May 232017
 

Wow!  It has  been a year since Melissa and I were married!  Seems like only yesterday I saw my beautiful bride walking up the aisle.  Time seems to fly by faster and faster as one gets older.

We celebrated our first anniversary in Victorian era town of Niagara-On-The- Lake, Ontario and toured local wineries.  Thanks to a generous gift card from Melissa’s brother, John and his wife Kelly, we enjoyed an evening at the posh Queen’s Landing Hotel and treated ourselves to a gourmet dinner and an excellent bottle of vintage Amarone.   

We came back home with a nice cachet of Ontario wines and a dozens of photos.  I also took a several videos with a GoPro and my Panasonic LX-100 that I will probably publish in another post. 

It was definitely a great weekend out of town.  I’d love to return to the area by motorcycle and spend more time taking photos.  

Rob’s Photos taken the Panasonic Lumix LX-100.  

 

Melissa’s Photos taken with the Panasonic Lumix G3.

May 072017
 

Well, since spring is taking its time to come to Southern Ontario, I’m cooped up indoors instead of riding.  So, I’ve been trolling through my collection of photos in Adobe Lightroom to find some old images that were never edited or posted. 

I found this cachet of photos taken last May, shortly after Melissa and I were married.  We had just returned from our honeymoon in Montreal and we took advantage of some vacation time to visit Niagara Falls.  The big attraction was seeing the amazing indoor aviary at the “Birds of the Lost Kingdom”.  We also did the cheesy stuff, like visit the wax museums, Ripley’s and that big-assed SkyWheel with the cheesy muzak.

Nov 232016
 

On Nov 11 to 13, Melissa and I had a mini-vacation in Collingwood, Ontario.  We stayed gratis at the Blue Mountain Inn Ski-Resort thanks to a generous wedding gift from her brother.  Although, we were married back in May it is just now that we are taking advantage of his gift.  He also included a bottle of sparkling wine and a one hour massage for each of us.  As someone who spends a lot of time motorcycling across North America, in all weather, staying in budget motels and eating at local diners, this weekend was one of luxury and comfort.  So, it was different twist to be pampered and lazy.  This has never been my thing.  That said, I am still grateful for this weekend getaway.

Collingwood is a nice area and it is one of the few locations in Southern Ontario that is not flat as a board.  Well, mostly because of the Blue Mountains, which are just tall enough for winter sports.  As such it is a popular ski resort which features the aptly Blue Mountain Village.  This little quaint enclave is a tourist trap designed to quickly separate you from your money.  They charge Toronto prices for everything but the food quality, although decent, is not quite there.  The village is also peppered with various high end boutique clothiers and gift shops.  

The weekend was unexpectedly cold and we forgot our hats, so we had to buy new ones and there were plenty of clothiers carrying a number of boutique brands.   We each bought toques for top dollar, but they are much better quality that you’d get at Canadian Tire or Wal-Mart.  I also bought a nifty pair of thinsulate gloves with special fingertip pads to operate touch screens.  These are good gloves for operating a camera as well.

Blue Mountain Village is a corporate designed resort that tries to emulate a little Swiss town that one might find near a ski resort.  It seems to have been constructed in a short time and is bereft of a slow organic development — All façade, little substance or real history.  It is a fake as a Darth Vader costume on Halloween.  Although that’s not to say you can’t get a nice photo and the buildings have their own retro charm.  I’ll take this simulacra any day over uninspired rectangular edifices in the city.

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Firehall Pizza Co. Blue Mountain Village

Finding a decent restaurant for dinner proved to be a challenge.  The village was crowded and we had a frustrating time finding a restaurant that did not require reservations or was not full of loud drunk patrons and lulu-lemon wearing Torontonians on a yoga retreat. Our first attempt at dinner was the well-reviewed Cooper Blues restaurant and bar and it was packed solid.  Moreover, the only mantras being chanted here were those of inebriation.  We walked out of Copper Blues as the noise from other people was overwhelming.  Other places required reservations or were packed  to capacity.  Eventually, we settled for the Kaytoo Restaurant & Bar, mainly because there were open tables and one could actually carry on a conversation.  The food was good, but not great.  However, the serenity and pleasant service in rustic Canadian styled ambiance was priceless.  

On Saturday, we decided to explore downtown Collingwood,  which is quaint late 19th century style main street.   A popular spot for well-moneyed Toronto area residents on their weekend getaways.  Saturday parking is at a premium and we had to drive around a few times to get a spot.  We explored a few shops and it’s not much different than many other small towns in Southern Ontario.  One can get a similar “old timey” feeling downtown Cobourg, where there is ample free parking and far less pretense.

Faux Old-Timey Weathervane. Blue Mountain Village

Faux Old-Timey Weather Vane. Blue Mountain Village

For our last night, we decided to stay in the room, warm up near the fireplace, drink wine, watch movies and order a pizza.  Nice, simple, relaxing and fun.  We were also treated to a beautiful sunset.

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Sunset at the Blue Mountain Inn.

So all in all, a nice weekend and more so as our accommodations were a gift.  Would I go again and pay for a weekend stay?  Probably not as I am not a skier and that is the raison d’être for Blue Mountain Village.  The nearby roads, mountain and countryside are perfect for a motorcycle ride so, I would definitely go back on a day trip.  Once one is about 25kms outside of Collingwood, the crowds are gone and there are budget roadside motels.   Just the sort of thing to entice this old biker for a weekend getaway.

Jul 172016
 

After Melissa and I were married last May, we took a brief trip to Montreal as part of our honeymoon.   It was her visit to this city I once called home.   As for myself, I always enjoy returning to my old stomping grounds, whether on business or pleasure.  It has an old world feel and a sense of history that is sorely lacking in Toronto.  Other than Quebec City, it is as close as one can to a European style experience in North America.

I wanted to find a hotel right in the heart of the city, however, this time of the year choices are limited unless one is prepared to pay top dollar.  I wanted to find a hotel that would come under $200 a night and avoid any bland and uninspired corporate accommodations such as Motel 6.  After a bit of online research, I found the reasonably well reviewed Hotel Quartier des Spectacles on St. Catherine St.  The price was right and there was only one room left, so I booked it. Before we arrived, Melissa did some research and discovered the hotel is situated right over a sex shop!  As you can see, the plywood is far seedier than the actual merchandise.  The sign says their business is growing (insert joke here).

The Sex Shop below our Hotel

The Sex Shop below Hotel Quartier des Spectacles

One could easily ignore the sex shop, however, one could not ignore the unseasonably cold weather or soul crushing gridlock and omnipresent road construction.  The weather felt more like March than the end of May.  No matter where you went, there were road closures, lane restrictions, no access to street parking and traffic congestion.  I am accustomed to a certain degree of traffic in Montreal, but this was out of the ordinary.  I soon learned there was a general strike of construction workers and engineers.  58 job sites were abandoned and the city was left in a state of disrepair.  Driving my car was an exercise in futility and frustration, so we relied on taxi cabs.

Our first night was spent in Old Montreal.  After a decadent steak dinner, we took a few hours to walk the cobblestone streets.  Melissa was smitten by the beauty and European flair of this old French settlement.  No matter how many times I return to Montreal, I cannot tear myself away from the original city to explore its narrow streets, restaurants, bars and shops.

Sunset in Old Montreal

Sunset in Old Montreal

The following day, I wanted to take Melissa to see some of Montreal’s most famous landmarks, such as Notre Dame Cathedral, St. Joseph’s Oratory, Jarry Park, Schwartz’s Deli, Olympic Stadium as well as my Grandparent’s apartment in what used to be Little Italy.  Gridlock made it difficult to get around, so we settled for Notre Dame Cathedral, the old Faucher homestead and Shwartz’s Deli.

My Grandparents home in what used to be Little Italy

9189 Esplanade Ave. – My Grandparent’s home in what used to be Little Italy

Back in the 1960’s and 70’s Esplanade Ave. was predominantly Italian.  I can still recall the pungent aroma of garlic when visiting Grandma Faucher.  There were old men playing Bocce ball in the park, women gossiping on their porches and the street was full of Italian kids at play.  Those days are long gone.  Now it is tapestry of different ethnic groups, namely Indian, Arabic, Portuguese and Chinese.  The Bocce ball courts are crumbling away and life is eerily more silent as people remain indoors.  What was one a tightly knit community bound by an old world heritage is now a loosely knit multicultural patchwork.

No visit to Montreal is complete without trying the best smoked meat in the world from Schwartz’s deli.  I forewarned Melissa that one must be prepared to stand in line for at least 20 minutes, but patience will be rewarded.  As luck would have it, we waited all but one minute and were promptly seated at the lunch counter.  Melissa is now a convert and agrees it’s the best smoked meat anywhere.

If there is anything Catholicism has given to the world, it is spectacular cathedrals and breathtaking religious artwork.  Perhaps the best representation of this tradition in North American is the Montreal’s Notre Dame Basilica which is modelled on the larger and more fabled Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris.   However, the beauty of Montreal’s version speaks for itself.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

After Notre Dame, went back to our hotel, rested a bit and then it was back to Old Montreal for dinner and another promenade.  What a nice way to end the day.

We would love to visit Montreal again, but I am reticent to return until the city’s streets are repaired.   I am hoping by summer 2017, the streets will be in much better condition.

 

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.