Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Getting our Kicks.... On Route 66

We left Chama on Sunday, 4th June heading for Williams, Arizona from where we would visit the South Rim of the Grand Canyon but it would take us two days to get there with a few diversions along the way.

Sunday was a simple journey to Gallup, New Mexico. As usual, this link below will bring up the Google Maps route.

From Chama to Gallup

Nothing really exciting about the journey, apart from the first major junction where US Highways 84 and 64 go their different ways. Every so often, my sat-nav stops talking to me (I have that effect on people sometimes...) and we missed the turning. I was explaining to Ann how a "Four Way Stop" works and the special case rule that is applied when 4 cars roll up together at the junction. Normally, the first car to arrive at the junction goes first and if more than 2 cars arrive at about the same time, the car on the right goes first. If all four arrive together, the special rule then applies: the guy in the rental car goes first! but I digress...

Gallup is a strip town on route 66, now bypassed by Interstate 40 and being a little like Radiator Springs with numerous fading roadside attractions. We had a stop for victuals at Wal-Mart and made for our overnight stop, a simple but very pleasant RV Park on the main road. despite being at the end of the runway of Gallup airport and within a short distance of a busy railway line and an Interstate, it was surprisingly peaceful. We had a slight muddle with our booking, ending up on a plot with no sewer connection - but for an overnight, that was no problem for us and it earned us a further discount. 20% off for being overseas visitors and was I a serving member of the Forces, or Emergency services, or a Veteran. Well, actually, I did 2 years in the pay of the Queen while wearing a green suit, so yes, technically, I am a veteran (and officially 5% disabled as a consequence) and we are all on the same side (I think, mostly). So, 20% off for being a Veteran and then a further 20% because of the mistake in the booking. If we keep this up, they'll be paying us to stay!

Painted Desert and Petrified Forest

This was Monday's treat. It's a short drive today as we're going to spend much of the journey looking at stuff:

Gallup to Holbrook

The Painted Desert and Petrified forest National Parks run into each other, straddling Route and its replacement Interstate. First is the Desert; the main feature of which is the bright colours of the rocks formed by multiple layers of minerals in the ground. Think of that cliff on the Isle of Wight with the multi-coloured sand, but extend it over hundreds of square miles.

 The Park boasts a hotel, now turned into a visitor centre, but originally a welcome stop on the route to Los Angeles. It's built in the Pueblo style

Inside, the original dining room is preserved as it was in the 30s, complete with original wall decorations

Detail of the wall decorations

 As we crossed the original track of Route 66, a rusted out car shell forms a landmark to identify the iconic route and in memory of the thousands who made the journey from Oklahoma to California in the 30s to escape the drought. The story is told in John Steinbeck's novel "The Grapes of Wrath", later made into a film with Henry Fonda.

someone is bound to ask... It's a Studebaker
Moving further on, the remains of a Pueblo village can be seen and around these, a number of Petroglyphs on the rocks. These were created by the native Indians by scratching through the top "varnish" surface of the rock to create images and symbols. Possibly thousands of years old. The "varnish" was created by the wind and erosion on the rock surface and is even older than the symbols.

Now into the Petrified Forest. "Petrified" in its literal sense means turned to stone. In prehistoric times, the entire desert area was a primeval swamp. Where the trees fell into the swamp, they were preserved and over millions of years the swamp water containing microscopic grains of quartz was absorbed, eventually replacing the wood fibre with rock with the result that what now looks like fallen trees and logs is actually rock. And there are thousands of examples spread over many miles.

 The image above shows a petrified tree that fell across a ravine and forms a natural bridge. during the 1920s, there was a fear it was going to fall, so a modern concrete lintel was installed to hold it in place.

Our home for the night was to be the KOA (Kampgrounds Of America) site in Holbrook, another Route 66 small town. We had a little disaster on the final part of the journey when a passing car flicked up a rock that collided with our windshield, causing it to crack. That's the deductible on the insurance gone for a Burton, then :-(

I'm Standin on a Corner in Winslow, Arizona

Were not for The Eagles would any of us know anything about Winslow? Probably not... It's real claim to fame is in being a railroad town on the Santa Fe route and location of one of the original Harvey hotels on the route

There's a Girl, My Lord, in a flat bed Ford...

The Corner is busy with lots of Eagles fans waiting to take pictures. Opposite is a  top class souvenir store with many Eagles and Route 66 souvenirs. Worth a visit! Close by is a small museum where I found this on display:

Why would a sewing machine be of interest? Well, you'll know that I'm a bit of an "anorak" about Triumph cars. The founder of the original Triumph company, Sigfried Bettmann originally worked for the White Sewing Machine Company as their agent for overseas sales.

Later, we discovered we'd missed a prime spot in Winslow - La Posada Hotel - an architectural masterpiece. you can read more about it by clicking here.

Is Winslow worth a visit? If you are an Eagles fan, you can't not stop here! If you're not a fan (do such people actually exist?) It is still worth a visit. Allow a couple of hours.

A BIG hole in the Ground

Moving on along Interstate 40, we came to Meteor Crater. which is exactly what the name suggests - a huge meteor crater in the desert and of historical and scientific interest because exploration of it helped to prove that such craters were created by meteor impact and not by volcanic action. It's about a mile across...

It's hard to see how big it really is, but the building in the middle of the crater helps to give an idea. On the day we visited, the temperature was in the low 40s and we were seven or eight thousand feet above sea level. In that temperature and at that altitude, you physically cannot carry enough water to keep you hydrated. And ascending a simple staircase is like climbing Everest.

Then onto Williams, via Flagstaff and Interstate 40. A road that is in such need of repair that signs have been erected to warn of the damaged surface, like you used to see in France. Some of the pot holes were deep enough to lose an RV in! Our park at Williams was along side the Amtrak and Grand Canyon Railway depot, so we heard the mournful sound of American trains most nights The route to Williams was quite straightforward, but for the sake of completeness, here it is: Holbrook to Williams

the next instalment will look at Williams and our trip to the Grand Canyon.

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