June 29th, 2014
The pace of the trip changed this week. Our mental states have changed too. It was to be expected given increasing work responsibilities and longer distances traveled in shorter time frames. Yes, we’re back on the Interstates. Destinations are now taking precedence over the journey. Oh well, it was great while it lasted.
After leaving Northern California, we made our way through Oregon and Washington (state that is!) to Vancouver, British Columbia. Ross had some meetings up there and I used the time to get started on pending school projects. The scenery was beautiful, but we didn’t have much time for sightseeing.
There’s not much to say about our time in Canada. We entered on Thursday and returned to the US on Saturday. Found a great Greek restaurant near our hotel. Other than that it was all work and no play.
On our way down to Portland, we made a little side trip outside of Seattle to see our good friends and former neighbors, Mike and Jen Brevard. Maybe I shouldn’t be too fast with the “former” designation. Turns out they are on their way back to Wisconsin as Mike makes another move with Microsoft. It will be great to have them back.
Throughout this trip, Ross has used an interesting technique to find great places to eat. He asks whoever is working the front desk of our hotel where they would go for dinner if Ross was paying and price didn’t matter. The technique has been most effective. In Portland, our hotel worker sent us to Portland City Grill. Great selection!
After Ross concluded his meetings on Monday, we headed to the first of our three final stops planned on the trip – Yellowstone National Park. Ross had been there in the 70s when he did his post-college Greyhound bus tour, but this was another first for me.
It was a LONG drive … around 850 miles … so we broke it up into two days, passing through Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Despite the long drive, we kept with our tradition of finding “unique” dining experiences. I don’t recall which state we found this gem, but it was funky and delicious.
I am convinced that Montana is the most beautiful state in the country. I wish photos could do it justice. Unfortunately, they do not. I DO know what “big sky” means, however!
On Tuesday afternoon we reached Yellowstone National Park and Old Faithful. What a sight!
As luck would have it, we arrived just in time for an eruption.
The eruption lasted for a couple minutes. I was surprised to see how high it shot up.
It seemed like a long drive to watch a geyser for three minutes, but I can now say that I have seen it. Cross one more thing off the Bucket List.
Then it was back in the car to head to South Dakota and Mt. Rushmore … another 600 miles. The Black Hills are just beautiful, but as you would expect, the area outside the monument is very commercialized.
We also noticed that crowds were more prevalent everywhere we went. What started as a private adventure has extended into America’s summer vacation time. It had to happen.
I wonder how many people have this shot?!
We stayed at the Alex Johnson Hotel in Rapid City. This is the oldest and most exclusive hotel in town. They upgraded us to the Presidential Suite on the 9th floor. When they say Presidential Suite, they really mean Presidential Suite!
Not too shabby for an old hotel! It’s good to be king. 😉 Oh yeah, one more thing … we were told the 8th floor is haunted. Good thing we were on the 9th floor!!!
On Thursday we headed north again toward Canada where Ross had his final client meeting of the trip. We spent the night in Minot, North Dakota. There’s not much to say about the Dakotas except they are big and boring. One of the interesting sites we saw along the was was the geographical center of North America. (Hey, you gotta find adventure where you can!!!)
Our time in Manitoba on Friday was brief, but memorable. We were practically strip searched by Canadian immigration. They detained us for almost 30 minutes while checking our car and doing full criminal background checks. Neither of us have ever had such an experience! Can’t say that tomorrow!!!
Ah, but all great adventures must come to an end. Our final stop was Austin, Minnesota and the SPAM Museum. Yes, there is a SPAM Museum! Really interesting too!
Hormel produces SPAM at two locations, here and somewhere in Nebraska. When we came into town, we were greeted by what smelled like Limburger cheese. Whew, was it ever potent!
Surprisingly, the history of SPAM is very interesting. While we were there, we sampled a few different flavors. Not bad!
I was especially interested in the other early Hormel products. Ox Joints in Gravy. Mmmmm. Makes my mouth water. Yeah, right. 😉
After we had our fill of SPAM, we headed home to Wisconsin. Yup, you can tell we’re home by what you see people towing.
Little BJ kept track of our mileage, driving time, gas mileage and average miles per hour. Here are the stats from the trip:
TOTAL DAYS: 42 (May 18 – June 28)
TOTAL MILEAGE: 9790 (average 233 miles per day)
TOTAL DRIVING TIME: 212 hours, 10 minutes (equivalent of 27 8-hour days)
AVERAGE MILES PER HOUR: 46
AVERAGE MILES PER GALLON: 28
STATES (17) & PROVINCES (2): Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, Manitoba, Minnesota
Wow! Can’t believe it’s over. We have had an experience of a lifetime, but it’s good to be home. Driving across the western US takes a lot out of you. Good thing Little BJ has comfy seats.
Thanks for following our journey.
June 18th, 2014
It’s been about a week since I posted the final blog of the Route 66 portion of the trip. In that time we’ve traveled another 1500 miles. I write this from a hotel room in Bellingham, Washington. Tomorrow we wrap up the Pacific journey in Vancouver, BC. Yes, we sure logged a lot of car miles!
This week we headed up California Hwy 1 and US 101, the Pacific Coast Hwy. How different from Route 66. No Civil War or barbed wire museums. This week it has been all nature experiences. Gorgeous coastlines. Towering redwoods. Winding mountain passes. This is a side of California neither of us had previously experienced!
We spent a couple days resting in Venice … Venice Beach, California that is. Ross attended to some business as well. While there, we caught up with Julie Berg, one of my former students who has become a great friend. We also had a chance to see family members Mike Scovotti and his daughter Avery. Her eyes will just melt your heart.
But the road beckoned and on Friday, we headed up California Hwy 1 to the San Francisco area. Talk about a whole different driving experience! The road was PACKED. Bumper to bumper traffic on twisted two-lane road. Ross did all the driving, but I was totally exhausted by the time we reached Oakland. Whew!
One gem we found along the way was Taco Temple in Morro Bay. A light lunch was in order because we were to meet friends Jimmy and Roma Shupe for dinner in Alameda later that evening. Ross opted for a veggie burrito. Holy cow! Look at the size of that thing. So much for that light lunch. However, the food was absolutely delicious! (For the record, he did not finish that monster.)
Eventually we made it to our hotel and had a great evening with our friends. Roma recommended we check out Mendocino. On Saturday, up the California coast we went. No reservations. We decided to stop when we found an interesting place.
Unlike Friday, the drive was most enjoyable. We actually had a chance to experience the beautiful coastline and mountain passes.
As we approached Mendocino, we passed the Little River Inn atop a bluff overlooking the Pacific. The sign indicated there were vacancies, so we did what we have been doing all through this trip … made a U-turn and checked it out.
What a find! We got a wonderful room with a deck overlooking the ocean. The inn had a great restaurant where we picked up a delicious local wine. After dinner we headed to the deck with wine and cookies to view the sunset.
Yup, this is great place to mellow out.
We had an unexpected guest as we watched the sunset. We weren’t sure if he was after the wine or the cookies, but we were not gracious hosts. He received neither.
Now this is more like it! What a magnificent sunset.
On Sunday, we headed up the coast to Ft. Bragg and took the Skunk Train into the Redwood Forest.
Think that’s a happy boy?!
Eric makes a great Bloody Mary.
We met some really nice folks along the way. Happy Fathers Day Paul.
On Monday we continued our journey up the coast. BJ got his 15 seconds of fame by passing through the Chandelier Tree in Leggett, California. There are only three redwoods that you can drive through. Cool, eh?!
Running parallel to Hwy 101 we found the Avenue of the Giants.
Hide and seek anyone?
This trip has just been amazing. We are so fortunate to have seen so much of America and met so many great people along the way. This is such a vast and diverse country. Yes, we are blessed.
Thanks for letting us share it with you. More later …
June 11th, 2014
Well friends, it’s day 25 of our journey and it is now impossible to go any further west without getting wet. What a glorious final day on Route 66!
Throughout our travels on the Mother Road, we covered no more than 150 miles per day. Today we drove around 350 miles. There wasn’t much to do in the Mojave Desert except soak in its beauty. While we had one memorable stop, today was all about the drive. Ross took the first shift behind the wheel.
There are two ways out of Kingman into California, the Interstate and the road less traveled. If you’ve read any of our previous posts, no doubt you know the one we chose.
Here’s a taste of the Oakman Highway. This is probably one of the few places in the country where a “highway” has a posted 10 MPH speed limit. Hairpin curves along a mountain with hundred foot or more drops. Yup, 10 MPH sounds good to me! Was I glad Ross was doing the driving. I may be adventurous, but certainly not THAT daring.
We made it through the mountain pass and came to a town that time forgot … Oakman, Arizona. The entire town looks circa 1890s. The guidebook said that donkeys roam the streets during the day. Unfortunately, we arrived at 7:30 am and EVERYTHING was closed. The only person on the street was a guy on an all terrain vehicle who was checking the shop doors. There wasn’t even a place to grab a cup of coffee. Oh well. That just meant it was time to head to California.
After we crossed the Colorado River, we found ourselves in the Mojave Desert. Wow, is it big! If you’ve ever fantasized about driving the open road with no one in sight for miles, this is where that dream happens. It was my turn for some time behind the wheel. Outstanding! At one point, there was 20+ miles of straightaway in front of us …
… and a few more miles behind us. It felt like we were the only people on the planet. Pretty amazing, eh?!?!
Deserts have oases and Mojave is no exception. An oasis we found was the Bagdad Cafe in Newberry Springs. The locals we met there were … shall we say … a unique breed. Our waitress appeared to have ingested a bit too much meth in the 70s. Time was not kind. Her husband, who was also the cook, appeared to be going through the DTs after a day or so off booze. There were a couple more locals who didn’t seem to be playing with a full deck. Maybe it’s extended exposure to the heat? I don’t know. Like I said, interesting breed.
Without communicating, Ross and I sized up the situation similarly and ordered the “simplest” items on the menu. Better not make this too difficult. Nonetheless, both orders came out totally screwed up. But hey, no problem. Watching them work was entertainment we never expected. After a much longer lunch stop than we anticipated, we returned to the desert to continue our journey.
Upon reaching civilization (meaning LA metro traffic), Ross once again took the wheel. (I was so lucky to have done the fantasy driving portion of this leg!) Before we knew it, we had reached the western terminus of Route 66 at Santa Monica Pier.
There’s a plaque in a park at the end of Santa Monica Boulevard. We parked BJ in a no parking/tow away zone, ran out to this monument, and toasted the conclusion of our journey with a split of champagne.
This end of the route is much more commercialized than what we found in Chicago.
Well friends, that’s it for our Route 66 adventure. What a magnificent country! There’s no better feeling than the wind in your hair while driving a convertible on an open road. The Mother Road. Main Street of America. Whatever you call it, we’ve had over three weeks of bliss … and we’re not done yet!
After a couple days in LA we will begin the next leg of the journey. On Friday we head up the Pacific Coast Highway to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Ross has some business up there. Then it’s back to Wisconsin by way of Yellowstone and the Black Hills … with a few other business meetings along the way. We will continue to blog the trip, but probably not with daily frequency. We’ll see. Right now we’re savoring the accomplishment of this milestone.
Thanks for all your encouraging comments. It has been a pleasure to have shared this experience with you.
Until later …
June 10th, 2014
Hello friends. Carol here. I’m back at the keyboard after a couple days of rest and recovery. I’m still pretty sore after this weekend’s mule ride, but no permanent damage. Naproxin does a great job at relieving body aches. It could have been REALLY BAD. Thanks for all the well wishes. They are appreciated.
Time to put the encounter with old Buckshot behind us and continue with our Route 66 adventure. That’s exactly what we did on Tuesday.
Ross had some business in Phoenix on Monday so there was no touring. Just as well. I needed the day to rest. Today we returned to Route 66 in Flagstaff and headed to Kingman, AZ. It was another great day on the road.
First, we want to give a shout out to Holly, the Operations Manager at the Comfort Suites in Scottsdale. She really saved out bacon on Monday morning. We left the Grand Canyon about 6:30 am and arrived in the Phoenix area way too early to check in to our hotel. Holly took extra special care of us, giving us the best room we’ve had on the trip and letting us check in around 10:00 am. Big thanks Holly. We even had her sign our book.
The majority of Route 66 in Arizona is I-40. However, there are some off the beaten track portions. Here’s part of the route between Flagstaff and Belleville. BJ got a little dirty. Check out that gorgeous sky.
We had planned to have lunch when we passed through Williams. However, the folks there seemed pretty nasty. (It’s a big tourist spot. That seems to changed the demeanor of the locals.) We got back into the car and headed to Ash Forks. There we found the Ranch House Cafe.
What luck. Our waitresses were Rhonda (on the left signing our book) and Elsa. What a hoot! If you remember Charo, then you know what Elsa was like!
Ash Forks is also the home of DeSoto’s Salon. Yes, that is a DeSoto on the top of the building. Folks do this kind of stuff on Route 66.
Further down the road we came to Seligman. Every structure in this town celebrates Route 66. We spotted Elvis as well, but wasn’t fast enough to snap a picture.
Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In (1953) was the perfect place for an ice cream cone after that burro with green chilies we had for lunch. Rita Delgadillo, probably a grandchild of the founders, continues with the jokes and tricks on customers – false doornobs, “squirting” mustard bottles, “half ice cream cones” and “slightly used napkins.” After the floor show, we checked out the backyard. Too funny.
Undoubtedly I am repeating myself, but this portion of Route 66 was absolutely gorgeous.
Just before we reached Kingman, our final destination for the day, we found the Hackberry General Store. You don’t see too many general stores like this one!
Folks in these places are pretty laid back. So are the pets. Like I said, this an unusual general store.
Around 5:00 pm we arrived at Kingman. While making a quick stop at a local Walgreens (we needed some Zantac after that burro with green chilies lunch!), the sales clerk told us of a great restaurant up at the top of a nearby mountain. What she didn’t know was that it was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Not to fear. As we headed up the mountain, we passed a place called the Hot Rod Cafe. We decided to check it out. If you ever find yourself in Kingman, AZ, put this one on your “must stop” list. The food is great! Here I am eating a piece of fried zucchini. (Yes, that is a vegetable I’m eating! I didn’t want to include this photo, but Ross insisted.)
Well, that’s it for today. I can’t believe that tomorrow we reach the end of Route 66. But there is lots more to see and do before we conclude this leg of the journey.
Thanks for reading. Until later …
June 8th, 2014
Good day fellow travelers. Ross here again. I call you fellow travelers because at this point in time you must feel as if you are on this trip with us. So let’s begin.
After an afternoon and evening of rest, Carol, the trooper that she is, got up in the wee hours of the morning for a full day of touring. It began with an early morning flight around the Grand Canyon. Prepare your eyes to feast on the beauty of the Grand Canyon beginning with my beauty.
The canyon is thousands of years old and is riddled with peep holes where the sun creeps in. Once again, prepare your eyes for a thing of beauty.
Last but not least was a four-hour still water raft ride down the Colorado River. I couldn’t take photos of the beginning of the trip because we went through a two-mile tunnel under the dam you saw in the photos of our aerial trip. This is now a high security area due to the 9-11 situation. Below is the sum total of all the photos taken since Carol decided this was more of a video trip than a still photo trip.
June 7th, 2014
Hello followers. No, this is not Carol. This is Ross. I’m taking over the blog while she recovers from today’s brush with danger. You won’t believe what happened.
You see, our first day in the Grand Canyon opened with a mule ride across the South Ridge. Here’s Jim, our trusty bus driver.
He brought us to the corral where we received our instructions and our mules. My mule was Joanie, the brown one on the far right. Carol’s was Buckshot, who’s head you can just see on the far right. And this is where the tale begins …
Rod, our wrangler, placed us in the back of the ride behind the family from hell … actually from Georgia. I wasn’t overjoyed about this since Carol was a bit pensive about the whole thing. But in the spirit of the trip, I tried my best not do a “Ross” here and just played it as it laid.
As the ride progressed, we were shown one stunning panorama after another. That’s Joanie’s ear on the bottom.
All was going well and Carol’s confidence grew with every stop.
She even mastered drinking from a skin while in the saddle.
On one occasion, she even took a picture from her spot in the rear of the pack. That’s the family from hell on the right.
The views were spectacular.
Note our Super Mario look!
As we headed back, once again the views were spectacular. THIS is what the Grand Canyon is all about.
On our last stop before heading to the barn, I took one last picture of Carol. She was confident, at peace, and having the time of her life. Then disaster struck!!!
As the ride stopped to cross the road, literally 50 feet from the barn, I heard the howl WWWOOOO behind me. As I turned in my saddle, there was Carol and Buckshot racing through the woods. The next thing I knew, Carol was on her back and Buckshot was nowhere to be found. Time to take charge.
I took over the entire ride. Told Rod to get me off the G.. D.. mule, got them to get some EMTs on site, and ordered up transportation to the clinic.
While Carol appears to be laughing here, neither of us were overjoyed. However, my trooper of a wife managed to get through it all.
Below is the true irony of the day. While they were completing Carol’s treatment and I was waiting for a tally on the bill, I saw this on the bulletin board in the clinic. Yeah, I enjoyed the view, but the ride … not quite.
Although Carol is pretty bruised and scraped up, the good news is nothing broken or permanently damaged. Needless to say, we spent the rest of the day relaxing in the room so Carol could begin to convalesce.
June 6th, 2014
I admit I was excited to reach our final destination today … the Grand Canyon. Ross was here in the early 70s and I’ve seen it from 35,000 feet more times than I can count. Today we got to see it the best way possible, up close and together.
But before thinking ahead to what will come, there were still many adventures to be had on this leg of Route 66. (Remember that our trip philosophy is that the journey is more important than any destination.)
As we left Holbrook, we passed one of the remaining Wigwam Motels still in operation. Apparently, these were pretty popular in their day. Still are today. We tried to get reservations, but the wait list was long. Just as well. We had a very comfortable room last night up the road at a Choice Hotel. Boy were those rooms small! I still would have liked to see the inside. Perhaps another day.
Further down the road we found what was left of another Route 66 icon, the Meteor City Trading Post. This stop was listed in multiple guidebooks, but it looked as if it had been abandoned for years. Guess this will be one of those old Route 66 relics that will eventually dry up and crumble. Funny thing is that it has it’s own exit on the Interstate.
A few miles further on the Interstate was the site where a meteor hit (not recently I assure you!) As you know if you’ve been reading our blog, we’re all for interesting roadside attractions, but this one was off the charts price wise. It might have been interesting, maybe even educational, but we opted to pass up the opportunity and continue on our way. The Grand Canyon was calling.
Route 66 and the Interstate split at Winona, about 10 miles outside of Flagstaff. Once we were back on the two-lane road, we discovered another remnant of the old Mother Road, the Winona Bridge. You may recall it from the Forrest Gump movie.
The bridge, which was built in 1925, has been closed for some time. Turns out it is a favorite speed trap location for the county sheriff. How do we know this? No, we didn’t get a ticket. When we pulled up the the bridge, the sheriff was there looking for speeders. Ross approached him, told him about our travels and asked if he would mind if we took a picture of the bridge. He laughed, said no problem and then took off down the road.
Once the cop was gone, BJ sneeked out to the edge of the bridge for a photo opp. (BJ can be so cunning at times!)
About a mile down the road, we found our sheriff friend at another location. We slowed down, beeped the horn and waved goodbye. He probably wasn’t too keen on people acknowledging his presence, but we wanted to thank him.
We entered Flagstaff around lunchtime and soon found The Museum Club.
Built in the 1930’s, the Museum Club was a famous Arizonan roadhouse and dance club. It continues as a mecca for country music even today. Ross kibitzed with one of the locals as we entered this Ponderosa Pine log cabin.
Inside was a real hoot. There were over 80 taxidermy mounts on the walls. You name it. If it had fur and antlers, it was up on a wall. Lots of guitars from legends of country music who played there too. It also was the place for off track betting. While we were there, a dozen or so guys were placing bets at a kiosk and watching races on televisions. One guy appeared to be winning big. Then again, maybe guys who bet on horses are like fishermen, big on stories, small on results … but I don’t know for sure.
Here’s Ross with Miss Jane, our waitress, bartender, and just about anything else that has to be done in the bar person. She certainly ranks up there as goes unique characters on the route.
Speaking of breathtaking views, a group on Italians spotted Little BJ. This woman fell in love with him so Ross put the top down and invited her to sit inside. All her companions took pictures of her in the car. I’m sure Little BJ will have his moment of fame on a few international Facebook pages!
Yup, it’s pretty grand alright!
We’re here for the next two days. On Saturday, we’ll ride mules along the rim. On Sunday, we’ll see the canyon at dawn from a plane, do a bit of hiking on an Indian reservation, then raft the Colorado River. We go from top to bottom in 12 hours. Should be great. Better get some sleep. It’s going to be a busy weekend.
Until later …
June 5th, 2014
Last evening as we returned from our Wow Diner gastric adventure, we saw a billboard for “The Land of Fire & Ice – Bandara Volcano & Ice Cave.” That’s just the stuff we’re looking for on this trip. How could we pass up the opportunity?! We checked today’s route and found that much of Route 66 to Gallup was Interstate. This was a perfect chance to sidetrack and see something unique. So this morning, off we went.
Bandara Volcano and Ice Cave is situated along the Continental Divide in New Mexico. In layman’s terms, the Continental Divide is the location where water flows either west to the Pacific Ocean or east to the Gulf of Mexico. Undoubtedly there’s more to it than that, but enough to say it was mountainous and beautiful.
We arrived around 8:30 and the Ice Cave didn’t open until 9:00. Along the way, we had seen signs for the El Morro National Monument 15 miles down the road. Neither of us knew what it was, but rather than wait, we decided to check it out.
Holy cow, this place was amazing! El Morro towers behind us.
Massive rocks soaring into the sky.
Others perched in precarious positions hundreds of feet overhead.
Absolutely magnificent. It took about an hour or so to hike to the top. The view was stunning. There were even some remnants of an ancient pueblo up there. I have now experienced a real box canyon!!!
Once at ground level, we backtracked to the volcano and ice cave. Off for another hike. We chose to do fire first so we could cool down with the ice afterwards.
The volcano was interesting, but certainly not as majestic as El Morro. Everything was so black and gravelly. Dah, it’s a volcano!
We descended the backside of the volcano and found the ice cave. Too cool!!! Literally. Outside the cave the temp was in the 90s. Inside the cave, it was 31 degrees Fahrenheit. The ice floor of the cave glistened a beautiful blue green. It’s this way year around. (The picture doesn’t do the colors justice, and yes, that is ice.)
Years ago, locals used to harvest the ice for their ice boxes. These days, visitors may only stand above on a platform and admire the beauty. Too much body heat may melt the ice. It sure was a great way to cool down!
After our visit, we headed to Gallup and rejoined Route 66. One of our guidebooks lauded the cuisine at the Dogg House, an iconic hot dog stand. We loaded the address into the navi and headed 70 or so miles to lunch.
The navi put us back on Route 66 no problem. But when we had reached our destination, we discovered the Dogg House was now a Chinese buffet restaurant. Bummer. Not to worry. Up the road a ways we found Aurelia’s Diner. While it wasn’t WOW, it was good and filling. Soon we were back on our way.
A few miles after we entered Arizona, we passed the Fort Courage Trading Post. It’s claim to fame was that it was the “Home of F-Troop.” And yes, trading post is still code for souvenir shop.
We stopped in to check it out, but what we found was the same old, same old. What a missed marketing opportunity! (Sorry, occupational hazard.)
Given that much of Route 66 in Arizona is I-40, it didn’t take long to get to our final destination, Holbrook. We had planned to check out the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest tomorrow, but found that we had the time today. (We actually had more time than we anticipated because Arizona doesn’t follow Daylight Savings Time!) So off to the Painted Desert we went.
As you might guess, we’ve taken lots of pictures on this trip. However, the quantity seems miniscule compared to what we took once we hit this National Park. Ross shot so many photos, he drained his camera battery!
I just wish the pictures would show the colors we saw. They were amazing!
This was the first time I had seen petrified wood in its native surroundings. Just beautiful!
When Ross was here in 1973, he recalled being able to go up to the wood and touch it. He also remembered there being substantially more of it throughout the park. Now you can only admire it from afar.
Boy did we get a workout today – up a national monument, around the top of a volcano, down into an ice cave, and around a painted desert. Another amazing day on the road. Good thing I’m keeping this blog. We’ve seen so much beauty and wonders, I can’t keep it all straight.
And there’s more to come. Tomorrow we’re off to Flagstaff, and then a weekend in the Grand Canyon.
Until later …
June 4th, 2014
Our morning in Albuquerque was full of wonderful surprises. What a far cry from what we experienced the night before! Our first stop was the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. In our plan we assumed this would be a short stop. Not hardly! There was so much to see and learn, we ended up spending several hours there.
Our visit began in a courtyard that contained several beautiful murals.
While we were in the courtyard we met Curtis Platero, a Navajo jewelry artist. The bracelets he makes tell a story. Each is different. The one Ross bought has wolves (represents loyalty), buffalo (endurance), horses (healing power), bears (strength, courage), arrows (protection) and water (constant life). Yup, that’s my honey. The right bracelet found him. What a special souvenir of the trip.
I wish I could have taken pictures inside, but photography was prohibited. The exhibits were so moving. What an education we’re getting on this trip.
The folks inside really made us feel at home. Here’s Ross with some new friends.
The drive from Albuquerque to Grants was nothing less than spectacular. We drove a part of Route 66 that was dirt. A road sign said we were in Open Plains. We both joked about the car being attacked by buffalo like the guys in that State Farm Insurance commercial. If you know the commercial, you’ll have the image of where we were.
Off in the distance we spotted a giant facility. We couldn’t make out what it was and we wondered if we were stumbling upon some secret government facility. Were we close to Area 51? Not hardly. Turns out it was a giant casino!
As we passed the casino, we discovered the Rio Puerco Bridge, an old railroad trestle structure built in the 1930s. This was another of those iconic structures of the Route 66 of yore. So of course it was time for another Kodak moment.
And then the road got REALLY COOL. Here’s the approach to “Dead Man’s Curve.” WOW!
The road snaked around mountains for miles. As usual, we were the only ones out there. THIS is what driving Route 66 is all about.
When we arrived in Grants, we found the New Mexico Mining Museum. Grants was the largest mining area in the US for uranium.
Once again what we thought would be a quick glance became a super interesting couple of hours. Our guide, Jack Farley, was a true mole. Not only did he spend 43 years of his life in the mines, but he loved every minute of it. Jack told us point blank that he preferred to be underground than above.
The museum has a below ground exhibit of a uranium mine. Here Jack demonstrated how they set the charges to get the ore with the uranium. He was pretty passionate about his work … then and now.
After a long day of driving and touring, we were WOWed by dinner at the Wow Diner. Trust me when I tell you the restaurant is appropriately named. The food was … what can I say except … WOW!
Well, that’s it for today. We will have some special and not so special memories of New Mexico. However, we are holding true to our mantra. “What’s important is the journey, not the destination.”
Tomorrow’s destination is Arizona. More later …
June 3rd, 2014
It was an interesting day today. It started out great, got mediocre when we reached Santa Fe, then improved when we settled into Old Town Albuquerque.
We left Tucumcari around 7:30 am when the temperature was a cool 74 degrees. The weatherman predicted that it was going to be a scorcher so we thought we’d go top down early. Good thing Little BJ has a hardtop and great air conditioner! This midday desert heat is not something either of us are accustomed to.
Our first stop was Santa Rosa – home of yet another Route 66 Car Museum. However, this one was pretty special. We could tell from the moment we arrived that this place was going to be good, much better than the one we went to in Branson … and less than half the price for admission!
When we arrived, we met Bozo (real name is James), the “curator” of the place. (Curator in this case means artist/mechanic who builds all the cars.) Funny guy. We had him autograph our book too. Bozo is heavy into muscle cars and hot rods.
Ross was seriously impressed with the 1963 Corvette Split Window. (It’s the one on the right with the hood up.) He figured the car was worth six figures easy. Holy cow!
Bozo keeps at least 30 cars on the floor at a given time. Can you imagine how much something like this weighs? I admit I’d have difficulty parallel parking it. And it’s only a 2-door. Beautiful for sure, but not my size.
Bozo’s wife said he originally wanted his creation to be a car carrier. But then it morphed into what you see here. I still don’t know what it is, but it sure is big! (I needed a car terminology lesson. COE means Cab Over Engine. Now I know.)
Bozo’s wife and I hung out with Betty Boop on a seat he made out of a Coca Cola cooler. This guy is REALLY talented. Imaginative too!
A bit past Santa Rosa, Route 66 splits. The pre-1937 route takes you up to Santa Fe while the newer route follows I-40 into Albuquerque. We chose the early route instead of the Interstate.
The drive was amazing. Two-lane road with nobody on it except us. The scenery was so beautiful, it actually brought tears to my eyes. Just breathtaking.
But then we hit the city and all the traffic that comes with it. Santa Fe is okay, but super touristy. Lots of galleries and jewelry shops. Lots of street vendors of jewelry as well. The downtown architecture is 21st century pueblo … neither old nor new. Truth be told, it was a big letdown.
We grabbed some pricy lunch, then wandered over to the state capitol building. Boy was it hot! In addition to offices, the Capitol is also an art gallery. Pretty impressive.
Here’s an interest piece we found in the rotunda. The media used is very unique. Newspapers, film, paint brushes, light bulbs … the photo doesn’t do it justice. Really cool.
After some pricy (and pretty yucky) gelato, we decided we had enough of Santa Fe. It was pretty easy to find our way out of town on Route 66 and soon we were back on the open road. Ahhh, back to blissful driving.
One of the guidebooks that said that Old Town Albuquerque was an interesting place to stay. It was right off Route 66 and supposedly filled with trendy shops and restaurants. Well, there were many trendy shops, but they were all closed by 7:00 pm when we headed out for dinner. As for great restaurants, that was another exaggeration. The woman at the hotel’s front desk recommended three places she thought were terrific. Let’s just say we have different definitions of terrific. We finally settled on the only open restaurant that had a bar with beer on tap.
Most of the draft beers (excluding the ubiquitous Bud and Bud Lite) were ones we had never seen before. We asked to sample a couple and you would have thought we had asked for the money in the cash register. The bartender tossed a couple shots of foam in front of us and we waited for a drop of beer to materialize. Based on these tastes, we each selected something we thought we might like. BAD IDEA. Both beers were horrible. We each took a sip, looked at each other and asked for the check. Hmmm, so far Albuquerque isn’t turning out to be much better than Santa Fe.
Luckily the guy sitting next to us saw what was going on and recommend we head to a pub inside a nearby hotel. Ah, back to bliss. We enjoyed a couple cold ones, munched out on delicious nachos, and returned to the hotel to prepare for another day on the road. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.
Until then …