Saturday, February 20, 2010

Culture Shock

1692 - 1980 (12087 - 12375)

Today was my last foray on Route 66 for awhile, as I veered north to Las Vegas.

If you follow the lyrics of Bobby Troup's immortal song Get Your Kicks on Route 66, the lyrics include:

Well it goes to St. Looey, Joplin, Missouri
Oklahoma City looks oh, so pretty
You'll see Amarillo, Gallup, New Mexico
Flagstaff, Arizona, don't forget Winona
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino...

I did forget to see the nothing town of Winona, east of Flagstaff. So to make up for it, I post a picture of a Winona, Winona Ryder, along with Keanu Reeves, who was Ted in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (they were both in 2006's A Scanner Darkly). Seems to tie together, right?

Today I got to travel the longest unbroken stretch of Route 66 remaining, some 160 miles from ouside Williams near Seligman, Arizona to Kingman, Arizona. It took me through the high desert Hualapai Resevation, as well as several all-but-abandoned towns bypassed by our interstate world. It was wonderful. This was much more like the Route 66 I had imagined.

Seligman is known as “The Birthplace of Historic Route 66” not because it is the birthplace of Route 66 itself but because it is the birthplace of its rejuvenation as a historic highway. In the 1980s, residents of Seligman and Kingman founded the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona, which has worked hard to keep the spirit of "America's Main Street" alive.

In Seligman I was greeted by the fantastic Rusty Bolt junk shop and odd ball emporium. This place was the epitome of TaT. Outside are classic old cars, outrageously dressed mannequins, and weird little signs galore. It's quite a sight!

With a motto like "You Kill It, We Grill It," I had to check out the quirky Roadkill Cafe. They feature daily specials like Deer Delectables, Fender Tenders, Bad-Brake Steak, Caddie Grilled Patty, Swirl of Squirrel, or the Splatter Platter. Too bad it was far too early for lunch.

This stretch of Route 66 was a long, straight, featureless, tar-snaked road. But I was entertained by the new Burma Shave signs installed to help with the full historic experience. Burma Shave roadside signs, always in a series of five, captivated highway travelers all over the country from the 1920s till the 1950s. Some were clever ads, some precursors to public service announcements. The one shown here goes:

If Daisies Are Your
Favorite Flower
Keep Pushin' Up Those
Burma Shave

I passed through Peach Springs, a really small town (but the headquarters of the Hualapai Indian Reservation). Supposedly it was the inspiration for the sleepy town of Radiator Springs in the Pixar animated movie Cars.

Peach Springs is the gateway to the spanking new Grand Canyon Skywalk, the glass-floored steel horsehoe that juts out over the Grand Canyon, partly owned and run by the Hualapai. No way I was going out there; apparently it costs upwards of $70 dollars with annoying fees and parking, not to mention the 75 mile drive on dirt roads.

I came upon Hackberry, another nothing town with a notable exception: the Hackberry General Store. What a delight! Out front, a red and white 1957 Corvette sits beside antique gas pumps. Vintage signs and Route 66 artwork adorn the walls. The amazing array of Mother Road collectibles (as well as tons of TaT) did not feel junkie like at the Rusty Bolt, or seedy like in Tucumcari, but rather had a real time capsule quality.

My next stop was a few miles up the road in Walapai, Arizona. Actually I did not see anything resembling a town, but then I was only interested in Giganticus Headicus, a half-buried, 14-foot-tall pseudo-tiki outside the Kozy Corner Trailer Court (I am on the left). Who could resist? It turned into the start of a notable chapter of this most excellent adventure.

First, I got a kick out of some of the other things here at the Kozy Mart, like this barrel of baby rattlers...

I crept up and peered inside to find it did, indeed, contain baby rattlers.

Then I noticed a sign that the Kozy Mart had a laundromat. I was out of clean duds and was not sure what kind of laundry facilities the Las Vegas Hilton would have. I had time, so why not? The adventure continues...

The store basically had one or two of about a dozen items on a couple of shelves, the kind of things you might need in a trailer court. I bought some detergent and got quarters from Harriet and Greg, the hilarious older couple that ran the place. When they heard I was going to Las Vegas for the first time, they encouraged me to "take your life savings, because you are sure to win a bundle!" I believe maybe they had been in the desert a bit too long.

I drove around to the laundromat out back, which consisted of two washers and a dryer in a shed. After loading the washers, I settled in with a book, a Mountain Dew, and the solitude of the desert. But then up pulled a pickup, with a couple of beagles and a rottweiller in the bed.

Turned out to be bandanaed Jamie (on the right), who had come to check on his friend Ed (on the left) and Ed's dog Lucky, before heading off for some "hunting" (in other words letting the dogs chase jackrabbits). Clearly I got my puppy fix (I miss my beagle Isabelle!), along with a few tales of the desert.

Ed lives in the trailer across from the laundromat shed, one of six trailers at Kozy Corner. After Jamie left he hung out with me through my entire wash-and-dry cycle. I heard stories about his neighbors and other desert folk, as well as a good hunk of his own life story; he had owned five different auto body shops in Minnesota, "one for each wife." He declared the only true girl in his life was Lucky, a stray he adopted after coming to Arizona for health reasons. He now loves the solitude of the desert; with dog, trailer, pickup, and satellite dish, he was set to finish his days. Thanks, Ed, for sharing of yourself with me, and making my jaunt on Route 66 a memorable one.

I said goodbye to the Mother Road in Kingman, Arizona, and headed north on Route 93 to Hoover Dam and Las Vegas. The terrain got far more rocky. I saw this sign to watch for big horn sheep; I had never seen one before (sign or sheep). Best part is, when I stopped above Hoover Dam, I indeed did see the elusive bighorn up in the rocks overlooking the Colorado. Naturally it was gone by the time I turned the camera on it.

Hoover Dam is a marvel of engineering, and I am glad I got to see it up close and personal. The unfortunate part is you have to wind down to and over it to get to Las Vegas; quite the traffic snarl. But as you can see at the top of this photo, a marvelous new bypass bridge is being constructed which will ease the congestion.

I finished the day by arriving in Las Vegas. What culture shock; today I traveled from the retro-past of Route 66 and the tiny populations of the Arizona desert to the big lights, big city of Sin City. Let's see what the next couple of days brings!

1 comment:

  1. We went to Hoover dam too. It was impressive! They were putting the keystone in the arch of the bypass bridge, the day we were there. Dam, it was hot-110!