SIX DAYS ON THE ROAD AND 1,500 MILES – A WORKING VACATION, AGAIN
Laptop issues and the dire need to take a break from the schedule, and the world of instant communication that in turn necessitates the need for an instant response, are my excuses for the lack of updates this past week. However, as is often the case after one of our grand adventures, I have a great deal of exciting information to share, as well as a few thousand photos from the road less traveled and Route 66, some dining and lodging recommendations, and other exciting developments.
Unfortunately I won’t have time to share everything with you this afternoon. So, instead I will provide a few of the highlights with more detailed information to follow in the coming days.
For the first time in at least six years, my dearest friend and I took to the road this past week with a leisurely schedule that was almost unnatural – a mere 1,586 miles in 5.5 days. This was quite a change from last October’s outing that included the introduction of The Route 66 Encyclopedia at Cuba Fest in Cuba, Missouri, and the resultant opportunity to visit with old friends, a lunch with my pa in Michigan, the acquisition of several thousand photos, and driving almost 5,000 miles in nine days.
The historic Hotel Vendome in Prescott, Arizona.
The adventure kicked off late Sunday afternoon as the destination for day one was Prescott, Arizona, a drive of less than 150 miles. We rolled east on Route 66 and stopped to visit with Frank at Seligman Sundries, and, of course, Angel.
Well, Frank was closed and Angel was out. As a result we ended up in Prescott a bit earlier than planned but as this is one of our favorite cities there was little concern about how we would fill the extra time.
For this trip we decided to try, for the first time, the historic Hotel Vendome a few blocks from the courthouse square and legendary Whiskey Row, as well as one of our favorite restaurants. Details will be forthcoming but suffice to say this hotel is a simple yet charming time capsule that earned a repeat visit.
The next morning was an interview on Morning Scramble with host Tonya Mock, followed by a scenic drive over Mingus Mountain into the ghost “city” of Jerome. Our destination was the Gold King Mine, a monument to a mechanical hoarder of epic proportions, and a search for tractors suitable for feature articles in Antique Power magazine.
To list the highlights would take hours if not days. Vintage trucks that ran the gamut from a late teens Packard to a Federal, FWD, and a herd of Studebaker models, roosters and chickens of most every description, a functioning century old saw mill, an operational 1902 Studebaker electric car, antique chainsaws, and piles of discarded mining equipment ensured hours of exploration.
Our next stop, after a drive through historic Camp Verde and into the tall pines of the Mogollon Rim country, was the La Posada in Winslow for lunch. As always, the food was excellent and the setting without equal but the prices are sneaking toward impractical for our budget. More on that later.
As we had a pending request for photos of the 1923 bridge south of I-40 at Allantown, Arizona (accompanying photo) that carried Route 66 traffic across the Rio Puerco until 1931, and the bridge of similar vintage at Sanders, these were our next stops. We also had a request for current photos of the Querino Canyon Bridge built in 1930 but as it was nearing sunset decided to photograph that one on the return trip.
The day ended at the delightful El Rancho Hotel in Gallup. For a place that once served as a haven and playground for the rich and famous the rooms seem almost sterile and the hallways have an institutional quality.
Still, the lobby is without equal as is the atmosphere. As food and culinary experiences are an integral part of our adventures and road trips, a stop at this venerable old hotel almost always includes atole, a traditional Navajo blue corn cereal, and Navajo tea for breakfast.
With Santa Fe the destination for the next day, we had an opportunity to really explore Route 66 as well as a few detours. Our haven for the third evening was another new experience, the El Rey Inn on Cerillos Road.
I will post an extensive review of this most delightful property in a future post. Suffice to say that a well preserved 1930s Route 66 motel combined with a well preserved 1950s motel that is nestled in five acres of charming landscapes, which also serve as a bird sanctuary makes this a very special place indeed. Add in the fact that it is but a short distance to the historic plaza, and that there is a wonderful 1940s era cafe, the Pantry, next door and you have a perfect base camp for exploring old Santa Fe.
The next days schedule called for an even shorter drive, less than 100 miles to Las Vegas and an evening at the historic Plaza Hotel, a property that dominates our top ten list of favorite places to stay. That allowed ample time for exploring this segment of pre 1937 Route 66 including Pecos National Historic Park with vast ruins of a once glorious city dominating a ridge that provides for stunning views, and the equally imposing ruins of the mission built in 1717.
Las Vegas is nothing short of spectacular. In fact, after a day of exploration that included photographing the impressive but abandoned Hotel Casatneda built in 1899, enjoying a thunderstorm from the saloon that offered a fine view of the historic plaza, discovering an abandoned AMC dealership with signage, sampling excellent food in multi-generational owned restaurants, and basking in the cordial atmosphere of a community where pride is evident in every smile, I found myself browsing real estate advertisements and employment listings.
After a wonderful day of exploration, and a restful evening, we bid adios to Las Vegas and headed for Tucumcari on highway 104 under cloudy skies. I will talk more about this highway in later posts but if you enjoy Route 66 and stunning vistas, this road should not be overlooked.
Our short visit to Tucumcari was three parts pleasure and one part business. The latter was to sign books that will be sold in the gift shop at the Blue Swallow Motel. The former was to see the painstakingly restored suite at the historic motel, to photograph the latest automotive treasure (an extremely rare 1957 Hudson Hornet sedan purchased new in Tucumcari) uncovered by Kevin and Nancy Mueller, the motels owners, and lunch with Nancy.
As often happens on Route 66 adventures, friends are met and friends are missed. While photographing the Hudson we were met by highway explorer extraordinaire Nick Gerlich, and learned we would miss Jeroen Boersma, by mere hours since we had an appointment in Santa Rosa.
On the road to Santa Rosa we photographed fast vanishing road side remnants, and then had dinner at Joseph’s where I signed books for the gift shop, followed by an evening of photographing neon. With storm clouds to enhance the sunset, a lightening and thunder show that lasted late into the night, and the original Creature from the Black Lagoon showing uncut on television, the day ended on a most spectacular note.
The following day was short on miles driven and long on hours as the destination was Albuquerque and 7:00 PM book signing at Bookworks followed by an outdoor shoring of the 1950s campy classic Hot Rod Girl at the Enchanted Trails Trading Post and RV Park that was part of the New Mexico Route 66 Motor Tour festivities. First, however, was the latest installment of my new radio program, Jim Hinckley’s America,that included an interview with Kevin Mueller of the Blue Swallow Motel who was in Gallup, New Mexico with the Route 66 motor tour.
We spent the rest of the morning photographing sights along Route 66 as well as Central Avenue, the course for that highway in Albuquerque after 1937, and had lunch at Kelly’s Brew Pub housed in the historic Jones Ford dealership. More on Kelly’s later but suffice to say this stop should be included in every visit to this city.
Original plans had been to spend a large portion of the afternoon photographing the historic Old Town district but a special event being held there made parking almost an impossibility, and the crowds hindered framing shots. So, we went to plan “B” and headed for the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science, an excellent way to beat the heat. As a bonus the museum was hosting the astounding R.M.S. Titanic display.
After leaving the museum we headed north toward Bookworks on Rio Grande Boulevard, into rush hour traffic with the ever increasing sound of a failing rear wheel bearing playing the accompanying tune. As with the entire trip, however, we were most fortunate (no bearing failure and we even made it home) and arrived at the store with just over an hour to spare, something that allowed ample opportunity for a gastronomical adventure at Flying Star Cafe next to Bookworks.
The event at the book store, a wonderfully eclectic mom and pop shop, was well attended, and the audience was full of questions which ensured a lively evening. As a bonus, Mike and Sharon Ward, and Gary of Baby Boomer Radio stopped by.
After the signing I topped off the gas tank, and set out for the Enchanted Trails Trading Post. That was about the time all of the instrument panel gauges ceased to function, an event remedied with a severe blow to the dash (more on that later).
Undaunted, and with no other option, we drove to the trading post for the evenings activities, and our final destination of the day. Vickie, the charming proprietor, has collected an array of vintage travel trailers, had them restored, added a few amenities as well as vintage touches, and rents them as motel rooms. Our home for the evening was a 1956 Yellowstone model.
The last day of the grand adventure started with the loading of the Jeep, visiting with Vickie, Kevin Mueller, Mike Ward, and others that were traveling Route 66 as part of the motor tour, and signing books. Then it was off to Grants for breakfast at the 1st Street Cafe, which is not on 1st Street, a stop to photograph trading posts at Lupton and the Querino Canyon bridge, a late lunch at Miz Zips in Flagstaff, a pit stop in Williams, and home before the sun sank into the west.
And that is the condensed version of our latest adventure on legendary Route 66.