Oct 302015
 

Breakfast at Joe & Aggie’s Cafe

“Green or red chili sauce?” is a question that confuses northerners and foreigners, but it is important you know the difference if you are spending time in New Mexico and want to the local fare.   When I eat a breakfast burrito at Joe & Aggie’s, I always go for green chili sauce, because it is hotter and by quite a margin as well.   So, if your palette is not predisposed to a fiery assault, play it safe and choose red chili sauce.

I love eating breakfast at Joe & Aggie’s Cafe, there is simply no other place in Holbrook that can match it.  Not only is it steeped in Route 66 history, the staff are great and the authentic Mexican food is delicious.  It is invigorating to begin the day with the combined kick of green chili sauce and bottomless coffee.

The restaurant was founded in 1942 by Jesus “Joe” L. Montano and Augustina “Aggie” Tafoya Montano.  Aggie passed away in 2012 and the restaurant is now owned and operated by her daughter Alice Gallegos, along with her husband, Stanley, and their kids, Steven, Kim, Troy, and Sharlene.

Joe & Aggie's Cafe, Route 66, Holbrook, AZ.

Joe & Aggie’s Cafe, Route 66, Holbrook, AZ.

RIP Theodore “Ted” Julien

On my last post, I mentioned “Julien’s Roadrunner” gift shop was closed.  I was not sure if Ted Julien had retired or passed on as he was over 80 years old.  Whilst eating breakfast at Joe & Aggies, I asked Alice what happened to Julien’s.  Sadly, Ted has passed on and the store closed.  Worse still, it is unlikely that the store will ever open again.  After Ted’s death, his children gutted the store, they removed practically everything not nailed to the floor and sold it.  After breakfast, I went across the street and looked inside, the only thing left was empty display cases and dust.

Ted Julien, 2001

Ted Julien, circa 2001

The bad news hit me kind of hard as I had very fond memories of Ted.  I originally met him back in 2000 on my first southwest Road Trip.  I purchased a few souvenirs from his shop and struck up a conversation.  He was a very kind and gentle man with a dry sense of humor.   You can still see vestiges of his humor on the artwork that adorns his store.

Julien's Roadrunner, Route 66, Holbrook, AZ

Julien’s Roadrunner, Route 66, Holbrook, AZ

Over the years, I have returned several times to Julien’s Roadrunner and always chatted with Ted.  He was more than happy to talk to you about his days on Route 66 as well as his service in the Navy during World War II.  He probably did not remember me, but I could not forget him and his cats.  The feline companions were ever present over the years, albeit different ones.  Often there would be a cat walking on the glass cases and similar to Dr. Evil’s cat in the Austin Powers movies, there was occasionally a cat stowed away in a drawer under the cash register.

Ted Julien, 2013

Ted Julien, circa 2013

The last time I saw Ted, was in 2013.  I told him that I always visit his shop when in Holbrook and had done so for over 10 years.  Before I left, I told him, “I hope to see you again soon.”  He said, “make it sooner than later, I don’t know how much longer I’ll be around.”  Turns out he was right and he’ll be missed by many Route 66 travelers and the good people of Holbrook.

I was only able to find one online obituary for Theodore “Ted” Julien here.  I made this video to show how his store looks today and to remember the passing of a Route 66 icon.

Wigwam Village Motel

After learning the sad news about Ted Julien’s death, I needed a distraction and something more light to restore my spirit.   So, why not go photograph the Wigwam motel?  Truth be told, I’ve already photographed it several times, but I needed some “shutter therapy” today.  Yes, they look just like the same photos I’ve taken before over the years 🙂  Who cares, it was fun.

Wigwam Motel, Route 66, Holbrook, AZ

Wigwam Motel Village, Route 66, Holbrook, AZ

From wikipedia: Arizona motel owner Chester E. Lewis built this Wigwam Village in 1950.  There are 15 wigwams on the property and many have a vintage car parked outside.  Lewis operated the motel until closing it in 1974 when Interstate 40 bypassed downtown Holbrook.  Two years after his death in 1986, sons Clifton and Paul Lewis and daughter Elinor renovated the motel before reopening it in 1988.  The Lewis family continues to run and maintain Wigwam Village #6. Near the registration desk is a small room that contains many of Chester Lewis’s memorabilia, including a necklace of human teeth of unknown origin.

Wigwam Village has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places since May 2, 2002

Wigwam Motel Village, Route 66, Holbrook, AZ

Wigwam Motel Village, Route 66, Holbrook, AZ

Wigwam Motel Village, Route 66, Holbrook, AZ

Wigwam Motel Village, Route 66, Holbrook, AZ

Rainbow Rock Shop

Another must see roadside attraction in Holbrook is the Rainbow Rock Shop.  There you will find a wide assortment of gems, geodes, petrified wood and old west memorabilia.  However, the standout feature are the life size and cartoonish dinosaur figures.   It is always a good photo opportunity and it’s a good place to buy a few souvenirs.

Rainbow Rock Shop, Route 66, Holbrook, AZ

Rainbow Rock Shop, Route 66, Holbrook, AZ

Rainbow Rock Shop, Route 66, Holbrook, AZ

Rainbow Rock Shop, Route 66, Holbrook, AZ

Heavy Rain on I-40

My morning fun in Holbrook was done, I had to get back on the interstate and put down a lot of miles.  My goal was to ride non-stop until it was dark, this took me as far as Tucumcari, New Mexico, which is 406 miles east of Holbrook.

There was no time left to do any sightseeing today, and that was no easy task for me as I had to bypass  scenic New Mexico towns on Route 66 towns such Lupton, Thoreau, Grants, Paraje and Santa Rosa.  I would also forgo any further exploration of Albuquerque and just stick to the Interstate.

Approaching Storms in I-40, near Albuquerque, New Mexico

Approaching Storms in I-40, near Albuquerque, New Mexico

As I approached Albuquerque, the skies looked angry.  I could see rain in the distance and knew it was only a question of time before I’d have to ride through another monsoon.  I made it just past the city and pulled into a gas station to put on my rain gear.  Within a minute or two, there was a torrential downpour and it was best to wait it out as visibility was practically zero.  After 10 minutes, the rain abated and I got back on the road.

The roads were still soaking wet and as I approached the ramp back onto I-40, there was a puddle at least 2 feet deep near the exit.  I took my chances and decided to ride through it.  Even at a slow speed, the tires carved out two walls of water that left my head and boots soaking wet.  Lucky for me, the water did not go into the air intake and I once I was back on I-40, I rode all the way to Tucumcari, NM, stopping only for gas.

Oct 182015
 

Starting The Long Trip Back Home

There is often an unhappy and sinking feeling when one has to return home from vacation.  For most people that means boarding a plane and coming home from lazy beach vacation.  Generally, these folks are back the same day.   It’s altogether quite different on motorcycle road trips.  It often takes days to get home and in many cases, without the luxury of time to do further exploring or day trips.  This means spending dozens of hours on bland and boring highways that make it possible to ride fast and see virtually nothing.  It’s not my preferred way to travel.

I had mixed feelings about going home.  On one hand, there was some lingering doubt that my damaged motorcycle was still roadworthy and on the other hand, I was looking forward to being reunited with my girlfriend, Missy, and my two pet parrots, I missed them all.

Leaving Ray and Tammy’s Place in Sun City

I had a great time staying with with Ray and Tammy Huston as well as visiting my good friend Micheal DiGregorio and his wife, Twyla.  It’s never easy to leave them and wait another year or two before my next visit to Arizona.

After a hearty breakfast, cooked by Tammy, I gathered all my stuff and packed up the Harley for the 3700 KM (2300 mile) ride back home.   My mind was racing trying to figure how many Route 66 stops I could make along the way and my gut instinct said it was very few.  I missed a lot of sites on the first leg of the journey, many on account of my accident as well as taking a slower pace with Markus Foerster on the first 4 days of the trip.  As this was my third road trip on Route 66, these were places I’ve seen before, so it was not really a big deal.

Rob, Ray, "Max" and Tammy

Rob, Ray, “Max” and Tammy

Ray suggested that I take back roads through the mountains to get to Holbrook.  Normally, I’d be inclined to take the scenic route, via AZ-87N and AZ-250E through Payson, however I had to take limited time and the forecast of rainstorms into account.  These roads get dark at night and there are many twists and turns, so with the threat of monsoons and a busted motorcycle, I decided to play it safe.  So, I took the boring way via I-17N and I-40E through Flagstaff, it’s all modern highways with plenty of gas stations and towns en-route.  In hindsight, it was the smart thing to do as I encountered some rain and strong winds.

I made two brief stops along the way: one a rest center on I-17 with a scenic lookout and the other at the now defunct Twin Arrows Trading Post, just east of Flagstaff.  There is nothing there, but a cliched Route 66 photo.

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Twin Arrows Trading Post, Route 66, Near Flagstaff, Arizona

I-17 North

Sunset Point Scenic Overlook.  I-17, Black Canyon City, Arizona.

The Jack Rabbit Trading Post

The highway ride to Holbrook was predictably boring, so I made time for a visit to the legendary Jack Rabbit Trading Post near Joseph City.  The store was closed, but the Jack Rabbit figure and the iconic sign are always there.  Anyone who has traveled Route 66 is well aware of teaser ads for the Jack Rabbit Trading Post.  Around 50 miles east or west from the trading post, you’ll see several roadside billboards indicating the distance ahead as well as pitching the souvenir shop, a gas station and other items for sale.  When you finally arrive, you cannot miss the iconic “HERE IT IS” sign as well as the fiberglass Jack Rabbit.  The Jack Rabbit Trading Post is treated as a “must see” attraction by Route 66 enthusiasts and it offers some good photo opportunities.

Jack Rabbit Trading Post, Route 66, near Joseph City, AZ

Jack Rabbit Trading Post, Route 66, Joseph City, AZ

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The legendary “HERE IT IS” sign.  Jack Rabbit Trading Post, Route 66, Joseph City, AZ

In addition to taking photos, I also cobbled together a video of my ride to the Jack Rabbit Trading post as well as some commentary.  If you look carefully can see some of the roadside billboards on the GoPro footage.

Arrival in Holbrook, Arizona

Open the pages of any Route 66 book and you will invariably see photos of the world famous Wigwam Motel.  More than anything else, it is these iconic motels, built back in the 1930’s and 1940’s, that put Holbrook on the map and attracts tourists from around the world.  Each motel room was constructed in the shape of a teepee, but incorrectly referred to was a wigwam.  No matter, it is impressive that each “wigwam” is a self contained motel room complete with a toilet and shower.

When I was living in Arizona, I stayed overnight in a Wigwam on more than one occasion.  Since then I have not been able to book a room here.  I even tried a few days in advance to make a reservation and they were booked solid.  In a way, this a good thing, as Route 66 is seeing a renaissance and it has become a much busier place, which helps ensure the continuation of historic businesses.  I suppose that during peak season, one needs to reserve a wigwam weeks in advance, but this is not practical on motorcycle road trips, especially when you cannot always predict where you’ll be one day to the next.

There are plenty of other motels in Holbrook, some are a bit dilapidated and some are quite decent and almost all of them are situated along the Mother Road.  I opted for one of the better motels, the Globetrotter Lodge, which is right across the street from the Wigwam motel.  The Globetrotter is a historic property that has been carefully restored to its original glory.  The hostess was German and the rooms exhibited a suitably Teutonic level of cleanliness and efficiency.  In more ways that one, there was a European accent to the motel and it was an interesting mixture of Southwest Americana and old world hospitality.

After settling in, I got back on the Harley to ride through town, for old time’s sake.  I rode down Route 66 past Joe and Aggie’s Cafe, Julien’s Roadrunner Gift Shop, The Rainbow Rock Shop, The Winner Circle Bar and more.  I noticed that Julien’s was closed and it made me wonder whether Ted Julien had retired or passed on.  I would have to wait until tomorrow to get the answer.

I’m a creature of habit and I knew that I would eat dinner at the Butterfield Stage Co. Steak House. I have lost count of how many times I’ve been in Holbrook, but without fail, I always enjoy a meal at Butterfield’s.  It is a pretty decent restaurant and once again, the hosts are European.  If I recall correctly, they are a Polish family and have owned the restaurant for several years.  The Butterfield Stage Co. is steeped in tradition and makes no concessions to modern fads or haute cuisine, it is very much an old school steakhouse.  The food is good, but not quite top shelf, however, the prices are reasonable.  One goes there because of the somewhat cheesy western  themed decor as well as it’s historic significance on Route 66.  Moreover, it’s the best steak dinner in town.  The other restaurants in Holbrook are generally Mexican, bars and fast food.

Butterfield Stage Co, Holbrook, Arizona

Butterfield Stage Co., Holbrook, Arizona

After dinner, I went back to the motel, relaxed in front of the TV and enjoyed a few shots of bourbon.  I was too tired to bother with any night photography as that would require lugging around a tripod and doing long exposures, which could take hours.  Besides, the Wigwam motel had already turned off their lights, so there was no point.

Oct 122015
 

I consider myself lucky to have a number of great friends and Ray Huston is one of them.  Ray was visiting his mother in California and could meet me in Barstow.   Ray drove his pickup truck out west, so the plan was to put my damaged Harley on the back for the trip back to Sun City, Arizona.  This made sense from a safety point of view and it was the smart thing to do.  It was the first day over a week that I was not riding 10 to 12 hours a day.  Being in the comfort of an air conditioned truck meant that I would not have to deal with the searing heat of the Mojave Desert or worrying about the damage to my bike, moreover, it would gave Ray and I several hours to catch up on our lives.

Meeting Ray and a Mexican Breakfast

Ray arrived at the Route 66 Motel somewhere around 10am.  Two years had elapsed since my last visit to the Southwest and it was good to see him again.  We decided to grab some breakfast at a local Mexican diner.  I ordered a breakfast burrito, which is a rare treat for a Canadian boy.   This food the real deal and not some dodgy corporate knock-off of Mexican food.  You simply cannot get an authentic Mexican breakfast in Canada.

Route 66 Motel, Barstow, California

Route 66 Motel, Barstow, California (old film emulation)

Putting My Damaged Harley on Ray’s Pickup Truck

We had to figure out a way to get the bike on Ray’s truck as he did not have a ramp nor any tie downs.  I did some Googling on my phone and found a tow truck company with a lift platform as well as a hardware store.  After breakfast, Ray and I purchase some ratcheting tie-downs and then went back to the motel just as the platform truck arrived.

It took some finessing to get an 850+ lb Harley onto the articulated platform as it was sloping around 35 degrees.  Basically, you turn on the engine, quickly open the throttle, drive the bike up the ramp and carefully apply the brakes.  It’s a bit gnarly, but I made it.  The rest was easy: with the truck’s platforms height matching the that of bed in Ray’s pickup truck, we moved the bike forward, turned the front wheel all the way to the left and locked the fork.  Ray did an amazing job of securing the bike with the ratcheting tie downs.

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Route 66 Motel, Barstow, California

Route 66 Motel, Barstow, California

Route 66 Motel, Barstow, California

Ved & Mridu Shandil, Owners of Route 66 Motel

Before heading back to Arizona, I took some photos around the Route 66 Motel and requested an interview with Ved & Mridu Shandil.   Over the years, they have done a fantastic job of keeping this historic property alive.  Not only have they maintained the orginal building, they have created a unique and authentic Route 66 experience.  Through a combination of old cars and unique landscaping there is tremendous curb appeal and photo opportunities.  The office is decorated with countless gifts and souvenirs from customers all over the world.  I really have the utmost respect and admiration for all their hard work.  If that was not enough, they are also two of the nicest people you will meet on the Mother Road.

The interview was coming along nicely and then it went sideways because the SD card in my camera was full.  I freed up some space and resumed the interview.  So if there seems to be an interruption in continuity, that’s on account of my own foolishness.  I should have checked first, then again, one assumes a 64GB card is plentiful. So, please accept my apologies for this oversight.

Route 66 Motel, Barstow, California

Route 66 Motel, Barstow, California

As it turns out, Ray knew Ved as he had stayed a few times at the Route 66 Motel.  Then again, Ray is one of those very charming and personable people who makes friends wherever he goes and he is very well traveled in the Southwest.

Driving to Sun City, Arizona

It was a nice reprieve to be riding in an air conditioned truck for the rest of the day.  After the motorcycle accident, as well as dealing with injuries and a battered motorcycle, it was blissful to relax the rest of the day and chat for hours with an old friend.  Ray and I caught up on our lives and I really enjoyed hearing some of his stories from his Army days in Vietnam.

When we arrived in Sun City, Ray’s wife, Tammy had dinner waiting and we sat down for nice meal.  After dinner, we enjoyed cocktails, I talked with “Max” their military macaw parrot and we cooled down in the swimming pool.  What a great way to end the day!  I am indeed lucky to have kind and generous friends such as Ray and Tammy.  They are awesome people.

Oct 062015
 

To say I slept well the night before would be a bold faced lie.  Not only was the motel room bed shoddy, the constant blast of train horns robbed me of any quality sleep.  It was going to take a lot of coffee to jump start me for a long ride ahead.  Lucky for me, I would be having breakfast and lots of java at Miz Zip’s restaurant on old Route 66 in Flagstaff.

Breakfast at Miz Zip’s in Flagstaff

When I lived in Arizona, Miz Zip’s became my all time favourite breakfast and lunch place in Flagstaff.  Everything is cooked from scratch, the portions are generous, the price is right and the dining rooms are chock full of memorabilia and Route 66 folklore.  Moreover, the coffee is bottomless and I really needed it.  The usual suspects were having their breakfast there, some Navajos, Mexicans, construction crews, contractors and a few tourists.  It brought back a flood of good memories as I would often spend my summer weekends in Flagstaff.  Not only was it 20 degrees cooler, it was also a great hub for many road trips to places such as the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Meteor Crater, Holbrook, Seligman, Los Angeles and more.

Miz Zip's, Flagstaff, Arizona

Miz Zip’s, Flagstaff, Arizona

A Brief Visit to Williams, Arizona

After breakfast, I decided to make a brief visit to Williams, AZ.  This place also has a number of fond memories.  In the past it has served as a launching point for motorcycle and train rides to the Grand Canyon, motorcycle rallies and it was always one of the places I used to love visiting when I live in Arizona.  Most of all, it was the last time I went out drinking with my father, back in 2003.  He came to visit me in Arizona, we took my jeep out for a road trip to the Grand Canyon and we overnighted in Williams.  I did not have time to explore the town, so I decided just to ride around there for old time’s sake.

Seligman Arizona, The Playful Heart & Soul of Route 66

In more ways that one, Seligman, AZ., is the quintessential Route 66 town.  It is the birthplace of the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona and home to it’s legendary founder, Angel Delgadillo, the “Guardian Angel of Route 66”.  It is also home to the world famous Delgadillo’s Snow Cap restaurant, owned by Angel’s brother, Carlos until he passed away.  Today, his son, Juan Delgadillo carries on the family tradition at Snow Cap’s.

One could easily site the history of Seligman and how it was almost destroyed when I-40 bypassed Route 66, but that would be too cut and dry.  There is something very playful, colorful, quirky, funny, unique and spirited that makes Seligman really stand out from other Route 66 towns.  In my experience, it is the beating heart and soul of all towns on the Mother Road.  Many of the local businesses have gone out of their way to lure in customers with garish decor, crazy mannequins, colorful signs, antique cars, bold paint jobs, funny slogans and just any other oddball grass roots ideas they could muster.  The American spirit of individualism, self-expression and entrepreneurship is alive and well in Seligman.  The rest of the country could learn a thing or two from the good people there.

Seligman, Arizona

Roadside Nostalgia, Seligman, Arizona

Snow Cap And Remembering Carlos Delgadillo

Part of me was crushed when I discovered that Snow Cap’s was closed for the day.  Sure, I was looking forward to a hamburger and fries served in an old school cardboard container, but that is not the feature attraction.  For me it was a trip down memory lane and reminders of many a great laugh.  Back when Carlos Delgadillo was alive, people from around the world flocked to this one of a kind place to experience one of Carlos’ many pranks.  You remember those joke mustard bottles that would squirt out a piece of yellow string?  Well, Carlos fooled countless people over the years with this old gag.  He would ask if you wanted cheese on your cheeseburger.  He would offer you discounts to have ice cream served on broken snow cones.  He would ask unassuming customers if they wanted “new or used” napkins.  I remember he would write down orders on those resuable doodle pads (magic slate) we had as kids.  Alas, Carlos is gone, but his son Juan carries on this tradition.

Snow Cap, Seligman, Route 66, AZ (2013)

Delgadillo’s Snow Cap, Seligman, Arizona(2013)

Since the restaurant was closed, I had to content myself with a walk around the property and quietly smile as I gazed over Carlos’ wacky creations and decorations.  There was his crazy car, the silly slogans on the building, “Dead Chicken, Cheeseburger with Cheese”.  I miss the old man and I was fortunate enough to have met him on three occasions.

Such Awful Service and Crappy Music

Since Snow Caps was closed, I would have to look elsewhere for lunch.  From memory, I knew there was a Mexican restaurant around the corner, but it was also closed.  As I walked down the street, it was apparent most businesses were not open and that left just one place in town serving lunch:  The RoadRunner Cafe.  It was really crowded and noisy, not my kind of place. Nonetheless,  I sat down at the one empty table and waited a full 20 minutes without being served.  That’s simply not acceptable and to make matters worse, the place was blasting fucking pop music over the PA system.  Really?  This is Route 66, where is the nostalgic music, the folk songs, heck even country music?

Seligman, Arizona

Roadrunner Cafe and Gift Show, Seligman, Arizona

I walked over to the Return to the 50’s gift shop to look for a Route 66 T-shirt for my girlfriend.   I spoke with the proprietor and asked if there were any other lunch options in town, she said there was one place just before getting back on the interstate and expect it to be crowded.   I made a comment to the effect, “That fucking RoadRunner across the street is playing the wrong kind of music for Route 66”. She smiled and said, “Thank God someone else feels that way too! I’m so sick of hearing it and it’s totally inappropriate”.   We both felt vindicated.   Unfortunately, she had no suitable T-shirts in my girlfriend’s size, so it was time to motor on.   By now, I was getting sick of the tourists who flocked together in large groups.  I have to admit, I was rather pissed off for no particular reason, so I’ll blame it on low blood sugar and hunger.

Return to the 1950's, Seligman, Arizona

Return to the 50’s Gift Shop, Seligman, Arizona

Return to the 1950's, Seligman, Arizona

Return to the 50’s Gift Shop, Seligman, Arizona

Before leaving Seligman, I made a brief visit to Angel and Vilmas Souvenir and Barber Shop for old time’s sake.  I remember back in 2001, I had the privilege of meeting Angel Delgadillo and sitting in his barber chair.  He is such a kind and happy person, yet when it comes to defending and promoting Route 66, he manifests a fiery passion.

Angel & Vilma's

Angel & Vilma’s Gift Shop, Seligman, Arizona

Angel's Barber Shop

Angel Delgadillo’s Barber Shop, Seligman, Arizona

The Dambar Steakhouse in Kingman, Arizona

As rode out of Seligman, I found that restaurant just before the interstate and, just like the lady said, it was packed with nowhere to park and no open tables.  I’ve never seen Seligman so busy before!  So, I figured I would just ride out to Williams, AZ, the next town on Route 66 and get a late lunch at the Dambar Steakhouse, yes it’s actually called the Dambar! Unlike Seligman, Kingman was quiet and peaceful, there was no shortage of tables at the Dam Bar.  I fueled up on chicken wings and a tall beer in this old western themed restaurant. Only the locals were there: a mixture of sun tanned cowboys, old men, truck drivers and surly staff serving up beers and finger foods as country music played softly in the background.   That made me smile. After a satisfying and relaxing meal, I braced myself for the hot ride ahead across the Mojave desert.

Getting My Ass Kicked By The Mojave Desert

Back in 2002, after living a year in Arizona, my blood thinned out and I adapted well to triple digit heat.  Riding in 120+ temperature, although challenging, was not uncommon and I learned a few tricks to deal with it.  After being back in Canada for 12 years, my blood has thickened up and I’ve lost my desert legs.  This ride was a tougher one than I bargained for.  The crazy mid-day desert heat across the Mojave was kicking my ass.  Every half our or so, I had to stop into an air conditioned gas station and guzzle down water along with Gator Aid.  At one station, I went around to the back, grabbed the garden hose and watered myself down head to toe.  It felt great, but within 15 minutes of riding, I was bone dry again.   I lost count of how much fluid I drank, but it must have been around two gallons.

Unfortunately, I was behind schedule because of delays in Seligman and cool down stops across the Mojave.  I was hoping to be in Newberry Springs, California by dinner time, but it was too late, the day was already over.  The coming of night was a splendid relief from the day’s punishing heat and there was a beautiful sunset.

Sunset on the Mojave Desert

Sunset on the Mojave Desert

Bagdad Cafe, Newberry Springs, California

Well into darkness, I arrived in the teeny tiny desert town of Newberry Springs.  Now why would I bother with this two blink town?  Only one reason: to visit the Bagdad Cafe, the site where a German movie bearing the same name was filmed.

If you have never seen “Bagdad Cafe“, I urge you to do so.  It is a wonderful, quirky and heartfelt movie about a middle aged German woman who is abandoned by her husband in the dessert, she finds her way to the Bagdad Cafe, a crumbling cafe and dilapidated motel, run by an angry and bitter woman, whose husband also abandoned her.  The two strike up an unlikely friendship and the German lady transforms the cafe into a successful business featuring her magic act as the main attraction.  Literally and figuratively, the cafe and the characters are transformed into their better selves.

I made it there by the skin of my teeth.  Had I arrived just 5 minutes later, I would have never seen inside the Bagdad Cafe, as they were just closing the doors.  It was a surreal setting, the sun long gone and the only light around for miles was the cafe sign and everywhere else, the sky was pitch black.  I fumbled around for a flash light so I could find my camera, a video light and microphone.  To make matters worse, I had to deal with some very strong winds that made it it difficult to get my gear out.   I managed to take a few photos and video myself before the cafe’s lights went out.  I went inside to see if I could talk with anyone.  Much to my disappointment, the owner left just minutes before I rode into the parking lot.  Thankfully, there was still some staff at work and I met a lovely young woman named Mary Jane, who graciously allowed me to record her performing some Mariachi singing.

I consider myself lucky that I had time finally see the Bagdad Cafe, so scratch one another  item off the bucket list.  So, under the canvas of a black sky, I had to get back on the Interstate and ride out to Barstow.   Leaving Newberry Springs, it was a cautious ride through unlit sideroads and powerful wind gusts. Once I got back on I-40, it was good to have extra lighting from other vehicle headlights and go with the wind instead of against it.

Barstow California, Home to Meth Labs and a Great Route 66 Motel.

After a long day riding through oven-like temperatures in the Mojave Desert and dealing with gusty winds under a pitch black sky in Newberry Springs, I was quite glad to arrive in Barstow.   Over 13 years had passed since my last visit to this little Route 66 town and things have changed a bit.   There was quite the gang presence on the streets and it appeared to be a more dangerous place.   Many of the local businesses had bars over their windows and the liqour store was under tight security.  The following day, I learned that Barstow has become notorious for meth labs on the outskirts of town.  What a shame to see human scum setting up shop here and the gangs roaming the streets late at night.

Thank God there is are some really decent folk in this town and I was fortunate to meet a great family who own the historic Route 66 Motel.  They are hard working immigrants from India who have done a fantastic job of refurbishing this historic property and promoting Route 66.  I will have more information on this motel and an interview with two wonderful people in my next post.

Route 66 Motel, Barstow, California

Route 66 Motel, Barstow, California

I had travelled quite a few miles and was still feeling the effects from my injuries, so I was looking forward to relaxing.  A pizza was ordered from Dominoes, I chugged down a few brews and was excited about seeing my good friend, Ray Huston, in the moring.  I ate far too much pizza for my own good, but had just enough energy left to take a few shots of the motel before going to sleep.

Route 66 Motel, Barstow, California

Route 66 Motel, Barstow, California

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