Cross Country Trip 2012: Beginning the trip back east- AZ & NM

After I left my son’s in southern Arizona, my original plan was to head to California and travel the entire Route 66 in California eastbound.  After the added stress and expense caused by the tire and rim debacle, I decided to forget about CA this time and revised my plan to just head north to Flagstaff  and continue the Route 66 trip eastbound at that point.  I stopped at the Visitor’s Center in Black Canyon City and the volunteer made a few suggestions regarding charming places to stop.  It’s fun to explore new places off the route, so I decided to check out Whiskey Row in Prescott.  It is a charming square, but surely the name “Whiskey Row” should have meant something to me before I went! I had already had my lunch and it was too early for dinner, so I walked around the square and decided to continue on my way to Jerome.

I HAVE been to Jerome before and absolutely love the shops and galleries. I have NOT driven the route from south to north before, though. Nor have I driven it in an SUV. Previously, I made the trip from Sedona to Jerome in my sedan. I had NO idea how windy the road would be and for how many miles I would be going downhill.  Nor did I expect to keep saying to myself: “This scenic view is INCREDIBLE, but oh dear god I’m going to fall off this mountain!”

Two miles from Jerome, I was finally able to pull off into a scenic viewing area and realized that awful smell that I kept smelling was from MY vehicle. I had overheated the brakes! I had been so focused on staying on the road that I had completely forgotten to shift gears. I popped the hood to let all the smoke out and immediately cars stopped to offer assistance. It was very reassuring and I am grateful to those who stopped and reassured me that the brakes would be fine after cooling down. One person told me that he was leaving Jerome because there weren’t any rooms left for the night, which was disappointing to hear since I had hoped to stay for the night.  I stayed at the scenic overview until my brakes cooled, so by the time I got into Jerome everything was closed up for the evening.  What a huge disappointment. I drove to Cottonwood, with the intention of eating at a 50s diner called Bing’s Burger Station.  I got there just in time to see THEM close up for the night. I got a room in Cottonwood, thinking I would go back to Jerome in the morning.

In the morning I explored Old Town Cottonwood for the first time; checked out a few bookstores, then decided that I really didn’t want to drive back up the mountain to Jerome since I would have to come back down! I wasn’t sure my nerves could handle it!  I had my lunch at Bing’s Burger Station, which has a Route 66 feel to it, with all of the license plates, old maps and memorabilia about.  It was definitely a worthwhile stop.

My next stop was in Sedona.  I LOVE Sedona, but I really hate driving through all of the roundabouts they put in! Is there anyone who thinks these are a GOOD idea?  There are too many of them and it just makes me want to get out of there quickly. I usually spend at least a day or two in Sedona, but after the frustration of driving the roundabouts, I just drove on through without making the stops I had intended.  I did stop at a Visitor’s Center to see if there was another route to Flagstaff instead of Oak Creek Canyon, which I’ve driven countless times.  The gentleman there told me Oak Creek Canyon was the best route. He also shared that he thought the roundabouts were hurting tourism in Sedona.  We wondered when they’d start tearing up the roads again to take them out!

I proceeded to Flagstaff through Oak Creek Canyon in the Coconino National Forest. This drive offers an incredible view and last year a young bear sprinted across the street in front of my car. Some very foolish people began chasing it! I’m thinking if there was a young ‘un, there’s a momma close by & I don’t want to be chased by momma!

Back on the Route

When I arrived in Flagstaff I experienced the usual frustration of finding a parking spot in the historic downtown area, so found myself a few blocks away: a great opportunity to walk off some of those burger calories! I love the historic district and strolling the streets is a treat in itself.  I shopped around the mall stores for a bit since this is a rather unique collection of shops. There’s also a cute little Route 66 Market shop on one of the corners that holds special appeal to me. I was saddened to see that the Golden Aspen Toy Store was holding a going out of business sale. I was especially saddened to learn that it was due to the owner’s health. Fran is a wonderful woman and I hope she is doing better in the weeks since I’ve seen her.  I’d planned on several more stops in that area, but my enthusiasm waned after learning of Fran’s situation.  It was hot, very hot! Time to find some ice cream!

Time to stop at Miz Zips! This is a great stop for burgers, etc. but I wasn’t ready for another of those just yet!  I had a fabulous sundae and got to meet Jude for the first time.  I was thrilled to learn that she was pleased with my book.  Whenever you feature someone’s place of business in your book, you worry they might not like it.

I was also excited to see the Western Hills Motel sign looking magnificent once again! And I can’t go through Flagstaff without stopping and snapping a few photos of the Museum Club.  You’ve got to go inside to read a little about its history; it’s a great stop!

My final stop of the day was at Meteor City Trading Post. For those of you who have my book, Annie Mouse’s Route 66 Adventure: A Photo Journal, this is the business that has the longest map painted on the side.  I purchased the Arizona Bob Waldmire poster here to add to my collection.

I began the next day in Holbrook.  The Rock Shop- the one with the giant dinosaur out front-  was opened for the first time since I’ve been doing the trip; I’m usually there too early or too late.

And of course I had to stand on the corner in Winslow, Arizona again. And of course I had to have “Take it Easy” playing as I drove through Winslow. I’m still disappointed that the shop across the street that carried The Eagles merchandise closed up.  Now that LaPosado is fully renovated, making the entire block look majestic, I was hoping to see The Valentine Diner being restored as I had heard a rumor that it was sold. It would be so cool to see it reopened for business, but it doesn’t look like any progress has been made on it yet.

My last stop in Arizona was at Chee’s Indian Store. They have a wonderful selection of books here, as well as many other Native items.

New Mexico

Gallup is the first stop in New Mexico. I love Gallup, but a bit of construction in the area had things so congested that cruising through Route 66 wasn’t as leisurely and enjoyable as usual. I missed my annual stop at Ray’s Trading Post this year. I did stop in at the El Rancho Motel. This was the home of the stars back in the 20s and 30s. If you’ve never been there, I highly recommend it. I have stayed there several times and it’s always fun to see which star’s room you’ll get to stay in. It is very reasonably priced and filled with character. I wasn’t ready to stop for the night, though, so I just stopped in to take some pictures and say hi. It’s hard to imagine any of the stars of today being satisfied with the small rooms and bathrooms, but for the day, it was very elegant, and has private bathrooms! It sort of makes me realize how spoiled we’ve all become. This motel served the likes of Ronald Reagan and John Wayne, yet many Americans today would find it unsatisfactory for their needs! I love it, though, and it is neat and clean and filled with charm!

I stopped in Santa Rosa for the night and began my day at the Auto Museum the next morning. This is a really cool stop and shouldn’t be missed. The Silver Moon restaurant and gift shop is another great Route 66 stop that shouldn’t be missed.

I have to confess, Tucumcari is one of my favorite communities along the route. One of the first stops coming into Tucumcari, heading east, is the cool sculpture with 66 on it. It’s pictured in my book. It’s a great way to welcome Route 66 travelers!

Several years ago I met Gary Caldwell at Timeless Treasures and he’s been carrying my books ever since. I was horrified as I approached and didn’t see their signature sign greeting me.  I thought,” oh no, another Route 66 business has succumbed to the poor economy.”  But as I got closer I saw a new sign for Tucumcari Trading Post. Sadly, it wasn’t opened at the time I stopped by, so I didn’t know if it was under new ownership or a new business model. I can tell you that it looked really cool and I would have loved to stop inside. I have since learned that Gary is still the owner, he’s just changed his business model, so I’m sorry I missed him. There are many shops that carry Route 66 merchandise that you can find in any Route 66 souvenir store. Gary has always carried things that you can’t find anywhere else; icons of 66, not just souvenirs of 66. Check out the pictures for Tucumcari Trading Post on Facebook to see what I mean.

Another favorite stop in Tucumcari is TeePee Curios. It’s a really cool building and Mike is fun to talk to. I noticed a group of people when I came into the shop that walked through and walked out; they made no effort to make eye contact with Mike or engage him in conversation. Mike and I had a little discussion about that. It used to be that people understood that the Route 66 experience was engaging the people along the route, now so many folks are glued to their smart phones and don’t even look up or even at the merchandise on the shelves. A very strange phenomenon indeed!  Mike has some really great stories to tell, so if you’re in Tucumcari, stop in at the TeePee Curios, look Mike in the eye, say “hi” and smile at him- and tell him the smile’s from Annie Mouse! I found some really cool Harley Davidson mugs here that I didn’t see anywhere else. I also found a few Route 66 bags to replace the ones that have gotten a tad worn over the past few years.

I was disappointed that I didn’t find Rich Tulley from Motel Safari in. Rich provided me with some great facts-via e-mail- about Tucumcari a few years ago that I was able to incorporate into my book. I still haven’t met up with him live and in person. Maybe next year!

Cathy and Michael, the owners of the Historic Route 66 Motel WERE in and I had another great visit with them. I stayed here on my first cross country trip back in 2006, while the motel was still under renovation. I learned that they are Pennsylvania natives, so it was a nice connection. I was so impressed with what they were doing. I stop and see them every year and unlike so many places that have deteriorated over the years, this is one place that keeps getting nicer and nicer. They now have an Espresso Bar and gift shop.  Michael was working on restoring an airplane at the time I stopped. It will be interesting to see what role the plane will have when I stop in next year!

A very pleasant surprise in Tucumcari is that the Blue Swallow is under new ownership. The new owners have restored both the sign and the office to their original glory.  I love that all of the carports depict scenes from the CARS movie. The Blue Swallow has a carport for each motel room. Very cool!

Still to come: Part 3: Texas to Pennyslvania

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