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route66Sign.gif (1961 bytes)Route 66 Trip '99        Alex, Baker, John, and Rachel
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   e-mail us on our trip!
Day 1 - Illinois
Day 2 - Missouri
Day 3 - Kansas/ Oklahoma
Day 4 - Oklahoma
Day 5 - Oklahoma/Texas/New Mexico
Day 6 - New Mexico
Day 7 - New Mexico/Arizona
Day 8 - Arizona/California
Day 9 - California
Day 10 - California
Day 11 - California
Day 12 - California
Day 13 - California / Nevada / Utah / Wyoming
Day 14 - Wyoming / Colorado
Day 15 - Colorado / Nebraska / Iowa / Illinois

Day 8  [7/28/99]
From: Williams, AZ
To: Needles, CA
Total Miles: 250
Sites Seen: Grand Canyon, Williams, Seligman, The Mountains, Flash Floods, Oatman, The Cowboy
Today's Entry By: Baker Franke

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If instead of being just a big hole, the Grand Canyon were a pit of dinosaurs then they'd probably call it 'Dinosaur Canyon'
Today started in a fashion that I suppose we’re getting used to: with a four-foot high, non-draining shower. This seems to be the norm for cheap hotels. But I just don’t understand why paying less for a room means that the showerhead is as high as your large intestine. Anyway, the El Rancho Motel in Williams, AZ, was by far our least pleasurable hotel experience. It didn’t matter, though, as we headed out early, 8:25 (pretty darn early for teenagers), on our way to the Grand Canyon – about 50 miles north of Williams.

The weather this morning was surprisingly cool, mid to high 60s, and was also somewhat disappointing as we drove through our second day of rain. As we kept ascending, to about 8,500 feet, the temperature actually dropped below 60 degrees. This is approximately half , in degrees, the temperatures we experienced in Oklahoma. There was also construction on the road. So much construction, in fact, that there was a "pilot" truck to lead cars through the mess. We found the pilot truck very amusing, mostly because of the large sign attached to it that read, "PILOT CAR. FOLLOW ME!" I know, we’re scraping the bottom of the humor barrel here, but sometimes we get desperate for a laugh.

route66Sign.gif (1961 bytes) Luckily we got the canyon early enough that there weren’t 80 billion people there yet. There were more people than we had seen at any other attraction, though. Here we confirmed our hypothesis that no tourist in the United States speaks English as a first language. It’s just kind of frustrating because we’re always excited to listen to people other than ourselves and we can’t even understand what they’re saying.

Of course, the canyon was gorgeous. When we arrived there was still mist rising off the far rim – ah, beautiful. So, we drove from lookout point to lookout point and admired the canyon, mostly in silence since we were pretty tired. Our final stop was at Grandview Point, where we hiked down the canyon a piece and sat on a protruding rock to take in the view -very satisfying. At 11:00 we decided it was time to go even though we were somewhat disappointed that we couldn’t stay longer. The canyon, though, was everything that I’d hoped it would be. If you haven’t been, go. If anyone needs a ticket ours, is good for a week.  Just send us a line.

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We ate lunch in the 1950s.
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We finally find somethng more accurate and detailed than our guidebook.
So, we headed back to Williams. On our way back we witnessed the Changing of the Pilot with our very eyes. John was excited to point out that the first "pilot" was "a chickie pilot." We’re not sure exactly why that was so thrilling, but when John’s happy, we’re happy so no qualms. The other item of note on our drive back to Williams was that we saw, and I’m not making this up, a solar-powered car. It was about 18 inches off the ground, was big enough for one person – lying down, was aerodynamically shaped, and had solar panels all over it. It went by quickly so we’re not sure that we actually saw what was just described but that’s what it must have been.

Back in Williams it continued to rain, hard. We stopped for lunch, along with a Las Vegas tour bus complete with flight attendant, at a little throwback fifties malt shop called Twister. We got a pretty good meal at a pretty reasonable price so we were content. The restaurant also had a great gift shop with many Route 66 items that we hadn’t seen. We didn’t get anything…until we went to the Route 66 gift shop at the end of town. The proprietors of this store are also the editors and publishers of Route 66 Magazine. The back of the store has a lot of high falootin’ computer equipment that we’re supposed to believe they use to create said publication. ("Falootin’" gets corrected to "fallopian" in spellcheck if you’re not careful). The store itself was pretty high fallopian too. It appeared as though they had a bunch of their own Route 66 stuff made up. They had a catalogue? Anyway, I bought 8 replica Route 66 shields - one for each state. John also found a T-shirt that had the mantra we have been living by for the past week printed on the back: "Friends don’t let friends drive the interstate." We blew some money, but it’s getting near the end of the trip and we’re getting nostalgic already.

route66Sign.gif (1961 bytes) From Williams we continued on to Seligman, AZ. Seligman has had a lot of press recently, most notably a People Magazine article that featured Angel Delgadillo, a barber who is also the founder of the Route 66 Association of Arizona (we’re not exactly sure if that means anything, but it looks good on his resume). Anyway, Seligman and Angel were everything we’d hoped they’d be. We walked into Angel’s little store to find him actually cutting somebody’s hair. His store also has a vintage Route 66 feel to it, that being dirty which makes it feel authentic, which it is. We were also delighted to find that Angel is REALLY NICE and not at all senile like we feared he might be. He was genuinely happy to talk and pose for pictures with us. He put a smile on all of our faces on a rainy day (awww). Angel’s brother Juan also runs a little hotdog stand-type place down the street. The stand is most notable for the practical jokes that Juan plays on you during your visit. For example, the door has a doorknob on each side of the door. We were entertained.
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above: Angel chops up an Austrian.  below: Angel can try, but John's loyal to Phil Balick.
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Juan Delgadillo's Snow Cap in Seligman
Here we decided that we would blow through Kingman, AZ, and continue on to Needles, CA, to get a head start on tomorrow. So we continued on the road toward Needles, which provided for some of the most fantastic and nerve-wracking driving we’ve had yet. The best way I can describe it is to tell you to look at the pictures. To say the least the road was extremely curvy and we never exceeded 25 mph. Did I mention that it had rained? Well, apparently over in these parts they had something just short of a monsoon, and it appeared, (wouldn’t you know it – for the ten people who will really appreciate this) the area had experienced a flash flood. The road up in the mountains did not show much evidence of this except for many rock fragments that had tumbled onto the road. Along the way we also drove over many…well…rivers whose path flowed over the road. Interesting way to plan a road, but we took it in stride. Luckily for all of us, John (the owner of the van) drove this stretch. It somewhat understates John’s actual mental state to say that he was a nervous wreck for this stint through the hills. We could only imagine that it would be worse if he were backseat driving so we sat back and let him take it like a man. And that’s all I have to say about that.
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Cynthia Raskin will use this as ammunition for years to come.
So, after about 30 miles of these crazy mountain roads, which seems like an eternity at 20 mph, we finally pulled into Oatman. Oatman was an old mining town and it still looks that way today even though the mine is shut down and the population has depleted significantly. The buildings don’t look like they’ve changed since the Wild West days - there is a general store, a saloon, and a hotel which really look like they’re straight out of a movie. The fact that there had just recently been a flash flood which covered the main street of town with mud and rocks just added to the authenticity of the place.

At the end of town we pulled over and stopped because we had to call the hotel in Kingman to cancel the reservation. While John dealt with the reservations I walked to the other end of town, about 100 yards, and took pictures. Meanwhile, Rachel walked across the street to a place called Cactus Joe’s to get some "Indian Fry Bread." As I walked back toward the van I saw Rachel beckoning me to come into Cactus Joe’s.

route66Sign.gif (1961 bytes) First, I must pause to say that Cactus Joe’s is one of the more amazing things that I’ve seen in my life. Cactus Joe’s is really a bar with a small seating area in the back. It’s genuine old west material. The floor is sawdust, the bar is mostly plywood, any windows on the place are dirty and only dim light shines through. Please look at the picture of the old cowboy to the right. Yes, folks, that is an old genuine cowboy siting at the bar. Yes, those boots are worn so thin you can’t even believe they're still on his feet. Yes, that’s a rawhide vest worn to black in the back and on the shoulders. Yes, that’s a handkerchief around his neck. Yes, that face has been worn as thick as leather. Yes, it’s hard to distinguish how much of that shadow is scruff and how much is dirt. Yes, that’s a cowboy hat. Yes, that’s a cigarette he's rolling. Yes, that’s some sort of pink-orange swill in a glass in front of him. And yes, oh yes, that’s a six shooter hanging from his hip – loaded. We didn’t say anything. So he looked over at us city slickers, mouths agape, and naturally said, "Howdy" and tipped his hat. Someone managed to say howdy in return but the rest of us just stared. I couldn’t, and still can’t, believe that he wasn’t an act, some show put on for the folks who pass through town when it’s raining. But he was the real deal. Our only regret was that we didn’t try to talk to him more, but we left Oatman feeling satisfied that we got a genuine taste of old Route 66.
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We finally understand how Billy Crystal felt.
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You can almost here John's teeth grinding from here.
There are two roads out of Oatman; one was closed due to flooding. The road we needed to take, 66 of course, was not closed. This did not mean, however, that the road was clear. Let’s just say it’s a good thing that John continued to drive. As we left Oatman, the weather started to clear up, the sun came out and the temperature rose. As we came out of the mountains we went through a town called Golden Shores, AZ (which I am still convinced was in CA), where we saw our first palm tree. Somewhere outside Golden Shores we had to backtrack east to get back on the interstate, which meant, to our surprise, that we had to re-enter Arizona which meant that we had entered California somewhere which is why I thought that we actually saw our first palm tree in California.
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We continued on the interstate until we got to Needles. Needles is interesting because it seems to be a place where people can stay cheaply even though they really want to be in Laughlin, NV – swimming pools, movie stars, gambling. But we were content even without Laughlin. We had big plans for the evening which all went down the drain when we all basically fell asleep, especially John who was taxed from the tough driving around the rims of mountains. ‘Twas the rim that done him in. We had two rooms in Needles so everyone got a big queen-size bed all to themselves.

The day being concluded we learned two things: 1.) for some reason when in John’s van we cannot help but evade the divine plan for us to die. Coincidence that we just missed a flash flood that covered/wiped out areas that we drove through not minutes after it had subsided? I think not. 2.) We must have been nuts to let John drive for that long through all of that. Good thing he did, though.

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"Good thing Baker wasn't driving."
"Shut up, John!"

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