Our Little 2009 Route 66 "Mini-Trip"
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We loaded up the mighty Truckasaurus on a warm (no, make that darn hot) spring day in Phoenix and headed north to Flagstaff to join Historic Route 66 (and its modern counterpart, Interstate 40) for a long weekend of road trip fun. The cruise up to Flag on the 17 freeway was uneventful as we transitioned from cacti-strewn desert to piney forests, and we reached the busy stretch of old 66 in Flagstaff in early afternoon - just in time to dodge the hordes in town for NAU's commencement ceremonies. Lunch was found under the towering red roof of the Route 66 Dog Haus, and chili dogs were consumed while we watched the bikes, cars, and trucks roll by on that busy stretch of city street (as we in turn tried to keep our napkins & cookies from blowing away in the fresh mountain breezes).
Once lunch was done, we rolled our full bellies out eastward via Townsend-Winona Road (also an alignment of old 66 back in the early days) and over to I-40, venturing onto the open plateaus of northeastern Arizona with the Hopi mesas visible many miles in the distance. About 35 miles east of Flagstaff, we started entering a neighborhood where about 50,000 years B.B.S.S. (Before Burma-Shave Signs) the peace and quiet was slightly disrupted by a 150 ft rock plummeting into Earth's gravity well and blasting out a 500-foot deep and nearly-mile-wide crater. We also appreciated that this particular rock had planned wisely in terms of long-term tourist opportunities, in that it conveniently kerplunked only a few short miles from the busy tourist corridor of 66/40. We diverted south from the route past the domed gas station and followed the county road southward to Meteor Crater, gazed into the maw of this super-size dimple, explored the exhibits at the visitor center, while our space-obsessed son (only 4 years old and already knows all the planets!) took it upon himself to reenact cataclysmic planetary collisions with any and all available objects, including some cool colorful marbles purchased from the gift shop.
After we cleared out of the gift shop and stretched out in the shade of the Astronaut Hall of Fame, we made our way back to the main highway and continued our eastward travels on past Winslow and the coaliferous smokestacks of Joseph City, and ended our day on Hopi Drive in Holbrook (yes, 66 again) and a turn to park in the triangular shadows of the Wigwam Village Motel. Kirstie greeted us from behind the front desk to complete our conic check-in, and we started meeting some of the other occupants of the evening's teepees, including a group of BMW-owning motorcycle gals from Phoenix who had ridden up to enjoy the Wigwam's legendary hospitality. The evening wrapped up with a trip down to Joe & Aggie's Cafe, where we greeted the friendly staff and closed the place down with a hearty meal of Navajo Tacos and other good food. Then to the Safeway across from the Wigwam for some ice cream (OK, too much ice cream) and then pleasant dairy-digesting dreams.
We were looking forward to a nice long lazy rest amid the period decor of wigwam number 5 - but this was not to be, as Duncan spotted the very first rays of the morning sun through the wig-windows and took it upon himself to run around the teepee yelling "Wake up! Wake up! It's daytime! It's daytime!"
Since we were now most assuredly awake, we headed down to McDonald's for breakfast (nearly all of the mom 'n pop eateries in town are closed on Sunday) and discussed our day's plans while Duncan cavorted with other visiting kids in the tubes and towers of the play structures. We pondered the idea of venturing eastbound toward New Mexico, or north up to the reservation or Canyon de Chelly, but realized it might be even more relaxing to keep things simple & low-key by just hanging around the Holbrook area for the day.
Although we knew that the toy-ous wonder of Sergeant Hobby's shop was off duty on Sundays, we figured that other local places would be open for entertainment. We rolled to the west side of town to see if P&M Lanes was open - but got the couldn't-bowl blues when we saw to our dismay a locked door and realtor sign peeking up behind the weedy parking lot.
Well, if we couldn't bowl, we could sightsee, and so (after a cool-off and doze in the wigwam) we traipsed out to the tourist traps out on 66 to see what we could turn up. As we explored the old alignment of 66 out by the Adamana exit (#303), we spied the vividly-signed Painted Desert Indian Center, and dropped in for some air-conditioned browsing. Cindy and Livia were very ready to show us some very fine silverwork from the local artisans, but we were even more happy to see that they were most understanding when our four-year-old marketing consultant took it upon himself to stay just ahead of his concerned parents as he adjusted displays here and there to maximize their sales potential (and nothing was broken and no one was annoyed, thank goodness). Duncan was most enamored of some small cute Native American "action figures" (mah son don't play with dolls! ;) and indeed one, which he named "Teepee Toppy" was lucky enough to make the trip to the register and join our merry band. Then some cavorting around all the brightly painted teepees around the trading post, and back into the bright sunshine as we motored back toward Holbrook.
Safely back at the Wigwams, Duncan befriended one of the kids living in the apartments out back, while Mom & Dad had a most enjoyable sit-down with Elinor & Idalia Lewis (two members of the Lewis clan that keeps the Wigwam Village in tip-top shape). We caught up on old and recent times as Duncan ran & tumbled in the petrified-wood-enhanced dirt outside, and then Richard assisted the Lewises a bit by troubleshooting an ornery lock on the door of wigwam #3.
All this playing & lock-bashing & chatting had us hungry for dinner, and so we cruised out for an evening meal. However, it was clear that the Denny's on Navajo Boulevard had seen a high volume of patronage on this Mother's Day, and by the time we arrived the staff was friendly but frazzled. But the food was very good, and the much-delayed dinner delivery gave us time to chat and relax as Duncan sipped two-color milk out of his space-age glass. Then back to the teepees for one more night of cone-type tourist fun.
The third and final day of our brief trip began with Richard setting off on the bicycle down Hopi Drive back to Joe & Aggie's to obtain breakfast in bed for the family. Now it's an established fact that food purchased at a legendary mom & pop eatery and delivered by bicycle to a classic concrete wigwam always tastes better! This went well (except for the doubling of mileage after what will be filed under "the syrup containment failure incident"), and after all was scrubbed up and digested Richard turned the bicycle back 'round again and headed again up old 66 on two human-powered wheels, climbing the hills of Holbrook to the ADOT district office for several hours of morning meetings, as the rest of the gang soaked up a bit more conical coziness in the wigwam (and our outer-space-minded child got to see the space shuttle launch live on teepee TV!)
After the meetings concluded and the bike was pedaled back down the hills (and through a stiffening headwind) back to the Wigwam Village, we de-teepeed and said our farewells. We hustled over to the Hilltop Cafe for lunch, only to see we'd arrived a few minutes after closing time. Our rumbling bellies told us it would be wise to locate another eatery and soon, and so we ended up on the opposite end of town at the Wayside Cafe. This worked out even better, as Rosemary Maestas pulled up a chair at our table and showed us pictures of the grandkids and other interesting people & places of Holbrook - and the food was as good as the conversation.
Full and happy, we turned the Truckasaurus into the wind and steered westward. We stopped across from the big yellow "HERE IT IS" sign at the Jackrabbit Trading Post to say hi to the Jacquez gang, and noted the presence of a large hazmat remediation apparatus currently occupying much of the parking lot where the gas pumps used to be. Cindy said that it was somewhat inconvenient to have the large machine between the happy fiberglass jackrabbit and route 66, but it's hoped that everything will be remediated and packed up soon. Duncan also was pleased by our stop here, as he (of course) enjoyed his time posing on the big bunny, weaving in & out of the barricades surrounding the hazmat-healing contraptions, and mostly because Mom & Dad allowed him to purchase a cool "cops & alleged perpetrators" playset to help him further his criminological capabilities.
Once we were all settled back into the truck we again headed westward, as the intensifying wind did its best to rock us northward & southward. Had a rather quiet drive (well, except for the wind wheezing around us) on through Winslow, as we dodged the repair crews who were restoring the concrete pavement of historic 66 in front of the downtown storefronts. Then on out of Winslow and up the hill to Flagstaff, as the late afternoon sun insisted on shining beside the San Francisco Peaks - and right into the driver's eyeballs.
Thinking about it, the best time for your child to say "I really need to go potty" probably is not right after you passed Miz Zip's and are entering an unbroken string of motels on one side of 66 and railroad tracks on the other side. Fortunately, after a couple minutes of anxious driving action, an available restroom under the red awning and white goatee of KFC came to Duncan's rescue, and the Little Bucket parfaits weren't all that bad either. Then a nice late afternoon in Thorpe Park allowed us to enjoy a few more minutes of Flagstaff coolness while Duncan frolicked, and we made the acquaintance of two fuzzy little puppies also visiting the park for a bit of fresh mountain air.
Although it was with some regret that we had to leave Flagstaff and complete our journey home, this last leg of the trip was enlivened a bit by a small celebration when 235,000 miles rolled across the dials of the truck's very experienced odometer. However, a few miles later, the speedometer seemed to think that rolling 235K was enough excitement for the day, and so it and its little buddy the odometer decided to take the rest of the night off. Fortunately, we have other ways of determining speed and distance (insert obligatory plug for the GPS & DMI here), so we worried not about the blue-reflecting Highway Patrol vehicles we spied lurking in the bushes under the sparkling stars. Then back into the lights and traffic of Phoenix, and into the driveway at 9:30 PM, where a tired small child and his mom & dad piled out of the truck and prepared for another week at home.
And I suppose someday we're going to get that maple syrup smell out of the bike bags...
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Updated 04 June 2009Scripting: Richard C. Moeur