Friday, September 11, 2009

Flagstaff, Arizona. Don't forget Winona

If you ever plan to motor west
Travel my way, take the highway that's the best
Get your kicks on Route 66

Bobby Troup, songwriter

At about the same time that I received an invitation to the Flagstaff, Arizona, wedding of a friend's daughter, I rented the Pixar movie, Cars. Three separate waves of nostalgia converged: to see friends from Sierra Vista, Arizona, a lovely town from which I moved in 1995; to visit Flagstaff, where I went to college; and to take a road trip duplicating some Route 66 (actually, I-40).

Motor allusions
Cars! so many visual vehicular allusions:

  • the mountains in the distance behind Flo's Drive-in resemble Amarillo's Cadillac Ranch, with its Caddys buried nose first in the earth at a 45-degree angle. See those tailfins?

  • the supports of Flo's V8 drive-in are connecting rods and pistons, and canopy is a valve cover.

  • Serving lugnuts, coolant, grease, Flo's Drive-In building itself is an air filter.

  • the window panes of the Radiator Springs courthouse resemble a piston and connecting rod.

Streamline moderne art deco: I'm crazy about it. The Pixar creators, assisted by consultant and Mother Road expert Michael Wallis, reproduce, or at least allude to, actual Route 66 art deco buildings, such as Ramone's body shop (patterned after the U-Drop Inn, Shamrock, Texas and Doc Hudson's repair shop, with its curved walls and round windows.

For my own Route 66 quest, I packed up my camping gear, tent, and finest suit (for the wedding) and headed northwest. From Bryan, Texas, to the first Route 66 intercept in Amarillo, Texas, was a 500-mile drive, punctuated by an overnight stay in the ultra-maintained and inviting Rockin' A RV Park in Vernon, Texas, with one of the more incongruous sights on this trip: a yurt. It was a relief to find an RV park that welcomed tents with two large grassy areas, each campsite with electrical outlet and water. Nice, very nice, so much so taht I drove late into the night on the return trip to stay there again. On the return stay, I met a group of New Zealand exchange farm workers, all here on a temporary work visa, helping to harvest the Texas and Oklahoma cotton crop. Every year, Canada and New Zealand have an agreement to exchange a maximum of 5000 farm workers. These young men were on a visa that allowed them to work in the United States.

The yurt at Rockin' A RV Park and campground.


Pumped gas at Jesus Christ is Lord gas station and truck fleet, photographed because it reminded me of the Jesus is Lord Used Tire business in Barbara Kingsolver's wonderful novel The Bean Trees.

East and west of Amarillo, the miles and miles of wind turbines resemble an army of aliens, with their seemingly delicate blades turning slowing in the wind. Hard to believe they are each 30-stories tall.

One of many hundreds of wind turbines, this one in Tumacacori, New Mexico. The wind turbine farms stretched for longer than 10 miles along bluffs and hills on either side of I40/US66 west of Amarillo.

Enjoyed picnic lunch of avocado, cucumber and multigrain chips, the spectacular view (not done justice in these photos), and glorious crisp weather at the Painted Cliffs at the New Mexico/Arizona border highway rest stop at the Arizona/New Mexico border.

On to Santa Rosa, New Mexico, the worst campground experiences in 40-plus years of camping, the Bates Motel of campgrounds. The owner was truculent, the waitress rude, the food in the little cafe terrible, neither the wifi not the commodes worked, the tent camping area was a scrubby piece of land without even a sole picnic table.