We said our farewells to another branch of the Carlisle family and made our way along the beltways, going through the suburbs Suzanne used to know so well when she lived in this area over two decades ago, and even going right by the high-rise where she once worked right out of college. We finally put the Twin Cities in the rear view, driving along an alignment of US 212 that was so new that our 2-year-old GPS was a bit confused - it just couldn't understand how our truck was so powerful and multifunctional that we were able to maintain 65 MPH through open fields and across winding streams, and the little green recommended routing line kept redrawing itself in a most convoluted way.
A bit more driving brought us out onto the rolling green prairies of Minnesota, with the small towns popping up along the highway in semi-regular intervals. In Stewart, one of these nice little burgs, a garage sale sign caught our eye and brought us over for a stop. This was rather fortuitous, as there was clothing just right for Duncan's current and upcoming sizes, plus a thing or two for mom & dad, including a spare brain (just in case!) Then across the street to use the facilities at the local grain processor, and to utilize the massive truck scale to check how much we'd gained from all that good eating (hey, we like what the scale is saying! ;) and then back on the road for more driving fun.
As we entered the streets of the town of Olivia, the "Corn Capital" of Minnesota (make that "corn capital of the world"), we spied a classic pharmacy with a genyoowine soda fountain occupying one of the corners of downtown. It was about this time that Richard chose to remember that it was his birthday, and invoked the "Dad's birthday ice cream stop rule" as documented in the Roadtrip Rulebook, and so we parked under the sidewalk awning and strolled inside for some cool treats served by smiling staff, including a phenomenally excellent chocolate malt for the birthday "boy". Then back in the truck to visit the cornormous ear sculpture in the park on the west side of town, and then on westward, hoping for fast and untroubled travels.
This was not to be, as US 212 was completely closed for road work, and we were directed south on a county road for an unexpected detour. The GPS, maps, and crew were brought into conference, an an impromptu rerouting was planned onto new roads, where we could say "mooooo" to the Minnesota cattle grazing in the verdant fields.
Well, turned out the detours were detoured too. One orange sign led to another, and somehow we ended up in the town of Pipestone in the far southwest corner of this state, which then led to a digging out of our National Parks Passports and an enjoyable visit to Pipestone National Monument. It was at this place that many Native American nations quarried this easy-to-work stone for ceremonial purposes, and Duncan even got his hands covered in ruddy dust as he tried sawing and shaping the reddish mineral (under appropriate parental supervision, of course).
Once our Pipestone park experience was complete, we cruised through the 1800s-era historic district and turned west on state route 30, anticipating entering another state shortly. But when we rounded the curve and expected South Dakota state route 34 to take over from 30, the highway ceased to exist. Vanished. Extinct. Defunct. Just a full set of Type III barricades, and piles of dirt that might someday aspire to become subgrade.
Did we recall seeing advance closure signs as we were leaving Pipestone? No.
Are there alternate route or detour signs? No.
Are we in trouble? Perhaps.
We consulted the map, which showed that the nearest major alternate routes were many miles to the north or south. We asked the GPS for suggestions, and the indications from the database were that a set of section-line roads in the vicinity would convey us westward with minimal offtracking. OK - let's see if it works!
It turns out, of course, that these farm access roads are not much more than one big lane of red South Dakota dirt, made even more bumpy by all the traffic from the locals who have the same idea that we do right now. We bounced and jounced along (even losing one of the truck's original hubcaps, but we didn't notice until later), avoiding the occasional oncoming pickup or tractor. After nine miles, we encountered a paved highway and turned back toward 34, thinking that the tear-up couldn't be all that long - but when we reached the alignment, we saw heavy equipment and more barricades at the location of the missing road.
Time for Plan C... or are we on plan D already? We headed for the town of Flandreau, where we filled up on pizza and unleaded and also saw some wacky and brightly painted "bug cans" by the side of the road. Turns out they were on their way to a day care center for use for toy storage, and Barbara (the nice lady explaining them) was actually a part-time Arizonan, wintering over near Apache Junction. She also gave some useful guidance, and soon we were actually on an open and paved section of highway 34, motoring westward into the afternoon sun.
Across the prairies we go. West on 34, Now south on 25. Now west again on 38, as Duncan met a new travel friend, "Dotty" - a bright white spot that traveled around the inside of the vehicle and did exactly what he asked of it (surreptitiously manipulated by Suzanne & her shiny wristwatch face reflecting the afternoon sun - but don't tell anybody). Duncan liked his new friend so much that he built a house with his Legos for Dotty so the skittering sunny spot would be happy and safe while traveling.
This fun lasted all the way to the town of Mitchell, and we steered onto the downtown streets to see one of the most blatant displays of 'cornographic' images ever to be inflicted on the eyes of mankind. Yes, we were at the world-famous Corn Palace, a place that Richard's mom had visited many times in her youth to see big-name entertainment, and we of course saw the movie, took the tour, bought the souvenirs, and snapped the goofy photos, all in a very appropriately corny manner (not a stretch for us, as you know. :) Then, as nighttime fell and the exterior murals were illuminated, all constructed entirely out of corn and other grain products, we shucked our a-maize-ing experience and headed out with memories popping out of our heads. But the day's fun was not yet done - Richard again invoked the "birthday ice cream rule", and although the Zesto stand was closed, the Dairy Queen was serving more frozen joy to the happy family. Then a snooze at the Siesta Motel (no, son, it's too late to use the pool - really), and dreams of detour-free roads in the following days.
Day 20 pix!
(click on 'em to open a larger version)
||Found me an Otter Pop!||
||And yet another blue tongue!|
||Driving at high speed through the middle of nowhere||
||Fun at the yard sale|
||Olivia, Minnesota - the "Corn Capital"||
||Olivia Drug & Soda Fountain|
||Service with a smile|
||Happy ice cream break|
||Welcome to Pipestone||
||Pipestone National Monument|
||Got my Parks Passport stamp!||
||Praciticing our rock-sawing skills|
||Wecome to South Dakota - but what happened to the road?||
||Bumping along a dirt detour|
||Happy bugs in Flandreau||
||They're "all ears" in Mitchell|
||The legendary Corn Palace||
||Corn-based transportation murals|
||How the corn murals come together||
||The results are 'a-maize-ing'!|
||The spacious Corn Palace interior||
||Yes, they sell corn :)|
||Happy to be 'ear'!||
||Duncan is "all ears"|
||Posing for corny photos|
Morning in Mitchell. Up and at 'em and on the road early, driving on by the giant bull, bison, totem pole, and occasional bunny statuary lining the streets. Then on past the Walmart & Cabelas and out of town, waving to the countryside while the stalks of grain and hay waved back at us in the morning breeze. Drove nonstop a piece south and a ways west, trying to get many miles behind us early in anticipation of a very busy later part of the day.
One does have to stop and stretch eventually, and the scenic overlook above the valley of the Missouri River and Lake Francis Case seemed like just the place to do so. We studied the Lewis and Clark expedition interpretive plaques, while Duncan & Dad had another impromptu squirt bottle battle to cool off on a warm day. Once we traversed the bridge and were on the other side of the Big Mo, we sped atop fresh South Dakota chip seal, pleased that the low traffic and careful application meant few flying rocks and paint dings.
West of Winner we crossed the 100th meridian, and watched the green countryside that we'd seen for the past couple weeks imperceptibly transition into the browner and drier landscapes of our home in the more-arid West. But there are many other green things out and about today on route 44 - grasshoppers in biblical-plague proportions. The little green leapers coated the roadway around and ahead of us, trying to jump out of the way at the last second as the truck approached at 65 MPH - and predictably smooshing on the bumper, grille, windshield, hood, and other hard parts of the vehicle, where thousands of their brethren had already met a gooey doom. Noon struck twice today, as we set our clocks back an hour as we crossed the Jackson County line and entered the Mountain Time Zone and the Sioux reservation. We wandered through Wanblee, home of the Oglala Lakota, and beheld impressive herds of bison snuffling and grazing on the grassy hillsides.
Several miles on, we stopped at the ranger booth, paid the Federal fee, and gazed out at many miles of what an engineer would assess as an "abject failure in erosion control" - the Badlands of South Dakota. This rugged, impressive, and slightly eerie and alien landscape interrupting the prairies is a relatively recent phenomenon, as the soft rock in this area is easily eaten away into jagged pinnacles and deep ravines. The roadway took us looping around the multicolored strata and numerous recreational vehicles, and even proceeded through a very busy prairie dog town, where the chubby little yippers delighted Duncan - although he couldn't understand why they wouldn't come right up to us and say hi, or come home with us as a pet (sorry, son - they don't transplant well).
As many of you know, Midwesterners have a reputation for friendliness and courtesy. So, as we left the Badlands behind us and were entering the town of Wall, we couldn't understand why some drivers were honking loudly at us and trying to pass us on narrow streets. It just didn't make sense, especially as we were driving a slightly unwieldy truck with two bikes on the back.
Permit us a digression for a moment. The purple cruiser attached to the back of the truck has been Richard's favorite bicycle for 15 years. It's one of a matched set of bikes owned by him and Suzanne that we bought only a few months after we met. Richard has logged over 13,000 miles behind its handlebars, including teaching quite a few classes and participating in rides in many states, and the way it fits him so well has earned that bike one of the highest accolades that a bicycle can earn - when he rides it, it's like it becomes an seamless extension of his body and will.
So, you can imagine our reaction when one of those "rude" people finally caught up with us at a stop sign and yelled excitedly, "Your bikes! Your bikes!"
Richard immediately exited the truck and confirmed the bicycles were firmly attached to the vehicle. However, one arm of the rear rack had completely snapped off from metal fatigue, and the aforementioned purple cruiser was laying in a sad pile of parts on the ground, showing ample signs of having been dragged behind us on the pavement.
For about five miles.
Now, in our defense, due to the configuration of the truck and mirrors there was no way we could have seen this as it happened, and the length of the vehicle makes it difficult to sense any sort of anomaly way back there. And the bikes were confirmed to be A-OK when we departed the fuzzy prairie dogs a few minutes earlier. But what happened had happened, and the trusty purple cruiser (or what was left of it) was in sorry shape indeed. But a further analysis showed something remarkable - the incredibly useful front basket had apparently sacrificed itself in a final effort of valor to save much of the rest of the bike from destruction, but this can't be confirmed until later until we get home - and of course the wheels and many of the components are thoroughly trashed or utterly ground away.
OK, we're in Wall. What to do? Well, visit Wall Drug, of course, as we figure out how to recover from this calamity. We dumped the wreckage temporarily in a very nice lady's back yard, and then proceeded to discuss contingency measures over roast beef and BBQ amid the trinkets and toys of this famous tourist trap. The plan was agreed: Suz & Dunc would remain at the multi-block emporium to cool off and relax (OK, maybe not relax) while Richard went back and figured how to securely affix the bikes to the vehicle for our remaining journey. This was accomplished on the roof of Truckasaurus in the 105 degree sunshine, using quite a bit of rope, a few bungees, and most of a roll of packaging tape, as the rest of the family posed with all the amusing items (including a rather scary dinosaur out back) and splashed the day away.
Once the bike-tying was complete, we reunited over atitude-mitigating ice cream, made our final selections, and raced west on I-90 (let's see just how well that bike is attached!) at nearly 80 MPH to Rapid City. The Moeurs then rushed south to Mount Rushmore as the last rays of the sun disappeared behind the ancient Black Hills, and joined thousands of other travelers in a hallowed American tradition - hunting for a decent spot in a vast parking garage.
But yes, once we fulfilled our all-American duty of proper parking, we made our way under the sunset skies and rows of flags from the fifty states and several territories to gaze out at that most impressive piece of iconic sculpture blasted and jackhammered into the firm granite. Duncan practiced his Presidential knowledge as he named them from left to right (he knew Teddy & Abe very well from the "Night at the Museum" movies, and was acquainted with George, but had to be helped a bit with ol' Tom). As we took our seats for the evening presentation, he loudly speculated whether molten lava would spew from the Presidential visages (where'd he get that idea? Oh yeah, the Phineas & Ferb episode...), but we assured him that volcanic activity had ceased long ago, regardless of recently-seen cartoon special effects.
As would befit such an important shrine to American citizen leadership, the evening presentation was very impressive, with a knowledgeable ranger discussion, an uplifting video about our vast and varied nation, a Boy Scout troop from Wisconsin solemnly lowering the Stars and Stripes, and a salute to the veterans in attendance that had everyone on their feet cheering loudly for their service and sacrifice - while the stony Presidential profiles were brightly illuminated above us.
Once the ceremonies were concluded, we waited patiently for the hordes of traffic to make its way back beyond the drive-thru bear parks, mini-golf, splash resorts, and casinos dotting the area, and we drove the winding highway to Rapid City under starry skies. We moseyed into the room at the Corral Motel, unpacked and unwound - and then Duncan rolled off the motel bed and bonked his head, punctuating an eventful day - make that a most eventful day.
Day 21 pix!
(click on 'em to open a larger version)
||Lake Francis Case and the green Missouri River valley||
||Duncan's happy to be here|
||Duncan tries to clean his dad's camera on the run||
||Highway 44 bridges the lake|
||The rolling hills & winding roads of the Missouri River valley||
||Goopy grasshopper guts glop the front of the truck||
||Great gobs of green grasshopper goo|
||Bad lands! Bad, bad lands!||
||Truth in signing :)|
||Stamping the Parks Passport again||
||Chomp goes the mosasaur|
||Pointy peaks of fast-eroding soil|
||An abject failure in erosion control :)||
||Binocular boy goes prairie dog watching|
||A very costly fatigue failure||
||Richard's favorite bicycle in bad busted shape|
||Wall Drug - 0 miles!||
||Scary dinosaur in the back yard||
||Another passport stamp||
||State flags salute Presidents|
||Rushmore at day||
||and at night|
The morning moved, well, rapidly in Rapid City, as we visited McDonald's / car wash / gas station / auto parts store / hardware store in quick succession. The reason for the car wash visit was to attempt to remove the goosome layers of grasshoppers from the grille and radiator, which led to the discovery that many of the radiator's fins had been mooshed flat by either an abundance of bugs or a careless mechanic - which could partially explain the overheating problem. So tools were obtained, and Richard enjoyed (ha!) unbending hundreds of tiny metal pieces to re-establish that critical airflow.
But where was this tedious feat accomplished? Why, at a very dino-riffic Rapid City location - Dinosaur Park, perched atop a steep ridge near the center of town. Here, our new gigantic green concrete friends enjoy a panoramic view of the region, as many happy visitors such as Suzanne & Duncan climbed over and around their accommodating bodies, scales, and horns. These big dinos are actually rather old (not by geologic standards, though), having been constructed by WPA crews back in the depths of the (last) Great Depression. Once Richard completed his tasks, he joined the gang at the triceratops and stegosaurus, and then a stop by the gift shop for some hot dogs, ice cream, and a cute T-shirt for our little monster.
OK, it's now 1 PM and we still haven't left town - maybe it's about time, as we're still about 1400 miles from home? We set course southward, avoiding the worst of the Black Hills. A turn westward on US 18 brought us into Hot Springs and an encounter with a giant mammoth standing sentinel in front of a paleontological museum. Duncan and his dad took a break from driving by chasing each other across the green lawn, and posing for tusk-enhanced tourist-type photographs.
We continued westward to the edge of South Dakota, watching the coal trains lumbering eastward with their loads of black rocky energy hewn from the valleys of Wyoming. Heading the other way, we entered that most rectangular state, seeing the buffalo-on-blue flag flapping in the stiff breeze at a rest area at the US 85 junction. The official kitty greeter padded up to us and rubbed us as we entered, in exchange for scratches behind the ears, and Duncan scampered on the playground equipment outside - although the use of asphalt millings as a surfacing material did make our son a bit cautious to avoid falls (although he was fascinated by the chunks that still had striping on them).
Our travels then brought us south across the undulating open range to make a right at Lusk, watching the herds of antelope prance and graze in the afternoon sun. Then a short spin on I-25 into Douglas, a town where we enjoyed a stay on our 2000 adventure - and an encounter with a specimen of unique western fiberglass fauna - the famous jackalope. Apparently the product of illicit trysts between the local ungulate and hare communities, the jackalope has been spotted in cheesy eateries, tourist traps, and other locations for many decades - with Douglas apparently being the starting point for this hopping antlered infestation. We posed by the jackalope statue sitting in the heart of town, and then Duncan, feeling his oats, chose to challenge his father to a bit of playful alpha-male hierarchy disputation. This went on just fine for a bit, until some inadvertent contact resulted in a popped-out tooth on our son (don't worry - it's been loose for weeks). Duncan was assured that the Tooth Fairy would make motel visits when these things happened, and we headed on our way.
The Interstate was a bit busy and nerve-frazzling, and we were pleased to exit and take a quieter US 20 as it rolls along the North Platte River, passing the murals of Glenrock and other small-town sights. We spirited through Casper and turned onto state route 220, looking forward to another couple hours of quiet southbound driving.
Of course, about 20 miles from town (or anything else), the plaintive cry of a really-need-to-go-NOW child filled the truck, and we pulled to a stop and desperately searched for the emergency kid-size potty stored in the cargo area for such a situation. Luggage flew until the device was located, as our son kicked the voracious ants from his feet as he hopped impatiently. But everything worked out, and we continued our Wyoming way. Many miles later, a real rest area offered the family an early-evening romp on the grass to relax, and then a drive down into Rawlins as the sun set behind the antlers of the antelope (or were they jackalopes?) and a stay behind the bricks of the Best Motel on old US 30.
Day 22 pix!
(click on 'em to open a larger version)
||Welcome to Dinosaur Park||
||A dino-spansive Rapid City view|
||Big bronto atop the peak||
||Thereby hangs the tail...|
||Professionally climbing the protoceratops||
||Dangling off the dimetrodon|
||Ride 'em dinoroo!||
||Mean and green|
||Surmounting the stegosaurus||
||Yabba dabba doo!|
||A triceratops for two||
||A trunkful of South Dakota happy|
||Manipulating the millings||
||Official Wyoming rest area greeting kitty|
||Hello jackalope number 2!||
||You should see the other guy!|
||Shadow speeding in the sunset||
||Wide-open Wyoming at sunset|
Duncan was elated to begin his morning with a rummage under the pillow there in Rawlins to find that the fairy had indeed been able to locate the motel with her special magic GPS, and that his tooth had vanished and was replaced with financial remuneration. This led to a longer discussion of the economics of supernaturally-based dental subsidies and their distorting effect on markets, culminating with reassuring words from the parents that "No, the Tooth Fairy doesn't pull out and steal body parts - really". Other entertainment consisted of watching the prairie dogs waddle to and fro as we waited in the drive-thru line at Taco Johns, and then it was time to roll out of Rawlins and continue our homeward journey.
We thought that the high-numbered Wyoming route 789 (a remnant of a long-ago planned multi-state border-to-border route sharing that number) would be a quiet drive, but the traffic was heavy, apparently consisting of a mix of oversize loads occupying a startlingly high percentage of roadway width, and vehicles (not all Toyotas, though) with stuck accelerator pedals. The antelope were lining the roadway watching all this in great amusement, as drivers ignored passing regulations and insurance deductibles as they blazed their way north or south. Duncan dealt with this by composing a new original song of his own creation in honor of this state, going something like "Wyoming, Wyoming, the very bestest town in the world..."
We bumbled into the remote burg of Baggs, seeking relief from the wearisome miles (and we'd barely started our day's drive). This was found in ice cream and other delectable edibles, and in reading the humorous yet forthright pleas to not send things into the store's septic system that might create problems for many needy travelers.
A short distance south, the road enters the equally rectangular state of Colorado, exchanging the 789 for a simple 13. We cruised through Craig and made a mountainous drive into Meeker, where the local Co-op feed and grain store provided an air-conditioned respite from our travails amid the saddle tack, work coats, Stetsons, and toys (Duncan liked that last part the best). Realizing that a longer stay might be beneficial, we plopped down in the shade at the local park, as Duncan learned the joys of a well-gimbaled tire swing, and the parents unwound under the pines. This stretched out even longer when some local children joined in with the play, and the schedule was tossed aside as the kids whooped and hopped around. Our couple hundred Meeker minutes were culminated with a trip to the town drive-in for dinner, and then back to the truck and through the torn-up work zones for a plummet into the valley and our next chunk of travel.
We zoomed on Interstate 70 along the canyon walls and through the tunnels, watching the Colorado River rush its way alongside the freeway (even flowing in the median for a while). We exited this traffic-crazed freeway for a much more enjoyable afternoon cruise on US 6, which brought us into Grand Junction and a turn onto US 50 east (actually south here) to bring us that much closer to home. This 4-lane gave a whumpy whoopsy ride, as the asphalt bravely tried to hang together in spite of the swelling clays beneath. We delved into Delta during the annual Deltarado Days, but didn't stay, as the very classic-looking Westways Court had the big red NO lit on its neon sign. So a few more miles into Montrose, where we slowly drove around the milling crowds congregated for the weekly street fair, and parked in front of the pink facade of the Western Motel, where the management was very friendly and Duncan was heading lickety-split for the swimming pool almost before the engine was off. A tired mom and frazzled dad soon followed, and some cool splashing (and a good soak in the hot tub) put a positive end on a busy day.
Day 23 pix!
(click on 'em to open a larger version)
||The Tooth Fairy found us in Rawlins!||
||Sad sight of an abandoned station|
||Antelope watch the goofy tourists||
||High-tailing it to the next destination|
||Thou Shalt Not Plug||
||Boldly going into Meeker|
||Getting the hang of the tire swing||
||Everybody gets to bounce|
||Our bouncing boy in Meeker||
||Hang on a minute...|
||Highly-charged petals in Parachute||
||Playing in Parachute at the I-70 rest area|
||Dunkin' Duncan at the Western Motel's pool||
||Decompressing Dad after a long road trip day|
This morning began with Duncan reallyreallyreally wanting to take another dip in the Western Motel's pool, which the parents assented to after completing most of the morning's preparations. Dunc dived and splashed in the blue waters for a while, and then was dragged to dry land and tossed into the truck so we could begin the day's activities.
After waving to the motel's proprietors, our first stop was only a few feet away at a hobby shop conveniently located next to the motel. The rows of radio-controlled models brought back bittersweet memories for Richard as he recalled how so much of his hard-earned high school money ended up corkscrewing into shallow holes filled with small balsa and plastic parts. Duncan of course wanted to buy a model or two and start flying right now, but we advised him he needs to be a little bit older (and better at it than his dad) before embarking on this pastime.
Then it was many miles south slogging by the strip malls of south Montrose on a very busy US 550 as the peaks of the mountain ranges loomed closer. We paused for a bit in Ridgway for a noontime snack, and Richard decided to dig out the laptop to look up some information on some destinations along today's route. He dug in the bag for that very useful wireless modem that has given us convenient connectivity in so many places across the US...
...and it wasn't there. Dig thru bag. No. Look around inside of pickup. No sign.
OK, find motel receipt. Call motel. "Oh, she did find it in the room? Thank you!"
Keys into ignition. Turn. Notice something large hanging from keyring looking suspiciously like a motel key. Feel slightly embarrassed.
Turn around. Fight busy local and tourist traffic on the slow and hilly road back to Montrose. Make exchange: keyring for modem. Go to McDonald's for sundaes to adjust attitude. Make sure we're not missing anything else. Drive south along an all-too-familiar road. Get back to Ridgway, turn right - look at clock, and realize 1 1/2 hours of travel time has vanished (not to mention the extra mileage & fuel).
The roads in the Rockies are very steep, and Truckasaurus labored up the grades. Richard intently watched the temp gauge, looking up occasionally to see cyclists climbing at nearly the same speeds (insert pang of loss for purple cruiser here). We ascended to nearly 9,000 feet into the spruce-scented rarified Colorado air, and made the turn onto the dead-end road to Telluride, noting with slight dismay the "BIKES MUST USE PATH" signs. We continued by the historic buildings of downtown to the local park, where Richard fielded an urgent work-related call, Suzanne stretched out in the cool shade, and Duncan splashed in the pond and befriended a true "octo-mom" - a mama duck proudly escorting her eight cute little webbed ones around the water. We were diverted by the sight of a Worksman tricycle delivering ice cream treats to the park's visitors, and were impressed by the saleslady's ability to traverse the grades of the mountain town on such a hefty single-speed.
We took a few more pictures with our "Tellu-photo" lenses, and then returned to highway 145 to continue our journey along routes near the ones used by the Rio Grande Southern Railroad and its unique "Galloping Goose" motorized railcars to traverse these rugged lands. Up to 10,222 feet at Lizard Head Pass (highest point on this year's trip) and then down along the rushing waters of the Dolores River through Rico, and then onto the familiar streets of Cortez and the Four Corners region. Although Duncan would have greatly enjoyed visiting Four Corners itself, as of this time (July 2010) the actual monument is being completely rebuilt, in a project that Richard worked on for several years (ah, the good old days of meetings in Durango...)
So we struck south directly into New Mexico, shooting pictures of the magnificent monolith of Shiprock, and then pausing at the trading post in aptly-named Little Water for a snack and a visit with some friendly fur-matted "rez dogs". After this, US 491 (once numbered 666, when the signs weren't stolen) conveyed us into Gallup, where the neon along historic US 66 was just lighting up in the clear twilight skies. We were checked in and wished well at the historic Hotel El Rancho by our friend Leroy the desk clerk, and then over to Earl's Restaurant right before closing time for a huge juicy steak for Richard, some enticing enchiladas for Suz, and nibblable noodles for Duncan. Then back through the impressive lobby of the El Rancho, a hello to Armand Ortega, the owner of these fine lodgings, and up to the "Mae West" room on the second floor, which displayed quite a good-looking pair... of comfortable beds. Once Duncan was done bouncing on 'em, we settled in for our final night's snooze for this trip, anticipating one more day of fun before seeing the welcome sight of home.
Day 24 pix!
(click on 'em to open a larger version)
||Majestic Rocky Mountain scenery||
||Rivers rushing out of the mountains|
||Breathtaking (or maybe it's just the elevation ;)|
||Our little shutterbug||
||Two specimens of Dudicus Touristicus|
||Not a very friendly sign|
||Mama duck and her quackers||
||Ducks in a row. They're good at that.|
||Lining up the duckies||
||Ducklings and kid getting along|
||Bye bye, little duck!||
||Bravely leaping from rock to rock|
||Hopping-good pond fun|
||Bicycle-delivered ice cream - always the best kind||
||Just another alpine view||
||...and then the scenery changes a bit|
||Ship Rock rises above the plateau||
||Got a cool new hat!|
||Hello, happy rez puppy!||
||Can I take your picture?|
||Ready for good eating at Earl's||
||Can we use the cattle prod? ;)|
||They fed us well.||
||The historic Hotel El Rancho|
||Posing in the El Rancho lobby||
||Testing the beds (don't let Armand see you!)|
||Nestled in the Room Of Mae||
||Truckasaurus rests from a day's driving|
This morning began with Richard relaxing in the El Rancho's expansive lobby, organizing photos on the laptop and conversing with the guests drawn to this place from all over the world. Meanwhile, Suzanne & Duncan were up in Mae's room having fun and cleaning up, and the family checked out and headed to the Roadrunner Cafe on the east side of town for a filling and inexpensive breakfast. Once fed, we backtracked on 66 to the giant-pencil-supported sign of Butler's Office City, a store reminiscent of the days when it was family-owned businesses that served the public, not identical impersonal corporate boxes. The aisles contained many useful and interesting items, including business, school, and fun stuff, and it was a bit difficult to choose those few that would fit in our overstuffed truck - but we are definitely now fully stocked on vehicle logs, index cards, and Arizona learning books (which is interesting given the store is in New Mexico).
We avoided the closure on old 66 where New Mexico DOT has removed a bridge for replacement, and crossed the border back into Arizona, seeing the signs from Richard's project from several years ago and getting our final hour back (which we could definitely use today). We continued nonstop on beyond Holbrook, as we noted the "dinosaur diaspora" from the now-closed tourist trap at Exit 292 has scattered most impressive reptiles to many locations in the area. We finally stopped next to the historic "HERE IT IS!" sign at the Jackrabbit Trading Post, and went inside to say hi to the Jacquez family and for Duncan to purchase his first plastic six-shooter - a most suitable souvenir indeed. We also met someone new - it turns out "Betty B" from the Route 66 Yahoo group was at the Jackrabbit delivering brochures for our friends in Oklahoma and Kansas, and it was nice to put an in-person face to someone whose postings we'd seen several times in the past.
Then off the Jackrabbit and westward at high speed, as we needed to try to get home as early as we could. Typically, we prefer to return after dark to beat the heat and have more fun, but it's well over 110 degrees in the shade at the house, and the puppies needed to be tended to (the house-sitter had to go to work very early this day). So we whizzed past Winslow, were stopped briefly in Flagstaff by a drenching thunderstorm and a to-go lunch, which gave our little guy one last chance to splish and splash in the downpour-created puddles.
Dried off and strapped in, we departed 66 and descended down the hills of central Arizona, as we went from wet and cool to hot. Really hot. Blazingly hot. And, of course, it was hot under the hood as well, as the temperature gauge indicated that we hadn't quite completely fixed that overheating problem as we humped our way slowly out of the Verde Valley. Through skillful driving and dumb luck we managed to keep the engine out of the red zone, and then plummeted past Sunset Point and on into the most-aptly-named Valley of the Sun.
The roadside signs were displaying three consecutive 1s with a degree sign as we exited the Black Canyon Freeway, and as the final notes of Jackson Browne's "All Good Things" faded away in the truck's speakers, we backed into the driveway, shut off the engine, stopped the DMI & GPS, and breathed a warm sigh of relief that a (mostly) successful 25-day journey was in the books.
OK, now into the house, turn on AC. Spray down overjoyed puppies. Grab food & put away. Say hi to cat: hmmm - even she seems happy to see us. Whistle at the birds. Rearrange vehicles, put truck behind gate. Unload. Unload. Unload. Check pile of mail - uh oh, we'll deal with that Monday. Sweat. A lot. Continue & repeat into wee hours.
And... last but not least, there was a package waiting for us with a Chicago postmark - and so Duncan fell asleep with many happy roadtrip memories swirling in his head, reunited with his blanket.
Day 25 pix!
(click on 'em to open a larger version)
||Roadrunner Cafe on historic US 66 in Gallup||
||Loading up on fun stuff at Butler's|
||Here we are at the Jackrabbit Trading Post!||
||Ride 'em bunny!|
||Cindy Jacquez stamps our Arizona 66 Passport||
||Got me a new gun n' handcuffs - better watch out!|
||Didn't we see this place before? :)||
||Duncan shooting holes in the clouds|
||Result: Rain in Flagstaff||
||Cool wet Flagstaff fun|
||Made it home - time for the truck to take a well-deserved rest||
||An all-too-warm welcome back to Phoenix|
||Puppies are happyhappyhappy to see us||
||Good night to all from Duncan, reunited with his blanket|
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Latest Historical Revisionism 22 July 2010Scripting: Richard C. Moeur