By the time you read this the wife (Cruella) and I will be back at home, mounds of laundry billowing out of suitcases and piling up at our feet, two weeks of backlogged mail to shuffle through, and the dust and sand of the American Southwest ready to be cleansed from the car (Ruby Flare).
Some final thoughts about traveling the American highways these days. We begin with a couple of requests:
Truck drivers, if you want the public to back you up in your justified demands for better pay and more reasonable hours, you might want to consider being better citizens of the road. Stay in the slow lane unless passing an even slower vehicle. And when you are finished passing, get back into the slow lane as quick as possible. When someone is trying to pass you, slow down a bit and let them in. Universally the best truckers we dealt with were working for FedEx and UPS. Even the (gulp) Amazon drivers were pretty good. But it was a dead mortal lock that if the back of the truck had an ad on it recruiting new drivers it was time to speed up and get away from them as fast as possible.
The national park system is experimenting with timed entry into parks. You make a reservation and are sent a QR code for a one hour window of entry on a given day. We dealt with it in Arches and it worked pretty good. The park wasn’t overcrowded, there was plenty of parking and camping space, the trails were hike able and sane, and the park was a memorable experience. Wish the same could be said for Grand Canyon or Zion, but they haven’t implemented the system yet. NPS, get this everywhere, but especially on the most popular parks.
Hotels, everyone needs to agree on a system for what way to make the faucet in the bathroom and the knob for the shower work. Stop trying to turn it into a new version of the Gordian Knot. Hot. Cold. More. Less. I shouldn’t need a degree in advanced mechanical engineering combined with one in architectural design to achieve those four simple concepts.
And while we’re on the subject, because of COVID most hotels we stayed at have opted for the large bolted to the wall containers of soap, shampoo, and conditioner. What each bottle contains should be in at least the same size type as the name of the company that made it. I don’t wear my glasses in the shower and it’s very frustrating to find out I’ve just lathered my torso with conditioner.
Though I will say my chest hair has never felt more manageable.
Back to being on the road:
Once we made the turn and began to head back west (around Taos, New Mexico) we pretty much followed the old Route 66. Every small town/city along the way has turned the old “mother road” into a tourist industry. Flagstaff Arizona, don’t forget Winona, Kingman, Barstow and San Bernardino all have strips of stores selling Route 66 branded merchandise. But it was Seligman Arizona that did it best and they’re not even in the song. If headed that way and you don’t stop in at Delgaddillo’s Snow Cap Cafe you are missing American kitsch at it’s finest.
And by the way, yes I did stand on the corner of Winslow Arizona with a girl (my lord) in a flat bed Ford slowing down to take a look at me. I’m with the Dude, but come on, how could you not? Talk about taking one line in a song and turning it into a tourist attraction. At 9AM on a Tuesday morning there was a crowd jostling to get their pictures at the official corner location.
The real tourist attraction in Winslow is the La Posada Hotel. It’s a former Harvey Hotel (you know, like in the Judy Garland movie The Harvey Girls) that has been updated and refurbished into a grand resort hotel filled with a stunning combination of modern and classic native artwork. Each guest room is named for some famous person who stayed there. I was hoping for the Einstein, FDR, or even the Groucho Marx room. Instead we got the Bill Engvall room. I guess that was my sign.
By the way, this hotel, were it in a more popular destination, would easily command a thousand a night for it’s rooms. We paid $150. Location, location, location.
In the hotel is the Turquoise Room restaurant. To find such exquisite dining in a town otherwise filled with…well…a diner and a couple of fast food joints is simply stunning. We over ordered because everything sounded so unique we wanted to try it all. Sure you can get a slab of prime rib, but wouldn’t you rather have the Wild Wild Plater: Crispy fried Quail with an Orange Oaxaca sauce, Colorado farm raised white tail deer medallions with black currant brandy sauce, a chipotle tamale topped with a pork, venison, and bison chili. Yes I ate it all and it was food I will never forget.
While Winslow and the other towns sway to the harmonies of Nat “King” Cole and that other group, the city of Albuquerque now basks in their connection to methamphetamine. Or at least their fictional connection to it. The phony gunslingers striding down the streets of old town are being replaced with yellow safety suited men about 50 years old with shaved heads, bushy goatees, and black pork pie hats. “Draw pardner” has been replaced with “Say my name” as the greeting of choice, though the one I encountered said I was the first person in weeks to correctly reply “Heisenberg”. I declined his free sample of small blue crystals.
One last thing. On the way to Taos we encountered a sandstorm that caused our phones to blast the emergency signal and blare out instructions. Thankfully the instructions were repeated in English as the original language broadcast was Navajo.
Well they WERE here first.
Some final stats. 12 days, 8 hotels, 9 national parks, 3150 miles driven. And yes, by the end we were in fact running on empty