The Mother Road

This adventure that we’re on has so many facets! As we have made the trip back and forth from North Carolina to Southern California, we’ve taken a different route each time – with some special components of each route. This fall trip allowed us to visit family, but also to investigate another portion of “The Mother Road”, “Historic Route 66”, “Main Street of America” – they are all the same name for the first road that connected the United States from coast-to-coast. While there had been routes from the east coast to Chicago and the Mid-West, it was not until November 1926 that it was possible to drive all the way to the Pacific ocean. It would be 11 years before all portions of Route 66 were paved. From Chicago, IL, it ran through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona before ending at the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles County, California. It was removed from the US Highway System in 1985 after it had be replaced by the Interstate Highway System, primarily I-40.

We connected with “The Mother Road” in Oklahoma City, where we spent two fabulous days. As we headed west, we explored many towns that have the remains of Route 66 as their main thoroughfare. Many towns that were strong, vibrant communities have become rather sad and derelict enclaves. We traveled about 150 miles each day, which gave us afternoons to explore these small towns with their restored (or not) segments of Route 66 and several that had “hometown” museums. Elk City, OK claims the “National Route 66 Museum” and yet we found most of the content to be more local and history focused. It was extremely well done as a local museum, but the content for Route 66 was rather limited.

Clinton OK, on the other hand, is home to the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum and was clearly the best we have seen so far on the entire Mother Road. We spent a couple of hours immersed in their well-presented material.

We, as well as many Americans, have had a love affair with Route 66, from the folklore of “go west, young man, go west” and replicated in the TV Show “Route 66” with Martin Milner and George Maharis (1960-1964). What was a great surprise to us, however, was the global interest of this iconic American piece of history. On this Sunday, in the first two hours, the guest book was peppered with visitors from England, Spain, Australia, France, Norway and Ireland.

Next stop – Amarillo, TX – where we planned to spend a couple of days to explore all aspects of Route 66. Unfortunately, perhaps because it was a Monday, the “13 blocks of vibrant Route 66 rebirth” was closed, dark and dingy. We spent the afternoon, however, enjoying the Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum. Jack and his family have lovingly restored and treasured all manner of RV living – and make it available for the public to enjoy at no cost. Imagine that!

All along Route 66, we kept hearing about Cadillac Ranch – it was a must see, so “they” said. Located about 1/2 mile from our campground, we made our way to a field where there are 10 Cadillacs embedded in the turf. Creativity artistic in spray paint is strongly encouraged. It was, however, a very windy day and we had no interest in wearing spray paint.

As we continued our journey west, we again fell in love with the terrain of New Mexico. Our first stop was Santa Rosa, home of the Blue Hole and Bozo’s Route 66 & Car Museum. Our first stop was the Blue Hole – and naturally fed bell-shaped pool approx 80′ deep that is a haven for diving and those that feel compelled to swim in 61 degree temperatures!

One of the joys of this type of travel is that we can “follow the sign” to places like Puerto de Luna, about 9 miles south of Santa Rosa along the bank of Pecos River. Reputed to have been visited by Francisco Zasquez de Coronado in 1541. The first recorded permanent settlement was in 1863, when 6 families built a dike on the Pecos to divert water for irrigation. Billy the Kid reportedly ate his last Christmas Eve dinner there in 1860, while being transported to trial in Las Vegas.

We skirted thru Albuquerque just before the Balloon Fiesta, where there will be 900,000 people enjoying the sites of hundreds of balloons aloft. Perhaps another year – we are on a mission to get to Indio for construction oversight.

Next stop – Gallup, New Mexico! Named for David L Gallup, the Paymaster on the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, it’s an indication of the importance of the railroad in the creation and evolution of Gallup. Mining, primarily coal, was the primary production and the railroad was the way to move it to markets. From 1880 to 1948, there were 57 coal mines in the area and few of them were more than five miles from the center of town – important because most workers walked to work!

Today, Gallup is a center for Indian culture and artwork as well as continuing its importance in the railway system that is a key part of our economic structure. We walked the downtown area, and with the aid of a well-done brochure, we were able to locate and appreciate the dozen murals on building exteriors throughout the town center.

It seems so often that the majesty or uniqueness of a location is overshadowed by a personal experience which is unknown, unplanned and exceptional. Such was the case as we walked by Stoneweavers, a nondescript building with an interesting porch. As we walked by, a gentleman apologized for the cigarette smoke bothering us, which I really appreciated. When we asked him what Stoneweavers was, he invited us in to see. Inside were artisans hard at work crafting beautiful jewelry by hand! We spent a delightful hour with Steve Harper, owner and craftsman of Stoneweavers, hearing his stories of Gallup, the craftsman story and challenges in today’s world vs that of 45 years ago when he started his business at the age of 22. He has 26 artisans working for him in two locations and supplies high end turquoise and other precious gems to distributors and dealers around the world. He took us back to his “treasure room” where he has an amazing inventory of literally hundreds of different types of stones, awaiting an artisan to cut and craft it into a thing of beauty. Of course, Admiral Jann left with a beautiful pair of earrings and great memories!

We were off again the next day with a stop at Meteor Crater and a destination of Flagstaff, Arizona. Meteor Crater is located about 5 miles south of I-40 near Winslow, AZ. Yes, Winslow – Captain Bill chose not to replicate “standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona with seven women on his mind” – which was an excellent decision as the Admiral would have questioned who the seven women were!

Meteor Crater is the largest and most perfectly preserved example of a major impact of a meteor striking the Earth. Occurring approximately 50,000 years ago, the meteor was probably broken from the core of an asteroid during an ancient collision in the main asteroid belt some half billion years ago. This meteor made of iron and nickel is estimated to have been about 150 feet across and weighing several hundred thousand tons. It came hurtling to Earth at a speed of about 26,000 mph, passing through our atmosphere in seconds, and in a blinding flash, struck the Earth’s surface with an explosive force greater than 20 million tons of TNT!

The impact and the pressure of over 20 million lbs/square inch caused vaporization and extensive melting. The result of this was a giant bowl-shaped cavity 700 feet deep and 4000 feet across (enough for 20 football fields and bleachers for 100,000 spectators).

In 1902, Daniel Barringer, a Philadelphia mining engineer, became interested in the site, established the Standard Iron Company with four placer mining claims with the Federal Government, thereby obtaining the patents and ownership of the two square miles containing the crater. Today, the property is managed jointly by the Barringer Family and Meteor Enterprises, which is a small group of cattle ranchers who utilize the land for grazing purposes.

Meteor Crater has seen a plethora of scientists making amazing discoveries for the world’s benefit, as well as a perfect training site for early astronauts.

We thoroughly enjoyed our morning adventure at Meteor Crater and then we were off to Flagstaff for a couple of nights.

That first afternoon, we enjoyed the energy one can only find in a college town – especially on Parents’ Weekend! Northern Arizona University (NAU) is a major component of Flagstaff – individuals and business alike support that collegiate atmosphere. After a lovely walk around town and a great experience with Scotty McPeak (owner of Olive The Best olive oil shop), we thought it imperative that we imbibe in a local brew at Mother Road Brewing Company!

It was a clear night, so we headed off to the Lowell Observatory, where Pluto was discovered in 1930. Originally decried as the 9th plant, it is now identified as a dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt, which is a ring of bodies beyond Neptune.

Once again, we were in the right place at just the right time! The Grand Opening of the Giovale Open Deck Observatory was to occur the following night, with much fanfare and associated attendance of all the donors and benefactors. This public observing plaza features six advanced telescopes that will collectively give a viewing experience that goes far beyond seeing those faint smudges of light. To our amazement, they opened the facility a night early – and we were right there! We were able to truly see Saturn’s rings, Jupiter and the Dumbbell Nebula, a distance of 1,360 lightyears from the Earth!

The following morning, with clear skies and cool temperatures, we headed off to Walnut Canyon, a National Monument, which was home to the Sinagua American Indians more than 800 years ago. The Sinagua – Spanish for “without water” – People made their living by farming, hunting deer and small game, gathering an assortment of useful plants, and trading.

Inside the canyon, there is evidence of some 300 cliff dwellings built between 1125 and 1250. It is a tribute to their ability to turn a relatively dry region into a homeland. There is much evidence of the success of the people, including turquoise from Santa Fe, seashell ornaments from the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf of California, and macaw feathers from Mexico.

The cliff dwellings were occupied for little more than 100 years. Why they left is a mystery, but by 1250, they had moved to new villages a few miles southeast. It is generally believed that they were eventually assimilated into the Hopi culture.

The journey in the canyon with breathtaking – both in the view and also in the 287 step descent and returning ascent – in very thin air!

On Sunday morning, we had the opportunity to visit the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Flagstaff and were warmly welcomed by many of their members. The couple seated directly behind us had been to Brevard on Labor Day this year and attended services at our St. Philip’s – we had so much to share!

We scrambled back to the coach (after a lovely coffee time in the social hall) to make a departure as close to check-out time as possible. We were off to North Phoenix for the night – and then an early departure to our “western home” in Indio on Monday, October 7.

We arrived as planned – our contractors are delightful, extremely gifted and diligent in getting the work done! We are so blessed!

Author: Contessa & The Toad Get Hitched

After years traveling this beautiful country by boat, the Captain and the Admiral are bound for land adventures. Whenever Contessa (the motorcoach) and the Toad (Jeep Grand Cherokee) get hitched (towing the car) - we’ll post our adventures!

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