Monday, March 6, 2017

Road Trippin' - Part 5: Route 66 to home

Day 8 Route 66

Route 66
After checking out if our room at the Grand Canyon we headed south to Williams.  It’s only about an hour from the canyon and the winery Hubby wanted to visit didn’t open until Noon.  Looking for something to do I suggested we head up to Slagman by way of Route 66.  I wanted to get a picture of a Route 66 road shield out in the middle of nowhere and knew there was one just before Slagman.  To get to this portion of Route 66 we had to take I40 for a few miles and exit at Crookston.   Route 66 is just off the exit ramp and to my surprise there was a road shield not too far from the ramp with a pull out to stop and take pictures.  Hubby pulled over so I could jump out and snap a quick pic.  I wanted to get one with our car and us in front of the shield, but Hubby said we couldn’t block the road.  If we were quick about it we probably could of, since we drove all the way to Slagman without seeing another vehicle.  Just before reaching Slagman, we stopped at the other the road shield for another quick pic.  

Roadkill Cafe, Slagman, AZ
We drove through town to see what was there first.  We found a few interesting stores to stop and look around, bought a few souvenirs and had lunch at the Roadkill Café.  I always thought this place was made up, I had no idea it was a real restaurant.  The menu was interesting.  They served the usual café foods, hamburgers, chicken fingers, typical  things you’d find at any roadside café, but everything had funny names.  The burrito was called a Rolled-up Skunk, there was a chicken sandwich called the High Speed Special and was described as something about this was one chicken that didn’t make it across the road.   I took a pic of the menu front cover, but now I wish I had taken a few of the menu choices too, they were funny.  The most unusual item on the menu (maybe not for the locals since this is buffalo and elk country) was the buffalo and elk burgers.  I tried the elk burger, it had a little different taste to it but was good.  Over lunch we debated going farther west on 66.  Hubby was getting tired of driving but was willing to go as far as Kingman.  There’s not much along this stretch of road anymore.  We passed though Peach Springs and Truxton which were pretty much ghost towns, and stopped in Hackberry at an old service station turned Route

Hackberry General Store
66 shrine.  This place looked like it wasn't suppose to be open for business.  They had several old cars sitting in the yard and 2 old gas pumps.  The inside was filled with Route 66 memorabilia and merchandise.  We didn’t need any more stuff, we bought a bunch of it in Slagman, but they had Route 66 soda, so we each bought a bottle of Root Beer.   In Valle View we thought it was strange that out in the middle of the dessert there were large plots of green that could be seen at the base of the mountains.  After driving a little farther, we saw a sign for a golf course and figured all that green must have been the gulf course or they were raising sod for the gulf course.  We arrived in
Growing sod in the desert?
Kingman and had planned on spending the night there, but since it was only about an hour and half back to Williams on I40 we just headed back.  I was fine with that, I just wanted to say I had traveled Route 66 even if it was just a short distance, actually it was close to 120 miles.

Back in Williams we stopped at Grand Canyon Wine Company and sampled the whole list.  I wasn’t a fan of the reds but I found a few whites that I liked.  Hubby wanted to stop there because he like the novelty of wine in a can and was planning on buying a pack whither he liked it or not; luckily, he did.
We got a room in Williams for the night.  The next morning, we were planning on heading to Walnut Canyon near Flagstaff and spending the night in Holbrook at the Wigwam Motel before heading home; but there was a major snow storm heading our way.  They were talking up to a foot of snow or more; so we decided not to push our luck. We knew if we stayed any longer we would be stuck there for a few days.  We came in to Arizona on the tail end of a large storm and were leaving just as a new one was blowing in.

When I was researching places along Route 66, I found a few I knew we would pass on I40.  Outside Flagstaff we passed Twin Arrows trading post.  The building has long since been abandoned and vandalized but the twin arrows were still there and viewable even at 75 mph.  The next one I was looking for was Two Guns just outside of Winslow.  From the freeway, I could see the stone gate that reads Mountain Lions and a few of the old buildings that were now in ruins.  This is one spot I kind of wanted to stop, but then again didn’t because it’s supposedly cursed.  It has a very volatile history, starting with the murder of 42 Apache Indians in 1878, the cold-blooded murder of a land owner in the 20’s, financial ruin of anybody who owned the property and a suicide in the early 2000's.  You can't tell me a place can hold that much tragedy and misfortune and not have them related somehow.  You can read more about it here.

In Lupon we stopped at Chief Yellowhorse Trading on the Arizona / New Mexico border. I remember stopping there on our first trip when I bought a wedding vase which broke several years ago, I was hoping to get another one this trip but everywhere I saw them, they were well out of my price range.  I thought Chief Yellowhorse would have them but the store was pretty bare with a clearance sign out front.  I did pick up a nice woven blanket though.  

Blue Swallow Motel, Tumcumcari, MN
We stopped for the night in Tumcumcari.  Hubby wanted to get a hotel room off of the interstate but I talked him into staying at the Blue Swallow Motel off Route 66.   Since I didn’t get to stay at the Wigwam, I figured the Blue Swallow was then next best thing.    When we first pulled into town I began to wonder if this was such a good idea.  The whole west side of town was run down with abandoned businesses.  We started to wonder if this was really a good place to stop.  As we got farther into town things improved a little, but still many of the old Route 66 hotels were out of business or in a state of disrepair.  We had called ahead and was lucky enough to get one of the last rooms available.  The Blue Swallow is one of the few thriving businesses in this little town.  The owners really love their little motel and it shows.  For a 75 year old motel it was very well maintained.  The rooms were all restored to look like they did in the 50’s complete with a working rotary phone, vintage tv, and a 1957 copy of National Geographic.  That’s not to say there wasn’t modern creature comforts.  We had Wi-Fi access and a flat screen tv with cable and a community area with an ice machine and laundry facilities.  Each room had a little garage attached between the rooms.  We didn’t look in our garage but others had theirs open and they were painted with 50’s themes.  Each unit had a couple lawn chairs outside the door for sitting outside to visit with your neighbors and there was a community picnic table and what looked like a giant fire pit with grill.  I could imagine Route 66 travelers gathering here to relax after a long day on the road, sharing conversation and cooking dinner.  It was fun to be able to stay there and feel like we had stepped back in time.

We drove from Tucumcari to El Dorado, Kanas, and from El Dorado to home.  We got home around 8:30 pm and I wasn’t happy to see the condition of the house.  It was a disaster, the sink was full of dishes (I don’t think they washed any dishes the whole time we were gone), nobody bothered to do laundry so the hampers were over flowing.  Alison told me she went grocery shopping and was so proud of herself for buying healthy foods.  That included 3 cases of pop, pudding cups, and lots of cheese.  She thinks she’s a vegetarian, but she really doesn’t like vegetables so she eats mostly cheese.  She bought a 2-lb. brick of cheese, a 2-lb. bag of shredded cheese, two tubs of cottage cheese, two tubs of cream cheese and a box of frozen mozzarella cheese sticks.  She’s 19 and planning on moving out in a few months, I think we need to have a little lesson on Adulting 101.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Road Trippin'- Part 4: The Grand Canyon

Day 5-7 Grand Canyon

The morning we left Page for the Grand Canyon the temperature had dropped.  For most of our stay we enjoyed temps in the 50th and 60’s, but this morning it was about 30 degrees colder.  I had to put on a heavy sweatshirt and even considered bringing out the winter hat and gloves.  We were heading to the Grand Canyon where they had gotten an inch of snow overnight and the weather report was reporting temps in the teens. Back at home they were preparing for blizzard conditions.

Jim, our wilderness guide from White Pocket recommend we stop at Cameron Trading Post for a Navajo taco.  It’s fry bread topped with chili beans, beef, lettuce, cheddar cheese, tomatoes and green chili salsa.  It was excellent and very filling.  It was the size of a small pizza and I wasn’t sure I could finish it but I managed.

We pulled into the park midafternoon.  We were staying at one of the lodges in the park but since we couldn’t check in until 3, we spend the afternoon stopping at some of the viewpoints along Desert View Drive on the east side of the park.  It was cold and windy when we got there and I had to put on my winter hat and gloves.

Desert View Watchtower
Our first stop was the watchtower.  This was a place we enjoyed the last time we were here and although it was still very much the same it didn’t hold the same enchantment it had 20 years ago.  It seemed most of the park was like that.  The places we enjoyed last time just didn’t do it for us, and I can’t explain why.  The canyon was still beautiful, but everything else wasn’t how we remembered it.  

I discovered that when you’re walking around with a SLR camera people assume you know what you’re doing and ask you to take their picture.  I think I took more pics of strangers than anything else.   

The lodges in the park are made up of the main lodge where you’ll find the registration desk, a gift shop, a cafeteria, and a tavern.   The rooms are made up of little buildings spread out away from the main lodge.   Each building houses about 15 rooms.  The rooms were simple but functional and really who goes to the Grand Canyon to sit in their room?   When we checked into our room Hubby discovered we didn’t have Wi-Fi in our room and cell signal was spotty.  I saw this as an opportunity to unplug, but Hubby saw it as an inconvenience, and that started his mood for the night.
Grand Canyon at Sunset
We went for dinner at the lodge tavern.  There was a sign that said please wait to be seated so we waited.  And waited. And waited.   The tavern wasn’t that busy and it appears we were being ignored.  Finally, someone took us to a table, gave us menus and we never saw them again.  In the meantime, tables that were seated after us were getting waited on.  This made Hubby more upset and he flagged down a waitress.    She apologized for the poor service and was very attentive after that.  The food wasn’t that great and we decided we wouldn’t be eating there again.  Luckily there were other choices to eat at in the park.

After the whole dinner fiasco, we went back to our room.  To keep the light pollution to a minimum all the outdoor lights are a very low watt making it difficult to find our building, much less our room.  Already aggravated about dinner, it didn’t help his mood that the ice machine for our building was shut off for the winter and was told to fill the ice bucket at a different building.   Hubby came back to the room and threw the ice bucket on the table.  He was going to try to call the kids to give them a number where they could reach us, and right then my phone rang; it was our son, James.  The connection was bad, and Hubby could hear James, but he couldn’t hear Hubby.  James tried to call back a couple times and it was the same thing.  Finally, when they could hear each other, Hubby tried to give him the lodge phone number but we couldn’t find anything with the number on it.  At this point, Hubby grabbed his phone and the ice bucket, jumped in the car to drive back to the main lodge to call home and fill the bucket up from the cafeteria soda fountain.    Only he couldn’t even get a signal at the main building.  While he was gone, I found a phone number for the lodge and somehow was able to get enough signal to be able to txt home.  Hubby came back to the room exasperated and I started to feel bad for booking us there for 3 nights.   I wanted to be in the park so we could catch a sunrise without having to get up at an ungodly hour, but because he was mad at just about everything thing I began to wonder if we would have been better off at one of the hotels just outside the park.
Sunrise over the canyon

After a good night’s sleep Hubby was in a better mood and we got up at 5:30 to catch the sunrise at Yavapai Point.  When we got there, there were only 2 other people.  As it got closer to sunrise more people started to show up.  I staked my claim on a spot with my tripod and for the most part people respected my space.   After the sun peaked over the horizon I moved about 6 feet to an area away from the fenced off viewing area and pointed my camera in the opposite direction to catch the light shining on the canyon monuments.  This made some people nervous because I was standing on top of a cliff with no railing and they were a little vocal about it but I was still a good 5 feet from the edge and ignored them.  I think our experience at Horseshoe Bend had steeled my nerves a bit.  

About an hour or so after sunrise I realized we were the only ones left.  The golden hour was over and my toes were frozen so it was time to go.  We drove up to the watchtower to get some breakfast.  The snack bar didn’t open until 9  so we had to sit outside in the cold for 15 minutes waiting.  After breakfast, I decided needed to do laundry.  We were there for the next 2 days and had already seen half the park so I had no problem taking an hour or so to make sure we had clean clothes for the rest of the trip.  Hubby dropped me off at the park laundromat while he went to look gas so we would have enough to get out to the west end of the park and back.  

Somewhere along Hermit Road
We did find cell signal in the middle of the park at the visitor’s center.  I just happened to be checking Facebook when I saw a post from our daughter, Alison.  She was at an urgent care clinic waiting to see a doctor because she fell down the stairs the night before.  I called her cell and caught her still at the clinic waiting to hear the results of her x-rays.  I told her to txt me when she knew anything, and I would call her when I could.  Later in the day I got a message from my mom informing me about Alison’s accident and that they would drive out to our place over the weekend if the kids needed anything.  Later in the day I got another message saying not to rush home, Alison was in a sling with a hairline fracture in her elbow but other than that she was fine.

Hermits Rest
We spent most of the rest of the day on Hermit Road.  This side of the park is my favorite.  The views just seem better from the west side for some reason.   I don’t know how many photos I took but it was a lot as we stopped at each point working our way to Hermits Rest.  Even though we drove from point to point there was still a lot if walking and sometimes stairs to climb up and down.  By the end of the day my feet were tired and my knees were weak.  We’re not in the shape we were 20 years ago, and even the small inclines were difficult.   After making it to Hermits Rest we drove back towards the village and stopped at Hopi Point for sunset.  It was probably in the high teens for temps, with the wind blowing right at us as we stood on the overlook, and as the sun went down the canyon started to fill with shadows, so we didn’t stay very long.    That night for dinner we got a pizza and took it back to our room so we could be back before it was to dark.  

The next morning, we headed to the village to visit the gift shops and look for the spot we had our picture taken 20 years ago, to recreate the photo.   We walked up and down the village looking.  Hubby even pulled up the old pic on his phone trying to match landmarks.  I don’t think we found the exact spot but I think we got close.  We wandered around the village for most of the morning and then went to get lunch outside the park.

 Back in the park we visited a few other gift shops and saw they had Grand Canyon wine.  We
thought about buying a bottle, but wanted to be able to taste it first and were told we could buy it by the glass in the taverns.  We headed back to the tavern we ate at the first night, only because it was the closest.  I asked about the wine we had seen in the gift shop and the bartender told me they don’t sell the same wine because the stuff in the gift shops wasn't very good.  Instead we tried a wine from the winery we were planning on going to in Williams.  I was so tired and sore from all the walking we did in the last couple days I need a nap so we went back to our room and I slept until dinner. By this time we were both done with the canyon, we had seen everything we wanted to see so we had a quick dinner and then went back to the room to watch tv until bed.