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 Jerome, Flagstaff and Beyond

(AKA, Arizona Part 2)

December 5-10, 2017
Written December 8++
Dear Diary and Friends and Family,

d171205_00_path.jpgA week into our Arizona trip, we left Sedona for a one-night stand in Jerome, a small mining-ghost-hippie-artsy town about an hour southwest of tony Sedona. 
Jerome is  just up the hill from the Clarkdale train station, so we took a small detour to introduce Marianne to my friends at the Verde Canyon Railroad.  Manager Robin greeted us like old, family friends.
Roman took over tour duties and showed Marianne inside the Santa Fe Bell, a jewel of a train car, little changed since it went into service in 1945 as part of the Santa Fe line's Chicago to Los Angeles El Capitan.  The elegant interior called up a different time for cross-country travel.

d171205_30_coppermeus.jpgd171205_32_building.jpgWe waved goodbye to Robin and Jason, and headed up the hill to Jerome, but did not make it past downtown Clarkdale where we spotted the Arizona Copper Art Museum in the old Clarkdale High School building.  Always up for a bit of local history, we stopped, paid $16 for entrance, and entered a truly spectacular place.  Really.

d171205_34_nugget.jpgFirst, we were given a broad overview of the local copper history, from early times, through when the Jerome mine and Clarkdale smelter were suppling the world with the almost-gold metal.  The wall-mounted thousand-pound nugget in the entrance hall was accompanied with all the education one might want.  Our takeaway was just how significant the local community was in providing copper for a hundred years from the mid to late 1880s on.

d171205_38_trench.jpgd171205_49_cooler.jpgd171205_36_various.jpgd171205_40_ceiling.jpgBut it was the classroom-by-classroom displays of the uses and application of copper that were just astounding. Each room was filled.  One with art work (both of copper and painting on copper).  One with architectural applications (ceilings and such).  One with liquid vessels (goblets, mugs, storage vessels).  One filled with "trench art", shell casings worked by talented soldiers in their spare time.  And more!
One hallway display of brass samovars brought back memories of the Russian tea server we bought in Kiev, if anything, an even finer example than this museum piece.  (Unfortunately, as a country-heritage antique, it was not allowed out of Ukraine.)

Our favorite room was the kitchen, from the modern copper range through the hundreds of pots, pans, and serving trays and vessels.  (Note also the display racks and tables.  All this iron work is built by the museum's largely-volunteer staff. THEIR skill was remarkable.)

We have visited a zillion museums, in various states and  countries, and the Arizona Copper Art Museum stands out among them.   It tells an interesting story, from a unique, local perspective, with a wide range of professional, informative, and attractive displays.  And, touching and photography are allowed.  Wow!
The last bit of docent help was directions to the nearby museum and french antique store.  Housed in the remains of an old gas station, the store offers an array of things copper, from decorations, to cookware, jewelry, and even heavy copper ore samples.  The Museum sends their excess pieces here as well.  It was fascinating to note these applications were for sale in sight of where the copper was mined and refined.

d171205_60_badroad.jpgd171205_99_giroux.jpgOn the drive up "the hill" to Jerome, we got one more lesson on use of GPS navigators.  Jerome is an  old mining community, splayed across a steep hillside, with roads built in the age before cars.  When we missed the turnoff to the hotel on first try, we had to go miles on the narrow, cliff-hanging highway to find a spot to turn around for a second try.  At least the view was great there.  On our return pass, the GPS routed us via Giroux Street, the highest in  Jerome.  It was a rocky trail, barely wide enough for one car from hillside to cliff edge.  Marianne earned her trail badge on Giroux Street.
Our mountain-side destination was the Jerome Grand Hotel.  From 1927 to 1950, as the  United Verde Hospital , the building was converted to a tourist hotel in the mid 1990s.  The building had been abandoned for 44 years, as Jerome itself went from a population of 15,000 to less than 50 and designation as a "ghost town.". 
Inside, early 20th century touches remain, from the simple room call board to the still-functioning PBX switchboard.
The halls above are lined with old furniture and memorabilia.   Reportedly, a 1928 Springfield Phantom I Rolls Royce is still sitting down in the garage.
Our room, #301 on the top floor, was furnished in mid-20th Century style as well.  (But, with modern bathroom and mattress!)  Perhaps the best feature was the view, in the afternoon, evening, or early the next morning. 

For dinner, we were not interested in descending down narrow roads to "downtown" Jerome, so we opted for the hotel's Asylum Restaurant.  The name comes from the rumors that the restaurant and hotel both are home to ghosts of earlier hospital patients and staff.  We did not see any and the restaurant setting could not have been more elegant.
We often take pictures of our meals, but rarely share them.  I mean, who else cares?  At Asylum however, I break this tradition because the food really was exceptionally well presented - and tasty as well.  Definitely more than ghosts demand.

d171206_03_cafe.jpgThe hotel does not offer breakfast, however, so we packed up early and headed down to Jerome's Mile High Grill and Inn, our own hotel's recommended breakfast spot.  Since we arrived promptly at 8am opening, we were seated at a window table and Greg, our waiter, had time to chit chat about living in and near Jerome. Sounds pretty quiet.  (More food pictures, just because it was indeed worth the recommendation.)

We still wanted to explore Jerome, so we wandered up and down Main Street.  Currently,  450 people live full-time in town, a small fraction from its peak a century before.  All the remaining homes and buildings seem to date from the early days.  The back story is that Jerome was gradually abandoned when the mine closed in the 1950s and population fell to the levels of a "ghost town".  In the 60s and 70s, "hippies" and artists squatted in the old town and gradually brought it back to life as a natural health and art center of sorts.

In the small museum operated by the town historical society (a bargain $1 admission for seniors), the old Jerome story is told in a homey manner.  Three parts struck me:
d171206_19_class.jpgd171206_18_museum.jpg- When Jerome was a town of 15,000, it had a large school age population, as did Clarkdale just below.  The museum showed pictures of the old days with a class room with 75 desks in proper order.  Teachers would have been pretty tough back then to organize such a large young crowd.

d171206_22_cage.jpgd171206_20_potty.jpg- One part of the museum showed a bit of life inside the old deep mines, used before the open-pit era of the starting in 1918.   Single-man cages were lowered as much as a half mile down to the mine face.  From the depths, ore was hauled out on tiny rail cars, along with anything miners might be tempted to leave behind.

d171206_24_prost.jpg- For life on the surface, the Jerome Historical Society museum provided displays of an office, a bar, a small store, and a room describing the four levels of prostitution practiced in the old mining community.  (Did you know that the "red lights" that became features of the oldest profession were originally the lanterns of trainmen, left burning on the porch to be ready if they were called away on an emergency.)
Educated in local history, we headed out to try shopping, at least window shopping.  Most shops were not yet open this early, but Marianne did have a nice visit with a very talented painter, Cody DeLong, who practiced his art in an early 19th Century automobile business building.  His art work was off limits to photography (understandably), but the old service station was interesting all by itself.
From copper-town history, it was back to history of valley residents from a thousand years before Europeans arrived.  We visited two abandoned pueblos of the Sinagua people: Tuzigoot, a built-up structure in the Verde valley and Montezuma Castle, part of a complex of cliff dwellings several miles to the east.
d171205_12_vistcenter.jpgTuzigoot National Monument is just outside of Clarkdale, base for my earlier train ride.  It commands a clear view over all the surrounding flood plain.  The grounds are entered by the National Park Service visitor's center where we made yet another use of our good-forever Senior Pass.  (At $10, these were the biggest bargain in government history and even today, with a price eight times bigger, it is still one of the best deals going.
d171205_14_walkup.jpgd171205_18_inside.jpgOriginally built between 1000 and 1400, the Southern Sinagua village held as many as 250 people in the 1300s before being abandoned a hundred years later.  From the visitors center, an easy path leads up to the tower structure, a structure still resting on some of the original wood pillars.

In the 1930s, Tuzigoot was little more than a jumbled pile of rocks, when reconstruction became a depression-era federal project. Archaeologists and laborers first dug out loose stones and discovered dozens of rooms, filled with debris, but with walls largely still intact.
As many as 150 rooms were built, with full height, walls plastered with mud, inside and out.  Floors were also leveled with dried adobe mud.  "Full height" meant only about five-and-a-half feet high, good enough for the residents at the time.

Today, only a few of the rooms are complete, in keeping with current National Park Service (NPS) guidelines to preserve, but not restore. In keeping with that mission, the Park Service employs local tribal specialists to repair mud mortar so Tuzigoot will never again be just the pile of rocks it was 100 years ago.

d171206_30_monte.jpgThe second part of this Verde Valley National Monument, named Montezuma Castle by early archaeologists, is ten or twenty miles away.  It is easily accessed from Interstate 17 that runs between Phoenix and Flagstaff.

Again, there is a friendly and informative NPS visitor center and a small museum where, among other things, I learned that this site and Tuzigoot, could be in visual communication, via a series of villages and pueblos, each built within sight of the other.
One hundred yards up a path from the visitor center, Montezuma's Castle looms on the right, 100 feet above the river flood plain.  The five-level, 20-room structure is no longer open to tourists, but remains impressive from just an outside view.

When the pueblo was closed to tourists in the 1930s, a diorama was constructed to give us tourist a better feel for life in the pueblo.  Today, the visitors center has more high-technology for the same purpose, but I found this simple model worked even better.  Technology may not always be the answer.

d171206_35_smaller.jpgd171206_37_castlea.jpgAll along the cliff face are remains of other rooms used by the Sinagua people, both as smaller residences and for storage.  Just past the Castle, there are remains of an even larger five-level pueblo, labeled Castle A.  Walls have mostly  collapsed, but anchor holes for floor and roof supports outline the original pueblo.

d171206_38_river.jpgThe Verde River was the reason for a large community to form here and it still runs through a level floodplain.  That flood plain had held the irrigated farms of the Sinagua.

An oft-repeated observation at these pueblo sites has been that scientists do not really know why the pueblos were abandoned in the 1400s.  Perhaps it was drought or another element of a changing climate, or perhaps it was an outside threat of some sort.  (Europeans were not even on the continent, so "we" were not the cause.)  In any event, after hundreds of years of occupation, these elaborate structures were left behind.

This was also when we left the Verde Valley for Flagstaff, an increase in elevation from about 5000 feet to over 7000.  Temperature also dropped measurably, but the blue skies threatened no seasonal snow.

In Flagstaff, our destination and first stop was the Elden Trails Bed and Breakfast.  We had decided for a change from "regular hotels" and had looked at B&Bs, only to find that most were either booked for part of our planned stay or simply too pricey.  While Eldon Trails was not inexpensive, it was available and the on-line descriptions and reviews were interesting.  A 9.4 Bookings.com rating is well above our normal criteria, and descriptions along the line of "not ordinary" were intriguing.

Eldon Trails is, literally, in the back yard of a mobile home on a plot surrounded on three sides by other mobile homes and by a national forest on the fourth.  Note that these are well-settled "mobiles", not unlike those like my own parents retired in.  Not ordinary, but just fine, and our first impression of hosts Marnie and Steve were immediately positive.
There is a single B&B suite, with a living room, bedroom, and dining niche.   Everything was  clean, cute, comfy, and in order.  Even the chickens in the yard were cute.  It is already winter in Flagstaff, so the yard and garden were "sleeping", but I can imagine how nice the yard and patios would be in the warmer seasons.

d171206_50_flagstaff.jpgSpeaking of food, our other first-day task was dinner.  Marnie had given us a few recommendations, but added that San Francisco Street is the center of downtown Flagstaff eating and drinking and one could hardly go wrong.  We left for the 15-minute drive to test her theory.

Just off San Francisco street, we stopped in front of the wine bar Blendz, to debate the wisdom of drinking first and eating second. I think it was Marianne's idea to start with wine and it turned out to be great, like many of her ideas.

d171206_52-blendz.jpgBlendz is a wine bar where clients can make their own wine blend (or "assemblage"for snooty French).  A dozen single-variety wines are available, most from cute little wooden kegs on the bar. Estevan, the bar tender, said he would give guidance, but the wine could be "ours".  This do-it-yourself approach sounded risky, so we accepted house blends.  (Why would I want a wine blended by an amateur?)

As with many quiet bars, wine or otherwise, the key is friendliness and, once we had convinced him we were not potential blenders, Estevan engaged in friendly conversation, helping us understand life in Flagstaff. It had struck us a layed-back and young, compared to warmer parts of Arizona. He agreed.  Somewhere along the way, he mentioned that his other job was as a musician and he volunteered to sing a few songs, "if we wanted". 
We enthusiastically agreed and were completely blown away with his musical ukulele and voice. He played two or three modern vocals, names of which I can not remember, and the favorite "Let It Be".  Our own vintage, but Estevan claimed to also be a Beatles fan, despite fact that they broke up before he was even born.
Estevan also recommended Shift, a small plates restaurant that he said made some of the best and most imaginative food around.  He was right.  Marianne and I joined customers at the small kitchen bar overlooking chef George and watched him prepare some amazing dishes.   (To be correct, George is the restaurant's sous-chef, but for us this night, he was "chef.") 

We ordered and split two salads, one cold and one warm and finished with raspberry sorbets.  I can not even begin to describe the complexity and wonderful tastes of the salads.  Ask Marianne, she's better at tasting nuances. The  fruit in the sorbet had  been infused with a smoky flavor that initially shocked, but then blended into the background.  A simple dish extremely well done.

So, our first-day impression of Flagstaff and the folks we met were uniformly positive.  We looked forward to the next two days.

d171207_02_breakfast.jpg Wednesday started with breakfast at Eden Trails, a breakfast that had been the source of several positive reviews on Yelp and Booking.com. Everything was special and as healthy as bacon and eggs can be!  The flourless seed cake provided plenty of energy (=calories) to start a busy tourist day.
Our first goal was about an hour's drive east, out of the mountains and hills around Flagstaff into the flat high plains. Meteor Crater is a privately-owned tourist attraction, different from our normal National Park/Monument fare.  Our National Park Senior Pass that normally gives us free entry to federal landmarks and such was not accepted, but $14 each opened the doors.  The fee was worth it.
Hint: if you want to get a sense of the Meteor Crater, go to Google earth and look from above.  This gives a good impression of both the giant hole and the surrounding flatlands.

The short back story is this:  50,000 years ago, a meteor slammed into the high plains and blasted a hole a mile wide and several hundred feet deep.  Over the subsequent millenia the crater stayed intact due to lack of seismic or volcanic activity and, perhaps, due to the cleansing effect of local wind and weather. 
The hole was first investigated in the late 1890s and initially considered volcanic in origin, but in 1902 a mining engineer named Daniel Barringer decided it was indeed caused by a meteor impact (right) and that the resulting meteorite would be a large, rich, iron source, somewhere under the surface.  (wrong).  He filed mining claims and proceeded to spend 25 years boring into the crater center and walls.  He found only small grains and a few larger rocks.  In 1941, the Barringer family leased the land to the neighboring Bar T Bar Ranch Company and 15 years later Meteor Crater Enterprises, Inc was formed to sponsor crater research and to show off Meteor Crater to tourists passing by on Route 66 (later Interstate 40).
Research was key and the Arizona Meteor Crater became the model for meteor-impact theories throughout the world - and beyond.  Gradually, scientists came to understand that the original meteor had fractured into zillions of small bits that mixed with the ejected plains rock.  The Apollo moon landing crew practiced here to learn how to pick up interesting ejecta and, apparently, left behind a model of their space craft.
In the main display building, after passing through the required souvenir shop, the Barringer Meteorite is on prominent display.  The  pointy ridges have been worn shiny by tourists' inevitable need to touch a real outer-space rock.  I did too.  Not to worry about wearing away, the thousand-pound specimen is an iron-chrome mixture that is essentially stainless steel.
d171207_18_movie.jpgThe display building also offers a twenty-minute film, dramatizing the ancient impact and telling the historical and scientific stories associated with Meteor Crater.  I am not sure I remember much, except that the meteor's trip through the atmosphere took only 10 or 20  seconds, not enough time for folks in the impact area to react.  And it could happen again, any day.
But the real attraction is the crater itself.  Marianne wisely stayed behind at a slightly wind-shielded viewing platform, but I made it up the stairs to the top of "Moon Mountain", into a biting, cold, wind, but with an even better view.

Lower down, there are several telescopes aligned and focussed on the key locations of the crater, such as Barringer's mine shafts and astronaut training fields.

After way too many pictures of rocks, I snapped one last shot of a cute little weed, and we moved on to our next attraction: Walnut Canyon National Monument.

Walnut Canyon National Monument is actually inside Flagstaff city limits, just on the eastern edge of town.  When we showed up, we had no idea what we were going to see, just that it was an easy stop and, as part of the National Park Service (NPS), it must offer at least a nice place for a walk.  We found that and more.

The attraction at Walnut Canyon is a walk in the valley around a keyhole-shaped butte and visits to ruins of Sinagua native pueblos built into the layered rock canyon walls.  The NPS visitor center had the required educational dioramas and pictures, showing original activities.  As our third visit to such Sinagua pueblo parks, I think we were getting the general idea. 
From the canyon rim, we could see "the island" we would circle and some of the small pueblo ruins along the walls opposite the trail down into the valley.
The trail was a safe and relatively easy 240-stair hike, less than a mile down, around, and back.
Once down , the loop led into several pueblo rooms
The view from inside the rooms gave the best sense of pueblo life, at least a little.  Originally, these rooms would have been complete with stone walls and a few openings for doors, windows, and smoke vents. The floors would have been leveled with dried mud and the stone walls would have been sealed with a similar adobe mixture.  Small, but homey.
Walking back up, we could not help but think of the difficulty original residents would have had with daily(?) trips up to farmed fields and back down to the pueblo levels. Just ladders and trails, in all kinds of weather.

As a final distraction, I also took pictures of gnarled trees and a puffy little bird.  A nice walk, just as we had planned.

Our only other activity was a pre-dinner stroll around downtown Flagstaff.  Old Town is a small area, maybe a dozen blocks, but filled with activity. Unlike Sedona, most of the businesses seemed geared to a young crowd, outdoor gear stores, bars, and restaurants.
Speaking of restaurants, we had been so taken by Shift the night before, that we returned to watch George do his magic.  We split a warm salad, different from yesterday's, and even more complex and colorful.  I tried a corn dog, yes that carnival-favorite, but done differently.  The house-made hot dog was lamb and the batter was made with blue corn.  For desert, Marianne repeated the smoky blackberry sorbet and I opted for sorbet flavored with cheddar-cheese.  Not your normal Italian offering. 

Properly fed, and night having fallen, we headed up to the Lowell Observatory, just west of downtown.  We hoped to see famous telescopes and some stars and learn a little.  The learning part happened, more or less.  We sat through two lectures about stars and the universe, but I'll admit I retained only a fraction of what was presented.  Mostly, that there are lots of stars and galaxies.  I remember the number "100 trillion trillion", although whether that is stars or galaxies, I forget.  Lots. And plenty of opportunity for the conditions for life  on planets accompanying those stars. 

The part about seeing telescopes and stars did not work out, primarily because the night was very windy and cold.  The Clark telescope, built in 1896, was closed due to wind and the Pluto Telescope, named after its famous discovery of that planet, was just too far a walk.  As for stars, young scientists were offering guided looks through high-quality portable telescopes, but our shivering prevented any sustained looks. 

I would like to return someday, both in day light to see the facility (and take pictures) and when it is warmer and calmer.  An excuse for another trip.

Day 10, December 8th.
There was no original plan for the day, except one more Elden Trails'  breakfast.  We struck up a conversation with proprietors Marnie and Steve and they graciously invited Marianne into their home to see a pair of excellent local paintings. Nice paintings.  Nice people.

Eventually, we decided on an "art day", starting with The Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA) on the north edge of Flagstaff.
d171208_10_noazcenter.jpgd171208_12_room.jpgThe Museum was founded in 1928 by Harold S. Colton and Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton to protect and preserve the natural and cultural heritage of the area.  Over the decades, it has expanded to hold over 800,000 artifacts, only a very few of which are shown in the Arts and Crafts museum, once the Colton's home.  Access to the balance of the collection is possible, with prior notice.  (Another reason to return!)

d171208_20_oneroom.jpgA few pictures can not really do justice to the material on public display, so I will show only two or three areas.  First were rooms of local native artwork, including this Zuni jewelry.  A fraction of all that is in just this room.
I think Marianne's favorite "display" gallery was the museum shop, not because she made any purchases, but because it held some of the nicest examples of current art and craft we had seen.  While prices reflected the quality, looking and even touching was free.

d171208_14_photography.jpgMy own favorite was a photography exhibit titled: A New Form of Beauty: Glen Canyon Beyond Climate Change. Photographer/scientist Peter Friederici had used his large-format film camera to reveal the effects of the current extended drought on the walls of Glen Canyon and Lake Powell.  Digital pictures of highly-detailed film landscapes just don't work, so  you will have to visit the museum itself.

d171208_40_artscenter.jpgd171208_42_photoshot.jpgOur second art stop was the Coconino Center for the Arts, just a mile or so from MNA.  The Center is run by the Flagstaff Arts Council for a wide range of performing arts, workshops, and activities. For casual drop ins like us, there is a cavernous display room with a couple dozen interesting art works for sale.  Mostly whimsical.  I liked them. (Favorite was the ceramic cactus.)

On the drive up to MNA, we had passed the Pioneer Museum and I had commented that I really didn't need any more local history education, but it is just next to the arts center, so I grabbed the camera to see what MIGHT be worthwhile.  A little, but here it is.

d171208_60_history.jpgd171208_62_docoffice.jpgThe main building is the 1908 Coconino County Hospital for the Indigent, used as a "poor farm" hospital until 1938.  In keeping with its original mission, several of the first floor displays feature medical practices from the era including the doctor's original desk and an iron lung.  A reminder of the (not-so) good old days.

d171208_64_1880sign.jpgd171208_66_1880room.jpgUpstairs, the rooms are arranged by decades: 1880s, 1890s, up to 1960s.   No remarkable contents,  mostly ordinary-life things,  but probably worth a tour with youngsters to, again, show them the (not-so) good old days.  Pioneers had easier lives than the Sinagua cliff-dwellers, but harder than I would like to try.

Outside, the Pioneer had a number of out-buildings and displays. The one-room 1908 Doney Cabin was quaint, but I could not imagine spending a Flagstaff winter huddled inside.  The hospital root cellar was bigger, but also a reminder that folks used to have to be self-sufficient, even poor hospital patients
Elsewhere on the property are several old machines, from a 1929 Baldwin articulated locomotive to a 1921 Lafrance fire truck.  Inside the barn, was an original "chuck wagon" from the old days of cattle drives.  I learned that such wagons were invented by Charles "Chuck" Goodnight in the 1870s, in order to provide better food for his cowboys, and hence improve employee recruitment and productivity.  Kind of like Google cafeterias of the day.

After a little more downtown walking, we settled into Criollo for dinner, like Shift a small-plates restaurant, this time with Latin flavors.  Good, albeit not great like Shift.  Much less expensive.

With that, we headed back to Elden Trails and prepared to pack up for the return home.  Our impression of Flagstaff?  Nice, young scene with good restaurants and plenty of arts and outdoors activities. Definitely worth a visit, or two or three.  Move here to (really) retire?  Possible, but, at 7,000-feet elevation, I'm afraid the winters might do us in.   And grandkids are way too far away.

d171209_00_rt66.jpgOn Saturday the 9th we started our long drive home, but our first day would be short, less than three hours if we took the I40 freeway.  However, we opted for more adventure - the legendary Route 66.
West of Flagstaff, I40 ran on the route of old Route 66, so we had an hour or so of plain freeway travel before we split off.  By then, the hills and mountains had settled into flat plains and, whereas the the freeway had been busy with trucks and a few tourists, Route 66 was empty.

d171209_04_ashforkmue.jpgd171209_05_shop.jpgd171209_06_locals.jpgOur first stop was the Ash Fork Visitor Center and Museum.  The building had originated in the 1920's as a garage for the Department of Transportation, but was taken over by the local historical society about 20 years ago.  On a normal winter day, we might have been the only visitors in the cavernous space, but on this December Saturday, we stumbled into the historical society's annual Christmas lunch and bazaar.  It was a fun atmosphere, and we did manage a souvenir purchase, but we had to pass on the free lunch.  We had places to go.

The next of those places, was just across the highway, at Six Shooter Molly Trading Company.  From the outside, I had doubts, but Marianne scouted it out and waved me in.  Molly's was actually a pretty decent store for Route 66 and Northern Arizona trinkets and such.  We made one more purchase: a bag of rocks.   We will sell them to a six-year-old grandson as treasures.
Ash Fork is officially designed by the Arizona legislature as the Flagstone Capital of America. Really.  It is this industry, along with Route 66 tourism, that has prevented the town from disappearing like many other 1800s railroad communities.

The longest original stretch of Route 66 starts a couple of miles west of Ash Fork.  On our Saturday, the road stretched empty to the horizon.  Thinking of Steinbeck's Oakies crossing these same miles came to mind.  I was glad we had a modern, reliable, vehicle because there was no help visible on these plains.  About the only vehicle we saw was a front-end loader, parked blocking most of the road.  We squeezed by and wondered "Why?".  No answer.  We did get to read Burma Shave signs, for the first time in many decades!

The next town was Seligman, a town whose major industry seemed to be Route 66 memorabilia.  There is actually an I40 off-ramp here, so that must supply a supply of tourists in the vacation months.  In our visit, there was just us and a handful of locals killing time in the Roadrunner Cafe.  I don't think we will retire HERE.

Route 66 veers north from I40 at this point, with Peach Springs and the Hualapai Reservation at the northern-most Route section.  We pulled off the highway and found ourselves in a residential neighborhood of the reservation.  We took no pictures, in truth because the place was pretty grim, like military base housing of an army who lost their war.  Boarded-up windows.  Yard junk.  Mixed in with trim, lived-in homes.
Back on the highway, we stopped at the Hualapai Lodge, a motel and a small grocery store.  The lodge actually looked descent and the desk people were friendly.  Off the lobby was a "Walapai Trading Post", offering a few souvenirs and a sign bearing the tribal seal and sayings.

There was pride here, but it was hard to see any employment that could keep people happy in their beautiful land.  Too bad.

Back on the road, the landscape developed some lumps as we descended below bluffs off to the north.  On the south, a main line rail line had been keeping us company since we left Flagstaff.  Every hour we see several very long trains, hauling containers from the west to the rest of America.  Most of these stretch as far as we can see, with four locomotives pulling and two pushing.  Just outside Peach Springs, We saw a different train:
Up close, we could see that this train was hauling an army load of tanks and other vehicles.  I hope there wasn't a war declared while we were on our trip.

Later, we would see a huge Marine equipment storage depot, presumably taking advantage of the dry, desert air.  No pictures of that, because I just feel nervous about stopping near anywhere bristling with weapons.

d171209_50_hackberry.jpgd171209_59_flags.jpgOur next civilian stop was Hackberry, a Route 66 tourist stop consisting of nothing more than a purposefully ramshackle old gas station and a half-dozen decaying cars.   We were still in the market for souvenir gifts, so Marianne checked, but came away empty-handed.  Just a picture stop. (I noticed that Hackberry still flies the Rebel battle flag.  Why?)
d171209_66_maori.jpgA few miles further along, we stopped at the next wide spot in the road: Antares Point.  By now, I think we had a perfect record of stopping at EVERY souvenir shop, although we found little to buy in most, including Antares Point.  At least I could take pictures.   (Where are all the people with mail boxes out here?)

Approaching our evening stop, we detoured over to the Kingman Airport for a few more pictures.  The airport has been used as an airplane graveyard ever since WWII and we could see dozens of old craft from DHL freighters to small Delta Airlines commuters.
Kingman is also a base for the CAL FIRE air fleet, including this two-seater spotting plane. This ex-military OV-10 Bronco was designed a half-century ago, but apparently still serves in the dangerous world of fire flying.  Brave folks.Strange looking

In Kingman, we settled into our motel of choice (Best Western - Wayfarer -- a decent place.) and set off to see what we could before early dinner.  We had missed the Mohave Museum in our visit on the way over, so we stopped just to complete our tourism day. We only had about ten minutes before closing, but that was enough.  There were a few kitschy displays of Route 66 memorabilia and a whole section devoted to Andy Devine, a Kingman native who appeared in over 400 movies s well as early TV.  It was a Kingman-quaint local-boy-makes-good story.  Worth a few minutes.  A few.
We closed the Mohave Museum and went back to Rickety Cricket for dinner, our "standard" Kingman restaurant, if two visits can constitute a "standard".  Then back, for an early bedtime before our long drive through California to home.


On our 12th day, Sunday December 10th, we took on our final drive. Frankly, Kingman to Fresno may be one of the most boring drives in all of California.  Seven hours of driving with little to see and nothing to stop for.

The drive starts in the Mohave Desert, with plain, flat, pavement stretching to the horizon.  At that horizon, a few ragged mountains rise over Tehachipi Pass. 

Off in the distance, we see the smoke rising above the Thomas Fire, d171210_08_smoke.jpgSouthern California's largest, more than fifty miles away.  We can not imagine being caught within the fire area.
Closer to Bakersfield, we enter the San Joaquin Valley and see that the Southern California fires have added to the local pollution.  Not nice.

Despite the gray, we eventually make it home and were glad to stop.  We were glad to be home.

Overall trip evaluation:  Great.  More than met our expectations, from Marianne's art course to Sedona's red rocks, ghost-town Jerome, cliff dwellings, and interesting Flagstaff meals.

Now we need to settle down and prepare for Christmas.  No exciting plans, but we never know.

John and Marianne


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