Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Big Trip - Epilogue

One thing about taking a month off is you have to catch up at home and go back to work. What a withdrawal. The first week back was pretty weird.

It has been hard to find the time to catch up on the four days I still needed to post to the blog and now on August 24th I’m finally getting to the Epilogue.

Actually it was good that it took me a while to catch up on the blog posts. I think I was able to recall the experience with more clarity and appreciate the entire experience much better.

Some of the thoughts that have come to mind…
  • 7780 miles with no mishaps – no crashes or silly tip-overs 
  • No break downs (except for the battery) 
  • Only used one quart of oil 
  • On the road for 28 days – of that 21 days were travel days 
  • Visited 23 states – some of them twice 
  • Amazingly almost no rain – a few sprinkles on a couple of days and 30 minutes of real rain one day 
  • Not sure how many national and state parks and forests were visited 
  • Stayed at eight Holiday Inn Express’, seven Marriott Courtyards and eight other assorted places, plus Russ and Debbi’s and Ryan’s. 
  • Who knows how many McDonald’s I ate at or how much coffee I drank.
The trip was way better than I had hoped and anticipated. I saw some pretty amazing sights.  Before leaving I was a little wigged out about traveling alone for 28 days, but it turns out being alone was no problem. I constantly ran into people to talk to. Besides, even if you travel with someone you can’t talk while you ride. Moreover, stopping, going back to see some thing you just passed by and changing schedule was done whenever or however I wanted, with no worries that I’d aggravate someone.

By in large everyone I ran into was friendly, interesting and hospitable - the exception of Mr Macho (who, someone pointed out to me, was probably afraid I’d ask if I could tag along with him and his buddy).

Would do it again? In a heart beat! But I do some things different. I would travel fewer miles per day and allow more time to spend at National Parks and sights. There is so much to see in the U.S. that it is a shame to have to pass it by because you know you need to make a certain number of miles.

A few minor regrets – I didn’t have time to go to; Oatman, AZ, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite Valley Floor or Bear Tooth Pass in Montana.

I hope you enjoyed reading about the Big Trip and seeing some pictures of what I saw along the way.  It was fun sharing.

Time to start thinking about the next Big Trip


Day 25: Bethany, OK to Rolla, MO

Bethany, OK to Rolla, Mo is another long day – 425 miles. I made it to the hotel at 8:30 – thus the reason for the delayed blog account of the day’s journey. The temperature was high all day. Most of the afternoon was about 92° F. This isn’t too bad while you’re moving, but today the humidity really came up and it was sticky and tiring.

It was so hot and humid the even the cows were hangin’ in the shade.

Mooo! - Boy it's hot
I rode through three states today – OK, KS and MO – of course Route 66 is only 13 miles long in Kansas.

There were not many interesting sights on this leg, but I’ll tell what I can.

Not too far from Bethany is the town of Stroud, OK, where there is supposed to be a historic Phillips Gas Station – not there as far as I can tell. It’s now a modern gas station/convenience store. However, right across the street is the Rock Café.

Rock Cafe in Stroud, OK
The most notable restaurant in Stroud is the Rock Cafe, built from rocks removed during the construction of Route 66. A fire gutted the restaurant in 2008; it has since been rebuilt and is now open for business once more.

Dawn Welsh owns the Rock Café and was apparently the inspiration for Sally Carrera, the blue Porsche in the movie Cars.

Sally Carrera 
I stopped in for a cup of coffee. One interesting thing in the Café is the bathroom. Even square inch of the walls are covered with graffiti.

Bathroom Graffiti in the Rock Cafe Men's Room
It’s a pretty long ride to the next point of interest – the Eisler Brothers Old Riverton Store in Riverton, KS. There wasn’t really too much here unfortunately – a small general store,

Eisler Brothers Old Riverton Store
The store has been operating along Historic Route 66 since before the Route officially opened. Leo Williams built it in 1925 and he operated the market as Williams Store until 1973 when Joe and Isabell Eisler purchased the business.

The Flamingos are a nice touch
I poked around, but didn’t really see anything of much interest, but I contributed to the local economy and bought some refrigerator magnets.

Next it was on to Missouri - pretty uneventful and not too much to see. I stopped at the Munger Moss Motel in Lebanon, MO, a nicely renovated old motel. Nevertheless, I guess unless you stay there it’s not much to write about.

Munger Moss Motel - Lebanon, MO
From Lebanon I pressed on to Rolla and the Holiday Inn Express to rest up for tomorrow.

Today was bittersweet.  I was getting close to home, but the Big Trip was almost over.  I knew the last three days would be a little anti-climatic after all of the great sights heading West and then back.  But all good things come to an end.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Day 24: Tucumcari, NM to Bethany, OK - German Guys on Harley's, Caddy's and Red Necks

I left the Blue Swallow in search of coffee.  For $50 a night you do not get coffee in the room - free Wi-Fi yes, but no coffee.  Fortunately, a couple of miles down the street was a Denny’s. 
Now I usually don’t like to stop in Denny’s because something always happens that is a pain or weird.  For example, one time I stopped in a Denny’s to get a hamburger and the kitchen caught on fire.  The manager told all of the patrons not to worry, it was all under control.  After the smoke cleared from the dining area business went on as usual.  I had asked for a medium rare burger.  When I got my burger it was raw in the middle.  Apparently my burger was not involved in the kitchen fire.
Another time a group of us stopped at a Denny’s for a late dinner.  A friend ordered a turkey sandwich.  When it came there was no turkey in the sandwich.  When he complained to the waitress, who could care less, she said she’d get the manager.  The manager finally stopped by to see what the fuss was about and told my buddy he shouldn’t have ordered the turkey.  It goes on, what with the drunk rodeo cowboys and such, but I digress...
After an uneventful Denny’s breakfast (surprisingly unusual) I headed to Texas and the Cadillac Ranch.  The Cadillac Ranch is just West of Amarillo and right off of I-40.

Hmmm - Wonder what's here?
But before I got to the Cadillac Ranch I made a stop at the MidPoint Cafe in Adrain, TX where I met Frank from Germany.

The MidPoint is exactly half way between Chicago and Los Angeles - 1139 miles from either one on The Mother Road.

Half way between...

When I pulled into the parking lot I saw a sole motorcycle and rider.  The bike was a nice looking Harley and the rider was Frank, who was from Germany.  

Frank from Germany with his Harley at the MidPoint Cafe

Frank had a single duffel bag strapped to the back rest/sissy bar with bungie cords, was wearing jeans, a t-shirt and leather vest and was very tan - actually a combination of tan and sunburn.  He explained to me he was from Germany and that he had shipped his Harley over to Chicago to ride Route 66 to LA.  I found this amazing.  Frank was riding the entire Old Route 66 and not going on the Interstate unless there was no other choice.  This makes the going pretty slow, but he told me he been planning to do this for a long time and he was pressing on. 

Unfortunately, he had lost a week in Chicago while trying to get his Harley through customs and wadding through the paperwork with the customs folks.  We spoke for awhile and then Frank took off in search of gas to continue his motorrad adventure.  Hopefully he made to LA all right and won’t suffer any more customs hassles.

While I was talking to Frank a few more Route 66 / motorcycle travelers pulled in and we chatted for a bit.  I bought a few souvenirs from a really lovely lady who is the owner, along with her husband.  Then it was off to the famous Cadillac Ranch.

Heading East you take Exit 60 off of I-40 and follow the frontage road East to get to the Cadillac Ranch.  As famous as this place is it is extremely low key - no sign or souvenir shop.  Just a small gate and a long walk out across a field.

The main gate to the Ranch

There're out there - way off in the distance
Ten old Cadillacs buried nose first up to the doors at about a 45 degree angle.

There they are - ten Cadillacs up to their doors in the dirt
Now what I didn't know is it is tradition to bring spray paint and "pretty up" the old Caddy's.  There must be a 1/4 inch or more of paint on every exposed surface.  Almost everyone had spray cans.  The art work is pretty cool actually.

One of the graffiti artists
There are years and years of paint on the Caddy's - no rust problems here
All lined up in a very straight row
From http://www.roadsideamerica.com:
The Cadillac Ranch, located along the tatters of historic Route 66, was built in 1974, brainchild of Stanley Marsh 3, the helium millionaire who owns the dusty wheat field where it stands. Marsh and The Ant Farm, a San Francisco art collective, assembled used Cadillacs representing the "Golden Age" of American Automobiles (1949 through 1963). The ten graffiti-covered cars are half-buried, nose-down, facing west "at the same angle as the Cheops' pyramids."

In 1997, development creep forced Marsh to move the entire assemblage about two miles further west. The line of cars is far enough out in a field to allow for suitably bleak photography. The distance from any authority also encourages ever-mutating layers of painted graffiti, which Marsh doesn't seem to mind.

So next I'm off to the Big Texan - home of the 72 oz. steak - if you can finish it it's free (plus you get a t-shirt).

Hungry?  How about a 72 oz. steak?
There was a tour bus in the parking lot when I pulled in - apparently with a lot of hungry folks seeing Texas.  There was also a BIG BOOT that I assume belongs to the Big Texan.

Can you tell I'm in Texas?
This is too goofy

Well, it was time to get out of Texas and head to Erick, Oklahoma, The Red Neck Capitol of the World, to visit with Harley and Annabelle, The Mediocre Music Makers, proprietors of the Sandhills Curiosity Shop.  Man is that a mouth full...

On the way to Erick, OK I stopped at an old restored Conoco Gas Station.  It was kind of cool - just like it was in the 50's.

This could be a picture from the 1950's
Fill'r up

OK... on to Harley and Annabelle

Harley and Annabelle
I don't even know where to start with this.  Harley and Annabelle have been the owners and entertainers at the Sandhills Curiosity Shop (once the City Meat Market) for 24 years.  They are bonafide world famous. There have been documentaries made about them.

Sandhills Curiosity Shop
The shop is full - and I mean full - of Route 66 memorabilia - not souvenir shop junk - real genuine old stuff - like antique.  Nothing is for sale as far as I could tell.  People come to the shop to bring Harley and Annabelle Route 66 rare stuff - of course they ask Harley and Annabelle for a little money.

Me and Harley and Annabelle - you can get a small idea of the extent of the memorabilia 
Harley and Annabelle with Sue and Phyllis from Southern California
Harley with a picture of his favorite rock formation
Their home (AKA the Red Neck Palace) is right behind the shop and it's the same - inside and outside - full of all kinds of stuff.  We got a tour.  It is amazing.

Backyard at the Red Neck Palace
Front yard at the Red Neck Palace
Harley and Annabelle in their boudoir
But wait - it gets better...  Harley and Annabelle are great entertainers.  Both play a pretty good acoustic guitar and sing - really great.

Harley is a wild man - a combination of  Robin Williams and the crazy guy who sits at the end of the bar that you're afraid to talk to.  Actually it's an act.  Harley puts on a hell of an act.  He's a great intelligent and talented man.

Annabelle is the calming half of the two.  She is a little more serious, but can still get real silly when she wants to, which is often.

Take a look at this link and/or go to You Tube and search for Harley and Annabelle.

Harley and Annabelle singing a love song

Needless to say it was a heck of a visit and will be long remembered.  But alas I had to press on.  So, we had a group shot with Phyllis, Sue, the family from Finland, Lars, his wife and son (never got their names) and me.

Saying Good-buy to Harley and Annabelle
I laughed all the way to Bethany, OK

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Day 23: Winslow, AZ to Tucumcari, NM - Wigwams, Chorizzo, Thunderstorms, Ghost Towns and Arroyos

Heading out of Winslow the first stop on Route 66 was the Jackrabbit Trading Post, about half way between Winslow and Holbrook and just West of Joseph City.

There are “Here It Is” signs along I-40 and Rt. 66 for miles that tease you to stop. When I arrived it appeared that it was pretty run down and closed down. I never could figure out what was up, because if you search for it on Goggle there are posts that indicate it’s open. Anyway I had no time to wait around to see if it would open later in the day.

It looks more like the "No Name Trading Post"

This poor jackrabbit was hiding behind the truck

Next planned stop was the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park.

But, before getting there I rode through Holbrook, AZ and found the “Sleep In A Wigwam” motel. There were a number of these motel in the 1930’s, 1940‘s and 1950’s, but I believe there are only two left today - this one and one in San Bernardino, CA. Frank Redford is the brainchild behind the once popular Wigwam Motels.

Not too far from the Wigwams is Joe and Aggie’s Cafe offering Mexican and American Food. Not having breakfast yet, I was hungry so I stopped in.

This was an interesting little cafe. I was greeted by a somewhat surly waitress and told to sit wherever. The cafe was also a gift shop and full of the typical stuff, including things from the animated movie "Cars". I thought this was a bit odd, until I remember that the story line of the movie has something to do with a trip on Route 66.

I saw more and more evidence of this as the ride progressed.

I ordered chorizzo and eggs, not having had any good chorizzo in a long time. If you’re not familiar with chorrizo it’s a pork sausage that is usually on the spicy side. It’s originally a Spanish sausage, but is very popular in Mexico and the Southwest. Joe and Aggie’s chorizzo was excellent.

Full of chorizzo and eggs it is time to move onward to the Painted Desert. I only managed to visit the Painted Desert however, as taking the road South to the Petrified Forest would have put me way behind schedule. There’s no easy way to get back up North to I-40/Rt. 66 from that section of the park.

The Painted Desert is an easy and quick visit, and worth the stop. The landscape is made up of many layers of different colors that are visible due to erosion. The desert is like a rainbow with the broad range of colors. I’m afraid my pictures don't do it justice. The visitor Center was built during the 1930’s and has recently been restored.

The map shows a long section of Old Route 66 running through the park. I was planning to ride this section, but found out that it is closed to the public and is a service road for the Park Service and State of Arizona.

Painted Desert

Visitor Center

The next leg was a long and pretty much uneventful grind on to Albuquerque. When I crossed into New Mexico I ran into a some thunderstorms that made for dramatic skies.

Albuquerque has a colorful Route 66 (Central Ave.) marquee over the street as you enter town

Unfortunately it was the beginning of rush hour and Route 66 takes you right through the heart of Albuquerque and it was hot and muggy.

My distention was the Aztec Motel. Here is a bit about it from the Route 66 News web site: (http://rwarn17588.wordpress.com/2006/10/05/welcome-to-the-aztec-motel-if-youre-a-weekly/):

“The Daily Lobo, which is the University of New Mexico’s independent student newspaper, has published a well-done article about the historic Aztec Motel on Central Avenue (Route 66) in Albuquerque.

The place was down in the dumps until the early 1990s, when Mohamed Natha purchased and fixed up the building. (He’s yet another Asian-American who’s helped save Route 66 properties, but I digress.) That’s also the period when a woman decorated the building in a memorable fashion, which remains to this day.

The Aztec is now owned by Matthew Terry, who purchased it last year. He wouldn’t tell the Daily Lobo his future plans for the motel. But I talked to him some months ago on the phone about another property on Route 66. Let’s just say that he told me that he’s committed to preserving certain historic properties on Route 66, and I’m confident he’ll do right with the Aztec.

Alas, unless you’re really persuasive, the Aztec is available only for long-term renters:

The motel discourages one-night lodging, he said.

“It really doesn’t function as a motel,” Terry said. “There are many issues with crime and drug use that are associated with Central Avenue. We think that nightly stays would expose us to that potential risk.”

So, needless to say this is a seedy part of town.

This picture is courtesy of the Route 66 News web site

Notice all of the decorations on the walls - left over from several years ago

Having seen the Aztec I continued to move on towards Tucumcari, NM and the Blue Swallow Motel.

Before getting to Tucumcari I stopped at Santa Rosa, NM to call the Blue Swallow, as it looked like I was going to be pretty late getting in. Santa Rosa is about 60 miles from Tucumcari. Also, there is a “Ghost Town” named Cuervo just past Santa Rosa and I had planned to stop to see it and then take Old Route 66 the remainder of the way to Tucumcari.

I pulled into an old Shell Gas Station that is now a garage, complete with all manner of cars in various stages of repair parked in front.

While I was making my call to the Bill at the Blue Swallow I noticed people leaving the Shell Station/Garage - presumably going home. I heard a Harley start up and next thing there is a guy on a Harley sitting next to me. As I got off the phone he asked me how I was doing in a very Cheech Marin (you remember Cheech and Chong - “Dave? Dave’s not here”) accent. Well I ended up talking to this guy (I completely forgot to ask his name) for nearly an hour. Now the sun is going down and I’m still 60 miles away from Tucumcari.

I asked him about Cuervo and he said, “forget it mahn- dre’s nutin’ der” (OK- I don't know how to write a Cheech accent). Turns out it’s not much of a ghost town, only about six abandoned buildings, and Route 66 is washed out just past the town, with a “big-ass arroyo” going right across it.

So, I said good bye to my un-named benefactor and headed to Tucumcari. I did see Cuervo from I-40 and it looked a little spooky in the evening light.

Cuervo, NM

Example of an arroyo

Pics from the web

I arrived in Tucumcari at 9:00 PM and could not find a place to eat, so I ended up in a Circle K and bought prepackaged crackers and cheese.

The Blue Swallow is a vintage Route 66 motel that has been restored. Bill kept the light on for me and I got a picture of their famous neon.

A little about the Blue Swallow from the web (http://blueswallowmotel.com/):

“The Blue Swallow Motel was built in 1939 by W. A. Huggins. It features a unique, personal shell design on the exterior stucco. Garages, a signature of motor courts of the era, are another unique characteristic of this motel. According to Huggins' son, Phares, it was sold at a loss because of economic conditions at the onset of WWII. With gas and tire rationing in effect, people weren't traveling as much.

The best known proprietor of the Blue Swallow was Lillian Redman, who acquired it in 1958. She operated the motel for almost 40 years, but faced numerous difficulties including the interstate bypass, which drastically reduced her customer base. There is much information available about Lillian online and in numerous publications.

Your hosts, Terri & Bill, purchased the Blue Swallow Motel in 2004. They are keeping the tradition of hospitality alive and welcome you to this historic Route 66 landmark.”

Courtyard at night

My room is # 12. It comes with a garage.
Notice the mural on the back wall of the garage.

Here's the mural on the garage wall - it was too funny.

Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson from Easy Rider, traveling on Rt 66

The room was simple, but clean and comfortable, plus they have free Wi-Fi.

Tomorrow is Bethany, OK, near OK City and that proves to be a real hoot.