Route 66 through Arizona

Route 66 through AZ Yes, I’m accumulating a collection of street signs taken by the side of empty roads. Let’s say it’s on purpose. Route 66 Everyone who road trips thinks about Route 66. The Mother Road, famous for it’s cross country sprawl from Chicago to Los Angeles and equally famous for the touristy kitchy statuary and paraphernalia that sprang up to attract tourists to stop for gas and hamburgers. Now Route 66 has been absorbed by many cross country highways – like highway 40 in Arizona – but some of the kitsch still lives. Here’s what I saw between Kingman and just past Flagstaff.

Old roadside relics just barely maintained Route 66 Twin Arrows I think these twin arrows used to be part of a gas station. Now Twin Arrows is the name of a nearby casino and these arrows are behind a concrete embankment just hanging out.

Gregg Arnold added to the roadside memorabilia with this sculpture he calls Giganticus Headicus, an Easter Island head far from home.

Kbarrett Giganticus Headicus

Hackberry General Store.

Hackberry General Store

A quasi museum/gift shop of Route 66 memorabilia along with vintage gas pumps, Burma shave signs, and old red corvette and many photo ops. Bikers like to drive up here and hang out on the picnic benches, adding their own picturesque quality to the scene.

Williams

The entire town of Williams is a tribute to Route 66 with a historic main street packed with gift shops and 50s style diners. I ate at Cruisers 66, a restaurant attached to the Grand Canyon Brewing Company.

Cruisers 66

I had a stout, cuz i’m on a stout kick at the moment, and a salad that wasn’t really picture worthy. I thought the beer was decent but nothing to write home (or here) about and the whole restaurant is the kind of place you eat when you’re determinedly doing the Route 66 thing, which I was.  If you want good food you probably want to go elsewhere in town. I hear Cafe 326 is good.

2 Guns Arizona was my sad Route 66 finale

Two Guns AZ

I think it was once a tiny thriving settlement of a gas station, a store and an inn called Kamp (only slightly kreepy) but now it’s a bonafide ghost town

Two Guns AZ

Full of graffiti and just enough of a weird vibe to keep me checking over my shoulder as I took pictures while the car was still running. I hope that Route 66 kept this little place alive for awhile but it’s definitely wreckage now. And probably won’t even be that for much longer as the desert and the sun take their toll.

I don’t know, ya’ll. I love the romantic idea of Route 66, all those bright shiny cheeked parents and kids seeing the USA in their Chevrolets. And I love the genuine old relics like Twin Arrows and the new ones in the same spirit like Giganticus Headicus. But the museums and the 50s diners and the endless gift shops? Those can go anytime.

I say bring back the spirit of Route 66 by bringing back the American Road Trip. Create new kitschy roadside stuff to give drivers an excuse to stop and take pictures. Let’s all get in our cars and see the USA in our Nissans and Hyundais.

It’s pretty cool out there.

Route 66 Betty Boop

Aliens in Rachel Nevada

Nevada Mountains

Nevada State Motto: Take your pictures from the middle of the road!

Rachel Nevada

And speaking of that, this is Rachel Nevada. By that I mean that this is the sign signifying the entrance to Rachel and in the background is the village of Rachel. Squint. There’s not much to it but I promise it’s there.

Rachel Nevada is famous for plane crashes, UFO sightings, proximity to Area 51, and for just simply being a teensy tinsy speck of habitation in a wide flat array of empty desert.

Rachel and the surrounding countryside remind me strongly of X-Files episodes where green flashes light up the sky, the cars stall out and all the clocks stop (at which point Mulder gets out his can of orange spray paint and puts a huge X in the road so he can further investigate). I drove through Rachel during the day but I can only imagine that driving through at night begets stories of bizarre happenings. The desert in this area is so alien and uninhabited and the most remarkable thing is this place.

Little Ale Inn Rachel NevadaSome detours are worth taking all by themselves – Escape from Dinosaur Kingdom – and some places are better visited en route to somewhere else. I’d put Rachel in the second category except that it’s not really en route to anywhere and I might think differently if I had stayed the night at the Little A’le’Inn (so bewildered by the apostrophes, btw…).

Little Ale Inn Rachel Nevada

Little A’le’Inn is the only bar/restaurant/inn for 80 miles in any direction so everyone stops here. I came in on a Saturday afternoon right after a memorial service that had turned into a happy hour. The locals were nicely dressed in cowboy hats and button down shirts, sitting outside at the picnic table getting tanked on Coors Light and Black Velvet. That’s a story rich environment if ever I’ve seen one. Had I more time, I’d have joined them and heard every UFO story there is and some besides.

Little A'le'Inn Rachel Nevada

Sadly, I didn’t have that kind of time so I ordered my Alien Stout, brewed for the Little A’le’Inn and quite delicious, and a grilled cheese sandwich. There’s nothing fancy here at the Little A’le’Inn but the food is good, all the locals are friendly and the gift shop and accompanying alien merchandise have to be seen to be believed.

Had I to do this detour over, I would plan to stay overnight in one of the Little A’le’Inn’s double wide trailers ($50 a night, I hear), I’d make sure I had plenty of X-Files episodes loaded on my laptop and while the sun went down, I’d order another Alien Stout and say “Tell me about the woman who got advice from an alien named Archibald…”

Rachel NevadaBye bye Nevada! You’ve been a picturesque treat.

Tomorrow AZ.

Alien Roadside Attractions in Nevada

Dusty Nevada

Nevada isn’t my favorite road trip state because there’s so much nothing.  It’s just hours and hours of driving without even a town in sight and multiple signs warning me that the next gas station is 100 miles away. All that nothing has a bleak dusty beauty to it but seriously… there’s literally no one around while I’m driving for hours. Close to zero supervision, is that a good thing? I just know if makes me want to do about 100mph and I probably shouldn’t.

Fortunately, I found the extraterrestrial highway on my way up to Elko

Extraterrestrial Highway

How can this highway can have existed since 1996 without my knowledge? Probably a conspiracy by this big guy

Alien Research Center

He stands guard outside a gift shop… which seems like a relatively important task. And across the way is the research center

Alien Research Center

I always thought Area 51 had something to do with Roswell but apparently I’m confusing my UFO crash sites with actual government work. Or something. And what all that has to do with this research center is another mystery. I didn’t go in. Didn’t seem like a good day for probing.

Most people passing through Nevada have seen Alien Fresh Jerky, but now there’s also ET fresh jerky

ET Fresh Jerky

The website takes pains to clarify that the jerky is neither alien flesh nor made in outer space, both of which are a considerable disappointment to me and probably all other visitors. But perhaps they think the abducted cow is misleading…

Probably the aliens are too busy planning a stagecoach robbery to make jerky…

Alien Mariachi

I think there are more UFO sites to be had. I’ll check them out on my way back down to AZ.

nevada sky

Nevada, I have to give it to you. When you break up the nothing, you go all the way.

Roadside Attractions in Northern AZ

My favorite road trip website of all time is Roadside America, which likely started with a couple of guys driving down Route 66 taking pictures of whales and teepees, visiting folk artists in their mad castles  and wondering why there are so many Paul Bunyon statues in America.

I totally made that history up but it seems completely reasonable.

I do know that Roadside America is now a repository for the picturesque and bizarre including Muffler Men locations, UFO museums and the world’s tiniest churches. And it’s all crowd sourced. If you see something weird you can take a picture of it, email them and they’ll post it on their site. There’s SO MUCH on that website that no matter where you are in America, I guarantee there’s something strange very near you.

On my epic road trip in 2011 I created most of my daily routes by visiting at least one Roadside America attraction and then trying to find a Bikram yoga studio. Believe me, that’s a full day of research right there.

Since all I’ve done today is drive, I present you with some interesting tidbits I’ve seen from the road over the last couple of days:

Roadside shrine in Miami AZ

The roadside shrine, a common sight in the Southwest, but this one is particularly large, lovely and well kept. It’s right outside Miami AZ and full of pictures of people who aren’t with us any more. I hope they’re now being looked after by mother Mary.

Top of the World Trading Post

Top-of-the-World is an actual settlement in Arizona with a couple hundred people living in a 6 mile area. First, I love the name and second I love that this trading post sells tires and fresh brewed coffee. Sadly it wasn’t open when I came by or I might have gotten some coffee.

However, there’s trouble in paradise because planned expansion of the highway could further divide Top of the World

Save Top of the World

I don’t completely understand the situation but it seems dire and there were lots of signs. I wish them well and I hope the trading post is open the next time I’m on highway 60.

Shoe Tree on Highway 188

If you looked at that picture and said to yourself, “what in the world…” then perhaps (like me) you need to turn your car around, drive back and get out so you can get closer.

Shoe Tree on highway 188

That’s a tree with a lot of shoes in it. And a flamingo. My friend Jason thinks this is the result of a “Wizard of Oz style tornado,” which is as good a guess as any.

Personally, I’m confounded by the flamingo. Did someone have a plastic lawn ornament in their car and then they were all “hey there’s a tree full of shoes and we have this flamingo…”? There’s no explanation so feel free to make up your own. There are a lot of shoe trees in America but this one is not documented on Roadside America so I just might send it in.

Sedona

I did blaze through Sedona on my way north and it was predictably stunning with all that red rock and greenery.

But frankly, I’m more intrigued by the shoe tree :)

Nevada tomorrow.

Goodbye to New Mexico

jen and katie

Jen and I have been friends for 25 years. Considering this sampling of pictures from our past, we’ve decided we look better with age :)

We’ve seen each other through a lot of change in the past decades. These kiddos are some of favorite additions

 

Ruby

Ruby and Kaitlyn

I love this little fashionista with her long legs and her pink fascinator

kate marie

kate marie

And this tiny terror with her pigtails and sunglasses.

I’m so glad I got to hang out for a week and be a part of the Silver City White family. Much love to Jen, Shawn, Ruby and Kate Marie. Thanks for the gardening, potato salad, visits to the chemistry lab, political debates and yoga sessions. I can’t wait to come back!

State road 78

Now I’m back on the road, headed to AZ for a brief stop with my brother

The old west highway

Arizona tomorrow

 

Poughkeepsie and the World’s Longest Pedestrian Bridge

Isn’t Poughkeepsie one of the America’s strangest names? According to Wikipedia it means “the reed-covered lodge by the little-water place,” or at least it did in the original Wappinger language before we converted the spelling to something semi-phonetic. I think that’s adorable and quite descriptive.

I drove from Schenectady to Poughkeepsie mostly because it was close, the route took me through the Hudson river valley and there was a “world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge” at the end of the journey. Of course that begs the question, where’s the world’s longest non-elevated pedestrian bridge? When I get an answer to that question, you’ll see it here.

On my way I drove through Saugerties, which apparently has a historic lighthouse? I didn’t see it but I happened upon this little town during their “Shine On Saugerties” sidewalk lighthouse art exhibit.

Shine on Saugerties

Artists took the basic lighthouse construct and reconceptualized it. Is reconceptualized even a word? My spellcheck doesn’t think so.

Shine on Saugerties

Since I’ve been all about lighthouses lately, it’s fun to revisit some tiny artistic versions

Shine on Saugerties

I didn’t quite understand this vertical chess board

Shine On Saugerties

But this tiki bar is the bomb

Hudson River

The Poughkeepsie bridge or “Walkway over the Hudson” wasn’t as artistically fulfilling though the views over the Hudson are lovely. The bridge itself is a mile and a quarter long and quite wide, since it used to be a highway. It’s paved concrete and full of runners and walkers and baby strollers and dogs. It’s not so much scenic as practical and if I lived in Poughkeepsie, I’d be grateful for someplace to run that wasn’t in traffic.

So there you have it, bridges and more lighthouses. And for now, that’s the end of my northeast sojourn.

More tomorrow from the southwest. xo

Lake George in Summer

I’m in transit this weekend. But before we leave the northeast I’m going to post about two road trips I took last summer while I was in upstate new york. Since it won’t stop snowing in the northeast, the least I can do is show pictures of what it looks like when the sun is out.

Ambition Cafe

Ambition Bistro is my favorite little place in Schenectady. Super quirky, full of old signs, theatre memorabilia, signed pictures, statuary, decorations and really good food.

Ambition Cafe in Rochester

That’s the Greek omelette with spinach and feta cheese and fresh baked bread. The strawberry garnish was a like a mini dessert (although the picture makes it look gigantic!). Ambition’s owner, Marc, has written a book about being a coffee house owner called Is the Coffee Fresh? He’s a fascinating person to talk to. Ask him about Blackboots, Ambition’s patron ghost.

Driving to Lake George

Lake George is only an hour away from Schenectady, nestled at the foot of the Adirondack Mountain Range. The winding two lane road that takes you up to the lake is heavily wooded and twisty so take your time.

Stop in the little town of Lake George for an ice cream

ice cream

Walk down main street before taking the one-ish lane road to the lake

Road by Lake George

Which is incredibly clear

Lake George

Don’t you just want to take your shoes off and wade right in? I did too and found out it was COLD, even in June.

lake George docks

Better to sit on the dock and read a book

Lake George and Mountains

Hang out for awhile. Look at the mountains. The weather’s perfect.

The Happy Cappuccino

Then head back to the city for a late afternoon coffee and biscotti at The Happy Cappuccino. They make their own biscotti and it’s delicious. I don’t usually like biscotti because it’s so dry and crunchy but this one had a really nice tenderness to it.

A long slow drive to the lake and a really good biscotti afterwards. That’s summer.