Nov 182015
 

This is the last blog post from my Route 66 trip which went from July 18 to August 4, 2015 (17 days).  It has taken me months to edit and select photos from a collection of over 1000 images, cobble together several short videos from a GoPro Hero 4 action camera and an Olympus OMD EM-5 MK II.  Each of my postings averaged over 1400 words and if I was lucky, I would get one full night a week to work on the blog.  The pace was slow and measured, but it gave me a chance to take a step back from the trip and see it with a different set of eyes.  This winter I plan to sort through hundreds of video clips and produce a mini-documentary on Route 66 and my experiences along the way.  My work has just started.

Over the course of this journey, I traveled just over 5282 miles (8500 kms), dealt with a broken video microphone, crazy traffic in Chicago, meeting a 4 day travel companion, Markus Foerster in Wilmington, IL, a motorcycle accident in Adrian, TX, re-uniting my good friend Ray Huston in Barstow, CA as well as Michael DiGregorio in Chandler, AZ.  I rode from Adrian, TX to Barstow, CA and back to Ajax, Ontario on a damaged 2008 Harley-Davidson Road Glide which held itself together with stubborn resiliency and got me home safely.

Aug 2 – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to St. Louis, Missouri

Over the course of the next three days, virtually all my riding was on highways.  Not my preferred way to travel as the interstate highway system makes it possible to get everywhere efficiently and see nothing along the way.   It is really quite boring and uninspired, but it had to be done.

I would treat myself to one final Route 66 kick, namely dinner at Missouri Hick BBQ in Cuba, MO.   It was a lucky decision because it was their Sunday all you can eat rib special!  My mouth is watering as I am this post and gazing at this image, their food is THAT good.  Dinner was a bittersweet experience, mixed in with the tasty ribs was a feeling of sadness as it hit me that I must wait at least another year or two before my next Route 66 adventure.

Last Route 66 Dinner. Missouri Hick BBQ, MO

Last Route 66 Dinner. Missouri Hick BBQ, Cuba, MO

After a decadent rib feast, it was back on the highway to St. Louis where I stayed at some boring, now forgotten, chain motel just past the downtown area.

Aug 3 – St. Louis, Missouri to Toledo, Ohio

Taking the direct route from St. Louis to Toledo, meant I could bypass Chicago and its crazy traffic.  I expected an uneventful ride, but a bum steer from the new GPS cost me precious time, however, I traveled on some nice country roads and arrived in Toledo by mid-evening.  As a rule of thumb, I always update the firmware and maps on a new GPS, but I did not trust the crappy motel internet connections.  The maps were outdated hence, the bad directions.  Ah well, it was a nice break from the interstate.

Aug 4 – Toledo, Ohio to Home in Ajax, Ontario

I had written about the arrival back home in a previous post, so I won’t repeat it here.   That said, I was so happy to be home and re-united with my wonderful, lovely girlfriend, Missy Ayres and my two parrots, Lucinda and Freddy.  It was really quite fitting to see a rainbow at my front door.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The view from my front door upon arriving home

The Journey In Hindsight

Life does not always go as you plan.  When I embarked on this solo trip, I did so with the intent to use as much time as possible to shoot many videos and interviews and explore a number of Route 66 attractions passed by on previous trips.  It did not turn out that way and I fell short of my goals.  However, it was misfortune that changed the journey’s dynamic in some positive ways.   If my video microphone did not fail, I would have never met Markus Foerster, a Swiss Harley and photography enthusiast who became a great travel partner during four days.  The time I wasted in Chicago trying to purchase a new microphone set in motion a series of events that led to to this happenstance encounter.  Moreover, through another series of events, I would have never rode into a flash rainstorm in Adrian, Texas and lost control of my motorcycle.  Providence spared my life and I count my blessing I have friends in Arizona, namely Ray Huston and Michael DiGregorio who offered to come to my rescue and helped make sure the bike was safe to ride home.

What was supposed to be a story about the history and people of Route 66 became a story of my own adventures and encounters with people.  In some ways, this journey taught me more about myself, rather than the history and attractions of the Mother Road.  Who am I to resist what life throws at me?  Sometimes you just have to accept things for what they are and know that the best laid plans can go awry.  Between the space of what you plan to do and what really happens is where life is lived.  Even if that means having to deal with disaster and moving on, no matter if it hurts and can be dangerous.  I count my blessings I have such a wonderful girlfriend, now fiance, and a two great friends in Arizona who always have my back.

 

Nov 102015
 

So began another day on the ride back home to Canada.   Ahead of me, hundreds of miles riding on I-40 without the luxury of exploring side roads as my vacation time was running out.  Moreover, I was anxious to get home and be re-united with my girlfriend and my parrots.   I did not know how far I would travel on this day, but I managed to ride just over 370 miles to Oklahoma City.  Sure, I could have gone a bit further, but I wanted to enjoy my last leisurely breakfast on the Mother Road and take in a few sites along the way.

Breakfast at “Kix on 66” in Tucumcari, NM

On my last Route 66 road trip, I had a great breakfast at “Kix on 66” and decided to do so again.  This great family run diner harkens back to the days of classic diners in the 1950’s and 60’s.  It is very much a quintessential Route 66 experience and one that befits the historic spirit of Tucumcari.  You notice it right away from the line of stools at the meal counter, to the old decor on the wall and retro vinyl covered booth seats.  One instantly feels at home here and the service is excellent.  They make no concession to healthy breakfast fads or alternative foods, this is an old school American diner with great tasting food served in generous quantities.

Kix on 66, Tucumcari, New Mexico

Kix on 66, Tucumcari, New Mexico

I told myself “to hell with eating healthy”, so I went full bore and ordered a stack of pancakes with bacon, two eggs, juice and a few coffees to jolt me back to the land of the living.  I had enough carbs wedged inside me to skip lunch and ride all day.

Before getting back on the Interstate, I  captured some photos near the diner, including the now defunct Apache Motel.  I really wanted to revisit my favourite spots in Tucumcari, such as the Blue Swallow Motel, Tee-Pee Curios, La Cita Mexican Foods, etc., but such leisurely meanderings will have to wait until my next road trip.  Over the years, I’ve accumulated a number of decent images in Tucumcari, so there was little value in taking the same shots again.

Abandoned Apache Motel, Route 66, Tucumcari, New Mexico

Abandoned Apache Motel, Route 66, Tucumcari, New Mexico

Once I got back on I-40, I decided to make two stops en-route: one in the tiny town of Groom, Texas (pop 574) and another, just down the road, in Shamrock.  It was a good way to break up the day and the monotony of highway riding.  Along the way, I shot some GoPro footage of Tucumcari, I-40, Groom and Shamrock, Texas.

190 Foot Tall Cross, Groom, TX

Erected in 1995 by The Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ Ministries, this 19 story tall cross was claimed to be the tallest in the western hemisphere.   Although impressive and can be seen from 20 miles (32 km)  in all directions, it is not the tallest.  Inspired by this monument, a similar cross was constructed in Effingham, Illinois that is 8 feet (2.4 m) taller.  The Groom cross is also 18 feet (5.5 m) shorter than the one at the Mission Nombre de Dios in St. Augustine, Florida.

Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ Ministries, Groom, Texas

Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ Ministries, Groom, Texas

Surrounding the base of the cross are very realistic life size statues depicting the 14 Stations of the Cross.  Unlike stylized medieval representation of biblical events, these figures are historically accurate, right down to the crucifixion of Christ.  The Roman nails are driven through the wrists instead of the palms of the hand, which is the correct way to crucify someone.

Station of the Cross, Groom, Texas

Jesus Carris His Cross

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pontius Pilate Condemns Christ to Death

Even if one is not religious, one is overcome by the depicted suffering of Christ along with the penitent and impenitent thieves who were crucified alongside Jesus.  The artists who sculpted the 14 stations of the cross did a remarkable job of telling this terrible and brutal story.

Fortunately, my next stop was one filled with more levity and quirkiness.

Britten Leaning Water Tower, Groom, TX

Arguably, the best known roadside attraction in Groom, is the Britten Leaning Water Tower.  No Route 66 book or documentary is complete without making a reference to this odd structure.  One may be inclined to think the lean happened naturally and rendered the water tower useless.  However, this is not the case and the real story is far more interesting.

It was originally a functioning water tower that was slated for demolition until Ralph Britten purchased it and moved it roadside, with an intentional lean, to advertize his truck stop.  It worked like a charm and it stopped motorists dead in their tracks as they were baffled by this oddity.  The truck stop is still visible from behind the tower, but is no longer in use since it was destroyed by a fire decades ago.  Since then, the tower has become a lure for photographers and Route 66 travelers.  The large star on top of the tower is illuminated at Christmas time.

Britten Leaning Water, Groom, Texas

Britten Leaning Water, Route 66, Groom, Texas

Conoco Tower Station and U Drop Inn, Shamrock, TX

Built in 1936, the Tower Station and U-Drop Inn is a beautiful art-deco style building designed by J.C. Berry who was inspired by the image of a nail stuck in soil.  The building features two flared towers with geometric detailing, curvilinear massing, glazed ceramic tile walls, and neon light accents. It has traditionally held two separate business: “Tower Station”, a gas station on the western side, and the “U-Drop Inn”, a café on the eastern side.

Conoco Tower Station and U Drop Inn, Shamrock, TX

Conoco Tower Station and U-Drop Inn, Shamrock, TX

The building has been owned by several different people in its history, always housing both a gas station and a restaurant.  It operated as such until the late 1990’s when it was forced to close after the decommissioning of Route 66.  It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1997, after which the building was purchased by the First National Bank of Shamrock, which gave it back to the city.   It was restored back to its original condition thanks to a $1.7 million federal grant.  Today it serves as a visitor’s center, museum, gift shop and the offices of the Shamrock Chamber of Commerce.

In the 2006 Pixar animated move, Cars, the fictitious village of Radiator Springs was based largely on famous Route 66 landmarks and the U-Drop Inn’s distinctive art-deco architecture appears as “Ramone’s Automotive body and Paint Shop”.

Conoco Tower Station and U Drop Inn, Shamrock, TX

Conoco Tower Station and U-Drop Inn, Shamrock, TX

Before leaving Shamrock, I topped off my gas tank, got back on the Interstate, cranked the throttle and traveled practically non-stop to Oklahoma City.  The time for touring and exploration was sadly coming to an end.  In three days I would be home, traveling another 1472 miles (2370 km) on the Interstate.

This was indeed the last day to take photos on Route 66 and explore any sites.  A bittersweet “last kicks on 66” and one that still resonates in the aftermath of my motorcycle accident.

20150801-1659-PENTAX K-3-smc PENTAX-DA 21mm F3.2 AL Limited-76

The last Route 66 photo on this trip. This bike will be missed.

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

Invalid Displayed Gallery

Sep 292015
 

This was the first day after my accident and somehow it still seemed surreal to me.  When I woke up, I noticed that my body was spotted with bruises, patterned like some sort of a fat middle aged giraffe.  It made me chuckle a bit, because I looked ridiculous with the bruises and the road rash.  I felt some pain in my joints, but nothing so drastic that I could not get on with my day, albeit with a fresh pair of pants.

For motorcycle road trips, I always make it a point to bring at least one extra pair of pants.  I’m glad I did, since the accident left my favourite pair of cargo paints a tattered and blood stained mess.  As someone who despises shopping, perhaps the worst aftermath of the accident is that someday I will have to shop for a new pair.

Bloodied and torn pants from the accident

Bloodied and torn pants from the accident

Nostalgia For Albuquerque and Beautiful New Mexico Vistas

There were a lot of miles ahead and I was looking forward to spending some time both in Albuquerque and Flagstaff.  Also, some of the best riding in the Southwest is between New Mexico and Arizona.  It is astonishingly beautiful terrain under azure blue skies.  Nothing but infinite horizons and striated mountains and buttes.

Albuquerque holds a special place in my heart as it marks the beginning of my love affair with Route 66.  Way back in 2000, when I was living in North Andover, MA., I flew into Albuquerque and rented an SUV to explore Route 66 all the way to Flagstaff.  I had the luxury of three full days on the road to travel this relatively short distance.  I was able to take time to explore every nook and cranny of Route 66 between Albuquerque and Flagstaff.  Indeed, it was a very  rewarding trip and it changed my life.

Back then, there was a lot more of Route 66 alive and well in Albuquerque.  Within a day of being there, I knew the Southwest was the place for me. I had a room booked at the historic El Vado Motel and ate my first meal at the Route 66 diner.  I was instantly captivated by the Sandia Mountains, the Painted Desert, the small roadside towns and the incredible vistas that never seemed to end.  The Southwest was in my blood and I made it my mission to live there.  Luckily for me, I was able to live in Phoenix for just over 3 years, from 2000 to 2003.  Through a series of unfortunate events, I had to move back to Canada, but in my heart, Arizona is still my true home.

So here we are 15 years later and the spirit of the Mother Road is still alive in Albuquerque, but some of it is waning.  Historic motels, such as the El Vado and the De Anza Motor Lodge, are no longer in business.

De Anza Motor Lodge, Route 66, Albuquerque

De Anza Motor Lodge, Route 66, Albuquerque, New Mexico

De Anza Motor Lodge, Route 66, Albuquerque, NM

De Anza Motor Lodge, Route 66, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Longing for the El Vado Motel

On a personal level, the closure of the El Vado motel is saddening.  It was in business for over 70 years and its historic neon sign with the Indian Chief was enshrined in Route 66 lore.  It was the end of an era and a really great motel.  Today, the property is fenced off and in a state of decay.  The city of Albuquerque purchased the land and removed the neon sign in order to preserve it.  Whether or not the El Vado will ever re-open remains uncertain.  Similary, I had also stayed at the De Anza Motor Lodge back in the early 2000’s and it will be missed.  Here are some shots taken back in 2009 before the sign was removed.

El Vado Motel, Albuquerque, New Mexico (2009)

El Vado Motel, Albuquerque, New Mexico (2009)

El Vado Motel, Albuquerque, New Mexico (2009)

El Vado Motel, Albuquerque, New Mexico (2009)

These days, Albuquerque is increasingly split into poor sections in the east and university students in the west.  Somehow it just felt different, perhaps it was my distorted perspective after the accident, but there is also the reality of historic businesses going out of business and the subsequent changes to the city landscape.

Back to the 1950’s at the 66 Diner

On a lighter note, the fantastic, 1950’s themed 66 Diner is still going strong.  I love this place to bits, it takes one back to a simpler time with great home cooked American food and milkshakes.  Perhaps it is a bit kitschy, but it is done right and remains true to its roots.  It is a facsimile of days gone by, but it was well done with just the right dose of nostalgic decor and historic authenticity.  I expect that the 66 Diner will remain in business for a long time.

66 Diner, Albuquerque, NM

66 Diner, Albuquerque, New Mexico

66 Diner, Albuquerque, NM

66 Diner, Albuquerque, New Mexico

After a tasty milkshake, it was time to motor on to Flagstaff, AZ.  There was precious little time to really explore and re-discover Albuquerque, not to mention several historic Route 66 places along the way.  As I have seen them many times in the past, it was not a great loss, but still, a part of me really wanted to have the luxury of more time and chance to spend at least two more days on the road to Arizona.  In a perfect world, I would never leave the southwest 🙂

The distance between Albuquerque and Flagstaff is 325 miles (523 km), not a very long ride, but still one that has to be done in a day.  My goal was to be in Flagstaff early evening so I could enjoy a nice dinner and relax for a bit.  Moreover, I had to manage my time carefully so I could be in Barstow, CA, by Sunday.  A total of 677 miles (1089 km) would be covered in two days.

The Continental Divide

There was time available to make a few stops en-route.  I could not resist seeing the Continental Divide again.  A continental divide is a drainage divide on a continent such that the drainage basin on one side of the divide feeds into one ocean or sea, and the basin on the other side either feeds into a different ocean or sea, or else is endorheic, not connected to the open sea.  More to the point, it is a good photo opportunity set against some beautiful mounts and there is a cool Indian trading post onsite.

Continental Divide, Route 66, New Mexico

Continental Divide, Route 66, New Mexico

Chief Yellowhorse Trading Post

Upon arriving at the Arizona, New Mexico border, I paid a visit to the Chief Yellowhorse Trading Post.  It is a place I have frequented several times, both as a tourist and a resident of Arizona.  It is a “must see” place for Route 66 travelers and decent place to get some souvenirs.  There are many shops there which sell a mixture of cheap souvenirs and high quality jewelery.  I bought my girlfriend a necklace and earrings, and I purchased a few cigars for myself.

Chief Yellowhorse Trading Post, Route 66 , Arizona/New Mexico Border

Chief Yellowhorse Trading Post, Route 66 , Arizona/New Mexico Border

Teepee Trading Post, Route 66, Arizona/New Mexico Border

Teepee Trading Post, Route 66, Arizona/New Mexico Border

Riding Westward on I-40

Then it was back onto I-4o towards Flagstaff, it was already after 5 PM and I wanted to make sure there was still time for dinner.  There are so many great Route 66 attractions between the border and Flagstaff, but I would have to pass them over and check a few out on the way back home.  Nonetheless, it is beautiful countryside and in a way, the voyage across northern Arizona felt like home again.

Cruising on I-40, Northern Arizona

Cruising on I-40, Northern Arizona

I made a few brief stops en route to take photos of the setting sun and Humphries Peak on the horizon.  It is hard to miss this majestic mountain, after all, it is the highest natural point in Arizona, with an elevation of 12,637 feet (3,852 m).  The mountain is situated 11 miles north of Flagstaff.

Looking Towards Flagstaff on I-40, Arizona

Looking Towards Flagstaff on I-40, Arizona

Arrival in Flagstaff, Arizona

My tank was almost bone dry when I rolled into Flagstaff.  After refueling, I rode down Route 66, which brought back a flood of great memories.   I was looking forward to dinner at Granny’s Closet restaurant, one of my favourite Arizona eateries.  The country style or “down home” cooking is really good and it has an old school ambiance reminiscent of the 1950’s and 60’s.  Lucky for me, the prime rib au jus was the nightly special.  It was delicious and tender.

Granny's Closet, Flagstaff, AZ. (2013 road trip photo)

Granny’s Closet, Flagstaff, AZ. (2013 road trip photo)

During dinner, I made a few phone calls to book a room close to the restaurant and much to my chagrin, all the local motels were booked solid.  There were a few rooms available at the Holiday Inn, but for inflated prices.   Eventually, I managed to book the last room available at the Western Hills Motel and it was a crappy smoking room.  I am no stranger to this motel, it used to be my “go to” place when I lived in Phoenix and made weekend trips to Flagstaff.  For the most part, it is basic, clean and right on Route 66.  However, the downside is that it borders the train tracks and all night long, you are kept awake by the blast of locomotive horns.  Moreover, the prices have doubled since my last visit.  Gone are the days of budget summer accommodations on the Mother Road!

Western Hills Motel, Route 66, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Western Hills Motel, Route 66, Albuquerque, New Mexico

On the following day, the mandate was to arrive in Barstow, CA and with that comes a punishing ride across the oven-like heat of the Mojave desert.  A far cry from the cool mountain air in Flagstaff.

Sep 212015
 

Let’s face it, riding a motorcycle is not the safest thing in the world.  If you want safety, buy a Volvo and drive it as little as possible.  For the rest of us, we know that sooner or later, a motorcycle accident can happen and it happened to me. July 14, 2015 was a day that started out well enough, but halfway through, I got into an accident that nearly wrecked the bike, left me road rashed and battered.  More on that incident later…

It Started Off as a Good Day

It started out as a perfect Texas summer day: bright skies, not too much wind and low humidity.  I slept soundly the night before after a great steak dinner at the Big Texan Steak Ranch.  I stayed overnight at their motel, so it was a short walk back to the restaurant for a very satisfying, Texas sized, breakfast.  It seemed like a good day was ahead, I would put down a lot of miles and enjoy Route 66.

Before getting back on the road, I snapped a few photos of the Big Texan Steak ranch in the morning sun.  Hitherto, I only had night shots of this famous place and I failed to notice the ever so-cliched Cadillac with bull horns affixed to the hood.  Now that’s a great look!

A True Texas Car

A True Texas Car

Arguably second only to the Big Texan Steak Ranch, the Cadillac Ranch is Amarillo’s most famous Route 66 roadside attraction.  Even though I have seen it three times before, I always like going back to see it again.  It is truly never the same place twice, each day the colors and graffiti on the buried cars are renewed by countless tourists armed with spray paint and occasionally, inspired imagination.   I fired up the Harley and headed west out into the desert, home of the Cadillac Ranch.

The Cadillac Ranch

On my way, I stumbled upon a new Route 66 attraction, the Oasis RV Resort, which pays homage to the Cadillac Ranch.  Either I passed by this place on my last Route 66 road trip or it is new business.  Either way, the giant cowboy and the gorgeous vintage Cadillacs mounted on sloped stands caught my eye.  Definitely worth stopping for a few photos.

The giant cowboy was interesting enough, but on closer inspection it turned out to be propaganda for the Second Amendment (the right to bear firearms).  Okay, I have no issue with that, but what I could not figure out is why he is not carrying any firearms?   After all this is Texas, he is a cowboy and he’s an advocate for the Second Amendment.  Poor chap, I felt like he was neutered.

Second Amendment Cowboy, RV Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

Second Amendment Cowboy, RV Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

Once I had my kicks at the Oasis RV Resort, it was time to get back on road and take some photos at the Cadillac Ranch.  It must have rained during the night or the day before, as the field was quite muddy and normally it is bone dry.  I liked the change on the terrain, somehow it added some texture to the photos and I was not inhaling fine dust.  As expected, there were plenty of people lurking around with spray paint adding to the inches thick layers of paint adorning these Cadillacs buried in the desert sand since 1974.

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

From Wikipedia: Cadillac Ranch is a public art installation and sculpture in Amarillo, Texas, U.S. It was created in 1974 by Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels, who were a part of the art group Ant Farm. It consists of what were (when originally installed during 1974) either older running used or junk Cadillac automobiles, representing a number of evolutions of the car line (most notably the birth and death of the defining feature of mid twentieth century Cadillacs: the tailfins) from 1949 to 1963, half-buried nose-first in the ground, at an angle corresponding to that of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, Texas

Vega, Texas – Last Town Visited with an Intact Motorcycle

The next Route 66 town west of Amarillo is Vega, TX.  There’s not much to see or do there, but it still has one or two businesses trying to capture motorists with some roadside kitsch.  I made a brief video and took a few shots and then it was off to the Midpoint Café in Adrian, TX.

Roadside Kitsch, Texas Style

Roadside Kitsch, Texas Style

Midpoint Café in Adrian, TX

The Midpoint Café derives its name from being the midway point between Chicago and Los Angeles along Route 66. the Café’s slogan is “when you’re here, you’re halfway there”.

Route 66 Midpoint, Adrian, Texas

Route 66 Midpoint, Adrian, Texas

It was built in 1928, expanded in 1947 and during Route 66’s golden years it was open 24 hours a day.  It is the oldest continuously operating Route 66 cafe between Amarillo, TX and Tucumcari, NM.

Adrian was bypassed by I-40 in 1969 and the Midpoint experienced a sharp decline in business.  By the late 20th century, the town’s population dwindled to 220 people and in 2008, only 149 people were left.  Things looked bleak.  In 1990, Fran Houser purchased the business, naming it the Adrian Café.  Her original plan was to establish an antique shop at the site.

Since then, the Midpoint Café has experienced a renaissance thanks to worldwide tourism on Route 66 and its rebranding.  From wikipedia:

Efforts to put “Historic Route 66” back on the map date to 1987, with Angel Delgadillo’s Arizona Historic Route 66 Association obtaining historic signage on Arizona State Route 66. Other US Route 66 states soon followed, using the “Route 66” brand to attract visitors from as far afield as Europe and Australia.

The Midpoint Café’s current name and identity were adopted in 1995 on the advice of travel author and US Route 66 Association founder Tom Snyder.

    “The president and founder of the U.S. Route 66 Association called me one day. He said, ‘Kid, you better do something because you are at the midway point of Route 66. You need to change that name.’” — Fran Houser, former owner of the Adrian Café

The shop began selling antiques on consignment by 1997 alongside its “nostalgia food” menu of breakfasts, hamburgers and the home-made desserts which it calls “Ugly Crust Pies”.

This strategy has worked and today, the Midpoint is a very busy place.  In fact, it was so busy, that there was only one parking spot when I arrived.  Inside this vintage themed restaurant, I cooled down from the mid-day’s heat with some ice-cream and iced tea.  Afterwards, I took some photos at the midpoint sign.

Midpoint Cafe, Route 66, Adrian, Texas

Midpoint Cafe, Route 66, Adrian, Texas

Roadkill, Texas Style

Next, I was in for a real Texan surprise: a rattlesnake that was run over by a pickup truck. Somehow the snake was still moving, but without a head. Seems the autonomic nervous system was still working.

Rattlesnake Roadkill

Rattlesnake Roadkill

Before heading back on the road, I made a brief stop at an old Phillips 66 gas station currently undergoing renovations.  It looks like there is still quite a bit of work to be done before it becomes a new Route 66 roadside attraction.

Phillips 66 Gas Station, Adrian, Texas

Phillips 66 Gas Station, Adrian, Texas

Phillips 66 Gas Station, Adrian, Texas

Phillips 66 Gas Station, Adrian, Texas

I was excited about seeing New Mexico again and spending some time in Tucumcari as well as Santa Rosa.   However, the day ahead was not what I expected, and both the Harley and I nearly met our demise.

The Monsoon Came and Then the Harley Went Down!

Just as I was leaving Adrian, a desert monsoon rolled in.  Within seconds, the rain came down hard and fast, it only a minute to soak the road and my clothes.  I continued riding down Route 66, waiting for the rain to abate or find a safe spot to put on my rain suit, then all of a sudden, about 100 feet ahead, I noticed a metal gate pulled across the road just as it curved to the right.  Instinctively, I pulled in my brakes and then bike skidded on the slippery road, I lost control and I’m going down!   I am thrown off the bike and rolled on the ground a few times, from the corner of my eye I could see the bike flipping over, once, maybe twice.  Everything is happening in slow motion and the adrenalin kicks in.  At some level, I know I’m not seriously injured, but before this whole horrible event is over, my first thought is: can I ride and is the bike still roadworthy?  Being stranded in the middle of a Texas desert is not a pleasant thought.

It all seems so unreal and I am shaken and injured.  When the adrenalin is rushing through your veins, pain is numbed and you do not know how hurt you really are.  I get up and start to walk, I flex my hands and thank God there are no broken bones.  However, I got a case of road rash and blood is flowing out of both forearms, right hand and left knee.  The Harley came to rest on the road’s shoulder and it sloped into a small ditch.  Next step is to check out the bike, I could see some debris on the road, but it’s plastic, no major parts came off.  Good, maybe it will still run, but first I have to get it out of the ditch.

Norwegian Samaritans To The Rescue

I struggled to upright the 850 lb bike to no avail, the slope in the ditch made it really difficult and I am injured.  A minute or so later, some good Samaritans come to my rescue.  They are a Norwegian couple touring Route 66.  No doubt, they had not planned on helping out a stranded and injured biker, but what the hell, it will make a great story for them.  They made sure I was okay, gave me some water and a towel to wipe off the blood.

The husband helped me get the Harley out of the ditch and back on the road.  I pulled in the clutch to start the engine and it runs, but there is a problem:  the roll bars were bent in and I could no longer use the heel and toe shifter to change gears.  The left side roll bar would have to come forward about two inches.   Eventually, the Norwegian and I used our combined strength and we bent back the bar just enough to clear the shifter.

I tried to call my insurance company, my girlfriend, Melissa and my buddy Michael in Phoenix.  However, I could not get good reception and was unable to make any calls.  One way or another, I would have to travel to the next town to use my mobile phone.

Bruised and Damaged,  Harley and Rider Carry On

The Harley still runs, but it is quite damaged and is most likely a write off.  The question is whether I can still ride it since the bulk of the damage is to plastic components.  The engine, frame, tires, lights and brakes are fine.  The handlebar has a slight bend and the windshield is cracked.  I tested all the controls and they work.  Time to give it a test ride, I get back on and go a half mile up and down the road, it seems roadworthy.

The real test is whether it would handle highway speeds.  So, the Norwegians suggest they follow me for a few miles on I-40 and if there is any trouble, they offered to help.  However, if everything is fine, I would give them the thumbs up and we part ways.  After 10 minutes of highway riding, I was confident things were good and I gave the thumbs up signal.

Calling Out In a Ghost Town

I would have to make a stop further west to see if I could get cell phone reception and also document the damage to the bike.  Ironically, the next exit on I-40 is Glenrio, NM a ghost town right on the Texas border.  There was no reliable reception in Glenrio, just abandoned buildings.  Oh well, may as well take a few photos and a video to document the accident.

After departing Glenrio, I knew there was nothing but desert ahead until Tucumcari, NM, around 44 miles due west.  Once in Tucumcari, I would make my phone calls and look for some bandages and duct tape.  I stopped at a little Mexican restaurant, and ordered iced tea and a sandwich.  I called Melissa, told her about the accident and understandably, she was very upset and worried.  It took me a while to reassure her I was Okay and was going to continue on the road trip.  I also spoke with my buddy Michael DiGregorio in Phoenix and he offered to come rescue me if required and put my bike on his truck.  The downside is that he is 10 hours away.  I was unable to contact my insurance company as the lines were busy and after being on hold for over a half hour, I gave up.  Seems like it was a popular day for accidents.

Tucumcari, New Mexico.  Blood? Yes! Bandages?  No!

My arms were still bleeding and I used up several napkins mopping up the blood.  The poor girl working behind the counter must have been really confused.  I needed bandages, gauze and antibiotic creme, but Tucumcari is a small New Mexico town and  most of the businesses were closed by 5 PM.  Only two small pharmacies in town and they were closed.  There was NOWHERE to get any first aid supplies.  Oddly enough though, I was able to purchase duct tape at an Ace Hardware store.  I taped up the loose bits of plastic, did my best to secure the fairing against further damage and then it was back on the road.

The day was almost gone and what a shitty day indeed.  I was confident that I could go on to Albuquerque.  I knew it would take a few days for my wounds to close up and I would be dealing with aches, pains and bruises along the way.  Big deal, its not the end of the world!  When I take account of the accident, I feel like fortune was on my side, I mean I could have been seriously injured or even killed.  What a lucky person I am to sustain only minor injuries and still continue on my trip.  It was the best outcome for a bad situation.  It also tells me Harley-Davidson’s are tough bikes.  The damned thing skidded and flipped over itself and it still rides!

The road ahead was a wet one, the New Mexico skies were gray and there were intense periods of rain.  It was a understatement to say I was on edge riding in the rain after the accident, but I was determined to make concentration trounce fear.

Josephs’ Bar and Grill, Burritos and Insurance

I stopped for dinner at Joseph’s Bar and Grill in Santa Rosa, NM.  Joseph’s is a wonderful Mexican restaurant that originally opened in 1956.  The famous Fat Man logo was a fixture on the Club Cafe built in 1935 on Route 66.  The restaurant closed in 1991 and fell into a state of decay and disrepair.   Joseph and Christina Campos purchased the building with plans to reopen the Club Cafe. Unfortunately the building could not be restored and it seemed the historic Fat Man logo would be lost forever.  The Campos who also own Joseph’s Bar and Grill, just down the street, decided to bring the Fat Man logo home to their restaurant.  Today, the Fat Man log survives and has become a Santa Rosa and Route 66 icon.

Fat Man logo at Joseph's, Santa Rosa, New Mexico

Fat Man logo at Joseph’s, Santa Rosa, New Mexico

After the day’s events, something as simple as a burrito at this historic restaurant was like manna from heaven.  It was the first time in hours I was able to relax and let the stress leave my body.

While waiting for dinner, I finally spoke with my insurance company and provided them with details of the accident.  They were really helpful and offered assistance to get me back home in case the bike was no longer roadworthy and medical coverage if needed.  After all, that’s why one has insurance.

Onwards to Albuquerque

I’m a stubborn SOB and despite the accident, I was determined to make it to Albuquerque.  There was another 115 miles ahead and the ever present threat of rain.  This damned monsoon season, it can happen anytime during the summer months.  Fortunately, dinner at Joseph’s allowed me time to relax, regroup and refuel, I felt confident I would make it to Albuquerque before 10 PM.

Dark Skies Ahead. Santa Rosa, New Mexico

Dark Skies Ahead. Santa Rosa, New Mexico

I arrived in Albuquerque and eventually found a modest motel on the western fringe of the city.  It was 9:30 PM,  I was exhausted and come hell or high water, I would get myself some Jack Daniels and do my best to put the accident behind me and make a short video of my thoughts on this unfortunate, but lucky, day.