Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Standing on the Corner...

1163 - 1496 (11558 - 11891)

Today I travelled from Albuquerque to Flagstaff, Arizona. Lots to see in this vastly different part of our nation.

I crossed the Continental Divide at the aptly named town of Continental Divide, New Mexico. I guess it is all downhill from here.

I passed through Gallup, New Mexico, nicknamed "the gateway to Indian country." I stopped to take this photo of the huge Indian Kachina Statue. Kachinas are a big part of Hopi life and religion. They are supernaturals, embodying the spirits of living things and also the spirits of ancestors who have died and become a part of nature. Kachina "dolls" representing these kachinas are carvings originally used as a teaching aid (NOT toys), but more recently as a Hopi art form. And they are far more elaborate than this simplistic statue.

Not long after crossing the state line into Arizona, I passed through the Petrified Forest National Park. Petrified wood is the brown gold of this part of Arizona. It's a commodity that's scattered along the ground everywhere, and yet tourists will pay money to get some. Petrified wood shops and stands are all over, but I was drawn to Stewart's Petrified Wood, near Holbrook, Arizona. It is easy to see why.

The rocky entrance bluff and surrounding property were littered with large, hand-made dinosaurs, easily visible from the highway. Some of them had motors to make them move, some are wrapped in strings of Christmas bulbs that are lit and blink -- and some of them had bloody mouths filled with body parts and half-eaten lady mannequins. They were boxy, lumpy, with triangle teeth, cartoon eyes, and skin that's a uniform park bench green --incredibly cheesy. I loved it.

Oh, and there was also an ostrich farm.

I learned later the dinosaurs and ostriches were only the most obvious of the sales gimmicks. There were junk cars in front of the shop so that it appeared as if it always had a crowd (a classic tactic used by other highway exit attractions and neighboring petrified wood and Indian crafts shops). I did not even go into the shop. Plenty to see outside. Besides, there was no one around. A little creepy, to be honest.

Holbrook is home to the well known Wigwam Motel, which draws a lot of business from nostalgia buffs. The owners follow the odd (but correct) notion that Americans want to sleep in concrete replicas of Indian teepees. They cater to this crowd by recreating this 1950s-era motel and even seeding the parking lot with vintage cars. The retro atmosphere, however, evaporates when something like my 2002 Honda CRV pulls in.

On my way to the Wigwam Motel, following Historic Route 66 through Holbrook, I came across this mural of the Mother Road. It runs along the side of a closed motel, showing the road from beginning to end with an emphasis on Arizona and Holbrook. It is next to an empty parking lot. I particularily liked the placement of the blue dumpster near the street.

West of Holbrook, signs beckoned me to stop at Geronimo Trading Post to see the World's Largest Petrified Tree. How could I resist?

On down the road in Joseph City, Arizona was another Route 66 icon, the Jackrabbit Trading Post. Actually, the Jackrabbit logo (on signs along the road for the past couple hundred miles) and the "HERE IT IS" sign were the real icons.

The shop itself had a poor selection of TaT (though they did sell liquor!). Gotta love the giant Jackrabbit though. I am the one on the left.

Following Historic Route 66 took me through Winslow, Arizona. Yes, that Winslow, Arizona, the one mentioned in the Eagles' song "Take It Easy."

Well, I’m a standing on a corner
In Winslow, Arizona...

Continuing west I came upon Meteor City, home to Meteor Crater, which is described as "Arizona's second most interesting hole in the ground." I did not get to the site, but I did stop at the Meteor City Trading Post, a geodesic dome holding an astounding array of TaT, plus "The World's Largest Map of Route 66." The mural is some 100 feet long, which I guess is longer than the mural in Holbrook I saw earlier in the day. It was restored as part of Hampton Inn's Save-A-Landmark program in 2002. As I have been staying at mostly Hampton Inns, I have been acutely aware of this program. Not much happening here, as you can see from the parking lot (not even any junkers).

I think what I liked most at the Meteor City Trading Post was the Worldest Largest Dreamcatcher. Dreamcatchers are an authentic American Indian tradition; sinew strands in a web around a small round or tear-shaped frame to hang as a charm to protect sleeping children from nightmares. The legend is that the bad dreams will get caught in the web. Apparently some Indians think dreamcatchers are a sweet and loving little tradition, others consider them a symbol of native unity, and still others think of them as sort of the Indian equivalent of tacky fuzzy dice hanging in your truck. I think they are wonderful.

Early on, the dreamcatcher become my symbol for this journey. I picked one up one in Deadwood, South Dakota (to hang from my rear view mirror), and another in Albuquerque. I enjoy looking through the web as I drive, imagining my dreams flowing safely to me, and bad things being left behind. My Uncle Seth gave me a dreamcatcher key ring when I told him how I it had become my personal talisman.

I finally reached Flagstaff well after dark. With my Route 66 prediliction, I dined at the Galaxy Diner on Historic Route 66. It was cleaner and slicker than a real 50s diner ever was, but it was lots of fun with a marvelous nostagic decor and even a poodle-skirted waitress. I sat at the soda fountain for a real blast from the past. A bonus was discovering that if you play "Tequila" on the jukebox, the staff is compelled to dance along to the music.

A good ending to a good day. Except for the lack of beer (I did have a Route 66 Beer... root beer 66).

Tomorrow, the Grand Canyon.

1 comment:

  1. Such a fine sight to see,
    It's a girl my Lord in a flatbed Ford,
    Slowin' down to take a look at me...