of rock, welcoming travelers to Historic Route 66.  From here you can also see the old Trails Arch railroad bridge which now carries a pipeline.  This bridge appeared in the movie The Grapes of Wrath.  You can also see the bridge that currently carries I-40 traffic across the river.

From here it was on to Needles, which turns out to be quite a bit more than nothing.  It’s an old railroad town and there are a number of old rail cars to be seen as you head toward Amboy.

In March of 2018 “Mad” Mike Hughes put Amboy on the map by launching himself toward outer space in a steam powered rocket.  At about 350 miles per hour he propelled himself to about 1850 feet, and then came down with a thud, landing in the Mojave Desert.  He believes that the Earth is shaped like a Frisbee and wanted to go up in space to see that fact.  His flight was inconclusive in this area, and he plans to build another rocket to be launched from a hot air balloon to go much higher.

Amboy has a much more grounded attraction in Roy’s Motel and Café.  The whole complex is being restored at this point, but you can get gas there, and a snack, and use a restroom.  Roy’s may very well be the one place on Route 66 that has appeared in more TV commercials than any other.

Outside of Amboy, in the distant desert but visible for miles, is the cone of Amboy Crater, an old volcano that has left its mark with a lava flow across the desert, and through which the road passes.  There is supposed to be an old scraggly tree near there that marks the former site of Bagdad, the ghost town that once housed the Bagdad Café.  This place inspired the movie of the same name, which was actually filmed down the road in Newberry Springs.

Ludlow is the next stop to check out the Ludlow Café and Coffee Shop.  The building is described as “Googie” style, which I couldn’t describe other than that it had an angled stained glass window.  A big one.  They also had a decent cup of coffee.  But what’s most interesting about this place is the historical marker out front that describes a roadbuilding plan so weird that it could only be fiction.  Or the work of the United States government.

As part of our nations massive road building campaign of the late 1950’s, someone thought it would be a good idea to blast a hole through the mountains for the road by using 23 nuclear bombs.  The plan was scrapped when someone really thought about what that might entail..

In Newberry Springs I passed by the Bagdad Café.  I haven’t seen the movie so it didn’t mean much to me.  Maybe I’ll see the movie now.  I also passed by the remains of the former Whiting Brothers Gas Station, also called the Dry Creek Station.  It has a fence around it so you can’t get a good look.  And a very angry dog inside the fence.

Dagget comes next and while there are other things there, the coolest thing I saw was the old Dagget Café. It is interesting because of the roofline.  It goes up to a steep peak, and at the lower edges curves down and under.

The next thing you know you’ve come face to face with the Marine Corps logistics base in Barstow.  They built the base right in the middle of the road, so you have to make a detour around this sprawling facility.

Barstow is another old railroad town that owes its location to the Santé Fe railroad.  In fact, to accommodate the expansion of the railroad yard, the whole town was moved several blocks in 1925.

Barstow also houses another of the fabulous Harvey House Hotels.  The old Casa Del Desierto, called the finest remaining example of the depot style hotel.  Of course it’s no longer a hotel.  It houses some government offices and a railroad museum and is used as an event venue. While I was there a large group of people were celebrating a wedding with a reception.  I didn’t go inside, or crash the wedding.

After dinner at a very nondescript chain place, I went back out hoping to see some of the wonderful old neon signs lit up in the dark.  It was a little disappointing.   The cactus at the Stardust was lit up, as was the sign at the 66 Motel, but the Desert Motel was dark.  There is also a movie theater with a sign, but it too is dark.  So is the El Rancho.  More and more of these sigs go dark, or are switched to LED lights. It’s just not right!

Tomorrow I push on to Santa Monica and the end of the road.  It’s kind of sad to think that the trip will be over.  But what a ride it’s been.  Hollywood, here I come!!

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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66 Dirt Roads

Day 12. I’m in the Hampton Inn in Flagstaff which is jam-packed full of people going to the Northern Arizona University graduation today.  I made it through college twice, many years ago, and will skip this graduation and instead head on down Route 66 toward Kingman, Arizona.

Before I leave Flagstaff I want to see the Lumberjack Giant.  He’s a relative of the Gemini Giant and several of the other giants I’ve seen along the way.  And it turns out that he’s on the University campus.  I think he may even be their school mascot since his picture is all over their shuttle busses which are called the axe express.  The nice policeman tells me I can’t see him right now because he is located at the center of the graduation activities, and the ceremony is starting in about 15 minutes.  Come back in a couple of hours he tells me.  Oh well, on to the next thing…

Little town called Parks has an old 76 gas station that serves as a general store.  It’s also known as Parks in the Pines or the Deli Café. Further along the road I glimpse what must have been the old Wagon Wheel Lodge.  It’s a two story log house, the oldest building in the area.  It started out as the McHat Inn, but is now an unmarked private residence.  Had to have been that…

I’m supposed to get on the interstate for a few miles here and as I approach the entrance there is a sign that says Los Angeles 456 miles.  That’s driving on the freeway. The way I’m going it’s probably more like a  thousand miles.

The ramp to the freeway is closed.  Construction. The guy directing traffic there, meaning my car, tells me that if I go down the road and make a few turns and follow some dirt roads I’ll get to where I’m trying to be.  Okay!  Now this is travelling!

I think I’m in the middle of the Kaibab National Forest here. Taking the scenic route on a gravel road. It’s certainly in the boonies.  I can see the freeway in the distance. Off to the right there’s an old camper with a motorcycle parked under the overhang. I’m sure somebody lives there because it’s cheaper than building a house.

Turning at the crossroads, the road deteriorates.   This must be what the guide book referred to as the old gravel option. I guess you can’t really say you’ve driven Route 66 unless you drive someplace on a dirt road.

I passed a sign that said “cattle – open range” and sure enough there were no fences.  Don’t see any cattle though.  They must be ranging.   There’s a stop sign. I can’t believe it.  A stop sign in the middle of this nowhere, on a dirt road that is the red color of the canyons and rocks. This is what the original Road must’ve been like for the people coming through here in the 1920s.  Good thing their cars didn’t go more than 30 miles an hour. Off to the left I think there’s a bison ranch. There’s some kind a trolley tour bus driving around down there and now all of a sudden there’s all this traffic on this road. Weird.  I must be somewhere!

This is called The Arizona Wildlife Park. The road is paved again.  I came in through the back entrance, the front is civilized.

And just like that I’m back on a paved road and entering the town of Williams which was founded in 1881. There’s a big sign spanning the road that says Gateway to the Grand Canyon.  There’s a train that runs from here up to the Canyon.  It’s an old timey train with a steam locomotive, and no air conditioning.

Williams is so small there’s a one-way street going one way and another one-way street going the other way and that’s it.  In the middle of town is Rod’s Steakhouse with a cool neon sign with a big old cow at the top. The Native American trading post here has snowmobiles!  And look at this, the official Route 66 zip line. Short but sweet, and you have to climb a 50 foot tall ladder to get to the start.  Too much for me…

The Red Garter Inn here has a nice young lady hanging out the window.  And across the street Smokey the Bear waits to have his picture taken with you. They have a ski area here called Elk Ridge, but it’s closed this time of year. There is the Arizona Motor Hotel and the Westerner Motel, both vintage Route 66.

Williams is two blocks long but it’s loaded with gift shops and Native American jewelry.  I can’t control myself.  Everywhere I go I just drool.  And here’s this place called Native American.  The columns holding up the roof are all carvings of cowboys and Indians.  And here’s Pete’s Gas Station Museum. And back there was the teepee turquoise jewelry place.  It’s starting to get crowded here now.  There are a lot of people walking around and the sidewalks are bustling.  This is a great town.  It’s small but it has a lot of good stuff.

Ash Fork is the flagstone capital of the United States. I see a lot of cut stone, but have no idea where the quarry might be.  The historical society museum might tell me, but they are closed.  I can look in their windows though and see some vignettes of various activities in town.  I see the saloon girl and the gambler… And don’t miss Zettler’s Route 66 Store. They call themselves the best store on the mother road.  I can’t attest to that because they were closed when I went through.  But it looked like fun!

The DeSoto Salon is another example of crazy brilliant advertising.  The owner of the now closed salon put a real DeSoto automobile on the roof to attract attention.  The building still attracts attention, but the salon is long closed.  Before it was a beauty salon, the building served as a gas station during the 1950s.  Somehow gas station and beauty salon don’t seem to mix, and perhaps this has something to do with the salons demise?

On toward Seligman I run into a reproduction of the classic old Burma Shave advertising signs.  They would place five or six signs fifty yards or so apart along the side of the road.  Each sign had a portion of a rhyme on it, with the final sign saying Burma Shave. These were the shaving cream company’s classic advertising signs.  The one I see today says the one who drives/when he’s been drinking/depends on you/to do his thinking! Burma Shave

Seligman is in the desert and I’m afraid to get out of the car here because it’s so windy I might blow away. But it looks like a funky, funky, funky, town. Lots of fun.

Had lunch at the Snow Cap which was Juan Delgadillos’ little eatery and barber shop.  Very interesting décor. The whole inside of the building is covered in business cards and money from foreign lands.  The outside is totally a Route 66 and 1950s theme.   They were known for their practical joking and on the door to go inside there’s a door knob on the right side of the door and a door knob on the left side of the door.   The one on the right side is the correct one to use, and it says push when you actually have to pull.  If you look closely at the hinges you can tell right away which is the real doorknob.

I’m standing there at the counter to order my hotdog and the guy points of mustard bottle at me.   And he squeezes it and this yellow stream of stuff comes out.  Of course I thought it was mustard but it was a yellow string.  I was too stunned to yell at the guy, and when I realized what was happening I was glad for it! There was a busload of Japanese tourists who pulled up to eat, and I sat at a table with some German travellers.

The rest of the town has some little shops and its all Route 66 oriented. One of the stores was a little motorcycle museum.  There was a cool Vespa scooter, and a weird looking Honda about the size of the Vespa. The descriptive label on the Honda said it had a 300 ml engine, and that in 1964 this was Honda’s cruiser bike.  Not quite like today’s Goldwing!

On the way to Truxton there is an open stretch of road.  In the middle of nowhere I see a guy riding his recumbent bike down the middle of Route 66. I know I’m at least ten miles from Seligman, and probably ten or more miles from the next civilization of any sort. What is he doing way out here? That’s a long ride for exercise!

Peach Springs is the next little spot in the road. From the hillside outside of town you can look to the right and see a part of the Grand Canyon.  I’m not sure how far I am from where I was yesterday on the south rim, but the canyon stretches out for about 200 miles along the river. There’s an old gas station here that looks kind of like the Alamo and there are a couple of little shops and a fitness center and a nice sidewalk that curves around the trees. All of this is within about a block. And that’s it.

Down to Truxton.  The guide book says that the Frontier Motel is being lovingly restored. The Frontier Motel looks like the love ran out, or the money, or both because it’s closed and it’s not very much restored. But right next-door there’s a really cool blue Packard or something from the 20s maybe early 30s.   The convertible top over the driver’s part of the car is missing, but the passenger’s compartment is enclosed. It’s the powder blue color that really catches my eye.

Across the street there is a Truxton Station gas station and it looks like it’s from maybe the 60s or so. The Orlando Motel has a pink sign with holes in it and says vacancy.  Looks very sixtyish.

The small town of Valentine is very philanthropic. There’s a school there but there also be used to be an Indian school there that’s closed now.  And although there used to be a lot of inhumane kind of zoos along the road here, they now have a preserve where they’ve rescued abused, neglected and abandoned captive wild animals.

The Redball 76 station looks like it’s been overgrown for a couple weeks, or years. There is a fence around it and some nice trees that could probably be pruned back a little. But it would be nice.   Needs a new roof.   Right next to that there’s a big mine of some sort.   Looks like it blew up because it’s very disturbed.   In the guide book it says something about an unfortunate accident but I think what that means is that having the mine there at all was very unfortunate.

On my way to Hackberry. It’s a little off the main road on the old dirt alignment .  There is a really cool general store here that’s really a combination of general store, gift shop and museum.  It’s loaded with memorabilia from the glory days of Route 66.

Just past the general store in Hackberry there’s an ostrich farm.  The only reason I saw it was because there was a gap in the fence they had built around the place.  Through the gap I could see the birds.  The fence was constructed of 500 gallon water boxes.  I’ve seen people stopping to fill up similar boxes on the road at water tanks. I think they use the boxes to feed livestock in the pastures.  Not sure.

Kingman has a lot of new hotels on the approach but then there’s the Hilltop Hotel with their cool neon sign.  I think there were a couple of other old motels that have been converted into other things like a Thai restaurant or Chinese takeout. The Hilltop looks like it’s still a hotel. The sign says the Hilltop has the best view in Kingman and I can see the hills and the valley and the mountains.   It’s pretty neat but the hotel is closed for renovations.

The El Trovatore Motel is pink and it’s sort of built into mountainside.   There are several murals painted on the walls of the buildings here.  Elvis, Marilyn and Mr. Magoo too! And they claim to have the world’s longest Route 66 map as well.  All along the front of the several buildings that make up the motel they have painted a map of the road, from Chicago to Los Angeles.  The hotel isn’t the fanciest in town by any means, but the accouterments are cool.

The Arcadia Lounge has a neat sign and still has the swimming pool in the parking lot .  There’s no water in the pool and the whole place looks like a squatters paradise.

There are a couple of antique stores in town and a number of interesting looking buildings.  I went in three or four antique stores and bought a really weird looking Kachina that was made out of a gourd.  It’s called the Spirit from Outer Space.  It has two feathers and is mainly painted turquoise. It does look a little other worldly. The man who owns that shop plays the guitar two nights a week at the Hackberry General Store.

The Hotel Beale has a giant sign on its roof.  It says that the hotel is air-cooled.  But not air-conditioned.  The Packard Lounge has green neon sign. The post office has a Route 66 shield sign and Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner has a neon sign. Desert Drugs, a Walgreen agency, has a green and red neon sign.  Seems like everybody’s into this neon sign thing here!

There’s a thick haze when you look out across this valley toward the mountains and I think its just dust blowing.  There’s a sign on the highway saying Alert High winds and it’s windy out here.  I can feel it pushing the car around.

I was told to try a place called The Calico Restaurant for dinner.  It’s a place where the locals eat and was several miles from the antiques shops where I was.  Going over the mountain on the freeway in the evening I was surprised to see the lights of something that’s a big city. Turns out it’s Kingman, or modern Kingman.   The part where I was is just the old little downtown.  Big, sprawling, suburban to urban area.

The restaurant was on a main road.  Nothing fancy, but not a chain either.  In this Mexican place, I had chicken fettuccine and a salad and tea.  Hey, it’s on the menu…

From the hotel I could hear the trains blowing their horns.  I hear a train a comin’, rollin’ down the track…  There are a lot of trains out here in the desert.  Very long trains loaded with cargo headed in every direction. And even if they are a mile long, in the desert they look small…

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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Grand Canyon Detour

Day 11.   It’s early morning and I’m off to the Grand Canyon. Little bit of a detour, but since I’m so close I can’t skip it.   Another beautiful day.

There are several options and I can’t decide what route to take.   The girl at the front desk of the hotel said the one I was planning to take has dirt roads so I’m looking for another choice.  I just want to stay off the freeway, but that may not be totally possible.

Stop at McDonald’s for breakfast and to get some gas at the station next door.  It’s a long ride up to the Grand Canyon and I’m not sure what sort of civilization lies between here and there.

Other than the “standing on the corner” park, there isn’t much in Winslow.   It’s actually a very poor town.

I’m headed for meteor crater before I get to the Grand Canyon.  Another impressive hole in the ground I believe.  It’s about a mile wide.  Not surprisingly, it’s about 6 miles off of I-40.  A lot of flat nothing out there.  Along the two lane road that goes out there is a sign warning that there are cows in the road.  And another stating that the speed limit for cars is 50, but for meteors it’s 26,000 miles an hour.

This is the first place where it was proven that a meteor struck the Earth.   The meteor crater is on private property, so it costs 20 bucks to go look at a big hole in the ground. I’m sure it’s interesting, but I’d rather go to the Grand Canyon, which is a national park.  And I can go to for free.

I thought it was interesting that the souvenir shop down the road from the crater wasn’t allowed to sell any crater souvenirs. You have to go to the actual crater for that.  Capitalism at its best.

The route I’m taking puts me on I-40 from Winslow to Flagstaff, and then sends me up a smaller road toward the Canyon.  In Flagstaff I had to stop to see the old Twin Arrows on Route 66.  You can see it from the interstate,  but can’t get up close.   All that’s left is the arrows and a junky old gas station or something.  When I say twin arrows I mean two giant hunting arrows that are stuck in the ground, point first, with the “feathers” at the top. Looks like some giant shot them in the air and they landed at an angle here.

I got off the freeway to follow Route 66 at exit 204. Climbing  up in the mountains there are pine trees.  In and around  Flagstaff on 66 there’s the museum club sign (club is closed now), and the bowling alley sign.   The Flagstaff Motel and The 66 Motel both have signs.  The Western Hills Motel and Restaurant has a sign with a wagon and some horses.

I didn’t realize Flagstaff was so high up in the mountains.   We’re nearly 8000 feet up in the Coconino National Forest and the Kaibab National Forest.  There are tall pine trees with red trunks all along the winding road. Very little traffic.   Down on the other side of the mountain the vegetation is pseudo scrub.

In the distance there’s a gas station at the intersection of highway 64 and Route 66.  They have a Route 66 display out at their gas pumps and across the street is Bedrock City with Fred Flintstone riding on a dinosaur. Who knows what’s in there. Looks very commercial.  The sign out front says horseback riding, helicopter rides, white water rafting.

The entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park is crowded, and parking inside is limited.  There are shuttle buses in long lines at the entrance to take you inside. I’m going to drive in because I have a new special pass, and it’s free to go in for me.  I’m not the only one with this idea, and the line of cars moves slowly toward the parking lots.

Once inside the park I can see that there are a lot of paths and trails to hike, views to take in,  and it looks like it’s less commercial than some other areas nearby.

Getting out of the car I head to the South Rim path. It’s very windy here.  Enough so that my hat was blown off several times. I finally strapped it to my head. But the rangers consider this to be only breezy.  Tomorrow they are expecting it to be windy.

Amazingly, the walking paths go right up to the edge of the canyon.  Yes, the very edge.  With no railing in many places.  I guess if you’re dumb enough you can walk over the edge.  I’ll just stay on the path.

I couldn’t resist and had to go off the path and up to the edge.  Not with my toes hanging over or anything, but pretty close to the edge.  Good gust of “breeze” might send you over…

I notice here, as I have in so many places along the way, lots of languages being spoken.   French, German, Japanese.  There is only one Grand Canyon in the world and I guess everyone wants to see it. And I’ve seen folks climbing both up and down the rocks, along the edge, to get a better photo, or view.  How did they even get out there I wonder?  No fear, or no brains.  And yet I don’t remember hearing of accidents.

You can hike the 13 mile path along the south rim, and stop at various points for scenic overlooks or at the geology museum or at the little village that is there, or you can take a shuttle bus the whole way.  Or you can make any combination you like.  I ended up walking about three miles, stopping at the museum, and looking around the village, to include eating lunch.  And of course I stopped at several scenic overlooks including Hopi Point where the view of the river is so spectacular.

I save this part for last because it is almost impossible to describe the sight of the Grand Canyon.  The colors of pink and whites and brown and gray and black and green are so varied and intermingled,  layers very well-defined.  Layers of red and gray and white mini.  You can see hundreds of striations in the rock and the shapes of the canyons and rocks are so unique, but it’s the size of the whole thing that so incredible. If you try to take a picture of it,  all you get is what seems like a distant wall.  And a close-up provides only a tiny portion of any of it.  It’s a rare photo that can do this place justice!

Standing on the south rim if you look down, you can see the Colorado River, green and seemingly still, flowing a mile below you.  In fact, it’s raging down there , carving the canyon,  and carrying rafters.  Looking across to the north rim, you are staring 10 miles into the distance.  On a decent day, like the one I had, you can see 8000 foot tall Mount Trumbull in the distance.  That distance being 62 miles.

The California Condor calls this area home.  This is a bird that was once near extinction but has been reintroduced to the area and is thriving.  It’s a huge bird, with a 10 foot wingspan.  Yet when I see one soaring below me in the canyon, probably 500 feet below where I am, it looks barely bigger than a gnat!

The wind blows the few trees that grow along the rim.  They’re hanging on to the rock and take on all sort of gnarled and twisted shapes.

After a full day in the park, I’m headed back to the parking lot via shuttle bus.  It makes a stop and as a number of people get off I notice that there is an elk just standing there, nibbling on the grass.  People surround it for photos, and it seems unfazed. Along the way I see several more. Obviously very comfortable in what is truly their home.

I’ll be taking a different route back to Flagstaff this afternoon through Cameron and then down 89.  This morning the park attendants were trying to get us to park way out here in an overflow lot, and then take a shuttle bus.   I’m a good 2 miles from the main parking lots.  The regular parking lots could probably accommodate 1000 cars,  the overflow parking lot looks like it could hold about 25 cars.

Coming out of the park along the east rim I have encountered a male elk.   He is probably 25 feet from the road.  I stopped the car and got out and was able to get to within maybe 15 feet of him.  Big fellow! He was just moseying down through the woods getting some grass to eat.  Not afraid of people at all.  He scared me a tad though because he could do some damage if he decided he didn’t like you.  Or your car.

All up and down the road here the natives have  little shacks on the side of the road that they use as little stores to sell their wares to tourists.   Pottery, jewelry, buffalo jerky, beads, baskets, whatever. Like a daily yard sale but the prices aren’t any cheaper than in the stores.  They know what they’ve got.

The Little Colorado River runs to the east of us, or maybe the north.   You can see the canyons carved in the ground but you can’t see the water from the highway.  Way off in the distance you can see shacks and small buildings so I guess that’s where people live.  The buildings blend in with the desert.  Passed by a place near Cameron trading post that was obviously the village.   It was all trailers and junk cars. Exactly what you think of when you think of the worst things of the reservation.

Stopped at trading post in Cameron to get a coke and ended up eating dinner. Nice dining room with a hearty bowl of beef stew and fry bread. Yummy. Now my tummy is bursting.

I know that the Grand Canyon is sometimes descried as a big hole in the gorund, and even thought to be something you can see in a few minutes and get bored.  No way!  The size and the beauty are just too impressive to ever be bored with.  And it’s certainly been worth the detour off of Route 66.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Headed For That Corner in Winslow..

Day ten. Starting out in Gallup, New Mexico headed for Winslow, Arizona.  Last night I looked at the murals.  I think there are 15 of them all in a concentrated area of town.  Depicting local history.  Each one covers a building’s whole wall and has great color and detail.

This morning I’m going into Gallup to see if any of the shops are open.  Window hopping last night I saw a lot of Native American items. There are also several Route 66 sites to check out.

When I went to Richardson‘s Trading Post it was like walking into a turquoise mine. There was so much jewelry in case after case.  Room after room even!  Big, huge pieces.   Bracelets that were 6 inches across and just loaded with big chunks of turquoise. Necklaces of silver and turquoise that must weigh down their wearer by five or six pounds.  Belt buckles, earrings, bolo ties, hairpins, money clips. I’m sure the place glows in the dark with the silver shining.  Very knowledgeable people working there.  The store has been around for a long time.  And of course they also have blankets, baskets, pottery, kachinas and everything else you could ask for.  Part of the store is actually a museum.  I could have spent hours there.

I went in three or four other shops and bought a couple of things.  I just love collecting this stuff. I can’t spend all day here so I’m on to check out the neon signs.

Down the road I got a couple pictures of neon signs. Richardson’s actually has a really good one.  The Rex Museum, the pink Cadillac at the convention center and there’s a bowling alley that has one which I didn’t find. There’s the El Coronado Hotel, The Redwood Lodge, Arrowhead Lodge, Blue Spruce Lodge, El Rancho and the Lariat Lodge.  They’re all route 66 era.

Gallup wouldn’t be a great Route 66 town without a giant or two, and it doesn’t disappoint.  Across the railroad tracks there is a small city park with a giant yellow Kachina statue. Now I’m looking for a giant cowboy.   I saw him in the distance from the road.  Must be 40 feet tall.  But now that I’ve turned onto the side streets looking for him he’s nowhere in sight! I’m too close to the buildings. At the intersection, where there is some clear space, I see his head not too far away. He’s at John’s Used Cars, standing on the roof .

The road running out of Gallup is like a ribbon of blacktop, lined with old motels, all surrounded by the desert sands.   The Golden Desert Motel, the Colonial Motel the Motel motel.  That’s a good one.  They’ve all got 1950s and 60s neon with Native American kachina drawings and a mix of local and modern international architecture. Ernie’s Supply Company with the Kachina face and beautiful aqua letters.  The Desert Skies Motel with an inverted triangle on its sign.  Even the old Enterprise Rental Car building has an old sign with a kachina face.

The road follows some natural landscape contours here. The sheer face of Devils Cliff was on one side and on the other side was what I would’ve considered to be another cliff.  It drops down to the railroad tracks in the river gorge that was cut by the water at some point.  There’s a little bit of water in the big old gulch.  It all winds and twists to look like a snake.

Beyond that there’s the flat desert. Across the valley is another set of mountains.  I can’t really tell how far away or how big all this is until looking out to see the highway with the tractor trailers that look like they are the size of a matchbox toy.  Even smaller than that.

It’s spectacular. Up ahead I know I’m approaching the petrified forest and the painted desert.  I can see pink and white striations in the rock that make up the mountains ahead.  Busy stretch of road again, you could just stop in the middle of the road and take a picture without seeing another human the whole time.

Welcome to Arizona! First thing I come across is the Tee Pee Trading Post. Genuine American treasures sold here!   The Tee Pee Trading Post has a low wall made out of petrified wood in their parking lot. On the hillside behind the shop there is a herd of longhorn sheep.  But they are fake!  Or they didn’t move or twitch for twenty minutes while I watched.

This is the Navajo Reservation.  All desert with a highway running through it.  Billboards along the road advertise tourist shops up ahead.  A few homes, camouflaged to blend into the desert.

I don’t know what the residents do out here.  Raise animals?  I guess they make souvenirs to sell to the tourists.

Arriving at Petrified Forest National Park. Not a standing tree in sight.   This park is part of the larger Painted Desert where there are beautiful colors of pink and white and blue in the stone that makes up the mountains in the desert valley.  The petrified trees are all laying on the ground.  Sure enough, they look and feel just like rocks but you can see their rings of life.

The Painted Desert Inn at Kachina Point is a restored early 20th century resort hotel building that now houses a museum and bookstore.  There are fabulous murals painted inside depicting Hopi life.  The building itself is adobe style, and the small cabins nearby are built to match. Inside, the hotel is painted white and turquoise. It’s very sparse but you can tell it was comfortable and it would’ve been a very nice place to get away from the world.

The Petrified Forest Painted Desert area has been occupied or 13,000 years.  Hiking in the back regions of the Park I come across Indian village ruins.   Stacked stone walls, or what’s left of them, mark the 100 or so rooms that would have made up the village.  The old pueblo was abandoned about 800 years ago when the people could no longer survive here because of the change in weather and rain fall.  They moved over to the east with the Zunis or to the north with the Hopi into those pueblos.

Met some Australians here at Petrified Forest.  As we approached each other on the path the man said to me. “G’Day, Mate!”  I didn’t have to ask….

Petroglyph rock is really too far away to get a good picture with my camera but there are some nice Petroglyphs.  Hands, feet, people, animals, circles, stars.  Some very elaborate.  Fascinating to see this and think of the artists responsible.

There’s a little bit more of a lavender color in the rock formations called the teepees and the Blue Mesa.

It’s 95° here but it’s a dry heat and it feels OK.  I’m not sweating at all.

I’m starting to see some of the petrified logs here and there, spread out over the ground.  There are actually several areas within the park called forests, based on the color of the rock/tree.  This whole area used to be a lush tropical forest with ferns and rivers and green trees over 200 feet tall and reeds growing up to 16 feet high! The desert there now is an example of climate change.

I’ve said before that I’m not a physicist, and neither am I a botanist or geologist or zoologist.  So my explanation of petrified trees is quite simple.  The trees fall down, get covered with dirt over time and the chemicals and minerals in the dirt replace the wood.  And it all gets hard as a rock.

All these logs are broken up in short sections, maybe 2, 3, or 4 feet long.  They’re as much as 3 feet in diameter.  They lay strewn in every direction. Some have crystals, some have other semi precious gems in them.  The way they are broken up you would thing someone came through with a chain saw and cut them all up for firewood.  Just in giant proportions.

Stones at Petrified Forest that were once trees are really very beautiful.  They are colors of white and red, pink, brown, yellow, and blue.

It’s interesting to note that while Route 66 is itself a national treasure coving most of the United States, The Petrified Forest is the only national park that has a segment of route 66 in it.   And here to mark the former site of the road is a rusted out old junk car.  You can tell from the placement of the telephone poles nearby and the wire that they carry that the road ran through here along that line, but there is no pavement left.  It’s all gone back to crumbled rock and sand.

On to Holbrook now that it’s 5 o’clock.  Between the park and Holbrook there is absolutely nothing but desert.  I think I passed one house in the past 20 miles.   Holbrook’s kind of quiet.

There’s the iconic Wigwam Motel. This place is really cool.  There are 16 or 17 rooms here and each one is a stand alone Teepee.  There are probably more old cars parked here than there are rooms.

I pull into the parking spot in front of teepee number one.  Doesn’t look like there are any guests here.  At least no modern cars.  Dang if the only guest there isn’t staying in teepee number 1, and he pulls up just after I park.  Two spaces so he’s cool.  After I walk around the grounds and take some pictures he’s coming toward me.  He’s traveling to California and turns out he’s from Atlanta, not far from where I live. We talked a lot about the road and places we’ve both been.

There are a couple of other motels.  I’m taking pictures, and will have to go back and look at then later to see what I’ve seen. So much!

The Butterfield Stage Company Steakhouse sign says get your kicks on Route 66.  It has a cool sign, but it’s backlit and not neon.  The best part of it’s an old stage coach on the roof.

There’s not much traffic here so I was able to stop in the middle of the road to take a few pictures. Got the Globetrotter Inn too. The Star Inn and the Plainsman with its cowboy and his long rifle.  The West End liquor store has an interesting sign but I’m not sure it’s old.   The building looks junky enough so it could be that old.

Making the approach to the Jack Rabbit Trading Post which has long been a happening place.  They used to have a lot of signs up and down the road advertising 50 miles to jackrabbit, 20 miles to jackrabbit, 10 miles to jackrabbit. Now there’s only one signed left right in front of the store.  And this sign says “Here it is!”

The store is not happening too much right now. It’s closed. There’s a big old Jack rabbit statue that you can climb on for a photo opportunity. It’s an interesting old building, very much a Route 66 icon.

Today there are a number of Japanese young people here taking pictures.  Not sure if it’s something professional for TV or magazine, but they seem to have some high end equipment and are blocking the road with their cars to get some pictures.  I’m going around them and headed on to Winslow.

You can’t do Winslow without standing on a corner.  And there you can stand with Jackson Browne and Glen Frey while a girl in a flatbed ford pulls up to take a look.  There are two statues of the men, and a real flatbed ford with a girl inside to commemorate this well known Eagles song

As soon as I finish standing on the corner I’ll check into La Posada Hotel, a former Harvey House hotel. Mr. Harvey and his hotels and resorts was a big boom to this area.  He brought in quality service, new ideas and a lot of people.   The hotel is being restored and seems out of place in the immediate neighborhood with some more modern, but dilapidated buildings around.

It’s about 6 o’clock and I believe the town has rolled up the sidewalks.   The hotel shares its parking lot with the Amtrak station.  I find it interesting that the parking lot is full.

Normally you see spaces reserved for handicapped drivers closest to the building, but here there are six spots reserved for Tesla drivers to plug in their cars.  None of the parking is that close to the hotel building anyway. You have to walk through a magical garden to get to the front door. There’s a camel up at the front entrance and camel down in the courtyard with a burro.  And lots of flowering plants.

It’s a little cool here in the desert this evening.  I had to break my sweater out again.  Feels nice. Found  a nice little place for dinner.  Sandwich and beer at Relic Road Brewing Company.  I was so tired when I came back to the hotel that I  plopped on the bed and just fell asleep.   Didn’t even lock the door.   There’s no elevator in this hotel so carrying my backpack up the stairs must have worn me out.  Supposedly they are working on getting the elevator restored to working order.  But not in time for me….

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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The Gallop Toward Gallup, New Mexico

Day nine, another beautiful day. I wake up in this gorgeous room and think it would be nice to stay here for another day or so but I’m off to Gallup, New Mexico.  I’ll need to find some breakfast and hit the road.

Coffee and pastry here this morning in Santa Fe at an Italian place.  Very nice. Very nice people working there.  Pastries from Switzerland, coffee from Italy and they rent scooters! Piagio Buddies, but I don’t have time for that I have got to be moving on.

I sure wish I could stay here for a few more days because it’s really beautiful.  You have to be very careful and selective about where you shop. There a lot of stores selling jewelry and silver and all of that, but a lot of these items are not necessarily locally made.   The place I went to yesterday, Keshi, has a fair trade policy to ensure that their artisans are fairly compensated for their work.  That’s a plus in shopping for me.

One last stop before I hit the road. The Governor’s Palace, or the Palace of the Governor’s has a lot of local artisans set up out front.  I’m hoping that these folks are legitimate artisans as I walk this gauntlet. It’s about a block long ,the vendors are very laid back, and since I don’t know what I’m looking for, I find nothing.  Doesn’t always work that way.  Story of my life.

Getting ready to check out of the hotel, I am looking at all the artwork in the hotel.  There is a fabulous collection of local artists and local items.  The collection is spread through the building in public spaces and in the guest rooms. My room had a watercolor.  There is also a collection of works done by children done by children as part of the original owners studio school which was established in 1932 for Native American children.

The girl working in the shop downstairs had on a turquoise and silver bracelet that she said belonged to her grandmother. It is about 4 inches wide and had three or four big turquoise stones on it.  Wouldn’t fit her mother so she got it.  A pretty lucky girl!

I brought my bathing suit but I didn’t get a chance to get in the pool. Hopefully I’ll be able to get in the Pacific when I get to the end of the road.

There’s a river here but I’ve seen dripping faucets with more water in them.   On old 66 out of Santa Fe there are cool neon signs from the old Road but the hotels are adobe style. Interesting combination.

Out to the right I see the mountains in the distance. Very pretty out here if you like deserts and mountains and Spanish architecture. I wouldn’t mind coming back.  They call Santa Fe the city different. I don’t know that it’s different from some other places I have been, but it is unique.   Asheville, North Carolina has the same kind of vibe except it’s in the mountains instead of desert.

This stretch  f the road is busy with traffic and although I see several cool old sign, I can’t stop for pictures.  Not like Texas and Oklahoma where I could stop to take a nap in the middle of the road!  But the Cottonwood Court stands out.

I pass under a bridge that says The Turquoise Trail.  There is a map painted on it that shows the road going south from here to the east of Albuquerque.  I’ll be on the west side of Albuquerque so I’ll have to hit the turquoise trail another time.  Dang!

It seems almost surreal to be saying that I’m in Santa Fe and headed to Albuquerque and places I’ve thought about for years and years but never knew I’d really get to.  And I feel my deep ancestral roots here even though I don’t have any ancestors from this area.  Some part of Native America is calling to me.

Passing through the San Felipe reservation there is a large cluster of adobe houses out that must be either really old, or the people who live there really poor. They’re made from obviously handmade adobe bricks that are unfinished. They’re not even square. The bricks look more like just blobs of clay were just plopped on top of each other.

Right outside of Bernalillo,  here in Bernalillo County, a guy named Jesse James is running for the sheriffs post. Interesting.

Entering the Sandia reservation. I know Albuquerque is the home of the Sandia National research Laboratory. My neighbor George used to work there. He was an interesting rocket scientist, a physicist actually.  He died of cancer and I have always wondered if that was connected to his work there.   Another old neighbor of mine, Glen Cheney, was the director of the Sandia labs at one point.  Before that he worked with my dad at Bell Laboratories.  There are always rocket scientists in my life. What happened to me? I like rockets and spaceships and aliens but I’m not a physicist.

On the side of the road there are some pastures , although I hate to call them that because they don’t have anything growing in them.  Barren scrub, but there’s a cow out there. One cow all by itself.  Looking more closely I realize that the cow is not alone. There was a coyote too.  One coyote all by itself really blended in with the desert landscape.

On the approach to Santa Fe, where old Route 66 and the even older Santa Fe trail share a path  is the El Camino Motor Hotel.  The hotel building is adobe, but it has one of those great Route 66 type neon signs.  It’s seen better days.

Across the street is the El Camino Dining Room.  It’s got a sign matching the motor hotel’s,  and I guess the building looks a lot the same. I think the dining room is in better shape and looks pretty crowded.

The Saint Johns Court Motel on fourth Street looks like it could’ve been the right age for Route 66, but it’s an adobe building. And the signs not old

Downtown Albuquerque looks like a big city with skyscrapers, wide streets, people walking, office buildings, and hotels all in sort of a sandy kind of color.

A lot of the Route 66 things from the app I’m using are on Central Avenue.  Question is,  Central Avenue south, west, northwest, northeast, southeast or what?   I can’t believe that one road goes in all these different directions.  The guidebook doesn’t have anything for Albuquerque except for two giants and they’re not old and I can’t find them anyway.  Oh well…

Zia Motor Lodge isn’t on the list but it’s on Central Avenue and it’s got a neon sign with the New Mexico sun and a big old orange sunburst above that.  Turns out that a lot of these cool old signs and motels were removed during the mid to late sixties as part of Lady Bird Johnson’s Beautify America Campaign.  She planted flowers in their place.

And down the road I go to the next place.  There are la lot of antique shops right in here.  As well as the 1950 Hiland Movie Theater.  No longer a movie theater but still an arts venue.  Next on the list is the bus stop on Central Avenue.   I believe its new, but it looks a lot like the one saw somewhere else.  Big car fins, the number 66, and red taillights that look like rockets!

At the Pioneer Motel it looks like I got here just in time. There was a crew that looked like they were getting ready to take the sign down.  I could be wrong, but that’s what it looked like.   This stretch of the road is kind of an urban area but it’s got tons of old route 66 things mixed in with new buildings and businesses.  Too many treasure to name…Loma Verde Motel has a sign.

Big cities are harder to navigate because the route takes you through the middle of the town.  It’s just slow.  It’s much better out further in the country, but of course you have to see it all.

Bob’s Burgers advertises on their neon sign that they sell ranchero burgers.   Stopped at the Isleta Pueblo. There’s a Catholic Church here that’s over 400 years old. Within the pueblo are a number of houses, adobe style, and they all have pottery kilns in their back yard.  This group of people is known for their pottery with brown and white and black paint. Inside Nanas Gift Shop they sell the pottery made here. The woman running the shop was explaining to me about the different colors of clay that are used.   Brown, light brown, white, and some of the people paint on ceramics which are super white.

Just past Nana’s, back on the road, the mountains are to the left and we cross the Rio Grande.  I think it’s the same river as the one in Texas. It’s kind of low. Here’s an old Dairy Queen with the neon sign on Isleta Blvd. Ice cream cone lights up!

Now I’m into the real desert. Lots of sand but still waiting for a cactus.  A dead animal off the road is dry as a bone.   A long, long train parked out in the middle of the desert.  I don’t know why it’s not moving but the colorful truck trailers that are all stacked on the train kind of blend into the desert.  In spite of how big the train is, in the middle of the desert it looks like a toy.

In the sides of the mountains you can see layers of different colors from different time periods. Different materials.   This may be the edge of the painted desert.  I don’t know.

West of Mesita is a lava outcrop that is supposed to look like an owl. It looks like a rock to me, but maybe at some time, from some angle, it looked more like an owl.   If I eat some mushrooms?

I’m approaching a stretch of road called dead man’s curve.  Looks straight as an arrow.  Wait, it curves tightly around a giant narrow point of rocks.  Yup, you have to go slow. The sign says 20 miles an hour and has a picture of a flipped over truck on it. The road really winds and twists through the mountains and rocks.  The posted speed limit is 45 and that’s about all you can really do.  Would be great on a motorcycle.

This must’ve been an incredibly discouraging road in the 20s and 30s when you were driving a car that moved along at 40 miles an hour at best and had no air conditioning and no heat. There were miles and miles and miles of nothing and there weren’t places like hotels.   I’ve seen pictures in the museums of people turning their car into a campsite.  Just park on the side of the road and put up a tarp.  Viola!  Campsite. And it probably took them at least twice as long as it’s taking me, maybe three times.

Stopped at a gas station along the way.  Filled up with gas and washed the windshield.  More dirt on the dang windshield after I washed it than when I started.  Water was filled with airborne dust, and resultant mud.

When I was finished I went inside to use the restroom.  It wasn’t visible on first glance so I asked the woman working at the deli counter where it was.  She said she wasn’t sure if they had one so I should ask the woman at the checkout counter. Huh?  You work here and don’t know?  The second woman said she didn’t have one, but that down the road about a mile and a half was a truck stop that did.  Yeah, right.  If I’d known she was gonna be stingy with her bathroom I wouldn’t have gotten gas there. Route 66 travelers alert – unfriendly.

Out here in Acoma Pueblo there is the Whiting Brothers gas station and motel.  The sign is there anyway, the rest is pretty much falling apart. There’s a little bit of something left at the gas station.

Off to the right side of the road and a little bit on the left there are lava flows.   I’m not sure where the volcanoes were, but all of these mountains are so flat topped, they look like they blew their tops off.  That’s not how it all happened, but it looks like a good story to be told.

The town of Grants is surrounded by mountains. An antique car lovers dream junkyard.  There’s a golf course here but I think it’s all in the desert. I don’t see any greenery.

There are supposed to be a number of old neons here and there are a number of old motels but the signs are new.  Here’s the Sands Motel.  Elvis stayed at the Sands.  He must’ve been desperate.  Or it looked a lot better back then.

The Grants Café has a nice sign but the building is gone.  The West Theater has a nice sign with it’s aqua color and white atomic stars.  Pat’s Lounge has a great old neon sign out front that could use some restoration.  The building has been remodeled at some point to look very nondescript.  Apparently a popular local place.  And the only place to get a drink on Sunday out here in the middle of the desert.

Further on I come across the neon sign for the Bluewater Inn.  The  sign is kind of faded and it looks like it’s been pretty well abused by vandals.

On the right-hand side of the road behind the lava field is a long stretch of mountain that has a pink color to it.   In the guidebook it says that this area was used in a lot of western movies because of the color and the majesty of the mountains.  I guess they Photoshop the trailers and junkyards out of it.  No,  you can’t really see that stuff from the car, but on the left-hand side of the road there is an old building called the Route 66 Swap Meet.   The guidebook says that the building is covered with hubcaps.  I guess since the book was written a lot of tourists have helped themselves to a souvenir hubcap.  There isn’t a single one left.

I think if I make a journey to China within the next 10 years China and the Great Wall will still be there, but I’m not sure that Route 66 will have much left.

What was known as the Hot Pink Tomahawk Bar has been painted yellow.  The tomahawk is still there, but it looks like the bar has already signaled last call.

Herman’s Garage is right next to the Red Mountain Deli.  It’s a prefab metal building that was moved here from Gallup, originally built in the 1930’s.  Just has three old pumps left to identify it as a former gas station.  It’s an auto repair place now.  There is a very surly looking, and acting, dog in the yard. The roof is covered with tires.

I am at the continental divide. There are two competing signs at this spot, as well as two competing tourist shops.   The elevation is 7245 feet above sea level.  Any rain that falls west of this spot flows to the Pacific and rain falling to the east goes to the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico.

I go by the Lariat Motel and the Blue Spruce Motel in  downtown Gallup. The El Rancho Motel claims to have the charm of yesterday and the convenience of tomorrow.  That means they have TV in every room!   The El Coronado Motel with the star on top of their sign is a great example of old neon signs. Great signs all!  I’m gonna look at the murals painted on the walls around town, and see if I can find any shops open this late.

One thing I learned about the back up camera on this car is it doesn’t have peripheral vision.  You still have to use your eyes and head swivel! Another thing is that the native women here wear fabulous jewelry.  Turquoise.

That’s part of my story.  What’s your?

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Santa Fe Moonrise

Day eight. Had a big dinner at the Big Texan last night but I didn’t try the free 6 pound steak .   All you have to do is eat it in one hour or less. The world record is three of those suckers in 20 minutes. So today, after a pleasant evening at the Hampton Inn here in Amarillo I am off to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Along the way there will be a lot of driving in the desert.  And who knows how many stops.

It’s very windy out here on this flat land and you can tell the wind blows from the same direction all the time because the trees are all slanted that way.   I’ve even seen some tumbleweeds blowing across the road. It’s quiet out here and again I’m the only one on the road here in Bushland where there are some painted grain silos on the side of the road standing next to the abandoned railroad tracks of the CRINP rail road.

The wind carries the scent of money for this part of Texas.  It’s coming form the ranch cattle feed lot. About a half mile down the road on the left is where the cows are congregated.  There are thousands of them all jammed together.  Eating, and well, what goes in must come out…

That’s what I was expecting to see in everywhere in Texas.   Billions of Cows like stars in the sky.

In Vega there’s an old motel that unfortunately has been turned into a strip mall.  A little ways out of town and off the road I spot a restored Magnolia gas station and a mini museum. There are a number of these little old motels with new signs. A glass block building that’s very tractive has a lot of potential.  There are things that look like western cowboy buildings,  mid century buildings with glass fronts, and there is the Vega Motel with a very plain sign to go along with its plain buildings. The Road Runner Drive In sign survives, but there are no customers and only an abandoned old truck body in the parking lot.

Just about to reach Adrian, Texas. This is the midpoint of the mother road.  I’ve come 1139 miles from Chicago and still have 1139 miles to Los Angeles. There’s a nice café here and several different signs to mark the midpoint. On the road itself there’s a white stripe going all the way across that says “midpoint” and on either side a route 66 shield.

There are a number of people here eating lunch.  Maybe breakfast at 10 o’clock in the morning.  Adrian is like a little oasis in the middle of the desert.   We’re not really in the desert here but the landscape changes dramatically to all little scrubby things on the hillside and some vast expanses of grass that is brown.   And no buildings.  You can see for miles.  But Adrian has a couple of trees and greenery and even some flowers.

I’m looking off to the left here on I-40.  There are a series of flat mesas, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 of them all in a row. Perfectly flat. Somebody is riding a bicycle down the shoulder of I-40 through this desert, and there’s an old farm style windmill in the middle of the field.

I see people driving the road in all sorts of vehicles.   People like me in cars and SUVs and minivans, and there are people in convertibles.  I met a couple form Ottawa who were driving from their hometown to Los Angeles, to Seattle and then back to Ottawa.  All in a convertible.  The woman said that it was so hot yesterday that they had to put the top up and use the air conditioning.  And then there are the people in the Winnebagos or those pulling campers.  Or Winnebagos pulling cars! I don’t think I’d want to do it that way because you lose a lot of mobility.   And then there are the motorcycles.   That’s the way I want to do it next time!

Here I am at exit 0 on I-40. The last stop in Texas before going to Glenrio, New Mexico.   Glenn Rio consists of four fallen down gas stations, oops, make that five, and two fallen down motels.  And one house.   Whoever owns it all doesn’t like tourists.  Signs everywhere say “no trespassing.”  Everything is just falling down. Abandoned.  Dilapidated. Overgrown.  Somebody should do something with it.  It’s a shame. Doesn’t look like it’s gonna last more than about another 10 years.  The road actually ends here and turns to dirt. Now that’s abandoned!  You can go further down, on the dirt, but I’m turning around to look for more asphalt.

Modern Glenrio,  New Mexico has a nice visitors center with a great deal of information, and very nice people who work there. San Jon has an old Route 66 truck and auto service station with a turquoise stripe across the bottom.   Across the street, in equally dilapidated condition, there’s something called the Western Motel with a rusty old neon sign.  And there is a rusty old Plymouth Valiant  desperately in need of restoration.  At some little cabins there’s a sign that says “office” and I do believe somebody lives there.  This town was pretty much wiped out by the interstate.

Off in the distance about 20 miles I can see flat topped Tucumcari Mountain.  I first heard the name Tucumcari back in the 70s when Linda Ronstadt was singing about it.  I had no idea,  but now I’m coming here to see all the neon signs and motels and others points of interest.

Apparently Tucumcari has an over abundance of all this good stuff and I’m finally getting to one of these towns with lots of things to do during the day so I’ll have plenty of time. And since I just crossed over into the mountain time zone, I actually have even more time!

The approach to Tucumcari is less than impressive. It’s lined with modern hotels and motels and a few dilapidated old buildings.   There’s the Polly gas station with the parrot on the sign, some junky old cars.   The Arizona Route 66 Motel has an airplane in their parking lot.   a lot of abandoned 60s style  gas stations.   The Cactus  RV Park… now here we get to something more interesting – the Palomino Motel.  Great sign with, how did you know?  A Palomino horse.

I missed Tucumcari Rawhide Days this past weekend. It looks like it was all cowboy related activities. The Road Runner Lodge has a bunch of pink flamingos in their yard.  I’m  stopping at Tee Pee Curios.   It’s an old building in the shape of a Tee Pee.  Inside are a zillion tourist oriented knick knacks.  Outside,  their neon sign has a Tee Pee and the face of the sun dancer.

Next on the list is the Blue Swallow Motel neon sign.   This is probably the most famous sign on this whole road.  The Safari Motel has a sign with a camel on top and there’s a camel inside the lobby.  there are several other places that don’t have real nice signs but they’re old.   And then there is La Cita which is a Mexican restaurant and has a giant sombrero on the roof.

The Buckaroo Motel has an old sign. I don’t know if it lights up anymore but it still looks fairly decent. The motel seems to have signs of life but I don’t know how nice it is and if  it’s making it financially.

There is a museum here at the Convention Center –  the New Mexico Route 66 Museum. Outside there is a really cool sculpture in the front parking lot called “tailfin.”  It looks like an old Cadillac tailfin with the number 66 on it.

This is mainly a car museum that’s got some nice cars. The man inside was very friendly.  I got half of his life story.   He’s lived here for nine years.  I thought it was interesting how all these people who work in these places, or volunteer I should say,  all say that they love being around all the stuff and meeting all the people from all over the world.  But man they must be lonely because they sure talk a lot.  They won’t let you go.

The museum displays a picture of the town in 1950 something and it was just bustling with cars and buildings and people.  But it’s dead now.

Other than the Tee Pee Trading Post and the Blue Swallow most of the town looks like it’s seen much better days. There are a lot of vacant lots, buildings have fallen down, and a couple places that have murals on them.  But not what it used to be.  They call it the town that time almost forgot.

On the way out of town I stopped at a place calling itself a trading post.  It was closed, but looked like it had some cool stuff inside.  And I’ll be damned.  Even here I can’t get away form a fertilizer spreader!  You may need to read some of my other stories to understand that humorous reference.

I just went over a bridge that was supposed to have a stream under it,  but it is dry as a bone.  All the earth is cracked and parched.  Don’t know when the last time it rained out here, but there was not much green.

Filled up with gas in Newkirk were the only thing that’s around is the gas station.   I was afraid that if I didn’t get gas here and I was down to a quarter tank it might be another 500 miles to anything.  Running out of gas in the desert, on a sparsely traveled road, is not a pleasant thought.

Santa Rosa is a little town and it’s got about 10 fast food restaurants and a couple other little restaurants, a gas station, and an apartment complex but I don’t see anything else around. Everything is new here. I don’t know why this town popped up in the middle of nowhere.

I saw sign  that said Clovis.   I’m assuming that’s Clovis, New Mexico where they have done so much archaeological work. Too bad I don’t have time to go there .

The traffic is so light in some of these places that I’m able to just stop in the middle of the road to take a picture. And here in Santa Rosa I stopped in the middle of the road and ate my sandwich.

I just crossed the Pecos River. A sign says Las Vegas and the road turns to the north. But it’s Las Vegas, New Mexico.  Not Nevada.

On this stretch of the road as far as you can see,  miles up to the mountains, there is nothing but open land. There is a narrow road with just a little traffic.

Just off the route in Romeroville, the Santa Fe Trail crosses the old road.   Up ahead there’s Starvation Peak which has some sort of tragic Santa Fe Trail story attached to it.

Getting closer to the mountains this whole stretch of road winds up and down through the hills into the mountains along railroad tracks.  There is very little evidence of civilization other than the single line power lines, or an old car here and there.

Outside Santa Fe is the town of Pecos.  In 1862 there was a skirmish between Union and Confederate troops here.  It was actually a little east in Glorieta.   The Glorieta Pass Battlefield has been referred to as the Gettysburg of the West.

Very tight on the side of the road there’s a pink structure that is the ruins of the old mission.  It’s only about 2 feet away from the road and inside there are dark wooden floors and an old fireplace. Across the street is a cistern that’s about 10 feet across and 30 feet deep. It has a wire mesh covering it, but it doesn’t look like it OSHA approved.  The architecture here has gone to adobe style.

Santa Fe is a garden oasis up in the mountains.  It’s a very pretty place with lots of flowering trees and shrubbery and plants and things I’ve never seen before. The part of the town that I’m in is filled with shops and restaurants and hotels.  Shops with fine fashion, rugs, jewelry and fine art.  It’s a very walkable place.

After checking in to the hotel I walk around the grounds.  The La Fonda is a beautiful place with lots of old Spanish influence.  Tiles on the floors and walls and a lot of shops in the lobby or off the lobby.  My room has a big window that looks out over some shops.   In the distance I can see the mountains.

I didn’t spend much time in the room before I went back out to look around town because it was getting late and I was told the shops would close early.  Here in New Mexico my trip took on a new twist.  I was looking for Native American turquoise jewelry, and this was one heck of a place to find some.

The concierge in the hotel lobby gave me a map with a long list of shops. Quickly looking over the list and the description of the shops, I made a blind choice.  When I arrived there I knew I had chosen well.   The name of the shop is Keshi the Zuni Place and it’s filled with beautiful, beautiful Zuni petty point and inlay pieces. I bought myself a bolo tie with the Thunderbird.  For my collection.

That portion of my mission accomplished, I walk about a half mile to dinner at place called Tomasita’s.  It’s  a place the locals go, obviously with a Hispanic vibe.   They grow the red and green chiles themselves and make a hot and blazing hot sauce to smother over everything.  It wasn’t bad, and since there was a cold beer on my table, my tongue and mouth weren’t too scorched.  The food was excellent.   The restaurant shares a parking lot with the Amtrak station.  A train with a huge road runner bird painted on it was sitting there waiting for final boarding.

After dinner I went back to the hotel.   I was so tired I decided to sit down and rest for a few minutes before writing.  The next thing I knew it was morning.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

 

 

 

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