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.
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.
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.
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.
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.