The bright and terrible desert


“There’s California just over the river, and a pretty town to start it. Needles, on the river.”

— John Steinbeck


Top: 66 Motel, Needles, Calif. Above: El Garces Hotel, “Crown Jewel of the Desert,” Needles.


The Palms Apartments, Needles.

“But the river is a stranger in this place. Up from Needles and over a burned range, and there’s the desert. And 66 goes on over the terrible desert, where the distance shimmers and the black center mountains hang unbearably in the distance.”

— John Steinbeck

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Continue reading The bright and terrible desert

Western Arizona photos

Here are a few photos of people and places on Route 66 in Arizona from Seligman to Oatman:


Chatting with the “Guardian Angel of Route 66,” Angel Delgadillo, at his barbershop/gift shop in Seligman.


Our evening’s lodging while we were in Seligman.


The usual shenanigans at the Snow Cap. The fake-squirting-mustard bottle is one of several long-running gags at the walk-up restaurant, built in 1953 by Angel Delgadillo’s brother, the late Juan Delgadillo. Juan’s descendants are carrying on the traditions, much to the delight — and occasionally befuddlement — of the tourists who come from around the world to visit.


Sign in the window at the Snow Cap.


Another lodging option in Seligman with a lovely neon sign. Both the Supai and the Historic Route 66 Motel get high marks from the National Historic Route 66 Federation’s Dining and Lodging Guide, which I highly recommend if you’re planning a trip on 66.


This neon cross, seen on a church a few blocks off 66 in Seligman, was an unexpected treat — and a nice addition to my ever-expanding collection of photos of neon church signs.


This dinosaur stands outside Grand Canyon Caverns near Peach Springs, Ariz. According to our guide, some scientists, trying to figure out how far the caverns extended, lit red smoke flares. Two weeks later, the smoke was seen emerging from a vent 60 miles away in the Grand Canyon — hence the name “Grand Canyon Caverns.” The dinosaur is a holdover from the days when the place was called “Dinosaur Caverns,” despite the fact that no dinosaur bones had been found anywhere near the cave. This photo was sort of an attempt to recreate a picture my dad took of me standing under a concrete dinosaur in St. Louis when I was about 4. If I ever get around to cleaning out the garage, I’ll dig that photo out and scan it.


View from below the dinosaur.


Dust devil seen on Route 66 east of Kingman.


The resurrected Cool Springs Camp. The building burned in the 1960s, and its remnants were blown up in 1991 as part of the filming of the movie Universal Soldier, leaving only a pair of stone pillars and the foundation behind. Chicagoan Ned Leuchtner bought the property in 2001 and began restoring it to its original appearance. It now houses a gift shop.



As you pass Cool Springs and head up the long, winding, and sometimes treacherous stretch of 66 leading into the old gold mining town of Oatman, you will see Thimble Mountain in the distance. I shot the first image out the window as Ron was driving. I shot the second from the steps leading to Shaffer Fish Bowl Spring. Other travelers coming down the steps reported that there were no fish in the bowl on this particular day, so I didn’t bother climbing all the way up, as I was eager to get into Oatman to see …


… the famous Oatman burros. Descendants of burros released into the mountains around Oatman when a nearby gold mine no longer needed their services, these “wild” animals have become professional panhandlers. They come into town during the day and bum carrots off the tourists; at night, they go back up into the mountains to sleep.

I’ll post California photos tomorrow.


Such a fine sight to see

Here are a few images from Route 66 in eastern Arizona:



This bridge across Querino Canyon near Houck dates to 1930. My hat, which folds up for easy packing, was a souvenir from the Continental Divide gift shop.


We drove through the Painted Desert — an excursion that also included a walk on the Blue Mesa trail. Beautiful trail, but the steep switchbacks at the beginning could benefit from some guardrails….


Earl’s Motor Court offers travelers the chance to “Sleep on the Corner in Winslow, Arizona.” The bed wasn’t terribly comfortable, but the shower was wonderful.




The residents of Grand Canyon Deer Farm, a Route 66 petting zoo between Parks and Williams, were enthusiastic about the prospect of a free meal.

I’ll post more Arizona images tomorrow. I’m off to get an ice shaver so I can make treats with a young friend tomorrow evening. If I can figure out a good way to set it up on the front porch, we’ll make ourselves popular with all the neighborhood kids. I think there’s an extension cord under my desk.

KITTEN UPDATE: Walter thinks my bead curtain is the greatest cat toy ever. He entertains himself — and us — with it constantly. Funny little guy.


Route 66 in New Mexico

A few shots from the New Mexico part of our Route 66 trip:


An old friend: The Blue Swallow Motel on Route 66 in Tucumcari, N.M.


One of the roses in the extensive gardens at El Rey Inn, Santa Fe, N.M. This was the first time in several years that we’d had a chance to do the Santa Fe Loop, which was bypassed in the 1930s.


Not a great shot (I hate using the internal strobe on my Rebel), but I wanted to remember the painting around the door frame. I think it would be cool to do something similar at our house.


I’m not sure why, but I always look forward to passing through Bluewater and seeing this sign.


Ghosts of a long-gone era.


El Rancho Hotel in Gallup: Home of the stars, featuring the “Charm of Yesterday … Convenience of Tomorrow.” We stopped here on the way back to Tulsa. It’s a great old hotel.

Speaking of stars and bygone eras, I am thinking about getting a shag haircut just to protest the fact that Farrah Fawcett’s passing has been largely overlooked amid the media circus surrounding Michael Jackson’s Elvisian departure. I don’t mean to take anything away from the King of Pop, but answer me this: Was he ever one of Charlie’s Angels?

I rest my case.


P.S.: Ron has named the kitten “Walter,” as in Payton. I think that may be the best cat name I’ve ever heard.

Free kitten


Here are some things I did not include on my to-do list for the night before vacation:

1. Wrestle mortally wounded kitten away from dogs.
2. Comfort dying kitten.
3. Climb half-rotten pear tree to extract kitten’s littermates.
4. Spend several hours on front porch with neighbor, flea-dipping kittens found in tree.

Here are some things my dogs put on their to-do list for the night before I left for vacation:

1. Find secret al-Qaeda operative posing as kitten in woodpile.
2. Neutralize threat to national security posed by presence of kitten in woodpile.

Thanks to an extremely kind neighbor, the two surviving kittens had a comfortable place to crash while I was on vacation. Without her intervention, they would have ended up at the pound.

One of them is probably going to live with her family for the rest of its life, as her kids have fallen head-over-heels in love with the little booger.

Here is the other one:


That would be my pillow.

I have assured Ron that this is a temporary situation that will be over as soon as I find a permanent home for the cat. Ron is graciously pretending to believe me.


La Bajada Hill

Between Santa Fe and New Mexico lies a mesa called La Bajada Hill. La Bajada — “the descent” — is home to a steep and treacherous alignment of Route 66 that dates to the road’s earliest days. The La Bajada Hill alignment was bypassed shortly after the road was commissioned, but much of the dirt roadbed remains intact, and while it is no longer passable for most vehicles, the winding trail is ideal for hiking on a summer morning.


We’ve hiked La Bajada Hill in the past, but this trip brought an unexpected treat: A four-legged guide greeted us near the base of the mesa and accompanied us to the top and back.


We got the impression that the dog — who probably belongs to one of the ranchers living nearby — makes a habit of playing trail guide for tourists.


The dog wasn’t the only creature on the trail. This pretty little snake was sunning itself on the path as we came around a curve. A Google search later revealed that our serpentine friend was a gopher snake.


We also encountered numerous lizards.


The cholla cacti were in bloom. A guy down the street has one of these growing next to his driveway, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. I’d been thinking zoysia for the front yard, but between the cholla and the yucca, I’m starting to give serious thought to some hard-core xeriscaping instead.


I tipped our tour guide when we got back to the car. I’m not sure what the going rate is, but he seemed pleased with three big pieces of beef jerky.


Here I am, bidding our guide farewell. What a great dog.

And on that note, I’m going to go finish clearing out the car so we can pick up our great dogs from the boarding kennel.


P.S.: Despite the triple-digit temperatures, our garden thrived while we were gone: I harvested a grocery bag full of green beans and another of rat-tailed radishes this morning. We have a lot of weeding to catch up, but we got the worst of it knocked down this morning, and I think if we spend a half-hour or so out there every morning this week, we should be able to whip it right into shape.

Three shots

I’ll have more for you later, but here are three quick images from my trip, just for appetizers:


God’s promise on the Devil’s Highway: A rainbow descends from a cloud near old U.S. 666.


This lighthouse on the Pacific Coast Highway made me think of a picture puzzle.


Wisdom from Steinbeck in Kerouac alley, just behind City Lights Books in San Francisco.

Since my last post, I have sorted and edited nearly 350 photos. I have about 150 to go. I’ll post the best.